Wikipedia article creation workflow improvements
This specification describes a project of the Wikimedia Foundation's Growth team.
Rationale and background
Page creation, particularly of articles in the main content namespaces, is one of the core aspects of the wiki encyclopedia. However, evidence indicates that today the user experience is a poor one. On English Wikipedia for example, where only registered users may create articles, our most recent data indicates 80% of the articles started by brand new users are deleted. It often takes just minutes for a new page to be tagged for speedy deletion under the criteria for speedy deletion (or CSD), and most are deleted in under an hour.
The low success rate for new authors is not merely because of Wikipedia's high standards for quality, nor is it due to widespread bad faith. With both new authors and experienced Wikipedians struggling to make headway and smooth the page creation process, how can we explain the continued problems in this area? Poor software support and complex workflows can be blamed for a large portion of the confusion and failure of new Wikipedia article creators.
In 2012, we began to explore article creation workflow improvements as a potential project to improve editor retention. Eventually, we found that page curation was an equally low-hanging fruit, and opted to tackle that issue first. It's now high time we fixed some of the many problems with new article creation on Wikipedia.
The following describes what we're going to take on during this project. If anything is unclear, please ask. In most cases, it is safer to assume something is not in scope.
Our primary goal is to improve creation of content pages (i.e. articles) by new contributors to Wikipedia, across language editions and devices.
Our initial scope does not include: creating pages outside the main content namespace -- so no Talk namespaces, Wikipedia namespace pages, or User namespace pages. Also we're focused on creating encyclopedia articles, not other kinds of content pages for Wikimedia projects such as Wiktionary, Wikivoyage, Wikibooks, Wikiquote, etc. Our scope likewise doesn't include creating pages in third party MediaWiki installations, which may be focusing creating things other than encyclopedia articles. Since content translation is being supported with a custom toolset, we will assume for this project that users should be creating new content from scratch.
Wikipedia article creation is an extremely complex system of workflows, especially when including potential systems for draft creation or page deletion. We have broken down the process in to three broad steps:
- Discovery: how users find pages to create, and the starting point for creating them.
- Authorship: the process and tools for creating a new article, from the perspective of the primary creator
- Feedback: what happens after a page is published, including feedback on encyclopedic quality through new page patrolling, deletion nominations, and finding fellow collaborators
We intend to experiment with solutions to each of these areas in sequential order.
Currently, users can discover pages to create in three ways:
- via entering in the URL directly
- via Search. Special:Search includes messages that can direct a user to the red link for a page that doesn't exist
- via a red link in a page, including lists of desired articles in a wiki page for requests
The key decision at this point of the user experience is whether the authors intends to:
- Create and publish immediately in the main content namespace
- Create a draft. This currently happens via several methods, including...
- Userspace. While some new authors may occasionally use a method like posting a draft on their userpage directly, far more common is to use a subpage in their userspace, typically either User:Foobar/Sandbox or User:Foobar/Title.
- Custom draft submission and review systems. These vary per Wikipedia and not universal by any means, as they are not a built-in feature of MediaWiki. On Russian Wikipedia, there is an Incubator (Википедия:Инкубатор), and on English there are several systems that currently overlap.
Our first question to answer in this area is where is it best to encourage new authors to create encyclopedia articles? Even if all authors have the option to create pages and publish them immediately, is it helpful to new authors to have a "safe space" to develop an article more slowly? After answering this question, we will be able to develop more tools to assist in creating articles that are appropriate for Wikipedia.
One possibility is to suggest that articles should be started in a Draft namespace before being published in the main content namespace. This new draft namespace is enabled on English Wikipedia only for now, and in the future may be able to provide a draft space on other language Wikipedias with better software support.
Currently, articles that are immediately published enter the system of new page patrol. On most wikis, this happens via RecentChanges or Special:NewPages. On English Wikipedia in specific, this also happens via the Page Curation system. Currently, we do not intend to make significant, if any, changes to these systems for patrolling pages. Instead, we will aim to provide authors with feedback pre-publication that can minimize the amount of feedback necessary as part of the post-publication page patrolling process (say that five times fast). This could be human feedback systems, or heuristics automatically applied to articles.
Research and data
See Research:Wikipedia article creation on Meta for our hypotheses, testing plans, associated data analysis, and qualitative research.
- "Article creation restricted to logged-in editors" December 2005
- User:Mr.Z-man/newusers and visualization, Feb 2010
- Research:The Speed of Speedy Deletions