I agree with you, David.
The usability work is a necessary precondition to bringing in new editors. It's essential for us to remove obvious, simple usability barriers that are impeding people who want to help.
But it's not the whole story, and I suspect that social barriers to participation will in the end prove much more difficult to overcome, compared with technical barriers.
Basically, there are a lot of people who would like to contribute to Wikipedia, but who find us impenetrable.
We know that new people's edits are increasingly reverted. Sometimes the reversions come without explanation; other times, they are explained curtly, unkindly, or using language (eg in templates) that newcomers don't understand. The net effect is that new people end up discouraged, and they don't stay.
In order to bring in and retain new editors, we need to make it possible for people to edit productively, without needing to develop deep expertise in our policies and practices. Frank Schulenburg's "bookshelf" project will create a series of orientation materials for new people: that will help some. But there is lots of other work that needs to happen, in my opinion: we need to encourage friendliness, we need to make the editing experience more supportive and enjoyable for everyone (not just new people), and we need to simplify policies and practices to make it easier for new people to engage easily and usefully.
People who want to help do some of this work should engage on the strategy wiki: there's a task force focused on community health that will be looking at these issues. I can't post the URL (I'm on my Blackberry and between meetings) -- but if nobody posts it within the next few hours, I'll do it once I'm back at my laptop.
From: David Moran <email@example.com>
Date: Mon, 23 Nov 2009 15:28:24
To: Wikimedia Foundation Mailing List<firstname.lastname@example.org>
Subject: Re: [Foundation-l] WSJ on Wikipedia
Getting back to the content of the article: I get that inclusionism vs
deletionism is a tired way to talk about divisions between camps of editors,
and that everyone rolls their eyes when you start talking about it, but
yeah, it's real. Every single person I know who was once a producing
contributor but who has now left the project (including me these days,
functionally--my monthly edit numbers have gone from quadruple to single
digits) did so because of having the same kind of arguments with the same
people over and over again about what deserved to be in the encyclopedia.
Which is anecdotal and statistically insignificant, I know. But it is
undeniable that Wikipedia, as a system, encourages (by its relative ease vs
the alternatives) the removal of content, rather than the creation of good
content, or the polishing of bad or mediocre content, the latter of which is
a dreary chore. To an extent, the destruction of content is as healthy and
vitally necessary a part of the Wikipedia ecosystem as its reverse.
I think a lot of attention is paid to the way the technical interface is
hostile to newbies, and making that more user-friendly and democratic is
certainly a concern that needs to be addressed. But I think the tendency of
older users, or certain editorially minded users, to squat on the project
and bludgeon newer users with policy pages rolled up into sticks is just as
much if not more responsible for driving away the new users we need to
replenish our ranks.
On Mon, Nov 23, 2009 at 2:38 PM, Steven Walling <email@example.com>wrote: > So the content of the WSJ article may be behind a paywall, but I just did a
> cursory search of the researcher's 2009 Ph.D. thesis which was a
> analysis <http://libresoft.es/Members/jfelipe/phd-thesis> of Wikipedia in
> several languages.
> I didn't see any of the graphs from the piece or any conclusions in the
> thesis which are equivalent to the statements made in the Journal, so this
> must be new research.
> On Mon, Nov 23, 2009 at 11:30 AM, Michael Snow <firstname.lastname@example.org
> > Gerard Meijssen wrote:
> > > books are available for years the copy of
> > > the day may be available in a library, but how about last years copy of
> > the
> > > WSJ ? Do you really think the WSJ can be found in every USA library ??
> > >
> > I don't know about "every" library, but libraries are about more than
> > just books, and librarians are not unaware of the wonders of databases
> > in our modern digital age. For those of us that use libraries, I
> > encourage you to familiarize yourselves with the collections your
> > library may be able to provide access to online. I've certainly relied
> > on my library privileges for such sources many times in the course of
> > editing Wikipedia, particularly news archives (including the Wall Street
> > Journal).
> > --Michael Snow
> > _______________________________________________
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> > email@example.com
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