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Editor retention; Malayalam loves Wikimedia; Wikimedia reports; brief news

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By Ironholds, Smith609, Tinucherian and Tilman Bayer
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As for the editor retention issue Nathan hit it on the head when he responded to the community message with:

The bar for contributing is higher. Whether because editing is more technically challenging, or because the rules and standards are more complex, or simply because more of what people know is documented than it was 4 years ago... it's harder in a variety of ways for people to contribute significantly on a regular basis"

The key turning point was the increase in emphasis on WP:VERIFY. It unquestionably improved the quality of the encyclopedia, but it just as unquestionably changed us from a large community of online users sharing everything they know to a much smaller community of scholars willing to put in a significant amount of effort researching and documenting their use of reliable sources. That was a good thing for producing a more informative and trustworthy reference work, but it was effectively the end of "the encyclopedia everyone can edit", since most people simply can't or won't make the effort to do the kind of research required to make significant edits when every such edit requires an inline citation to a reliable published source. That combined with the exhaustion of many of the easiest topics has inevitably lead to the community shrinking. I think if we want to grow the community, we would do better putting less emphasis on trying to retain casual users who just happen to try and edit a page and more on out reach to colleges (and in some cases high schools), museums, fan groups, interest clubs, specialist news groups (like talkOrigins), and other places where we are more likely to be able to recruit people who are more likely to be interested in scholarship as a hobby. None of this is to say that more attention to WP:CIVIL isn't important; potentially productive editors are chased away from the project by rampant incivility, but I think outreach to attract the attentions of editors who are likely to be sufficiently motivated is the key. Rusty Cashman (talk) 19:40, 12 April 2011 (UTC)[reply]

"the encyclopedia everyone can edit" is still very important at least because many if most dedicated editors start out as casual editors, who are not willing to make a grand commitment, rather Wikipedia is something that grows on them in time. After all, if you're not committed to Wikipedia you're unlikely to think it worthwhile to jump through any hoops whatsoever to improve the project, there are other worthy causes that require less effort. But if you're a grad student who notices a missing article on a topic related to your thesis, well, maybe I'll spend a little while, just for kicks and giggles, and then you step back and say, "hey I created something cool that'll benefit people" and bit by bit you learn the norms, understand the techniques, etc. Jztinfinity (talk) 04:07, 13 April 2011 (UTC)[reply]
Rusty has hit the proverbial nail on the head. We do not need to be concentrating our efforts on trying to keep the average passer by involved we need to be working on getting academic institution involved. Wikipedia is not a place to come and put you opinions but an academically referenced resource which need scholars to come and edit. Currently we at Wiki Canada are in discussions with UBC regarding creating a pilot scholarship tied to Wikipedia contributions. Will let people know how it works after a year of two... Doc James (talk · contribs · email) 18:09, 13 April 2011 (UTC)[reply]
I agree with Doc James that Rusty is spot-on here: casual contributions in the subject areas most readers care about is no longer possible. (Although for some subjects, such as specific niches in sports or pop culture or recent news events, a newcomer might be able to write an article from scratch.) To offer a personal example, to create this article, I had to rely on an article my public library obtained for me thru ILL & two books I bought specifically for Wikipedia research -- & the article isn't really more than a start. How many newcomers are willing to make that kind of effort to getting their contribution right, perhaps even before they have decided to commit themselves to making more than one or two edits? BTW,I'm not intentionally blowing my own horn here by mentioning I spend money on my research: I assume the majority of serious Wikipedia content creators have spent money from their own pockets on materials for articles. It would be nice if the Foundation were to understand this additional cost serious contributors assume out of dedication to quality, & would find a way to lessen or defray this cost. -- llywrch (talk) 06:09, 14 April 2011 (UTC)[reply]
Perhaps the Foundation could start a fund and design a process for awarding grants to help shoulder the financial burden serious contributors endure in their unique work to better the encyclopedia. Rilak (talk) 06:18, 15 April 2011 (UTC)[reply]
Most contributors I know with academic affiliations started here by creating an article. The new proposal will tell them thay cannot do so. are they really expected to have the patience to hang around making edits till they are autoconfirmed? My guess is otherwise--ust like any other editor. What the suggestion to concentrate on academic institutions means is apparently to concentrate on editors in organized projects. Unless we are prepared to find academic sponsors to expand this effort about 2 orders of magnitude, I think this will be an infinitesimal number. When editing Wikipedia is a class pr requirement, it is very likely that only a few of the people will ever contribute substantially again. The longest standing academic project was the one at NIH, where essentially none of the new editors have become active participants. I think the statistics from the fall projects will prove similar. (Not that I oppose the projects--I strongly support them--if even 1 in 100 of the participants become highly active, it will still help the encyclopedia in the long run)
Additionally, there will always be room for new casual contributions. Each election, each sports season, continuously in all of the entertainment industries, new people become eligible.
If we wait for mature major contributions from academics, we will die, just like Citizendium. That's exactly what it tried, but almost everyone--even the academics like myself who were among the original editors--preferred the more spontaneous environment here. DGG ( talk ) 20:58, 15 April 2011 (UTC)[reply]

Er, so what was the opinion of the WMF in the Golan v. Holder case? It is conspicuously absent. Magog the Ogre (talk) 03:03, 13 April 2011 (UTC)[reply]

The WMF opposes the URAA and any attempts to put public domain materials back under copyright. Kaldari (talk) 04:54, 13 April 2011 (UTC)[reply]
My 2 cents: the constitution does say that a treaty, once signed, "becomes the law of the land." I cannot see how the judiciary could overturn that based on another part of the constitution which they read to say, "unfair laws aren't allowed" - and they think this is unfair.
  • "The functional expenses total around $10 million, including $311,564 in Paypal fees." Three percent in PayPal fees seems extortionate. (talk) 05:58, 13 April 2011 (UTC)[reply]
    Not at all. Credit card fees are very close to that as well (it shifts, depending on the industry, specific company and specific payment portal). As the Wall Street Journal has recently pointed out, the convenience brought about by having credit cards (or in this case, PayPal) is far worth the price for the company . And the operations of neither are prohibitively cheap - both have customer service, have to worry about absorbing costs for fraud, etc.
    To be fair, I must point out two things. First, the US congress disagrees (they recently put a cap on US debit card rates, which are separate from credit card rates), but then again congress was also heavily lobbied by merchants, who surely care more about their own bottom line than what is right or wrong. Second, I know very well I've become more sympathetic to the position of banks because I used to work for one (a common phenomenon I was warned about even before I entered). Magog the Ogre (talk) 07:17, 13 April 2011 (UTC)[reply]
  • "Working with colleagues to develop practices to discourage disruptive and hostile behavior, and repel trolls and stalkers" is the wrong framing. What this statement actually encourages is the labelling of new users whose motives and values oppose those of established users (including many who are absolutely required if the goal is to achieve more diversity of editors). Is there any doubt that a determined pro-Israel Zionist will find excuses to label someone who favours Palestinian statehood a "troll"? This word has no place in a policy statement, period. Its mere appearance discredits the whole statement and empowers cliques and repels new editors. And "stalker", a term that implies physical danger and risks of heinous crimes like rape, is absurdly inflammatory and again does not belong in a discussion about a textual conversation, unless there are clear and direct threats of physical attack involved. The adjectives "disruptive" and "hostile" and even the noun "behavior" and verb "repel" all clearly imply that some clique judges and restricts, sometimes with absolutely no consultation with anyone else. Meanwhile, the honest fly-by user who just wants to correct a fact or make note of a legitimate and notable person or entity they read about in the mainstream news, is being subjected to long waits to be "autoconfirmed" or to tedious login procedures, all of which tends to increase clique powers to trace who and where they are. Good luck getting legitimate news updates from well-placed whistleblowers or at-risk political commentators with that policy. The 44 opposing comments on the autoconfirmed policy are correct and obviously so. When Wikipedia becomes a democracy without principle, it will fail due to the same clique takeover that doomed any other polity that put basic principles and rights up to a vote. Anonymity and instant access to the editing process are two such principles. They can't be compromised and use of language ("stalker", "troll") that implies that the majority of such anonymous users or edits are "bad" can do nothing but damage Wikimedia.

It's no coincidence that the diversity, "next billion users", vocabulary and systemic bias problems were first noted (in the 2002-4 time frame) by editors who have since disappeared, some of whom were harassed and lied about by dominant cliques. And no coincidence that editorship falls off as people who denied these problems and advocated exclusion of those who made a point of highlighting them (e.g. by never logging in nor responding to lies or hearsay) have gained more influence by their petty politics. Sadly, a few persons of moderate talents (Angela Beesley, Daniel Mayer) gained undue and unreasonable influence the way courtiers always have: sucking up to power figures and making the gaining of status in Wikipedia cliques their whole life. Such persons continue to hold back Wikipedia, even technically.

If you want to really understand what a deep and persistent problem this is, go back and read The Cunctator, 24, and others (a few of whom used names of historical revolutionaries or used "troll" in their user name as a protest). The minority of users who understood the clique problem (and resisted the many calls to abolish anonymity and establish clique-based censorship) explained exactly what Wikipedia's problems would be as of 2010-2020, and had good solutions and language to describe the real problems Wikipedia has now. Any attempt to assess the problem without this historical perspective is futile. — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 15:56, 11 October 2011 (UTC)[reply]

Systemic bias and role of "community" has been debated since 2002

On the history:

The early debates on the systemic bias of Wikipedia are still worth reading. It's surprising how prescient some early users were, and how ignorant or self-justifying some others were. It's left as an exercise to the reader to determine who was correct, and whose vision of Wikipedia actually became the dominant one, and whether this was a good thing. Larry Sanger left citing "people like [someone he accused of being 24]" as the cause. This was really a very central debate about the future of the project(s). Terms like "billionth user" [1] (and even "three billionth user") were being used even then.

By 2004 there were active projects on "countering systemic bias", so that much of the dissident agenda had been officially recognized, or at least not opposed by ruling 'community' cliques. 2004-2008 saw the rise of ArbCom and more objectivity while Florence Devouard, Mike Godwin and other principled people were involved.

However as of 2011 things have gone backwards. Today we still see absurd clique terms like 'troll' in the actual official policy or guidance statements. If anything the WMF is dragging the project backwards into a self-justifying clique that deals with disagreement with labelling and absurd analogies to what a "real" community" does under "threat" or "attack".

But at least some people have woken up to see what effects clique and this "community" rhetoric have. The editor survey reveals that the typical user is still a 30 year old priveleged male, but there are many other users, who may or may not see themselves as part of a "community" in which such people are the majority. Some interesting quotes to consider:

"A "Wikipedian", whether or not she or her sees him or herself as part of any given "community" (and there are good reasons not to, or to see projects as existing at the juncture of many communities), agrees to respect some basic editorial rules. Even those who believe that " an encyclopedia is a market in theories and facts" or a "battlefield of ideas" can accept rules designed to make the markets or battles fair and permit new participants in. Given the shared goal of usefulness to literally everyone, it's relatively easy to justify rules that make pages more useful to readers even if this inconveniences writers (a rule understood on some level by all wiki editors). This distinguishes Wikipedia, and wiki, from other social media and could and should be emphasized in any effort to attract new editors from new communities, especially those who were previously hostile to Wikipedia."

"Features like WikiLove provide positive reinforcement and fun, and mirror the mechanisms available in other social media such as facebook." And do not require absurd ideologies of community nor labelling of the dissidents.

"As of 2011, Wikipedia still struggles with systemic bias and cliques, sometimes even using non-objective language (like "troll") in its official policy statements. However, representativeness of editors has improved: The 2011 survey shows the caricature is a bit broader than it was in 2002: According to the data, if there is a typical Wikipedia editor, he has a college degree, is 30-years-old, is computer savvy but not necessarily a programmer, doesn't actually spend much time playing games, and lives in the US or Europe."

"Social approaches (such as experiments to assign buddies to new editors) may also be more effective with women than men." More research required?

"A female user facing a genuine "stalker" does not need a clique of self-appointed counter-harassers acting on their own authority or beliefs of what constitutes "stalking", she needs a genuine investigation and response (possibly via ArbCom) that is consistent and effective at discouraging abuse."

"The study found significant decline in editors with more than 10 edits. It has been hypothesized that edit wars, reverts and acrimony among editors is a contributor to this decline. We found that, overall, editors have a very positive opinion of their peers, but many reported experiencing negative interactions and what they perceive as harassment by others. In addition, negative interactions reduce the likelihood of editing in the future. On the other hand, positive interactions, like helping others in editing and peer recognition, not only make editors have a more positive opinion of the community, but also increase the likelihood of editing in the future. Expectations of "community" may play some role in some users' disappointment, as most of the WMF's own official statements freely throw around terms like "community" without acknowledging that many Wikipedia editors provide valuable content without much (or any) concern for the social processes around that content. Academic sticklers, political drum-beaters, often provide good references and much-needed clarity and precision, but relatively few people can deal with them on equal terms. As the number of open topics decreases and the scrutiny on controversial topics increases, this intensity and conflict with users who perceive themselves as having a stake in the content will increase. In other words, as Wikipedia becomes more influential, influence on it becomes a higher-stakes game, that attracts more intense (and perhaps some ruthless) players."

"Negative experiences matter. Editors don't have hearts made of stone. Reverts without an explanation (which as a rule are almost never justified and should cause immediate scrutiny on editors that do so) can negatively define an editor’s experience on Wikipedia and make them less likely to continue editing. However, editors are here to learn and improve. A revert with an explanation, providing at least some path to a new and better interaction, has no negative impact on an editor's desire to continue contributing and is, in fact, seen as a positive interaction. We need to restrict unexplained reverts, find ways to reduce negative experiences and refine our automated tools to do a better job of differentiating a good faith edit from deliberate vandalism."

"it remains a common practice to claim that any reason for exclusion constitutes clique influence and to seek publicity for articles 'deleted' or 'censored' from Wikipedia [2]. Some of these claims are or may be valid. Where the excluded material is specific to women's rights or causes or champions (notability thresholds for feminist activists, for instance) the practice should generally be to err on the side of inclusion."

"the Global South: In some of these regions, like India and Africa, desktop Internet has yet to see broader penetration, though mobile Internet is expanding rapidly, and it is no surprise that the mobile phone is the most popular device among editors. When Wikimedia's projects reach the three billionth user projected in the early (2002) debates on it's direction, they will likely be reached predominantly by low end phones by poor people. WMF has made it our priority to increase mobile page views, and we are currently revamping our mobile platform to provide better and faster access to smartphones as well as feature phones that don’t typically have apps or can’t be synced with computers. The new platform will have in-built editing functionalities that would allow for paragraph edits, sentence edits and picture uploads to Wikimedia Commons. Lastly, we are looking to establish partnerships with network providers in key strategic geographies like India and Brazil to provide access to Wikipedia at zero or near zero cost. This would help us increase our reach and bring free knowledge to those who can’t afford to pay for data access."

"Users who lack unlimited data or free Wi-Fi access, especially for mobile devices, are particularly disadvantaged and inhibit (and should inhibit) deployment of data-rate-intensive features. A desirable solution to this problem that should be investigated is convincing mobile service providers to include all WMF projects in their lists of "free access" or "unlimited access" services alongside facebook, email and other essential applications. Thus, regardless of local data rates, it would be possible to freely access Wikipedia et al without fear of getting a big bill. Another solution would be to support cacheing when Wi-Fi access is available to minimize the use of 3G/4G bandwidth (and thus the charges). A recruiting effort to find disadvantaged editors to test such solutions and to propose new ways to radically reduce the cost of accessing WMF projects is probably justified, especially as the "typical" user has no such problem."

"While a higher than average percentage of all users have access to smartphones (Android, iPhone, BlackBerry), the average user is far less likely, and given the growth of usage in the global south, will get much less likely in future, to use more than simple SMS messaging. Accordingly surveys of readers not editors may be the way to determine the mobile strategy. Efforts to make mobile editing possible may not, given the editor profile, increase representativeness or readership of mobile users. In this respect in particular, the person writing is not the person reading."

"use of some common words or practices should be utterly excluded from WMF's official discourse:

  • "troll" - this term has no objective definition and is usually used simply to label one's debate opponent as hostile, disruptive or having some sort of "behavior" problem, ignoring or downplaying the substance of their arguments
  • any words that imply that one editor has insight into someone else's motive.

Other words should be sharply restricted and used only with extreme due care:

  • "stalker", "threat", "attack", "assault" - these terms should be used only in their legally defined sense and treated with due seriousness; use of any of these terms as a rhetorical device to describe insults or any annoyingly persistent action should be sharply discoursed including by direct sanction.
  • "community" - most real world abuses historically have been carried out by persons who claimed (often with reason) to serve "the community" (defined as a single monolithic entity, sometimes derived from a majority view or just a majority of powerful actors). It's long past time WMF acknowledged that as the projects expand and reach more people, they will be less and less likely to perceive themselves as a single "community" and more likely to perceive a WMF project as a neutral negotiating (or fighting) ground for their disputes and conflicts. WMF should accordingly strive to present itself as less of a "community" and more of a fair and judicially minded process that encourages political virtues (liveliness, adaptability, compromise, humor, etc.) and is open to anyone with a good point, even if they offend or annoy someone else.

In other words, Wikipedia must grow up and acknowledge its work as more diversified, political and contentious than that of any other social medium, and that this is exactly why its products and services are more important. It should abandon the "single community" ideal and acknowledge that it will be only one small factor in global harmony, albeit an extremely central one. The solution to editorial representativeness and reduced systemic bias, and increased participation, is to acknowledge the ugly reality of a world riven by conflicts, cliques and factions, and to present a process to find some version of the truth that, while not perfect, is at least more accessible and fair than the UN, civil courts, mass media or other venues. Not a "place" where one must "join" a "community" to "belong", but rather a means by which persons who see themselves as part of many communities, can find just enough common ground to acknowledge some undisputed basic reality."

Now, how long will it take the clique to censor most such evocative content and restore "community" happy-talk that actually causes the discouragement and clique mentality? We'll see if Wikipedia learned anything since 2002-4. — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 17:58, 11 October 2011 (UTC)[reply]


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