2011/2/22 Michel Vuijlsteke <wikipedia(a)zog.org>rg>:
One interaction I encountered recently is typical.
Michiel Hendryckx, one of
Belgium's best-known photographers, started uploading fairly
high-resolution, good quality images to Wikipedia (well, Commons) on 3 July
2010. Stuff like this 1983 Chet Baker portrait:
The first message on his talk page was a request to confirm his identity
(which he did).
The second message was a complaint by Nikbot (no valid license for one
particular image). A couple of hours later, at 10:51 on 4 July, the next
message is from CategorizationBot, asking Hendryckx to add categories to his
This is where it starts. Thousands of our users have their first
interactions with a bot or with a user leaving a template. We're
unlikely to alter our practice to completely abandon bots and talk
page templates (although we can improve our software to give more
direct user feedback which makes bots and automated messages
unnecessary, e.g. for something like missing categories), but while
we're still using them, we really need to pay more attention to what
they are saying.
IMO every single Wikimedia project would benefit from dedicated
community effort to 1) catalog the most widely used templates on talk
pages, 2) systematically improve them with an eye on the impact they
can have on whether people feel their work is valued and the
environment in which they're contributing is a positive and welcoming
one. This is something that anyone can help with, right now.
The messages left by CategorizationBot are an example of the issues
with our current and approach. There's only very limited
acknowledgment of the user's valuable contribution, there's no
explanation what the message represents (is it a warning, a reminder,
what?), there's no invitation to turn off the message if it's not
wanted, there's immediate and unexplained use of jargon like "image
description page", and the overall message sounds like "You've done
something wrong, please fix it and ask for help if you need it". All
of this drives towards rules-compliance and against shared ownership
of community norms and practices.
Specifically with regard to this message, I've left some suggestions
for improvement here:
I'm not saying that the suggested changes are a vast improvement, but
I think that's the kind of conversation we need to be having.
Obviously we don't want fake friendliness and personality in our bots
and templates, but at the same time, I think we should strike a tone
and use language that's consistent with the culture we want to create.
Deputy Director, Wikimedia Foundation
Support Free Knowledge: http://wikimediafoundation.org/wiki/Donate