I think you are right.  My impression, as someone who now is a bit of an "outsider" in the sense that it's long time I have not done an edit, is that Wikipedia - that is, Mediawiki - is in need of a usability overhaul.  Other sites where people write just feel smoother, from Blogger to Google Docs to WordPress.  Other sites just feel more welcoming, such as openstreetmap, where I can fix the map without anyone immediately coming to bite me or to create edit conflicts (a big part of the reason why I put my time there nowadays when I feel like contributing to the common good). 

Wikipedia has a concomitance of factors -- no saving of drafts, editors immediately jumping in as soon as one saves, no delay in making information live, obscure set of rules that are simply not known to novices, ... it just doesn't feel like a place where a normal user is welcome.  It also feels "old" in the clumsy way it can be edited.  As it is losing its novelty factor, this is a problem.  


On Thu, Sep 25, 2014 at 9:46 PM, WereSpielChequers <> wrote:
Attn Luca and Scott

There are some things best avoided as going against community expectations. I would be happy to see flagged revisions deployed on the English Wikipedia but I'm well aware that there is a significant lobby against that of people who believe that it is important that your edit goes live immediately. And with the community somewhat burned by bad experiences with recent software changes now would be a bad time to suggest such a controversial change.

Saving drafts is potentially more doable. My preference for new articles is to start them in sandboxes, that way you are highly unlikely to get uninvited editors unless you are creating an attack page or committing copyright violation. For existing articles you can simply copy and paste your draft of a paragraph into your own sandbox, but this is not exactly intuitive for new editors. Leaving a tab open on your PC is not viable if you are at an editathon, especially if you are on a borrowed PC, but it works at home. My recommendation is to encourage people to save little and often, however that still leaves situations where people need to simply save a paragraph or two somewhere privately. One option would be to write a gadget that gave people the option to save work to sandbox. They could then highlight the bit they are working on, or even let mediawiki suggest the bit they are working on, and have the paragraph appended as a new section on their sandbox with an auto generated edit summary giving attribution. That would require development but would I think be uncontentious.

Better merging would also be uncontentious with the editing community, but has historically been opposed by the developers. There several suggestions on Bugzilla marooned as "won't fix" it may be that this is a communication problem and the developers have a good reason such as not having the source code, but at present it looks like they as programmers don't understand how difficult it is for non programmers to resolve an edit conflict.

I would love to see some sort of private draft space created for editors where only they can see stuff. This would require a software change and a cultural change. Space is now so cheap that we can afford to have tens of thousands of editors each have a few megabytes of private space that only they can see and which no one need check because no one has access. But the idea of unchecked space and free hosting is controversial to some, I suspect it would require the foundation to say what the cost of a gigabyte of extra userspace was and for WMF legal to green light the idea of not checking the contents of things that only the person who wrote them can see.

There is an element of tension between better merging and private drafts. Basically the more differences emerge between the draft and the main space copy the more difficult to merge them back, this is one of the reasons why some people don't think that flagged revisions or pending changes is suitable for rapidly changing articles. That's why my preference is to save little and often and privately store the sentence you want to add not your version of an article.


Jonathan Cardy

On 26 Sep 2014, at 04:58, Scott Hale <> wrote:

Yes, drafts visible only to the user are different. I was thinking of flagged revisions in reference to your idea that edits would first go live only after a set period of time. This is basically flagged revisions with a trivial extension that the flagged revision always be the latest revision that is at least X minutes old.

We could also allow a time window (even 30 minutes) before edits went live after one is done editing (using above Ajax mechanism to track when editor open), experienced editors would not need to swoop in quite so fast on the work of new users, and the whole editing atmosphere would be more relaxed and welcoming. 

I think the challenge with drafts visible only to the user is that they are very likely to have a conflict and have to merge changes if they wait too long between starting the draft and later committing it.

On Fri, Sep 26, 2014 at 9:20 AM, Luca de Alfaro <> wrote:
Flagged revisions is different though, as it requires "trusted" editors to flag things as approved.  I am simply advocating the ability to save drafts visible only to oneself before "publishing" a change.  WordPress, Blogger, etc have it.  And so newcomers could edit to their heart content, without triggering the interest of editors and the consequent conflicts, then save their changes.


On Thu, Sep 25, 2014 at 5:15 PM, Scott Hale <> wrote:
On Fri, Sep 26, 2014 at 5:14 AM, Luca de Alfaro <> wrote:
Better merging would be welcome.  But also less aggressive editing/policing. 

When I edit openstreetmap I have a better overall experience: the edits may or may not go live immediately, but I don't have the impression that there is someone aggressively vetting/refining my edits while I am still doing them.  I feel welcome there. 

To make Wikipedia more welcoming, we could do a few things. 

We could allow users to save drafts.  In this way, people could work for a while at their own pace, and then publish the changes.  Currently, saving is the only way to avoid risking losing changes, but it has the very undesired effect of inviting editors/vetters to the page before one is really done. 

We could also allow a time window (even 30 minutes) before edits went live after one is done editing (using above Ajax mechanism to track when editor open), experienced editors would not need to swoop in quite so fast on the work of new users, and the whole editing atmosphere would be more relaxed and welcoming. 

The fact is that the Wikipedia editor, with its lack of ability to save drafts, poor merging, and swooping editors, feels incredibly outdated and unwelcoming - downright aggressive - to anyone used to WordPress / Google Docs / Blogger / ...



The technology exists to do this---[[:en:Wikipedia:Flagged_revisions]]. The challenge is that many existing users don't want flagged revisions on by default.

And that is the fundamental flaw with this whole email thread. The question needing to be answered isn't "what increases new user retention". The real question is "what increases new user retention and is acceptable to the most active/helpful existing users". The second question is much harder than the first.

Scott Hale
Oxford Internet Institute
University of Oxford
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