I sent the note below to the staff and board a few hours ago: sharing
now with everyone :-)
---------- Forwarded message ----------
From: Sue Gardner <sgardner(a)wikimedia.org>
Date: 20 March 2012 19:17
Subject: Announcement: New editor engagement experiments team!
To: Staff All <wmfall(a)lists.wikimedia.org>
A couple of changes at the Wikimedia Foundation that I want you to know about.
Everybody knows that reversing stagnating/declining participation in
Wikimedia’s projects is our top priority. To make better progress, as
of April 16 we're going to bring together resources from the Community
and Engineering/Product departments into a new cross-functional team
tasked specifically with conducting small, rapid experiments designed
to improve editor retention. We already know some of the fixes that
will solve the editor retention problem, and we're working to put them
in place. The purpose of *this* team will be to identify the fixes we
don't yet know about.
Separately, Zack has to move back to Missouri for family reasons. When
Zack told me about that, we agreed that it’s an extra impetus for this
new team to be launched now. This means that going forward, Zack’s
department will focus solely on fundraising, and some members of his
department will move permanently into other groups. There have been
lots of conversations about this over the past few weeks, which have
included everyone affected.
So here’s what we’re going to do:
Zack will manage fundraising remotely. He’ll continue to be part of
the C-level team, but he’ll do it from Missouri. He’ll travel back to
San Francisco frequently, and he’ll probably be here throughout the
fundraising campaign every year and spend other longer chunks of time
here when needed.
We don’t yet know what the title of Zack’s department will be, or what
Zack’s title will be. Neither Zack nor I care very much about titles,
and we are in the happy position of not particularly needing to
impress anyone -- so, we do not need fancy euphemistic titles. It
would be nice to have titles that are clear and direct and
understandable, and also to have ones that reflect the
creative/storytelling/community aspect of the fundraising team’s work.
So, we are leaving this piece open for the time being, and we’ll just
call the department “fundraising” until and unless we think of
something better. Folks with suggestions should talk with Zack. :-)
EDITOR ENGAGEMENT EXPERIMENTATION:
Reflecting the importance of editor engagement in the Wikimedia
Foundation’s strategy, we will have the following teams directly
focused on it:
**the Visual Editor group (led by Trevor as lead developer, and by
the soon-to-be hired Technical Product Analyst) which is making the
**the Editor Engagement group (led by Fabrice Florin as Product
Manager and Ian Baker as ScrumMaster) which is working on medium-term
projects improving Wikimedia’s handling of reputation/identity and of
**the new team focused on rapid experimentation, led by Karyn as
Product Manager and a to-be-hired engineering lead/ScrumMaster,
tentatively titled something like Research & Experimentation, Editor
Engagement Innovation Lab or the Rapid Experimentation Team.
Our thinking is basically this: we know the Visual Editor will help
with editor retention. We know that improving notifications,
messaging, identity and other core features of MediaWiki will help
with editor retention. But there are a handful of other smaller
projects --maybe just simple tweaks, maybe ideas that should become
fully-fledged new features-- that will also help. The purpose of the
new experimentation team will be to conduct many quick experiments,
which will identify a handful of small changes that can either be
accomplished by the team itself, or be queued up as part of our
overall product backlog.
Staff moving from the Community Dept to Engineering and Product
Development (AKA Tech) are: Karyn Gladstone, Maryana Pinchuk, Steven
Walling, and Ryan Faulkner. They will form a team tasked with rapid
experimentation to find policy, product or other changes that will
increase editor retention. Karyn will head product thinking and
maintain the experimentation backlog, reporting to Howie. Alolita will
hire and manage the engineers for this team, and will help interface
them with the rest of the engineering organization. The important
thing to know about this team is that they are being tasked with one
of our absolutely most important objectives: to figure out new ways to
increase editor engagement and retention.
Karyn will report to Howie. Maryana, Ryan Faulker, and Steven will
report to Karyn. The group has never had engineering resources
assigned to it, and it’s clear they need engineering resources.
Therefore, Alolita will work in close partnership with Karyn to
recruit an engineering team --mostly developers but also UI/design
people-- to support the new group. If you have ideas for people we
should be recruiting for this, please tell Alolita or Karyn!
Dario Taraborelli will join the editor engagement experimentation team
as senior researcher and help design the roadmap and the individual
experiments the team will run.
We don’t yet have a firm title for the experimentation team, nor do we
know yet what Karyn’s title will be, or whether other people’s titles
(like, Steven or Maryana’s) will change. The team will figure this
out, and to that end they’re kicking it around with other staff and
with some folks in the community.
As most of you know, Siko runs our fellowship program. The fellowship
program has lots of similarities to Asaf’s work on the grants program
-- they are both, at heart, about giving funding and other support to
members of the Wikimedia community to enable people to do useful work.
The community-building projects that fellows often take on line up
with some of Global Dev’s work, particularly as the fellowship program
expands its global reach. So as we’ve been talking through Zack’s move
and the implications for the Community department, it makes sense to
shift Siko to Global Development. Siko’s title remains Head of
Community Fellowships for now and she will report to Barry. Fellows
and fellowship projects are continuing as planned, and you are still
highly encouraged to keep an eye peeled for community members with
good fellowship ideas. :)
EDITOR RETENTION OVERALL:
Finally, I want to talk for a minute about editor retention overall.
As you know, we started the year with two major goals: the increase
the number of mobile pageviews to two billion, and to push up the
number of active editors to 95K. We’re doing fine on mobile reach
(yay!) but we are completely failing to move the needle on the number
of active Wikimedia editors.
That doesn’t reflect poorly on the people who work on editor
retention. It’s a complex problem that took a decade to develop, and
the team doesn’t control all the variables affecting it. It makes
sense that it will take time to fix.
But it does mean that we need to increase the resources focused on it,
so we can get more done faster. That’s what we’re doing here. We’re
reorganizing to focus our existing resources more tightly, and we’ll
also be adding new resources -- starting now, and continuing through
the 2012-13 financial planning process. And, we’re going to move
many/most of the editor-retention related people up to the 6th floor
by the collab space. I really love the model Zack developed for the
annual campaign -- the war room in Yongle, work visible on the walls
for everyone, the buzz of people working hard towards a common
purpose. I want us to have that same energy and momentum and focus for
the editor retention work.
Sorry for this long note, but I figure you will all be curious about
this and have questions, so the goal here was to anticipate everything
and get it answered up-front. This note was crafted collectively by
many people :-) If questions remain, please feel free to ask them, or
to talk with any of the individuals involved. And thanks to everyone
who contributed to creating this plan: I very much appreciate
everyone’s single-minded focus on attacking the editor retention
problem, and I look forward to future success moving the needle on it.
Everything I talk about in this mail will take effect April 16. Once
it’s in your in-box, it’s no longer confidential, and you can feel
free to talk about it publicly. I will forward it to announce-l, after
I give you a couple of hours to read it yourselves. And please join me
in congratulating the folks who are going to work on this important
new team :-)
Q What’s the impetus behind these changes?
A Two things. Mainly, we want to redouble our focus on attacking the
editor retention problem, and it makes sense for us therefore to
consolidate our efforts into a single focused mega-team. Secondarily,
Zack has decided he needs to relocate to Missouri. We had already been
talking about whether consolidation made sense -- with Zack moving,
that accelerated those conversations.
Q What’s happening to Zack?
A Zack will lead our fundraising remotely, as a C-level employee. His
title and the title of his team will change to reflect that, but no
final decisions have been made yet about what those titles will be.
Ideally we’d like to have a title for that department, and for Zack,
that reflects the storytelling aspect of their work, telling the
community’s stories to the world. But in the end we may settle for
just calling it Fundraising, if we don’t think of anything better.
Q What’s happening to the Community Department?
A We initially created a community department because it made sense to
have focused resources dedicated to understanding the community and
being a centre of expertise about it for the Wikimedia Foundation. At
the time that was the right thing to do, because although some
individual staff members had lots of community understanding, the
organization as a whole did not -- which meant it made sense for us to
focus our energy, for a time, on researching and documenting and
analysing the community. But having a Community Department was never a
perfect fit for the Wikimedia Foundation the way it is for other
internet companies, because community is not a small subset or a
single aspect of what we do at the Wikimedia Foundation --- all our
departments have interactions with community members for multiple
different purposes, and over time we have been growing specific
community expertise and responsibilities in multiple departments
throughout the organization. As expertise grew elsewhere, having a
community department became a less-good fit for us. Basically: it made
sense to have a Community Department at the time when we did it, and
it makes less sense now as the organization has matured and evolved.
Q Why are you integrating the Karyn/Ryan/Steven/Maryana group into
Engineering and Product Development?
A The goal is to create a better model for rapid
experimentation/innovation, with minimal hindrance to the work of our
active editors and maximal gain in new community members. That group
is not necessarily a perfect fit with Engineering and Product
Development, but we think that’s okay: it’s a good fit, and being in
that department will enable the team to increase its impact overall,
by giving it better access to UI/design and engineering resources.
Q How is the new product team different from Fabrice’s team?
A The new team won’t focus on critical major changes to the platform
(like the Visual Editor) or critical but equally complex projects like
improving the mechanisms by which editors communicate and collaborate
on the projects. This team will be much more fast-paced and
experimental, identifying small-scale interventions that might make an
impact on editor retention and quickly iterating through them on a
weekly (or even daily) basis. Unlike Fabrice’s team, which has a list
of projects that are known to be important and impactful, this team
will quickly cycle through a large number of ideas that have not yet
been tested in order to identify what does and doesn’t work, and what
can be integrated into existing product roadmaps.
Q Will this new team be building new features?
A No. Ideas for new features that come out of successful experiments
will be handed off to Fabrice’s team or elsewhere in engineering/tech
as is appropriate for the task.
Q What kinds of projects will this new team be working on?
A Some of our projects will be similar to the template A/B testing
conducted by Steven, Maryana, and Ryan Faulkner: small tweaks to
existing community-built systems like template messaging. Others will
focus on more innovative ways to engage new and current editors, using
notifications, task assignment, and different kinds of incentives to
keep editing. All of the projects will be temporary tests, not
permanent large-scale changes, and focus on measuring effects to
inform further decisions.
Q How can volunteers give input on this work?
A Ping Steven or Maryana.
Q Who will be in charge of this work?
A The C-level in charge of this team is Erik Moeller. The team reports
to Karyn Gladstone.
Q Where will fellowships live and how do fellows fit with other teams?
A The fellowships program will move to Global Development, but the
structure and scope of current and planned fellowships will not
change. Fellows will continue to be recruited from the community to
work on their own projects, supported by Siko Bouterse, Head of the
Q Where will other community projects live (e.g., summer
researchers/analytics, community convenings)?
A Current community department projects will be integrated into either
the new team or other teams in the organization, depending on their
purpose. Convenings of various kinds will be staged on an ad hoc basis
by multiple groups, including this one.
Q What’s happening to fundraising and storytelling?
A The fundraising team, which includes storytelling, will be managed
by Zack and will continue to operate as planned.
Q Why is this all so confusing? The Wikimedia Foundation changes
people’s titles and reporting lines all the time!
A Yes, we do :-) The Wikimedia Foundation is a pretty young
organization: it’s growing, and doing lots of experimentation. We
learn new things all the time, and we want to be able to apply what
we’re learning, which includes restructuring/reinventing ourselves. If
we were a hundred-year-old organization, or if we had tens of
thousands of employees, it would be hard for us to adapt and change,
because there would be too many layers of people who would need to be
involved, and the downstream implications of even small changes would
be serious. That’s a problem for big/old organizations, because it
limits their adaptability. Luckily, at this point the Wikimedia
Foundation is still small enough and young enough that we can afford
to be reasonably flexible. That said, we know that this kind of change
can be confusing for people who aren’t involved (at a minimum, it’s
one more long e-mail to read), so we appreciate everybody’s patience
Q How can I join this team?
A We’re hiring! We’re looking for more experienced editors to help us
design experiments, track results, and communicate what we’re doing.
We are also looking for strong front-and back-end developers to deploy
experiments. If you’re interested in working with us, please check out
available positions on the Wikimedia Foundation jobs page:
415 839 6885 office
415 816 9967 cell
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