Cross posting.

Begin forwarded message:

From: Nitika <>
Subject: Improving outreach efforts in India
Date: 13 February 2012 5:12:49 PM GMT+05:30
To: Wikimedia India Community list <>

Dear All,

The following is a post I've put up on the India Program page on meta regarding outreach (Please see: Please do comment on the page itself; I'm posting it on this mailing list only to make sure it doesn't slip your attention.

We have conducted over 13 outreach sessions in the past one month and have many more events scheduled to participate in over the coming weeks. (Please see:  It's amazing that we're doing so many outreach events all over the country to create awareness about Wikipedia, motivate attendees to learn about editing and training newbies to contribute to Wikipedia in their own special way.

The single biggest challenge is that we don't know the actual outcome of these efforts in most cases, and the results are weak when we have the data. I think most of us agree that outreach can be made to work better. (For example, 2 outreach sessions conducted recently by the Assamese community had about 80 participants, and 8 active editors emerged - which is a hit rate of 10% - which is FANTASTIC!) For most other sessions, the results have been closer to 1-2% or even lower - which is depressing. What makes outreach work? How can outreach work better? Is there anything you need from me?

Over the past 3 months, I have been working on building a handbook for Outreach (Please see: where you can get presentation material and tips. Please do go through it and help me build it.

My post consists of 5 (deliberately) provocative statements on the day of and the days after an outreach session. These are framed with the objective of generating debate and suggestions.


Hypthesis 1: Don't Shoot the Puppy: Outreach is not being done effectively and we aren't adequately introspecting on what we can do better; instead choosing to lose faith in attendees

  • Should we discontinue general introduction sessions completely and just convert everything into Wiki workshops? Every second of volunteer time is precious and we need to make sure that every second is made to count. The good sessions appear to be those where people are actually shown how to edit - rather than just doing a song-and-dance about Wikipedia.
  • The best sessions are those where people have actual hands-on editing opportunity. Shall we limit the intro session on Wikipedia to just 15 minutes and then spend 45 minute on basic editing, 30 minutes on hand-on editing and leave 30 minutes for Q&A?
  • Not everyone is a natural presenter and might need help on basic outreach skills. Is there value and interest in a capacity building roadshow where we help existing editors who want to improve their outreach and presentation skills? Is it useful to pair up a good presenter with a not-so-confident presenter when we are doing outreach?


Hypothesis #2: Staying in Touch: We assume the job is complete after the outreach session when in fact the journey has only just begun

  • Can we gather (basic) information about attendees (e.g., names, usernames & email IDs?) so that we can stay in touch with them after sessions?
  • Can we get feedback on sessions (duration, level of detail, quality of presenters, etc.?) so that we can all improve? Do we need some sort of CRM solution for this or will something like Google Docs suffice?
  • How do we get more folks to actually provide their contact details and feedback? Which of the following will get higher response rates: asking for these just before the end, immediately after the end or the day after a session?

Hypothesis #3: Nudge-Nudge: Newbies struggle with the most basic things - including which article to select

  • Should we send links to useful wiki pages and tutorial videos where they can read up more about how Wikipedia works and how to edit Wikipedia? Can we leave handouts on basic editing after all sessions? Can we send them links to the actual presentations made at the session.
  • Can we suggest / elicit potential articles that individual newbies will work on after the workshop? Can we give them individual pointers on what they can do with each article by reviewing them there-and-then during the session?
  • Can we schedule a follow-up session (even if virtually using google+ hangout) to clarify any doubts about Wikipedia editing or otherwise - maybe 2 weeks after a session?

Hypothesis #4: Loneliness - Newbies feel alone and the only time they sense the community is when their edits get reverted

  • Should we not encourage them to join project pages (such as the WP:INDIA) and/or the India mailing list and/or their city/language mailing list to get involved with the community?
  • Can we involve them in COTM or conduct specific editathons for them?
  • Can we celebrate their successes and get newbies to talk to other newbies about how they learnt stuff?

Hyptothesis #5: Black Hole: No one has a clue about the actual results of outreach

  • Can we regularly monitor number & % of active editors after 1 and 3 months of conducting all events? Can we figure out % of mainspace edits from these newbies after 1 and 3 months? Can this be analysed to provide recommendations on how we can do things better?
  • Can we actively reach out to those who look like they are struggling? Do we need a CRM tool for something like this?
  • Is it useful to track and attempt to co-relate age / profession / subject (if student) / sex of participants to figure out what is likely to give greatest results?

I have been working to see how can we overcome these challenges and make our outreach efforts far more effective. I'd love to hear from on the above. Some of you have been actively involved in outreach sessions (attending or conducting or planning) an I'd like to know your thoughts and suggestions which might serve as solutions for this set of very real challenges.