2010/12/29 Tim Starling <tstarling(a)wikimedia.org>rg>:
One thing we can do is to reduce the sense of urgency.
deployment of FlaggedRevs (pending changes) is the obvious way to do
this. By hiding recent edits, admins can deal with bad edits in their
own time, rather reacting in the heat of the moment.
The actual effect of FlaggedRevs on revert behavior appears to be, if
anything, to accelerate reverts. See Felipe Ortega's presentation at
Wikimania 2010, page 18 and following:
Performing review actions as quickly as possible is generally seen by
FlaggedRevs-using communities as one of the key performance indicators
connected with the feature. The moment of performing the review action
also tends to be the moment of reverting. I see no evidence, on the
other hand, that FlaggedRevs has contributed to a decreased sense of
urgency anywhere it's been employed.
It's important to note that FlaggedRevs edits aren't like patches
awaiting review. They must be processed in order for anyone's
subsequent edits to be reader-visible. Logged-in users, on the other
hand, always see the latest version by default. These factors and
others may contribute to a sense that edits must be processed as
quickly as possible.
I do fully agree with the rest of your note. We have sufficient data
to show not only that the resistance against new edits as indicated by
the revert ratio towards new users has increased significantly in the
last few years, but also that only very few of the thousands of new
users who complete their first 10 edits in any given month stick
around. Our former contributors survey showed that among people with
more than 10 edits/month who had stopped editing, 40% did so because
of unpleasant experiences with other editors.
While fixing the editing UI is absolutely essential, I strongly agree
with your hypothesis that doing so without regard for the problematic
social dynamics is likely to only accelerate people's negative
experiences. Useful technology changes in the area of new user
interaction are a lot harder to anticipate, however, and the only way
we're going to learn is through lots of small experiments. We can
follow in the footsteps of the GroupLens researchers and others who
have experimented with interface changes such as changes to the revert
process, and how these affect new user retention:
(See their publications to-date at http://www.grouplens.org/biblio
Once we've identified paths that are clearly fruitful (e.g. if we find
that an experiment with real-time chat yields useful results), we can
throw more resources at them to implement proper functionality.
Over the holidays, my mother shared her own "newbie biting" story.
She's 64 years old and a professional adult educator. Her clearly
constructive good faith edit in the FlaggedRevs-using German Wikipedia
 was reverted within the minute it was made, without a comment of
any kind. She explained that she doesn't have enough frustration
tolerance to deal with this kind of behavior.
It's quite likely that we won't be able to make Wikipedia
frustration-free enough to retain someone like my mother as an editor,
but we should be able to make it a significantly more pleasant
experience than it is today.
Deputy Director, Wikimedia Foundation
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