Which gulf is growing more quickly - between the WMF staff and volunteers,
or between the veteran editing population and the typical reader? I won't
argue that there is some distance, and a degree of conflict, between the
goals and priorities of the staff and many veteran volunteers. But this
distance hasn't occurred organically. It's been introduced consciously, and
mentioned on a number of occasions, by WMF leaders like Sue and Erik. They
have often made the point that the WMF has to consider first the hundreds
of millions of readers who compose our intended audience.
No one has said, that I've seen, that complaints and problems from the
editing community should be ignored. But I think Steve and Jon are
struggling with how to react to complaints without knowing how
representative they are of the reader experience. If complaints are
presented by a tiny percentage of the editing community, how many should
they assume are encountering the problem but not reporting it? If
readership numbers don't change, and people who login to complain are
definitionally lumped into "editors", how do we assess the impact on
readers and whether or not many readers are having difficulty?
These aren't easy questions to answer. Many people complaining about this
change, and others, seem to make different automatic assumptions about
relevance and impact than the WMF staff, or they don't consider it at all.
To be fair to the engineering staff, we should keep in mind that they have
to relate complaints from developers and editors to the experience of
hundreds of millions of readers and make decisions principally (but not
wholly) based on the latter, not the former.
Wikitech-l mailing list
To be honest, I'm kind of tired of hearing, "won't anyone think of the
readers" as an excuse to do pretty much anything. Most of the time
(not all the time) I've seen that excuse be used, there isn't any
evidence about how the change actually affects the readers except for
the authors' own conjecture (Or if they do have evidence, they largely
aren't communicating it very well). Readers generally don't complain
when something changes for the worse, unless it really changes for the
worse (e.g. Site going down). Even if the readers did complain in the
same way our users do, taking a lack of complaints to mean something
is a positive improvement, seems like a recipe for confirmation bias.
That said, we shouldn't be afraid of making changes where we
reasonably think they might be a good idea, even without evidence they
actually are. You can't have data on everything. I just don't like
"Well we are undoubtedly making things better for the reader" used as
a counter argument to criticism when we simply don't know what it will
do for the average reader.