I sympathize with your concern, Ori. I suspect, however, that it shows a
fundamental misunderstanding of why the Teahouse works when other processes
(several of which have included cute symbols) have been less effective.
And the reason is: the Teahouse is explicitly designed for having
Teahouse "convenors" were initially selected for their demonstrated
communication skills and willingness to remain polite when dealing with
often frustrated people, and their ability to explain often complex
concepts in straightforward terms. As their ranks have evolved, they have
sought out and taught others those skills, and there's an element of
self-selection that discourages the more curmudgeonly amongst us from
participating. (There's not a lot of overlap between those who regularly
help out at the Teahouse and those who hang out on ANI, for example.)
We're talking about a relatively small group of people who really excel at
this type of communication, although it is certainly a skill that others
can develop if they have the willingness and inclination - but it really
comes down to being able to identify the right "level" at which to talk to
people, and then actually talking.
The Teahouse works because it doesn't [obviously] use a lot of fancy
technology, because it doesn't use a lot of templates and automated
messaging, because it's made a lot of effort to avoid massive hyperlinking
to complex and inscrutable policies. It's people talking to people. It's
scaled remarkably well - I suspect because there are more "nice"
Wikipedians than people realize - where other processes have failed.
Several of those processes failed because we couldn't link up the right
people giving the right messages to new users (MoodBar was an example of
that - on top of the really problematic technical issues it raised), and
others failed because they were pretty much designed to deprecate direct
person-to-person communcation (AFT-5 would be in that category).
Nonetheless, I think you've raised an important point. If we can develop
processes that can better link up new users with people who have the
interest and skill to communicate with those new users, we should keep
trying those technologies. But those technologies need to incorporate the
existing findings that the most effective way of attracting and retaining
new editors is direct, one-to-one communication. Not templates. Not cute
emojicons. Not canned text, and certainly not links to complicated
policies. It's people talking to people in a helpful way that makes the
difference. And that's a lot harder than meets the eye.
And now, having written this, I'm going to spend some time trying to figure
out how to create a message to new users I encounter when I'm oversighting
their personal information...without templating or linking to complex
policies, but pointing them to the Teahouse. I'm pretty sure it's not going
to be very easy, but I'm going to try.
Thank you for saying this, Ori.
On 2 April 2016 at 21:37, Ori Livneh <ori(a)wikimedia.org> wrote:
On Fri, Apr 1, 2016 at 10:24 PM, Legoktm
It's well known that Wikipedia is facing threats from other social
networks and losing editors. While many of us spend time trying to make
Wikipedia different, we need to be cognizant that what other social
networks are doing is working. And if we can't beat them, we need to
I've written a patch that introduces a new feature to the Thanks
extension called "feelings". When hovering over a "thank" link, five
different emoji icons will pop up, representing five different
feelings: happy, love, surprise, anger, and fear. Editors can pick one
of those options instead of just a plain thanks, to indicate how they
really feel, which the recipient will see.
Of the many initiatives to improve editor engagement and retention that the
Wikimedia Foundation has launched over the years, the only one that had a
demonstrable and substantial impact (AFAIK) was the Teahouse.
The goal of the Teahouse initiative was "learning whether a social approach
to new editor support could retain more new editors there"; its stated
design goal was to create a space for new users which would feature "warm
colors, inviting pictorial and thematic elements, simple mechanisms for
communicating, and a warm welcome from real people."
Several studies were made of the Teahouse's impact on editors. One study,
conducted by Jonathan Morgan and Aaron Halfaker, found that new editors who
were invited to participate in the Teahouse were 10% more likely to have
met the thresholds for survival in the weeks and months after
Another significant fact about the Teahouse is the substantial
participation from women. Women make up 9% of the general editor
population, but 29% percent of Teahouse participants.
When new editors who had been invited to the Teahouse were asked (in a 2012
survey) to described what they liked about their experiences, many
respondents spoke about the positive emotional environment, saying things
like: "the fact that there is somebody 'out there', that there is a sincere
community, gives a professional and safe feeling about Wikipedia", and "the
editors are very friendly and patient, which is great when compared to the
rest of Wikipedia in how new editors are treated."
Why am I going on about this? I guess I'm a bit bummed out that the idea of
designing user interfaces that seek to improve the emotional environment by
making it easier to be warm and personal to one another is a joke. I don't
think any topic is sacrosanct, this topic included. But humor works best
when it provides a counterpoint and a foil to "serious" discourse, and
there just isn't very much serious discourse on this topic to go around. I
also worry that people in and around our community who feel a need for more
opportunities for positive emotional interactions will feel invalidated,
ridiculous, ashamed, or at any rate less confident about ever speaking up
about this topic in a serious way, and less hopeful about being heard.
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