[Foundation-l] Comparison of new user welcome efforts across projects

Brianna Laugher brianna.laugher at gmail.com
Sun Feb 4 15:09:39 UTC 2007

On 05/02/07, Robert Scott Horning <robert_horning at netzero.net> wrote:
> Brianna Laugher wrote:
 Also, non-Wikipedia projects can perhaps
> >expect that most of their new users will be familiar with Wikipedia
> >first, and therefore tailor their welcome messages with the
> >expectation that the user already is familiar with the technical
> >aspects, and emphasise the difference in policies between their
> >project and Wikipedia.
> There may have been a time when this was true for Wikibooks, but
> increasingly I am finding individuals (at least on en.wikibooks) who are
> coming into content development on Wikibooks first that have never been
> involved with Wikipedia at all on any level.  One of the huge reasons
> for this is some minor publicity that is happening in regards to
> Wikibooks among educators and the broader educational community, and
> because it is growing to become a substantial project in its own right.
>  There have been recently several articles in magazines written for
> educators who mention Wikibooks as an educational resource, and
> Wikipedia is mentioned only as a footnote.

That's awesome to hear, and will become more and more common I
imagine. Unfortunately most of the press I see still acts as if the
only thing WMF does is run English Wikipedia, grooh.
I also noticed as I have been continuing down the list that quite a
few languages have wikt appear above wp. My list was ordered by # of
pages, so this is perhaps not entirely surprising, since writing a
word definition is rather less daunting than writing an encyclopedia
entry, but it still surprises me given Wikipedia's head-start in time,
and Wiktionary's relatively low profile.
I suspect Wiktionary's rather excellent adaption of Special:Search,
with pre-formatted templates for many word types, has helped lots of
people quickly add entries, which is great.

Anyway... I still feel it is probably useful to highlight the
differences between Wikipedia and Wikinotpedia. Two columns can be

1. Brand new to wiki editing?
Howto, Help, Be bold, sign talk pages, NPOV, copyright/license.
2. Familiar with a Wikimedia or MediaWiki wiki?
Prominent link to a project page contrasting other Wikimedia projects
with this one, link to Village pump equivalent.

If I am a Wikipedia user I am going to be arrogant :) and assume this
new project works the same way. And if you give me a message telling
me to sign my talk pages posts, I'm going to figure I've seen it all
before. If I am not a Wikipedia user, then please don't tell me about
the differences between them just yet!
That's what I figure.

While looking at all these welcome templates, I have been thinking
about the EN.wp one which I have never much liked. At the moment, if I
could overhaul its content, I would remove all references to the
Manual of Style and FAs and 'Community', and just put a humungous link
to a list of WikiProjects and invite the newbie to join one they are
interested in. There is just so many of these things. They offer an
instant advice network, shared interests, and topic-specific MOS-type
info; model articles. I like the welcome templates that give users a
link to wanted topics. I imagine a lot of users join with one specific
goal in mind (to write an entry on their favourite sports star, for
example). After that, what next? I think WikiProjects could be a great
way to hook people in. There's over 200 WikiProjects at EN.wp, and
that's just the active ones! (!) I wonder how widespread they are at
other Wikipedias? Are there similar topic-grouped task forces at other

> BTW, just to plug something from Wikibooks, there is a Wikibook that you
> might want to get involved with that has been addressing some of these
> issues of project management from the viewpoint of a "sysop" on
> Wikimedia projects:
> http://en.wikibooks.org/wiki/A_Wikimedia_Administrator%27s_Handbook

Such a book, or rather books, are sorely needed. That one looks like
at least 3 books: How to set up a MediaWiki wiki (the social/community
management side rather than technical, which has decent coverage now);
How to start up a new Wikimedia wiki; Info about these existing
Wikimedia wikis.

The latter seems like the one that is going to be out of date most
quickly. I am interested mostly in the second, I guess: what guidance
can we give to new Wikimedia projects to help them survive? MediaWiki
is set up by default to serve a medium-sized wiki rather than a small
one, so when you start a new one, you spend a lot of time fixing
redlinks that appear in system messages to pages like
[[project:administrators]] and [[project:protected pages]]. And you
are given a sidebar with a good half-dozen links that seem to need
filling out, even though currently the discussion of your entire wiki
could all take place on [[talk:main page]] for a good six months.

this is a general comment - keeping the meta information on your wiki
at an appropriate level is a constant process of review, that should
probably be formally reviewed every 6 months or so. By formally
reviewed, I mean an admin logs out of their account, signs up for a
new one, gets their grandpa's grandpa to sign up for an account, and
tries to see with new eyes, what info is overwhelming and unnecessary
(at that stage), and what needed info is missing.
When you start, you don't even need welcome messages, because maybe
all the people who join are people you personally invited anyway.
Then for a while you write some users manual advice, when they seem to
get a big muddled.
Then you notice you are giving more and more users the same advice, so
maybe you make a template.
Then it becomes part of the community: the expectation that all
newbies should be welcomed, and looked after in this superficial way.
Then it becomes bureaucracy: the templates become overloaded with
"essential" info, they divide and multiply in versions, and... I'm not
sure what next.

At the same time, your community is growing. when you first started,
you didn't even have any formalised policies, because everything was
understood. then you formalise a couple. and a couple more. You start
with one discussion page for everything. It splinters into help desk,
tech help, ref desk, policy proposals, email list, irc, admin
attention board, you name it, it can have its own page. But the new
user didn't do all that growing with your community, and chances are
they don't really need to know about them all yet. You have to
re-evaluate your welcome message to figure out which type of help you
actually wanted to offer.

My point is that it's very likely NOT appropriate to foist a welcome
message with the same level of complexity on every community equally.
In a way, the luxury of having people worry about this 'meta' kind of
information only comes with wikis who have 'enough' content-adding
editors. when you're at the stage where basically anything you type in
can come up a redlink, the opportunity to be the first to create those
basic articles is far much more tempting than figuring out how to
tweak the interface to be friendly to newbies. (Bah, you figured it
out, they will too!)

[these are just general musings not directed at Robert or Wikibooks or
anyone else in particular]

Some of your suggestions
> that you have made here in this e-mail post I would like, with your
> permission, to add to this handbook.

For sure, of course! And please do have a look at some of the nice
designs I have highlighted at
http://meta.wikimedia.org/wiki/User:Pfctdayelise/welcome :)


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