[Foundation-l] Lowering the idea contribution barrier (and regarding strategic planning)

Brian Brian.Mingus at colorado.edu
Mon Jun 1 19:28:08 UTC 2009

On Mon, Jun 1, 2009 at 12:20 PM, Thomas Dalton <thomas.dalton at gmail.com>wrote:

> 2009/6/1 Brian <Brian.Mingus at colorado.edu>:
> > While I'm thinking about it:
> >
> > I would like to see the WMF solicit feedback on these kinds of issues -
> how
> > it might further its goals (distribution for example) - from the wider
> > readership. The small, well informed and focused group on foundation-l
> can
> > do a lot, but what about inviting everyone to the conversation in a
> medium
> > that makes it easy for them to contribute their ideas?
> >
> > Erik, you had pitched us the Ideazilla application not too long ago. That
> in
> > coordination with a site notice would be an awesome experiment. Let's do
> it
> > sooner rather than later? :)
> Did you see this email (and the resulting thread)?
> http://lists.wikimedia.org/pipermail/foundation-l/2009-April/051580.html
> The kind of discussion you suggest could well be part of that, or at
> least done in connection with it.

I'm glad they are doing that but it's not quite what I was thinking. My idea
is more of a combination of the ideas that liquid threads and ideazilla
bring to mind (not necessarily related to how those applications actually
work, however - just the ideas they elicit). I got the impression from
Michael's e-mail that Wikimedia's Strategic Planning would mostly be done by
really smart Wikimedians who are already meta-contributors. It was broad
enough to include all volunteers, but wasn't really oriented around helping
those volunteers become strategic planners. Ultimately, strategic planning
will be best done in coordination with a vast amount of evidence and
opinions. It doesn't make sense to create a strategic plan before
considering all possible options in detail. Nowadays we can do that better
than its ever been done before.

Idea: You perform a Google search for some topic and end up at Wikipedia.
You find your information and are now looking for your next distraction when
you see a prominent site notice that says, "How can we make Wikipedia
better?" or somesuch. You click it and end up at a fully ajaxified
application that doesn't require (but supports) login, has no captchas and
does all anti-spam and anti-ballot stuffing on the backend (and a
"report/flag this thread" link for human spam detection). What you see is a
list of idea threads that are ranked according to simple ajax thumbs up /
thumbs down votes in addition to a fully ajax form for adding a new idea.
Clicking on it loads the threaded idea conversation on the same page. You
can vote on individual comments and reply to them on the same page.

As you can tell I am of the opinion that loading pages incurs a heavy
cognitive load, lowering the probability that you will convert the reader
into a collaborator. There is of course the spam/ham tradeoff, but Gmail and
Craigslist have nailed the solution and we could too. An important takeaway
from the brain sciences regarding executive function is that you need to
"trick" yourself (or your users) into switching tasks. Task switching is
tough and every single additional degree of freedom that you add between
your user reading and then following up on that with some creative writing
lowers the probability that it will happen very significantly.

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