[Wikimedia-l] Editor retention (was Re: "Big data" benefits and limitations (relevance: WMF editor engagement, fundraising, and HR practices))

Nathan nawrich at gmail.com
Fri Jan 4 15:29:45 UTC 2013

Tim and Erik's views aren't at all incompatible or mutually exclusive;
they're just looking at opposite ends of the same problem, which stated
fully is that experienced editors leave and the pace of new editors turning
into experienced editors is too low to maintain a steady community size.
Erik's list of possible solutions, and Tim's suggestion, are both quite
reasonable methods for solving the complete problem. No large scale effort
to improve editor retention should ignore half the problem, though, so the
true bottom line goal ought to be both encouraging new people and making
life easier for the folks that are already here.

Meanwhile, the project needs to adjust to its new realities. Even if some
suite of solutions manages to improve the retention problem, it won't go
away - fundamentally, the success of the project and its longevity are
likely just as important factors as the editing environment. It doesn't
come up a lot on this list, but Wikipedia's enormous success in
accumulating content means that a much smaller potential group of people
might be both willing and able to add more. Most topics that are popular or
significant to large groups of English-writing people are already well
covered, narrowing the opportunities for those folks (who, let's recall,
generally don't have advanced expertise of the type amenable to Wikipedia
articles) to contribute.

For years this higher bar for the able and interested was offset by the
influx of people dedicated to preserving what was already there, but
technological improvements (AbuseFilter, anti-vandal bots, bots with admin
buttons, human-driven but highly efficient tools like Huggle) has reduced
opportunities in that arena as well. Which is all to say, it's totally
expected that the population of both content contributors and vandal
whackers will decline over time.

So any complete statement of the problem, which ought to be the starting
point for any efforts to solve it, should account for the awkward new
editor experience, the difficulties facing long-term contributors, *and*
the natural and inevitably growing attrition rate that we should reasonably
expect to see.

More information about the Wikimedia-l mailing list