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

Mark delirium at hackish.org
Fri Jan 4 17:56:52 UTC 2013

On 1/4/13 9:57 AM, Yaroslav M. Blanter wrote:
> On Fri, 04 Jan 2013 16:41:06 +0100, Nikola Smolenski wrote:
>> I guess I could write much more. But at the end, I have no solution.
>> I could imagine some partial solutions for some of the problems, but
>> nothing that could really bring Wikipedia to days of old.
> Certainly, it will not. For the very same reason you mention: less not 
> covered topics, more complexity, higher editing standards.

Yes, this is the main problem I've run into trying to recruit new 
Wikipedia editors: less low-hanging fruit, at least on en.wiki (things 
are different on smaller wikis). Fewer topics of widespread general 
interest are completely article-less compared to a few years ago, so 
there's less scope to e.g. write a 1-paragraph stub about [[Mahmoud 
Abbas]] and feel you've contributed significantly. *And* you can no 
longer do so just by jotting down a few things you remember off the top 
of your head, since the standards for verifiability have gone up 

So the first problem I run into is that many people feel Wikipedia is 
"done", or at least done enough that the remaining work is too advanced 
for a casual layperson to do. And the second problem is that not many 
people want to go to a library, look up books, and do proper research 
with cited sources, if it isn't a school assignment or part of their 
job. I suspect that part hasn't even really changed—we have fewer 
editors now than in 2005, but I would guess if you look at the number of 
*souce-citing* editors in 2005 versus today, there hasn't been much of a 
decline (I could be wrong on that!).

The most successful approach I've found to getting new people interested 
and non-frustrated is to suggest they follow an approach roughly like this:


1. Start with a source, not a topic. Pick a high-quality book that 
covers subjects that could have Wikipedia articles. For example, I 
recently picked up a book on archaeology of northern Greece. Browse in a 
library for inspiration!

1a. Do *not* pick a source that you have a particularly close personal 
or emotional connection to: it is not good to start with your own 
research, your supervisor's or colleague's research, a project of yours 
or that you're involved with, a nationalist/political/religious subject 
you feel strongly about, the history of your own family, etc.

2. Scan through the book for topics that could be discrete Wikipedia 
articles. For example, the book may describe specific historical 
figures, or archaeological sites. Identify some that have enough 
material on them in the book to put together at least a short article. 
See if a Wikipedia article already exists (try several name variations, 
and search for mentions in other articles).

3. Add information from the book to an existing article, or start a new 
one. After each paragraph (or occasionally after specific important 
sentences) add a citation to where you got the information, by adding a 
citation tag: <ref>A. Author (1999). Book, pp. 22-23</ref> . You can 
format the citation with whatever style you want, as long as it's 
sufficient to identify the source. (Wikipedia does have official 
citation templates, but there's need to trouble yourself with them when 
starting out... a bot or person will re-format your citations later if 

4. If it's a new article, add at the end of the article a reference section:

This will automatically generate a bibliography of everything you put in 
<ref></ref> tags.

5. Optionally, add categories to the article, by adding something like 
this at the end of the article text, after the references:

[[Category:Castles in Greece]]
[[Category:13th-century architecture]]


I haven't had much success convincing people to do that, though. Not 
lack of success as in people try and then fail: run into deletionism or 
incivility, or just aren't able to figure it out. But lack of success in 
convincing people to go to the library, find a book, and write a cited 
article based on it. Most people, ime so far at least, just aren't 
interested in doing that. Not sure how to change that, short of paying 


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