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

Tim Starling tstarling at wikimedia.org
Wed Jan 9 00:57:01 UTC 2013

On 08/01/13 20:30, Nikola Smolenski wrote:
> On 05/01/13 04:47, Tim Starling wrote:
>> For example, requiring phone number verification for new users from
>> developed countries would be less damaging.
> I don't see how is this supposed to help (and I don't think most new
> users would want to do this; I certainly wouldn't).

Phone number verification would dramatically reduce the rate of new
user creation. It would especially discourage casual vandalism and
casual good-faith contributions (typo fixes, etc.). Combined with
disabling anonymous edits, and allowing phone number ranges to be
blocked, it should reduce the vandalism rate by at least an order of

The case for restricting the use of semi-automated anti-vandal tools
would then be much stronger. Since the rate of new user creation would
slow from a flood to a trickle, constructive and friendly engagement
with new users would seem both more feasible and more essential.

So editor retention would be improved, at the expense of editor

I don't know whether the net effect on the editor population would be
positive or negative. But my theory is that the people who are
discouraged by phone number verification would be less likely to hold
a grudge against Wikipedia than the people who have their
contributions reverted and nasty messages placed on their talk pages.
Thus, editor numbers will rebound after phone number verification is

The editor retention problem is best solved by enforcing policies
which are aimed at ensuring new users feel welcomed. But if
enforcement is impossible, then a weaker alternative would be to
implement technical measures which will make those policies seem

-- Tim Starling

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