[Wikimedia-l] Thanking anonymous users

Oliver Keyes okeyes at wikimedia.org
Tue Jan 14 00:18:26 UTC 2014

On 13 January 2014 15:03, Steven Walling <steven.walling at gmail.com> wrote:

> On Mon, Jan 13, 2014 at 2:57 PM, Risker <risker.wp at gmail.com> wrote:
> > I dunno, guys.  I certainly would take a talk page message over a
> > mechanical "thank" any day of the week.  More particularly, I notice a
> > significant trend in using "thank" notifications to express agreement
> with
> > people without having to actually say "yeah, I agree" somewhere.
> >
> > That the loss of human contact, replacing it with another technological
> > whizbang, is considered a net positive...well, I guess that's what can be
> > expected from Wikimedia.
> >
> I don't view Talk page messages and thanks notifications as competing or
> detracting from each other, and I think pretty much everyone works on
> Thanks would agree. They are additive. It's helpful to have different
> levels and types of ways to engage with each other on the wiki.
Agreed. Re technological whizbangs....

If you're receiving this message, it's because I've successfully pushed on
coloured lumps of plastic, sending electrical signals translated from
English-language characters into unicode characters, themselves translated
into binary signals, which are encoded by a lump of intricately etched and
forked metal the size of a transit card. These are then sent as electrical
signals, translated into pulses of light, translated back into electrical
signals (repeat an unknown number of times), and reach a hunk of metal on
your floor or desk containing a similarly etched piece of metal that
translates them from pulses of electricity to unicode strings to character
representations on a screen that ( assuming it isn't a CRT or some weird
LED...thing) consists of a couple of squares of plastic with liquid,
crystalline shapes connected to tiny transistors. There's tamed lightning
there too.

Some of the technical details may be wrong (Dammit, Jim, I'm an analyst,
not a computer engineer!) but the point is that if 'technological
whizbangs' are what you're objecting to, you should probably junk your
computer. What I think you probably mean instead is that the message
conveyed is, because it's in a standardised format, somewhat artificial. It
doesn't give you the freedom to express the full gamut of human sentiments.
And, well, it doesn't, because it was never designed to. If you want to
write a love sonnet to a user for clearing up the copyright backlog,
'thanks' is not for you. If you want to drop in a template that transcludes
in some CSS and SVG images in order to render a barnstar (potentially
containing a love sonnet - I don't judge), 'thanks' is not for you. On the
other hand, if what you want to do is say 'good job', you probably don't
need all the capabilities and complications of a system oriented around
trancluded templates with love sonnets in them. It's a much higher barrier
than is actually necessary for what you're trying to achieve, which is just
the internet equivalent of a thumbs up.

Is there some loss of human contact? Well, potentially - there is whenever
things are standardised - but, at least with the things /I/ use thanks for,
there wasn't really any human contact initially. "Thanks for your edit on
[page]" on a talk page doesn't really provide much more than "[user]
thanked you for your edit on [page]". I know that whenever I've received
thanks for that kind of thing, it's cheered me up quite a bit, so evidently
the loss isn't /that/ great. In exchange, it dramatically reduces the
barrier to giving that thumbs up - we're getting almost 3,000 thanks
actions a day, every day, and I'd argue that's A Good Thing (and probably
not something we saw when the options were 'Wikilove or bust', because a
high barrier for a one-size-fits-all action does not benefit small uses of
that action).

Yes, it's less human than big long messages and barnstars and plaudits.
That's fine - things worthy of big long messages != things worthy of a
thumbs up, and Thanks is designed for the latter. When we have some spare
cycles, if we want to reduce the barrier to more long-form thank-yous,
that's probably a good thing to do as well. Just, please, nobody send me
any love sonnets.

Oliver Keyes
Product Analyst
Wikimedia Foundation

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