New contributor objections

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See also: Why Wikimedians edit.

The Wikimedia Foundation is thinking about barriers to participation: why some readers don't edit. The list below is a brainstorm of barriers we have heard people cite, or can imagine people citing.

You can help us by doing the following:

  • Please add new objections to the list. Anything you have ever heard anyone cite as a reason for not contributing, toss it in :-) Ask your mom, your brother, your colleague.
  • Help reorder the list by frequency/seriousness of the objection. For example, if people are constantly telling you they are just too busy to help, push that objection higher on the list.
  • Below the list are some brainstormed ideas about how to help overcome objections, and persuade people to contribute. Please help us flesh those out.

Please comment on the talk page or change the text here on the main page: either is totally fine.

For the purposes of this exercise, we are imagining this typical non-contributor: A 55-year-old tenured professor of public policy

  • If you add a new objection that you think is unique to academics (rather than being applicable to any, or many, non-contributors), then please flag it as such.
  • Please do not add objections that you don't think -at least in theory- would apply to this type of person.

Thanks for your help, Sue Gardner 19:23, 7 August 2008 (UTC)

Why people don't contribute: list of common objections[edit]

Model A[edit]

Cluster 1: High Impact Objections

  1. Do not want to learn how to edit wiki pages.
  2. I have never noticed the edit button, had no idea I could edit.
  3. Am very busy with my work life or personal life.
  4. Am not technically savvy.
  5. Don't want to risk being humiliated or embarrassed if I make a mistake.
  6. Have heard terrible things about the quality of Wikipedia.
  7. I am daunted by the complexity of all the rules and stuff to read/learn
  8. There's nothing in it for me – no fame, no legacy, no reputation, nothing tactile.
  9. Do not want to argue with people / don't like debating, hostility, hot emotions.
  10. Academic knowledge always has a viewpoint. I don't want my contribution to be dumb-downed.
  11. People are not aware of the existence of Wikipedia / not aware of the existence of a Wikipedia in their own language
  12. The software is not properly localised; people do not understand the user interface.
  13. Commons, the media repository, does effectively only support English.
  14. Do not support free exchange of information

Cluster 2: Medium Impact Objections

  1. Do not want my work to be wasted (deleted/overwritten/reverted/edited).
  2. Am used to being treated with respect and deference.
  3. Wikipedia is already “done” - there is nothing new I could add/I have never noticed a mistake to correct it.
  4. Why waste time when plenty of others are writing it?
  5. Am scared that online activities could hurt my reputation offline; I could be stalked or harassed or made fun of.
  6. Why should I do free work so someone else can make a profit from it? [misconception]
  7. Am not an idealist, don't want to 'give back', don't care about leaving a legacy.
  8. Do not get credit (in form of byline) for articles.
  9. Wikipedia is quite flawed: it would be a lot of work for me to fix it.
  10. I do not think it is fun to write, especially not encyclopedic articles.

Cluster 3: Low Impact Objections

  1. I have trouble using a computer for a long time (poor eyesight, RSI, arthritis, etc.).
  2. Have already made my societal contribution.
  3. Wikipedia is too biased, too left-wing, too right-wing, etc. It is made by people who I disagree with.
  4. I do not want to be wrongly attributed: it is collective works, and editable, so I could later be taken to say what I didn't really say.
  5. Do not possess the proper equipment, internet connectivity, etc.
  6. Do not want to discuss facts with laymen.
  7. I would rather donate money than time.
  8. Computers remind me of work; I don't like using them outside of the office, when I have to.
  9. Fed up with the project after trying to remove libelous and false information from my own Wikipedia biography.

Model B[edit]

From my point of view the cluster model is a good starting point. Personally, I would prefer a more practical approach:

Cluster 1: What we can change

  • I have never noticed the edit button, had no idea I could edit.
    • target group: all - approach: video tutorials (highest impact) - priority: high - difficulty: medium
  • Have heard terrible things about the quality of Wikipedia
    • target group: academics - approach: Wikipedia Academies, cooperations with renowned institutions, getting the faces of well known experts already contributing (like the Fields medalist contributing to w:en) into the press, initiate Wikipedia tests (Nature), stimulate scientific articles about Wikipedia - priority: high - difficulty: high
    • target group: broad public - approach: press releases about events and inititatives aimed to enhance quality (writing contests, Zedler medal, etc.), testimonials of well-known people who love Wikipedia and who attest Wikipedia a good quality in their field of expertise (see the Stern article: a well known German bishop saying that the article on Martin Luther is well written) – priority: high - difficulty: low
  • Do not want my work to be wasted (deleted/overwritten/reverted/edited).
    • target group: academics - approach: giving examples how collaborative writing improved things, but: there's nothing more convincing than making one own's experiences - priority: high - difficulty: high (people who are used to write texts for many years and who are used to mull hours over single words really fear other people to change their work).
    • target group: older people - priority: high (older people don't have time to waste)
  • (new) Lack of self-confidence
    • target group: older people - approach: video tutorials ("Editing Wikipedia is easy" -> reaches many people / older people can stop the video, go back, watch it several times), workshops lead by other people of their age-group ("If he/she succeeded to contribute at his/her age – why shouldn’t I be able to do the same?" - priority: high - difficulty: medium
  • Am scared that online activities could hurt my reputation offline; I could be stalked or harassed or made fun of.
    • target group: women / people in leadership positions / scientists - approach: "choose a pseudonym and begin editing…" (spread the word: printed material, online help, whereever people of the target groups could read it) - priority: medium - difficulty: low
  • (new) Lack of personal contacts
    • target group: older people - approach: online pages with contact persons for different topics – priority: low – difficulty: low
  • Why should I do free work so someone else can make a profit from it? [misconception]
  • Wikipedia is quite flawed: it would be a lot of work for me to fix it.
  • Wikipedia is too biased, too left-wing, too right-wing, etc. It is made by people who I disagree with.
  • I do not want to be wrongly attributed: it is collective works, and editable, so I could later be taken to say what I didn't really say.
  • Do not want to discuss facts with laymen.

Cluster 2: What we might be able to change

  • Do not want to learn how to edit wiki pages. Never heard about that argument. Even the old people we are working with in Germany had no problems to learn the wiki markup. Some things could be better (tables, infoboxes), but people ususally accept that they have to learn something new when using computers/internet 
  • Don't want to risk being humiliated or embarrassed if I make a mistake.
  • There's nothing in it for me – no fame, no legacy, no reputation, nothing tactile. Arguments can be: "You'll reach a large audience with your articles" / "It will make you proud to see your article on the main page"
  • Do not get credit (in form of byline) for articles. Listing the authors who contributed up to 90% of the text (will usually be 3 or 5) will make Wikipedia more transparent. And let us be frank: in particular the featured articles are – in general – written by one single person – why shouldn't we be more open to this question? I'm always asked during my workshops "But who wrote that article?" And (as an insider!) I can quickly answer the question by telling people the name of the main author. They always reply: "How do you know that?" Answer: "I read the review some time ago / I read the Candidates for featured articles discussion when it took place / I had a quick look on the history page" Question: "How may *we* know who wrote that text?" Reply: "Either by clicking through numerous versions (*people laugh*) or not at all". Reaction: dissapointment.
  • Have already made my societal contribution. Shows that this person isn't generally objected to make societal contributions.
  • Fed up with the project after trying to remove libelous and false information from my own Wikipedia biography.

Cluster 3: What we won't be able change / what we (as Wikimedia) don't want to change (because we have other targets / goals) / what we don't want to change in the nearer future (e.g. there might be target groups we want to reach later, because they are not highest priority or because they are much more difficult to reach)

  • Am very busy with my work life or personal life. There are other things in life than Wikipedia; our world also needs people committed to the red cross, unicef, etc.
  • Am not technically savvy. What a pity. How many technology-distant people exist, who have a high affinity to arts, literature etc. (topics we need expertise). Perhaps people of this group are one of our challenges in the long run
  • Do not want to argue with people / don't like debating, hostility, hot emotions.
  • Am used to being treated with respect and deference.
  • Wikipedia is already “done” - there is nothing new I could add/I have never noticed a mistake to correct it. A big problem we encountered during our last online course for older people. This problem arises when a) you don't work with people who have a certain field of interest (which is not Rail transport modelling or Digital photography) b) they should contribute to one of the larger language versions of Wikipedia (like the English or the German one)
  • Why waste time when plenty of others are writing it?
  • Am not an idealist, don't want to 'give back', don't care about leaving a legacy.
  • I have trouble using a computer for a long time (poor eyesight, RSI, arthritis, etc.).
  • Do not possess the proper equipment, internet connectivity, etc.
  • I would rather donate money than time. Great. Give us a phone call and we'll tell you more about what we need the money for (and how much)
  • Computers remind me of work; I don't like using them outside of the office, when I have to.

Last but not least, here is how a 72-year-old Professor of agricultural science answered the question "What keeps Emeriti from participating?" yesterday (literal translation):

  1.  "If everyone can change my text, I will certainly not write articles!"
  2.  Contributors should at all needs use their realnames.
  3.  Only registered Users should be allowed to contribute.
  4.  Authors should state their area of expertise.
  5.  There should be editorial departments.
  6. There should be "stable versions", which can only be edited by "verifiers" or "editorial departments"
  7.  Wikipedia articles do not increase a scientist's reputation.

Background: he is an active contributor to the German language Wikipedia since mid 2006 and tried to convince some of his former colleagues to participate.

He also told me in his last email that some of the German scientific societies in the field of agricultural science plan to start their own Wikis. I answered:

  1. Remember that Wikipedia is always one of the top-10 Google-hits. What sense does it make to create a new Wiki if it is most likely that no one will find the information?
  2. Look how many people accessed the Wikipedia article on aphids: http://stats.grok.se/de/200806/Blattläuse No new Wiki will reach such a big audience. It really makes no sense to write high quality articles in a new Wiki if everyone reads the (perhaps not so good) Wikipedia article.
  3. Wikipedia is the main source of information for pupils and students. If you want to get the younger generation interested for your subject, try to make the according articles on Wikipedia look better and more interesting. Wikipedia is a good way to recruit the next generation of scientists.

In his reply he invited me to get in contact with the scientific society he had in mind and to convince them face-to-face ;-)

All the best --Frank Schulenburg 19:11, 14 August 2008 (UTC) 

Things we can do to help resolve these objections[edit]

Outreach[edit]

We should focus outreach efforts on

  1. the main message that everyone is welcome to contribute,
  2. overcoming common objections to contributing, and
  3. giving people the help they need to contribute successfully.

We should also use outreach activities to solicit information about why people don't contribute. We should provide people with simplified summary versions of the policies and rules of the various projects. We should also provide them with lists of topic areas that need help – both 'example' lists designed to convey the breadth of work that needs doing, and perhaps also a tool that enables them to search for articles that both match their interests and have been flagged as needing attention, and for articles that have been flagged as needing a particular kind of attention they are willing and able to offer (e.g., copy editing).

Yes, especially that last of the three points is very important. I have strong concerns against that main message, "everyone is welcome to contribute". Not so much again that message itself, but it must be followed by the warning that there are some rules at Wikipedia every newbie should know before editing. Sending people into an adventure without preparing them creates a lot of frustration. At lectures I always emphasize that Wikipedia is not an anarchy but a community with rules that make sense. This helps to make people have faith in Wikipedia and trust it.--Ziko-W 20:04, 21 August 2008 (UTC)

Acknowledgment[edit]

We should strengthen the incentives for participating, particularly reputational ones. Develop new versions of the Zedler medal.

  • One idea I am interested in for Wikimedia Australia is the idea of regular Editors Challenge friendly competition/contests in improving coverage and quality. --pfctdayelise 06:35, 10 August 2008 (UTC)

Project governance[edit]

Can policies and rules be streamlined, simplified?


Communications[edit]

We should focus communications/PR efforts on

  1. point out the main message that everyone is welcome to contribute, and
  2. redressing common misconceptions that underlie objections to participation.

Quality[edit]

We need to continue our efforts to increase quality, in order to make participation more attractive to new contributors. (If the projects are high-quality and perceived as high-quality, the social rewards for contributing -reputation enhancement, feeling part of a useful group- also increase.)


Usability[edit]

Make MediaWiki more user-friendly. Run user tests and heuristic analyses and implement changes to make it easier to use. You shouldn't need to be particularly technically savvy or patient or wiki-experienced, in order to upload a photo or read a history page. We should make the edit functions more visible.

Allow for the translation of Commons categories. This will create a fist step to opening up Commons to 50% of the WMF traffic. It is a first step to opening up the freely licensed media files of Commons to the non English rest of the world.

Roles[edit]

Create new roles for people. Currently, in order to contribute to the projects, you pretty much have to learn wiki syntax, and the social rules of engagement, policies, etc. Not everyone wants to do that, or will do that. So, foster the creation of new roles. Perhaps someone could become an “expert reviewer,” and write reports on the quality of various articles, with recommendations for improvement. Perhaps “subject matter experts” could be partnered up with “wiki experts,” with the former advising and the latter editing. Etc.

This could have the effect of

  1. protecting new contributors' time and using them to best advantage,
  2. acknowledging that some will never become wiki experts, and enabling them to contribute regardless, and
  3. protecting new contributors from snippiness and hostility.

Create tools to match up people with particular skills or interests, with work that needs their help – for example, tools to match up people who enjoy copy editing with articles that need copy editing.


Community tone[edit]

Foster friendly, welcoming behaviour. Discourage hostility, hot emotions, snappiness, the humiliation of new people. How?

Maybe in the Help pages we must be more explicit what we exactly mean by a hostile tone. I have once thought about a "Wiki Priest", a "mental coach" that talks to Wikipedians who are hostile against others. Talk to them not on the discussion page, but personally and try to find out what really is their problem.--Ziko-W 20:07, 21 August 2008 (UTC)

Intractable[edit]

There are also some objections that are essentially intractable. For example, if someone doesn't have a computer or internet connectivity, it is unlikely they will ever participate in any way in the Wikimedia projects. People who see computers as solely work-related tools are unlikely to enjoy what we do. People who are fundamentally unidealistic and have no interest in making a societal contribution, are also fairly unlikely to work with us, as are people who are simply too busy.

I don't know that these are totally intractible.
  • There are lots of people in the world who have limited internet connectivity, or intermittent connectivity. I can imagine some kind of Google Gears-like setup that allows people to write stuff offline, and periodically connect and have it merged in (somehow). Certainly that won't work very well for English Wikipedia, which changes at a much faster pace than this set-up would suit, but for small projects it might work well.
  • Wikipedia is a force in the world. People have to interact with it because they have no choice. Academics have to accept that students are looking at Wikipedia before anywhere else, therefore it is in their best interests to have the articles on their topic area be accurate and comprehensive. They don't have to accept anything about Wikipedia idealism to accept that. --pfctdayelise 06:26, 10 August 2008 (UTC)

Better training materials?[edit]

Perhaps online video with guided step-by-step instructions for how to complete common edits and answer some basic questions. Similar to this but better quality, better music (narration), and content. Meh. After much, much searching, I found some videos within the Wikiversity. My updated point might read: "Make online video with guided step-by-step instructions much more visible and available Wikipedia tutorial pages." In the Dutch language there are some very simple videos how to create a new user and how to log in. This seems too simple to be useful but (some) people do need that.

Volunteer Instructors into Schools[edit]

When I worked for the Red Cross, we had a pool of volunteers who would happily go to companies/churches/schools to speak to groups of 10 to 30 on Disaster Preparedness. Similarly, Wikimedia has a large pool of global volunteers. Is there some way to coordinate volunteers to go into classrooms or businesses (that request it) for a 1 or 2 hour Wikimedia training? With a set curriculum, I bet we could engage lots of volunteers to do this...and it has obvious educational merit and fulfills our core objective.