Research:Ideas/Helpdesks on Wikipedia

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Created
November 10, 2013
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This page documents a proposed research project.
Information may be incomplete and may change before the project starts.

Currently, there are six locations a newcomer can ask for help on editing wikipedia -

  • Directly asking another user
  • Wikipedia Help Desk
  • Teahouse
  • IRC channel
  • Help me templates
  • Mailing OTRS

Help requests are usually frangmented between these locations, and sometimes newcomers end up asking the same question in more than one of them. While none of these are perfect, they have their advantages and disadvantages; which would be better quantified through some experiment-based rigorous research on the same. This research would be eventually aimed at creating a unified single location for answering almost all queries, whether through removing the disadvantages of the current methods, or by creating a few system from scratch that takes a combination of the best characteristics of each of these locations

Directly asking another user[edit]

  • The simplest of the methods.
  • Usually occurs after an experienced user (helper) contacts the newcomer, offering help
  • Occurs through conversations on talk page

Advantages[edit]

  • Simple and easy
  • Query is usually answered

Disadvantages[edit]

  • Requires initial contact by helper. Doesn't work the other way round. If helper leaves only a warning or similar (as compared to offering help), helpees' questions are also generally left unanswered
  • Information dependant on the knowledge of a single helper. Inexperienced helper often leads helpee in wrong direction.

Potential improvements[edit]

  • Unlikely.

Wikipedia Help Desk[edit]

  • Normal Wikipedia page where newcomers ask questions, and helpers answer them
  • Script helps newcomers ask the question, rather than have them edit
  • Linked from many article talk pages and CSD template
  • Tends to attract queries from even experienced editors

Advantages[edit]

  • Intuitive location for finding help
  • Easily accessible through several channels
  • Several experienced helpers available
  • All questions are answered

Disadvantages[edit]

  • No talkbacks notify newcomer of having answered their problem
  • Generally not newcomer-friendly and often uses acronyms and Wikilinks
  • Too large and having too many sections to be easily understandable for the newcomer
  • Sections get archived after 3 days

Potential improvements[edit]

  • Possibly made more newcomer-friendly

Teahouse[edit]

  • Specifically designed "friendly" location onwiki
  • Questions asked via a script interface
  • "Most promising" newcomers invited by Hostbot daily.
  • Also linked from Help desk, several welcome messages.

Advantages[edit]

  • A good number of helpers available
  • Helpers instructed explicitly to be newcomer friendly and explain every policy
  • Script assisted semi-automated talkbacks sent to helpees

Disadvantages[edit]

  • Non accessible
  • Too long to load/crowded some of the times
  • Scripts sometimes fail and give errors

Potential improvements[edit]

  • More accessiblity, but the Teahouse may not be able to handle a lot more users

IRC Help Channel[edit]

  • IRC based live-help channel
  • Linked from AFC declines
  • Helpers idle on channel, and newcomers join in and ask questions

Advantages[edit]

  • On the spot replies ensure all queries are answered
  • Multiple helpers can help at one given time

Disadvantages[edit]

  • Non accessible
  • Tends to attract mainly AFC-declined helpees
  • No helpers are non available for several hours a day
  • More than 3-4 helpees at a given time is confusing
  • Freenode webchat interface is confusing

Potential improvements[edit]

  • More accessiblity
  • More helpers in the non-conventional time zones
  • Better interface to handle multiple editors

Help me templates[edit]

  • Newcomer post their questions on any Wiki or User talk page with {{help me}}
  • Helpers in several lists monitor for any unanswered requests and reply.

Advantages[edit]

  • Newcomer posts wherever they can.
  • Intuitive and accessible

Disadvantages[edit]

  • Some requests remain unanswered for hours
  • No follow up

Potential improvements[edit]

  • Better monitoring by helpers
  • More clarity on how to use help-me
  • Follow up from helpers

OTRS Mails[edit]

  • Newcomers mail wikipedia/wikimedia
  • Mail goes into OTRS queues where chosen OTRS Volunteers reply

Advantages[edit]

  • Intuitive place
  • Only experienced helpers reply
  • No unfamiliar place for newcomer to familiarise to

Disadvantages[edit]

  • Non conventional help-desk (Is not designed to be primarily a help-desk)
  • Takes too much time to answer, may not answer adequately all the time

Potential improvements[edit]

  • None

Support needed[edit]

Ready to create a project page?


References[edit]