Community Tech/Watchlist Expiry

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The watchlist expiry project aims to provide a short-term watchlist option to users. With this change, users will have the option to watch pages for a short period of time, rather than indefinitely. When the time period ends, the page will no longer be watched. The user will not need to manually unwatch the page or commit any other action. Rather, the unwatching will be automatically performed by the system. This project was the #7 request from the 2019 Community Wishlist Survey. In addition, it was included in the WMDE Wishlist and the 2015 Community Wishlist. It has also been explored many times in Phabricator, such as in T100508, T8964, T209773, and T124752. The reasoning behind this request is that, for some use cases, the current watchlist system is inflexible. It doesn’t accommodate for times when users wish to temporarily watch a page, but have no long-term interest in it.

To do this work, we’ll be communicating with other teams, including Community Engagement. We look forward to community feedback on the Talk page.

Why Users Temporarily Watch Pages[edit]

There are many reasons why someone may want to temporarily watch a page, which we detail below.

Monitoring Pages[edit]

First, users (especially patrollers) may want to monitor pages for a short period of time. This may occur when a page experiences a surge in popularity due media attention or viral sharing of the page/topic on social media. This may also occur for wiki-related reasons, such as when a page is being primed for feature article candidacy. In both cases, the user may feel that the page popularity will eventually decrease. At that point, the page may require less maintenance or prove less interesting to the user. For these reasons, the user may want to stop watching the page.

Second, users may want to temporarily watch a page after certain content has been added or reverted. For example, the user may want to confirm that the page won’t be re-vandalized within a short period of time. They may also want to confirm that a recent edit won't be changed or reverted within a short period of time. Once that time has passed, they may not need to watch the page.

Third, users may want to temporarily watch a page after its protection has expired. In this case, the user may feel that the page is potentially still vulnerable to edit wars, vandalism, or other issues. Thus, the user may choose to keep tabs on the page during a limited period of time, after which it will fall into general maintenance mode (if it’s not re-protected).

Fourth, users may temporarily monitor a page after it has been deleted. They may be concerned that the page will be recreated soon, so they want to keep tabs on the page for a short period of time. After that time has passed, they may not want to watch the page.

Fifth, users may want to watch a page that hasn’t been created yet (but will probably be created soon, due to current events or pop culture). In this scenario, the user may monitor the early stages of the page’s development, as the topic remains in the news. However, they do not take a long-term interest in the page, and they’re merely curious to see if a page gets developed soon (and, if so, how it takes shape).

Sixth, users with special privileges or roles may want to temporarily watch pages. For example, New Page Patrol reviewers may want to temporarily monitor a page, especially if the page is still being developed by the author. The reviewer doesn’t want to discourage the author, so they will wait for a bit. Once the page is ready for review, they can stop watching it. Note that this use case shares some parallels to the NPP request for article reminders. Another example is mentors who are helping new editors. They may want to temporarily watch the pages that their mentee is editing, but only for a short period of time.

Monitoring Conversations[edit]

Seventh, users may want to temporarily watch Talk pages, so that they may follow conversations that directly concern them. For example, one user (User A) may post a question on another user’s talk page (User B). Then, User B may respond to that question on their own talk page, without directly pinging User A. For this reason, User A may want to watch User B’s Talk page, but only within the time range they feel is appropriate to conclude the conversation.

Eighth, users may want to monitor Talk page conversations, even if they’re not directly involved. This may occur because a specific point in a conversation interests or excites the user (and they’re waiting for a good point to jump in). Alternatively, this may be because a specific point in the conversation concerns the user, and they want to ensure that no abuse or harassment occurs. For both cases, the user may want to follow the conversation for a short period of time, but only for as long as the particular interaction in question remains unresolved or in progress.

Ninth, some users may be in engaged in a discussion within a timeboxed or limited amount of time. For example, pages are created during the canvassing and voting process for the Community Tech Wishlist Survey. After the wishlist survey is complete, users may no longer wish to watch the page. Furthermore, some pages are temporary by design (and may no longer exist when the discussion is complete), such as Good article nominations (GANs), Sockpuppet investigations (SPIs), and Did you know (DYK) nominations, among others. When the allocated time has passed, users may no longer wish to watch such pages.

How Users Currently Watch Pages Temporarily[edit]

Under the current system, users can start and stop watching pages, but they cannot set time limits. The easiest way to watch a page is to click on the star symbol between the “View history” tab and the search box at the very top of the page (see example below).  Most pages are watchable, with some exceptions. When a page is being watched, the star icon becomes blue in color, and the page appears in the Watchlist of the user. The Watchlist can be accessed via the “Watchlist” link at the top of the page (see circled link in example below).

Watchlist link (to access Watchlist) and star icon (to watch page)

If the user wants to stop watching a page, they can click on the blue star on the article page. This will automatically un-watch the article, and they’ll receive a brief confirmation that informs them the article has been removed from their watchlist (see example below).

Example of newly watched page notification

Example of notification that page is no longer being watched

They can also select the page that they wish to stop watching on Special:EditWatchList (see example below). The advantage of removing items directly from the Watchlist is that you can stop watching multiple pages at once, rather than individually un-watching each page.

Example of removing items from Watchlist

Once you have removed items from the watchlist, you will receive a confirmation message (see example below):

Confirmation of pages removed from Watchlist

The Watchlist can also be edited via Special:EditWatchlist/raw. In this view, the user can manually delete an entry from the Watchlist and then click “Update Watchlist” (see example below).

View of Raw Watchlist

There are also some specialized cases for watching/unwatching pages, such as via popup gadgets.

In summary, the user must remember and personally track when they want to stop watching pages. They must visit the page and click on the star symbol, or they must directly edit the Watchlist, in order to stop watching a page.

Open Questions[edit]

We have provided some questions below, which we invite everyone to discuss on the Talk page. Your feedback is crucial and will help inform our next steps. Thank you in advance!

  • Have we covered the main reasons why someone may watch a page temporarily?
  • What are the most common reasons you, personally, watch a page temporarily?
  • What are the most common timeranges for you to watch a page temporarily (e.g. one week, one month, six months, etc)? And why those timeranges, in particular?
  • Would you like to be included in the usability testing for this feature? We'll be using to gather structured feedback and reactions on the prototype. We'll post the prototype on Meta-Wiki for feedback, as well. If you're interested in participating in the usability test (it would really help us, if you do!), you can leave your email address in this form. Thanks!

Important links[edit]