Community Wishlist Survey 2019/Archive/Create and maintain a structured process for new editor recruitment and editor retention

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 ◄ Back to Archive  The survey has concluded. Here are the results!

Withdrawn by proposer (too many proposals)

  • Problem:

On most WMF projects, editor activity levels have remained stagnant (or have even declined) for at least several years. The editor base is also still composed of pretty much the same mix of people as it was ten years ago (with a demographic bias towards white men in the "global North"). Maybe this is fine, or maybe it shouldn't be.

Currently the editor recruitment process consists largely of the "Edit" and "Create account" buttons, both of which are out of sight and out of mind for the typical reader finding out what happened today, settling an argument with someone, or researching their school project. As for editathons, I'll quote two articles in the English Wikipedia's Signpost:

"[...] in a nutshell, the story of all my outreach in Namibia. Operation successful, patient dead: A well-run workshop resulted in exactly zero new editors, zero subsequent edits, zero subsequent picture uploads."
"[...] they are a useful institution. However, they don't generate many new persistent editors. They mostly attract attendance by promising new biographies, and newbies arrive expecting to make articles about their friends."

To me, this immediately raises two issues (although I'm not going to pretend that I've done in-depth research, I hope these are fairly plausible conclusions):[1]

  • Most people don't really know what Wikipedia editors actually do or what they write about.
  • Most people don't really think about editing Wikipedia regularly, or consider that they in particular should become a Wikipedia editor.

If almost no one is actually aware (or made aware) that they can fix typos or write about their favourite musician's back catalogue or participate in the latest culture war or share their vacation pictures, then the obvious conclusion is that no one will actually come to edit. Songs that millions of people have listened to, for instance,[2] might not even get their own Wikipedia article (in any language). Just one of those millions of people would have been enough for those songs to get their own article.

I think it would be beneficial to all Wikimedia communities for the WMF to have some sort of process of recruiting editors extending outside the existing Wikimedia websites and outside the people who are already in Wikimedia movement.[3]

  • Who would benefit: Wikimedia projects, broadly construed; new editors
  • Proposed solution:

I can't propose one solution to this. However, perhaps at least raising awareness on other parts of the internet (or other parts the real world) would help. Advertising might be beneficial, and it was the first thing I thought of that might help. It might be more convincing than "anyone can edit" at telling people that they in particular should try out editing and/or edit regularly (i.e. "why should I edit? anyone else can already edit"). Perhaps specific groups of people[4] could be asked to, say, spend their evening commute fixing some typos or adding information to Wikidata items; or some large billboard could have some information about Wikipedia or the less-well-known projects.[5] In particular, targeting specific groups might help with finding groups of people who are likely to come back after making their first edit. Other avenues might include submitting op-eds to medium-importance newspapers, or having an interesting Twitter account.[6] Furthermore, it might also be beneficial to explore new on-wiki ways of getting people to edit regularly, perhaps by sending a notification if new users haven't edited in a while,[7] or by sending suggestions of what to try to new and currently active editors.[8]

Of course, editing Wikimedia projects (possibly excepting uploading to Commons) is never going to have obvious mass appeal, given that most people haven't had to cite sources in years. But there are always going to be people who just haven't found out that they want to edit yet.

  1. These apply to Wikipedia more than they do to the other projects, since there is much lower awareness among the general public that the other projects actually exist.
  2. Examples: "Lovely", by Billie Eilish ft. Khalid; "Amigos Con Derechos", by Reik and Maluma; "Peligrosa", by J. Balvin, Wisin and Yandel. At time of writing, none of these have existing articles on any Wikipedia or any Wikidata items, but each has more than 100 million YouTube views and more than 40 million Spotify plays.
  3. To me, the WMF seems to leave the actual content creation to chance most of the time (correct me if I'm wrong). I don't really blame them, since it is clearly working to some extent, but maybe a more active role would be better.
  4. For example: librarians; people interested in specific topics like TV series or 19th-century philosophers; specific groups of university students.
  5. Specific things, that aren't platitudes like "Imagine a world where knowledge is free".
  6. Examples: Mashable – "Merriam-Webster's Twitter is the political shade queen", USA Today – "Sorry McDonald’s, Wendy’s Twitter account is winning the war on beef". I'm not saying that @wikipedia should be engaging in esoteric fights, but maybe something other than a stream of random facts that are mostly mildly interesting but irrelevant to popular culture would boost its popularity.
  7. Facebook does this by notifying users of their friends' activity daily, and it is very annoying, so maybe not every day and stop sending notifications after a while if the user doesn't come back.
  8. Emphasis on "new", since people who have been here for 15 years are probably not going to like those being automatically turned on.
  • More comments: If something like this is indeed pursued, I would hope that the process is transparent to editors (at least on the English Wikipedia, there are sometimes complaints about how the developers didn't bother to tell anyone that they were going to do something). For example, if notifications are to be sent to new users asking them to come back and edit some more, the affected projects' communities could be informed of what the notification looks like and could have a consensus-based final approval on its text.
  • Phabricator tickets:


This proposal in its present form is too vague and therefore not actionable. We'll have to archive it unless some concrete technical things to do are added to it. On another hand, we have a whole team - Growth - that work on this full time, so it might be unnecessary at all. Max Semenik (talk) 21:28, 29 October 2018 (UTC)

  • Yes, we have a new team, Growth, that is working specifically on new editor recruitment and retention, so it would be better to convey these ideas to that team rather than having the Community Tech team work on it as a wishlist item. Ryan Kaldari (WMF) (talk) 00:38, 30 October 2018 (UTC)
    @Ryan Kaldari (WMF) and MaxSem: Okay. I'm actually planning to post two other proposals (and have already posted two), so perhaps if no one else decides to pick up the specific concrete proposals (targeted advertising, increased notifications to new users) then I'll abandon it by the end of the proposal period. Jc86035 (talk) 06:00, 30 October 2018 (UTC)