Editor engagement

From Meta, a Wikimedia project coordination wiki
For the WMF project, see Editor engagement experiments.
(English) This is an essay. It expresses the opinions and ideas of some Wikimedians but may not have wide support. This is not policy on Meta, but it may be a policy or guideline on other Wikimedia projects. Feel free to update this page as needed, or use the discussion page to propose major changes.

For the Wikimedia Foundation, it's all a numbers game currently. No press release is issued without the Wikimedia Foundation trumpeting that it operates the number five most-visited site in the world. There's no mention of hosting high-quality, free educational content. For the Wikimedia Foundation, it's become a game of ever-higher and ever-meaningless metrics. And this misguided focus has led to a fixation on dubious goals, such as increasing the quantity of editors, without regard for editor quality or editor satisfaction.

There are crucial misunderstandings currently within the Wikimedia Foundation. There has to be an acknowledgement by all parties that it is unrealistic to expect a lot of people to want to create, edit, and curate free educational content. Participating in a project such as Wiktionary or Wikipedia is a niche activity that can never garner the same level of participation as sharing photos of yourself or talking about what you're doing right now.

The Wikimedia Foundation does not seem to understand this key point. For example, people from the Wikimedia Foundation look at 100,000 active editors on the English Wikipedia and don't appreciate them. "Ugh, we need more editors!" they cry, rather than saying, "Look at all of these people willing to donate their free time, let's build them better tools that allow them to create better educational content." Or perhaps, "the English Wikipedia has tens of thousands of active editors, let's try to bolster the other projects to reach this same level of activity." Meanwhile, most projects, wikis, and other volunteer projects alike, would kill to have so many active and engaged participants.

The latest buzzword from the Wikimedia Foundation is "editor engagement." Given its focus on adding more people to the pile, the central question for the Wikimedia Foundation has become: how do we increase our editor engagement for the English Wikipedia? Or put another way: how do we get more people to participate in Wikimedia wikis the English Wikipedia? But this overshadows the more important question facing the minds of most Wikimedians: how do we create, edit, curate, and disseminate the best content possible across all Wikimedia projects?

The answer, from the Wikimedia Foundation's perspective, should be to create better tools for editors. There should be a strong focus on making tools that work well so that the active and engaged editors can get more done. That is how you get people to come back and continue to donate their limited free time. That is how you get editors to stay engaged.

Many Wikimedians hope for the day when the Wikimedia Foundation comes to realize that it won't attract most people to participate in its sites. Certainly not in the same way that a site where users can post photos of their cat or tell the world what they had for breakfast can attract participants.

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