What is the problem you're trying to solve?
WikiProjects on the English Wikipedia are intended to foster collaboration on articles related to subject areas by providing resources and centralized discussion. There are a few very successful WikiProjects which have an active role on Wikipedia by building subject-area communities, establishing best practices, and providing active encouragement and feedback for those improving the encyclopedia. However, most WikiProjects fail to achieve the critical mass necessary to be of use to most editors, and so they fall apart. WikiProjects are a huge missed opportunity to develop these more formalized editing communities within the huge English Wikipedia community.
What is your solution?
The solution is to:
- Research the current landscape of WikiProjects and other on-project social networks and compare them to WikiProject activity levels,
- Learn from successful WikiProjects to give us an idea of what a successful WikiProject looks like, and
- Design a prototype workflow and interface that can be deployed to improve other WikiProjects.
First, research is done on the relationship between WikiProjects; articles that come under the purview of these WikiProjects; and Wikipedia editors editing these articles, participating in WikiProjects, or doing both. We are interested in WikiProjects that have both the highest level of activity and also the highest correlation between users participating on the WikiProject and users editing articles under the WikiProject's purview. We consider these "model WikiProjects." Through appreciative inquiry we will study these WikiProjects in further depth to figure what makes them succeed. This involves supplementing the quantitative analysis with surveys of participants in the most active WikiProjects and qualitative research, including interviews. The purpose of this research is to measure attitudes toward their WikiProjects and determining their motivations for participating.
Once we have researched the nature of successful WikiProjects, we will design an ideal WikiProject experience as a prototype. This ideal experience factors into the consideration the actual layout of the WikiProject—namely the ability to interact with it—as well as the mechanisms to recruit people and communities into this WikiProject. We would deploy this new design on an experimental basis by recruiting active Wikipedians to revive long-defunct WikiProjects and converting existing (functioning) WikiProjects with their permission. These experiments will be evaluated on the basis of their success in increasing WikiProject activity and increasing edits to Wikipedia articles in general. Future phases of this project could involve deploying variations of this design randomly and subjecting them to A/B testing or another form of experimentation.
The goal of this project is to address the causes of WikiProject failure on the English Wikipedia. By addressing these causes, we hope to increase the activity on WikiProjects and make WikiProjects more central to the experience of editing Wikipedia. This is based on the hypothesis that WikiProjects help facilitate Wikipedia-editing in a given subject area by organizing contributors around a cause and by providing resources and social support.
Our initial literature review (which is ongoing) will determine the scope of research. Our review of the existing literature on WikiProjects and editing patterns will determine what large-scale surveying of the community will be needed, if any. We want to determine Wikipedians' attitudes toward WikiProjects, whether they self-identify as participants in WikiProjects, and what they consider the proper role of a WikiProject to be. This review will inform the development of our metrics; while we have identified preliminary metrics below, we may need to develop additional ones based on the responses from the survey.
We will combine the literature review with survey research (if needed) and an analysis of data that comes from Wikipedia itself. According to the Wikipedia Release Version Tools, there are over 2,000 WikiProjects participating in article assessment on the English Wikipedia. For a WikiProject to participate in article assessment, the WikiProject must have a defined scope of articles in its universe; indeed, many WikiProjects have succeeded in tagging large numbers of articles as being within the scope of their projects. This gives us a starting point to construct social networks based on subject area. Take an example WikiProject that has tagged 1,000 articles as being in the project's scope. Regardless of the WikiProject's activity level, that gives us 1,000 articles that all purportedly belong to the same subject area. All of these articles have contributors of some kind, and some of these articles have talk pages where editors have discussed the article. Perhaps these editors have engaged on other parts of the project as well.
As part of our research we will measure these "editing communities" and then compare them to the populations of different WikiProjects. First, we would like to measure the number of edits being made to articles and talk pages in these WikiProject areas. Then, to measure the role of a WikiProject in that subject area, we are interested in measuring "active participation" in a WikiProject compared to "shadow participation." Given a population of users editing articles in a subject area, we want to compare those editing while listing themselves as active members of the WikiProject to those who edit without affiliating with the WikiProject. We are interested in measuring rates of self-identification to see if the WikiProject is successful in building a community around the WikiProject. Within the WikiProject space, we would like to measure edits made to the WikiProject's pages and the number of programs (newsletter, internal quality guidelines, etc.) conducted by the WikiProject.
This initial research will give us a sense of which WikiProjects are the most successful in engaging their respective subject-area communities. Having identified the "model WikiProjects," we will study these specific WikiProjects in further depth, including interviews of the different WikiProject participants and a detailed study of the workflows of these WikiProjects. These interviews provide additional narrative information, in the manner of an oral history. These narratives will give us insight on the motivations of these editors, including their relationships with other editors in the WikiProjects and their perceived benefit from participating in the WikiProject. We seek to interview as many WikiProject participants in these model WikiProjects as is feasibly possible. Five Wikipedia t-shirts will be raffled as an incentive to participate in this research.
The research phase investigates the various social networks that operate within the English Wikipedia and examines their relationship with the WikiProjects which portend to represent these networks. This research will culminate in work to re-design the WikiProject experience to provide better support to these networks. The object of this proposal is not to wedge WikiProjects in where they don't belong, but to encourage participation through them. This includes designing mechanisms that recruit WikiProject participants, sustain their interest, and provide them with resources. Crucially, it means making WikiProjects worth participating in.
A new WikiProject design concept would need to consider a number of factors, including:
- Recruitment mechanisms, similar to how the Teahouse engages new contributors
- Branding and identity, including mechanisms that encourage people to identify with the WikiProject (such as user page badges)
- Presentation of content on the WikiProject page(s): what could a WikiProject potentially be used for? What will people be looking for?
- Governance: It may be helpful to consider a system akin to the Teahouse "hosts," encouraging people to identify as ambassadors for the WikiProject.
As part of the design process, we will analyze the layouts of the model WikiProjects, studying workflows currently in use (e.g. WikiProject banners on talk pages → WikiProject pages). We will also consider the sizes of communities on design choices; what does a WikiProject with five active participants look like, as opposed to 50? How can a WikiProject scale in activity, growing from nothing but bot-automated activity to an active community as high as Dunbar's number or even greater? What are some program modules, such as newsletters, that we could standardize and make easy to deploy on other WikiProjects?
New designs will be tested through in-person meetups in Washington, DC, and at WikiConference USA 2015, wherever it will be. We will also solicit feedback through engagement with Wikipedians, including those who participated in our interview process. Once a new design is developed, we will implement it for live testing. This will consist of recruiting active Wikipedians to revitalize defunct WikiProjects, and to encourage existing functional WikiProjects to try the new design. We will test the efficacy of the re-design through comparing activity levels (in the WikiProject proper and in the WikiProject's subject area) before and after re-designs. Depending on the number of implementations we may be able to test variations through A/B testing or similar mechanisms.
It is important to note that we do not intend on imposing new designs, workflows, etc. on active WikiProjects which do not need or want them. There is no reason to fix what is not broken. This project intends only to activate WikiProjects that are inactive or at risk of falling into inactivity.
This timeline is approximate and subject to change.
- Before project officially begins: Ongoing literature review
- Weeks 1–4: Finishing literature review; determining potential need for initial survey; preliminary work on on-site data analysis.
- Weeks 5–6: Analysis of survey outcomes (if applicable); development of additional metrics; analysis of WikiProject and subject area social network activity. Goal: Identify model WikiProjects.
- Weeks 7–9: Model WikiProject analysis by the designer; interviewing WikiProject participants.
- Weeks 10–14: Design and usability testing of first prototype. Goal: Complete initial prototype for live testing.
- Weeks 15–25: Implementation of prototype to test WikiProjects; prototype refinement; impact analysis. Goal: Finish testing prototype.
- Project Manager: $10,000
- This is a stipend, but based on the following calculation: $20/hour, 20 estimated hours/week, 25 weeks (~6 months)
- Roles: Overall management and direction; communicating with the public and stakeholders; designing and distributing surveys; data analysis; developing interview lists and interviewing WikiProject participants; working with the designer on developing interfaces and workflows; carrying out in-person usability tests
- Designer: $10,000
- This is a stipend, but based on the following calculation: $20/hour, 10-30 hours/week, 25 weeks (~6 months)
- Roles: Researching current interfaces and workflows in use; designing new ones to achieve project objectives; carrying out online usability testing where feasible; continuously refining designs according to feedback and testing
- Merchandise: $75
- Breakdown: $15/t-shirt, 5 t-shirts to raffle.
- Total: $20,075
We have notified around 1,900 WikiProjects of this project through MassMessage, and we will start a newsletter for continued follow-up. We will work closely with WikiProjects that show considerable interest in this project. We will regularly communicate with survey respondents and interviewees; it is better to continually involve participants rather than engage with them only once.
By the conclusion of the project, we should have a usable prototype for a re-designed WikiProject that can be implemented on WikiProjects at will. This will be implemented through the usual template system, so any Wikipedian could use it, and volunteers could continue maintaining it. Potentially, the system could be exported to a different language edition of Wikipedia, or other Wikimedia projects.
Measures of success
We will be measuring contributions of media, number of articles added/improved, and number of bytes added/removed as grouped by WikiProject subject area. Measurements will be relative to an established baseline measured before a WikiProject is re-designed. Our goal is to increase productivity by 5%.
We will ascertain if work increases the motivation of contributors if users participating in re-designed WikiProjects increase their edits to Wikipedia, including article edits (suggesting productivity) and WikiProject page / talk page edits (suggesting participation in a social community). We could also survey participants on re-designed WikiProjects using motivation questions from the Question Bank.
- Harej will be the project manager for WikiProject X. James has been a Wikipedia editor since 2004. From 2007 until 2011 he developed and maintained several bots on the English Wikipedia, including RFC bot, RM bot, GA bot, and One bot. In developing these automated processes he worked with groups of Wikipedia maintenance volunteers to develop solutions to inefficient procedural workflows on English Wikipedia. As a result of this effort, the amount of work necessary to list article RFCs or good article nominations has been reduced, making it easier to coordinate discussions across English Wikipedia. He is also a founding member of Wikimedia District of Columbia's Board of Directors, though he is applying in a strictly personal capacity.
- Isarra is the designer for WikiProject X. Isarra is a user experience designer, experienced in designing MediaWiki interfaces. In 2013 she participated in the Outreach Program for Women, where she designed wireframes for new discussion pages.
- Kirill Lokshin will be advising WikiProject X. Kirill served as the Coordinator for WikiProject Military History on the English Wikipedia, where he pioneered WikiProject features now used widely throughout WikiProjects.
- Diego Moya is helping as a volunteer with analysis and design of research and interfaces.
- Volunteer in all thing Niyonkuru valentin kendl (talk) 16:46, 28 November 2014 (UTC)
- Tetra quark (talk) 04:14, 11 January 2015 (UTC)
- Notification sent to the WikiProject Council as an initial notification. harej (talk) 23:50, 30 September 2014 (UTC)
- Notification sent to ~1,900 WikiProject talk pages. Sample notification harej (talk) 22:51, 1 October 2014 (UTC)
Do you think this project should be selected for an Individual Engagement Grant? Please add your name and rationale for endorsing this project in the list below. (Other constructive feedback is welcome on the talk page of this proposal).
- Community member: add your name and rationale here.
- Tetra quark (talk) 01:24, 13 January 2015 (UTC) Wikiprojects are way too confusing to use. The ratings table, article alerts. It really,a really is confusing
- STJMLCC (talk) 03:58, 8 December 2014 (UTC) Wikiprojects tend to start out strong and excellent and with extreme splendour, but alas after a year or two or even a month the Wikiproject slows down and eventually comes to a halt. For Example, work on both Project Microsoft, and Project Lebanon (I am involved in both) were once great and splendind but now are tagged with "Semi Active" and "Inactive". Wikiproject Microsoft, However, is in the process of being Revived and is being worked on as we speak. Being a member in Wikproject Active, Semi-Active, Active, And Being Revived I support this movement completly! STJMLCC (talk) 03:58, 8 December 2014 (UTC)
- Onel5969 (talk) 15:36, 1 October 2014 (UTC) - Projects are one of the most valuable tools in building consensus, which is one of the key foundations (at least in the year I've been active on WP, I've found that to be the case) in how decisions are made on WP. The ones I am involved with, and others that I have considered joining, are also important for recognizing deficiencies, and addressing those deficiencies, as well as other needs, within the area they cover. Benchmarking why some projects are successful, while others fail, will only help improve the encyclopedia as a whole.
- Lithistman (talk) 17:53, 1 October 2014 (UTC) I stumbled across this proposal at the talkpage of WikiProject Kansas, of which I am a part. I think this is a great idea that, if properly implemented, could change the landscape of the project significantly, given the amounts of work that active WikiProjects can accomplish. Lithistman (talk) 17:53, 1 October 2014 (UTC)
- I'm a member of several semi-active WikiProjects, some of which I have tried to revive and others I have joined during periods of semi-inactivity. I have a few theories as to why certain projects become less active but it would be good to have some of those either confirmed or addressed. WikiProjects often have great potential but are limited by the fact that those who "run" them are not "leaders" with the tools needed to motivate, drive and coordinate - they are often just editors with a personal interest. Tools that allow a project to "run itself" would be a great help and anything to identify those is a worthwhile endeavour. Stalwart111 (talk) 01:24, 2 October 2014 (UTC)
- There are lots of failed wikiprojects, and few truly successful projects. The ones that are successful are, generally, very successful. Wither it be from subject matter, individual editors, or some system developed internally, the reasons should be determined. I am active in a wikiproject that seems to get results, I think part of its success has been constant feedback to members, and weekly items (voting) that encourage participation. It would be interesting to see what general findings could be determined. --NickPenguin (talk) 04:28, 2 October 2014 (UTC)
- I have found myself working on clusters of articles around certain projects, have worked directly on improving some moribund wikiprojects, and also tried to fix up lifeless portals that had moribund projects supporting them. for all my work, i have encountered very little (current) collaboration, and i know thats what they ideally produce and are driven by. My one encounter with a well run project left me very upset, as they had decided to "own" all their articles, and wanted them kept out of other projects. I think that understanding why projects, and portals, fail to thrive, is essential, as people have natural affinities for certain subjects, and may best express that through an active, welcoming project. Projects should also encourage readers to edge towards editing.Mercurywoodrose (talk) 06:20, 2 October 2014 (UTC)
- I have seen projects that is extremely active when they are born (like the popular culture project), and slowly getting highly inactive. I have seen projects that are active in bits and fits, but has a large number of article covered (like the fashion project), which gets developed in a largely uncoordinated manner. I have seen projects that have extreme team work between 2-3 editors (like the Bangladesh project), while the rest of the people interested in the articles covered never use the project. And, I have seen awesome projects like Military History, Aviation and Indian Cinema that are highly coordinated and active. We definitely need to understand what works and what doesn't. We also need to understand what defines success, and what defines activity. May be we need to bring in more considerations like coordination, compliance and usefulness. Aditya Kabir (talk) 07:41, 2 October 2014 (UTC)
- OR drohowa (talk) 16:08, 2 October 2014 (UTC)
- It's my view that the decline in activity of good science editors and the decline in the quality of a significant amount of science content on English Wikipedia coincided with a period of rapid growth and reach for those relatively few editors who were heavily involved in WikiProjects. When consensus-building seemed to always take place on article talk pages, more editors participated and all editors seemed to be on an equal footing. Now that consensus-building occurs largely on Project pages, there is an established bureaucracy and hierarchy of participants that is project-focused instead of being article-focused. That leads to decreased participation from knowledgeable people (who don't wish to spent time understanding preexisting social/bureaucratic structures), so projects have only led to more facile consensus-building due to the fact that it's easier for fewer people who have known each other for a long time to agree with each other. Measuring the success of anything at Wikipedia in terms of quantitative social network/participation metrics misses the entire point of creating and improving an encyclopedia and views negative impacts on encyclopedia improvement in a positive light. I do not think this project should be selected for an Individual Engagement Grant. Further ranting from me is on the grant talk page. Flying Jazz (talk) 20:21, 2 October 2014 (UTC)
- Sillyfolkboy (talk) 23:55, 2 October 2014 (UTC) - An assessment of the impact of WikiProjects is well overdue. I would also appreciate some analysis on the impact of WikiProject-led editing groups and how we define success (echoing Aditya Kabir above). Not sure if this stretches the scope a little but I think a crucial part of assessing what makes successful projects is to interrogate what the desired effect actually is (productivity, readership, editor inclusiveness, etc).
- Ritchie333 (talk) 10:26, 3 October 2014 (UTC) I think we need to reinvent the role of projects. At the moment, they are set up as large scale silos for major article work, but I think they would be better as lightweight areas where people can get expert advice. For instance, if I'm writing an article about an album, what good sources can WikiProject Albums give me. If I'm writing an article about a 19th century bridge, what can WikiProject Architecture bring to the table? We need to collapse / integrate inactive ones, and make it easier to attach articles to projects without any sort of WP:OWNership by the project. Ritchie333 (talk) 10:26, 3 October 2014 (UTC)
- --Rsrikanth05 (talk) 11:42, 7 October 2014 (UTC) I think this would greatly benefit the entire community in more ways than imaginable.
- Also in it.wikipedia we are experimenting a slow depopulation in Wikiprojects, so it is necessary to take action as soon as possible. --Daniele Pugliesi (talk) 02:14, 8 October 2014 (UTC)
- User:Piotrus - important area to study, interesting tool I'd like to see developed, and I am offering my help with this (methodology, lit review, getting this published in peer reviewed outlet). --Piotrus (talk) 08:49, 8 October 2014 (UTC)
- User:Cerevisae - An interesting project. The outcome of this investigation can definitely be put into consideration of running a Wikiproject. Most importantly, on how to motivate its members to collaborate on a project. Cerevisae (talk) 16:53, 10 October 2014 (UTC)
- User:Dcrjsr - I'd really like to see this project go forward, and would hope to get ideas for improving our WikiProject Biophysics. It is my centerpiece, so far, (altho I'm certainly open to considering other mechanisms), to mobilizing more scientists to consider editing Wikipedia as part of their professional identity & responsibilities. Our project, largely thru the Biophysical Society, is going forward, but struggling. Dcrjsr (talk) 01:50, 12 October 2014 (UTC)
- Far too many of the WikiProjects related to historical subjects are inactive. I don't think this can be immediately remedied, but establishing proven methods of cultivating an active WikiProject would be a start in that direction. Voltaire's Vaquero (talk) 09:21, 12 October 2014 (UTC)
- Trust Is All You Need - projects which should be active, are inactive, such as the wikiprojects on Socialism or Conservatism. My solution to the problem is that either the members of the WikiProject elects a WikiProject leadership which heads the project for a given time, or that the duties of administrators are expanded somewhat. --Trust Is All You Need (talk) 21:07, 12 October 2014 (UTC)
- There is clear separation between successful, long-term WikiProjects, such as WikiProject Military History, and other WikiProjects that have struggled (and in unfortunately many cases failed) to remain active, and this is most certainly worthy of study. Many WikiProjects have demonstrated the value of such thematic organisation of editor activity, and any recognition and promotion of best practices can only be of benefit to Wikis overall. As a side note, might I also suggest investigation of article, user, and project talkspaces to assist in quantitative study of "active" and "shadow" participation? This might further inform where editors are engaging in co-ordination; is it distributed across articles, informally between "driving" editors, or centrally-focussed? Sasuke Sarutobi (talk) 03:07, 1 November 2014 (UTC)
- I've found WP Military History and WP India to be amazing resources, lots of participation, very easy to get some expert advice, group insight, etc. On others like WP:WikiProject Musical Instruments it's just a ghost town where I sporadically drop in to add to "New Articles" in the vague hope that it will keep the project from entirely dying. I don't understand exactly what the dynamic is, other than pure demographic bulk, that makes Projects work, but I think MILHIST does a pretty outstanding job tagging, rating, cleaning, etc. their pieces. And though India is a massive topic with a huge influx of novice editors, I think WPINDIA does a pretty good job serving as an anchor point for a huge topic region. I think this issue is worth looking into, particularly in terms of making new editors aware of projects, and maybe even having projects do recruiting off-Wiki to target enthusiasts for their niches. MatthewVanitas (talk) 03:02, 11 November 2014 (UTC)
- --Jemmaca (talk) 07:29, 12 November 2014 (UTC) As a very sporadic and minor editor I have not participated in a project before. On almost every occasion where I have edited a page and gone looking at the associated project I have found it non-helpful and/or off-putting which is what I think Flying Jazz is talking about above. But my reaction to the proposal is opposite because I feel if you are going to have projects then they need to be improved. In particular I think that the role of assorted talk pages should be clarified, with the main discussion for any article being at that articles talk page. And perhaps other outer level pages like a project page be for resources for editors, keeping tabs on projects, requesting help, building the commnity, etc. If wikiproject X goes forward and I would be happy to assist in whatever small way I could.
- Happy to see this concern being addressed. -Another Believer (talk) 17:30, 20 November 2014 (UTC)
- --FUNKAMATIC ~talk I'm in favor of this. I didn't read the whole thing up there, but I just want to push the fact that research should focus on gathering empirical evidence. Secondly, I'd like to state that I think the problem is caused by a general lack of interest (at least among editors) in these subjects that the project fails. We need a way to solve that problem. We need a way to get the general public to think higher of Wikipedia in general. I'm a high school teacher, and almost universally my students think Wikipedia is garbage because "anyone can edit it". I do my best to fix their opinion, but it illustrates the problem.--FUNKAMATIC ~talk 01:45, 28 November 2014 (UTC)
- ClemMacGána (talk) aka en:user:LugnadThe current reality is that most of wp is the result of lone editors. They can and do produce excellent articles. But the overall structure is disjointed. There are gaps in the coverage of subjects. Wiki-projects foster a more integrated, better structured, encyclopedia. WP would be so much better if there were more functioning projects. I we knew why they fail, steps could be taken to protect them. A study such as this should be a top priority. ClemMacGána (talk) 15:36, 29 November 2014 (UTC)
- I am part of the semi-active project WikiProject Beetles and am also a part of the sort-of-active WikiProject Insects. On these two topics there could be a lot of improvement but in WikiProject Beetles I am pretty much the only editor contributing. I think this program will help these projects and many others to become/stay very active, which will allow more specific projects to be created. Gug01 (talk) 15:05, 28 December 2014 (UTC) Gug 01