Welcome to this project's midpoint report! This report shares progress and learnings from the Individual Engagement Grantee's first 3 months.
In a few short sentences or bullet points, give the main highlights of what happened with your project so far.
- We asked people about WikiProjects, and we found that although they are great community hubs, they suffer from a perpetual lack of participation (especially after the start-up frenzy of activity dies off) and they are very difficult to maintain.
- We developed WikiProject-related metrics, as documented in our learning pattern.
- We are focusing on three projects: an automatically updated WikiProject directory, a new WikiProject layout, and tools that support the infrastructure of WikiProjects.
- Our design, which intends to focus on action items, is currently being demoed at WikiProject Women in Technology.
- There is still more to be done!
Methods and activities
How have you setup your project, and what work has been completed so far?
Describe how you've setup your experiment or pilot, sharing your key focuses so far and including links to any background research or past learning that has guided your decisions. List and describe the activities you've undertaken as part of your project to this point.
We set up our portal on English Wikipedia in January 2015. We publicized the project widely, informing as many WikiProjects as we could find. We also submitted an op-ed piece to the Wikipedia Signpost: "Let's Make WikiProjects Better".
Story analysis—Our initial research effort focused on collecting WikiProject "stories" – anecdotes from users about their experiences (positive, negative, or neutral) with WikiProjects. Although we gave guidance on what to include in each post, we otherwise did not pose specific questions to the respondents. This permitted a grounded theory method of analysis, where we coded responses according to trends that emerged organically in the responses. Within the 29 stories we analyzed, we coded 52 "benefit" statements and 34 "obstacle" statements, not counting duplicate appearances of a code within a WikiProject analyzed. The most common benefit statement referring to the project's active discussion and participation, followed by statements referring to a project's capacity to guide editor activity, while the most common obstacles made reference to low participation and significant burdens on the part of the project maintainers and leaders. This prompted us to focus our work on improving participation on WikiProjects by surfacing relevant information about subject-area communities on English Wikipedia and lists of outstanding tasks in a way that would minimize the burden placed on WIkiProject organizers. The full list of codes, sorted by frequency, is here.
Activity analysis—We paired this qualitative analysis with a quantitative analysis of 71 WikiProjects. We selected those WikiProjects that appeared on the WikiProject stories page, plus those WikiProjects that were recommended for pilot testing. Using a script called ProjAnalysis, we collected a list of usernames of people who edited within the WikiProject's space (the project page itself, its talk page, and subpages) and a list of usernames of people who edited within the WikiProject's scope (the pages tagged by that WikiProject, excluding the WikiProject space pages). The analysis was done for edits between March 1, 2014 and February 28, 2015, and we subjected them to further analysis to only include those who made 10+ edits to pages in the projects' scope, those who made 4+ edits to the projects' space, and those who made 10+ edits to pages in scope but not 4+ edits to pages in the projects' space. This latter metric gives us an idea of who is active in a certain subject area of Wikipedia, yet who isn't actively engaging on the WikiProject's pages.
Based on WikiProjects with abysmally low levels of community engagement (less than 3 participants) yet the highest potential for engagement (editing communities of over 100), we selected five WikiProjects for interventions. We will be communicating with those WikiProjects shortly. The script used in the research process will be adapted into a tool that can be used by the community, as elaborated upon below.
Design analysis—We performed a design analysis based on those WikiProjects that were signed up for pilot testing. We came up with a list of seven features these WikiProjects have: a description of the project, items of discussion, announcements and noticeboards, tasks, lists, resources, and items related to the WikiProject itself and WikiProjects in general. The full list is available here. This analysis helped us design our first WikiProject prototype.
On the basis of our research, we decided to focus on these product development priorities:
- An automatically updated directory of WikiProjects which surfaces metrics regarding the WikiProject and the subject area which it covers. The metrics surfaced include the number of articles in the project's purview, the number of active WikiProject participants, the number of active editors in a WikiProject's scope, and the percent of edits made to pages in a WikiProject's scope by those active editors (a lower rate indicating more "drive-by" edits than a tightly-knit editorial community). Accompanying each entry in the directory is a data page, listing those editors who are active as WIkiProject participants and/or as subject-area article editors, plus a listing of similar WikiProjects. The directory and the accompanying data pages act as a platform for Wikipedians to self-organize; the list of usernames can be used to build a WikiProject roster, the WikiProject metrics can be used to assess the potential for success a given WikiProject has, and the list of similar WikiProjects visualizes how WikiProjects relate to other WikiProjects. A sample directory is currently online, with the full directory still under development. The data pages will make use of this template.
- A new WikiProject design which prioritizes action items and places them front and center. We have found through our research that WikiProjects are at their best when they facilitate discussion among Wikipedians and when they help direct the work of volunteers. The current demonstration project is the brand-new WikiProject Women in Technology, a WikiProject created as part of an edit-a-thon in Washington, DC. The new WikiProject design will be powered through a series of automatically updating task lists, making use of services such as SuggestBot. These features are currently undef development. Once the design prototype and the features reach maturity, we will begin deploying to a test group of five WikiProjects and continue from there.
- New WikiProject infrastructural tools, including a new project tagging system that can be used as an optional alternative to WikiProject banners, a tool that will help Wikipedians build new WikiProjects from the ground up, and a button for quickly sending messages to WikiProjects. These tools are just in the beginning stages of development.
We also carried out some miscellaneous side projects:
- We launched a WikiProject X portal on Wikidata. There is a lot of opportunity for Wikidata to serve as a central repository for information about WIkiProjects, especially WikiProjects that exist on multiple Wikimedia projects and language editions, facilitating multi-project and multilingual collaboration.
- We brought back two WIkiProject-related database reports on the English WIkipedia database report portal: New WikiProjects and WikiProjects by Changes. These reports stopped updating in 2014 after the Toolserver was discontinued. A third report, WikiProject Watchers, is waiting on the replication of the watchlist table to Tool Labs, which does not yet occur.
- We created the Article Request Workshop, which uses the Flow extension to create a new system for requesting the creation of new articles on Wikipedia. The goal is to centralize all the "requested articles" lists on Wikipedia into one place, where entries can be developed ("workshopped") and triaged. Since Flow topics can be individually categorized, proposed articles could be tagged by multiple WikiProjects to allow for collaboration between WIkiProjects and the reduction of duplicated work. As articles are created, requests will drop out of the workflow, minimizing the amount of maintenance work needed. Further development of the Article Request Workshop is being held up by some bugs with Flow, but we hope to incorporate it into the workflow of WikiProjects soon.
What are the results of your project or any experiments you’ve worked on so far?
Please discuss anything you have created or changed (organized, built, grown, etc) as a result of your project to date.
- 71 WikiProjects engaged, either as WikiProject case studies or as prospective pilot projects, not include WikiProject Women in Technology
- 116 people and pages signed up for our newsletter
- 65 Wikipedians engaged on our discussion pages
- Product ideas and prototypes as discussed above
- Plenty of research on WikiProjects, as documented in our workspace
Please take some time to update the table in your project finances page. Check that you’ve listed all approved and actual expenditures as instructed. If there are differences between the planned and actual use of funds, please use the column provided there to explain them.
Then, answer the following question here: Have you spent your funds according to plan so far? Please briefly describe any major changes to budget or expenditures that you anticipate for the second half of your project.
So far, the two paid personnel for this project have received half of their project stipends, with the other half to be disbursed later. A researcher in Seattle is currently interviewing Wikipedians about online collaboration, and we did not want to duplicate his work, so we decided to shelve our purchase of merchandise for now.
The best thing about trying something new is that you learn from it. We want to follow in your footsteps and learn along with you, and we want to know that you are taking enough risks to learn something really interesting! Please use the below sections to describe what is working and what you plan to change for the second half of your project.
What are the challenges
What challenges or obstacles have you encountered? What will you do differently going forward? Please list these as short bullet points.
- Poor synchronization between Wikimedia Foundation technical efforts and our efforts. We could create much more amazing things if we could coordinate with WMF Engineering on scheduling of projects, to ensure that back-end prerequisites for our project are ready. As an example, we would like the ability to send notifications to WikiProject participants using Echo, but this is not supported, nor would it be feasible to implement third-party notifications any time soon. In the meantime, we are managing with the tools we already have.
- We appreciate the work of our volunteers, but there is something of a mismatch of incentives. As grantees, we are incentivized to deliver within a timeframe. That timeframe does not exist for volunteers. This can create delays and other obstacles.
- Existing long-standing design patterns on the English Wikipedia often present issues that need to be worked around, and they can come up in very unexpected places. We work around them as we run into them, but we do need to be able to allow time and energy for delays, discussions, and establishing volunteer support before proceeding with follow-up changes.
What is working well
What have you found works best so far? To help spread successful strategies so that they can be of use to others in the movement, rather than writing lots of text here, we'd like you to share your finding in the form of a link to a learning pattern.
- Learning pattern: Measuring a WikiProject's community and activity
Next steps and opportunities
What are the next steps and opportunities you’ll be focusing on for the second half of your project? Please list these as short bullet points. If you're considering applying for a 6-month renewal of this IEG at the end of your project, please also mention this here.
- We look forward to further developing and launching the features described in this report, including testing on more WikiProjects.
- We will be attending the Wikimedia Hackathon in Lyon, and look forward to engaging the participants on how to build better community-building tools into MediaWiki.
- Looking beyond July, there are opportunities to continue testing and deploying new features, including further development of the Article Request Workshop. It would also be very interesting to work on other projects and other language editions. Further integration with Wikidata would help bring WikiProjects across projects and languages closer together.
We’d love to hear any thoughts you have on how the experience of being an IEGrantee has been so far. What is one thing that surprised you, or that you particularly enjoyed from the past 3 months?
- This has been an amazing project to work on, and I look forward to seeing what comes out of it. I very much appreciate the support the Wikimedia Foundation has given me in this project, helping shape the direction of the work and getting me out of ruts. I am also surprised at how much positive reception there has been; WMF-sponsored re-design initiatives tend to fare very poorly, but this seems to be coming along just fine. harej (talk) 16:11, 27 April 2015 (UTC)
- For my part, the project so far has been a very humbling experience. Unlike a lot of what I've done previously as a volunteer, where I'd usually try to change things in an essentially hit-and-run fashion, actually interacting with users on an on-going basis has taught me a lot not only about the english Wikipedia itself, but also the sheer diversity of what its users can work even within a subset of purposes. It can make the design process daunting indeed, but with all the feedback and support we've gotten so far, I have high hopes for how this may turn out what an oddly interactive process. -— Isarra ༆ 23:59, 27 April 2015 (UTC)
- An "active WikiProject participant" is defined as any non-bot user making at least two edits to the WikiProject page, the talk page, or any subpages in a rolling 90 day period.
- A user active in a WikiProject's scope is any non-bot user making at least five editors to articles (ns 0) and talk pages (ns 1) tagged as being part of that WikiProject.