Timeline for WikiProject X
|Project Begins||January 12, 2015|
|Completion of Data Collection||February 9, 2015|
|Model WikiProjects will be identified based on an analysis of WikiProjects and subject-area activity.||February 23, 2015|
|Model WikiProject design analysis and WikiProject participant interviews will be complete.||March 9, 2015|
|Initial WikiProject prototype will be ready for live testing.||April 6, 2015|
|Completion of live testing on test WikiProjects; impact analysis. The prototype will be continually refined during this period.||July 12, 2015|
Please prepare a brief project update each month, in a format of your choice, to share progress and learnings with the community along the way. Submit the link below as you complete each update.
Has WikiProject X changed the world yet? No.
We opened up shop in January and announced our existence to the world. Our first phase is the "research" phase, consisting mostly of reading and listening. We set up our landing page and started collecting stories. So far, 28 stories have been shared about WikiProjects, describing a variety of experiences across numerous WikiProjects. A recurring story involves a WikiProject that starts off strong but has trouble continuing to stay active. Most people describe using WikiProjects as a way to get feedback from other editors. Some quotes:
- "Working on requested articles, utilising the reliable sources section, and having an active WikiProject to ask questions in really helped me learn how to edit Wikipedia and looking back I don't know how long I would have stayed editing without that project." – Sam Walton on WikiProject Video Games
- "I believe that the main problem of the Wikiprojects is that they are complicated to use. There should be a a much simpler way to check what do do, what needs to be improved etc." – Tetra quark
- "In the late 2000s, WikiProject Film tried to emulate WP:MILHIST in having coordinators and elections. Unfortunately, this was not sustainable and ultimately fell apart." – Erik
Of course, these are just anecdotes. While they demonstrate what is possible, they do not necessarily explain what is typical. We will be using this information in conjunction with a quantitative analysis of WikiProjects, as documented on Meta. Particularly, we are interested in the measurement of WikiProject activity as it relates to overall editing in that WikiProject's subject area.
We also have 50 people and projects signed up for pilot testing, which is an excellent start! (An important caveat: one person volunteering a WikiProject does not mean the WikiProject as a whole is interested; just that there is at least one person, which is a start.)
While carrying out our research, we are documenting the problems with WikiProjects and our ideas for making WikiProjects better. Some ideas include better integration of existing tools into WikiProjects, recommendations of WikiProjects for people to join, and improved coordination with Articles for Creation. These are just ideas that may or may not make it to the design phase; we will see. We are also working with WikiProject Council to improve the directory of WikiProjects, with the goal of a reliable, self-updating WikiProject directory. (A full list of our thoughts and ideas are located at w:Wikipedia:WikiProject X/Workspace, a quasi-internal page meant primarily for us to organize our work.) Stay tuned! If you have any ideas, you are welcome to leave a note on our talk page.
Making sense of a lot of data.
Work on our prototype will begin imminently. In the meantime, we have to understand what exactly we're working with. To this end, we generated a list of 71 WikiProjects, based on those brought up on our Stories page and those who had signed up for pilot testing. For those projects where people told stories, we coded statements within those stories to figure out what trends there were in these stories. This approach allowed us to figure out what Wikipedians thought of WikiProjects in a very organic way, with very little by way of a structure. (Compare this to a structured interview, where specific questions are asked and answered.) This analysis was done on 29 stories. Codes were generally classified as "benefits" (positive contributions made by a WikiProject to the editing experience) and "obstacles" (issues posed by WikiProjects, broadly speaking). Codes were generated as I went along, ensuring that codes were as close to the original data as possible. Duplicate appearances of a code for a given WikiProject were removed.
We found 52 "benefit" statements encoded and 34 "obstacle" statements. 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 gives us a sense of WikiProjects' big strength: they bring people together, and can be frustrating to editors when they fail to do so. Meanwhile, it is indeed very difficult to bring editors together on a common interest; in the absence of a highly motivated core of organizers, the technical infrastructure simply isn't there.
We wanted to pair this qualitative study with quantitative analysis of a WikiProject and its "universe" of pages, discussions, templates, and categories. To this end I wrote a script called ProjAnalysis which will, for a given WikiProject page (e.g. w:Wikipedia:WikiProject Star Trek) and WikiProject talk-page tag (e.g. w:Template:WikiProject Star Trek), will give you a list of usernames of people who edited within the WikiProject's space (the project page itself, its talk page, and subpages), and within the WikiProject's scope (the pages tagged by that WikiProject, excluding the WikiProject space pages). The output is an exhaustive list of usernames. We ran the script to analyze our test batch of WikiProjects 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. This information will help us prioritize WikiProjects for pilot testing, and the ProjAnalysis script in general may have future life as an application that can be used by Wikipedians to learn about who is in their community.
Complementing the above two studies are a design analysis, which summarizes the structure of the different WikiProject spaces in our test batch, and the comprehensive census of bots and tools used to maintain WikiProjects, which will be finished soon. With all of this information, we will have a game plan in place! We hope to begin working with specific WikiProjects soon.
As a couple of asides...
- Database Reports has existed for several years on Wikipedia to the satisfaction of many, but many of the reports stopped running when the Toolserver was shut off in 2014. However, there is good news: the weekly New WikiProjects and WikiProjects by Changes reports are back, with potential future reports in the future.
- WikiProject X has an outpost on Wikidata! Check it out. It's not widely publicized, but we are interested in using Wikidata as a potential repository for metadata about WikiProjects, especially for WikiProjects that exist on multiple Wikimedia projects and language editions.
We have demos!
After a lengthy research and design process, we decided for WikiProject X to focus on two things:
- A WikiProject workflow that focuses on action items: discussions you can participate in and tasks you can perform to improve the encyclopedia; and
- An automatically updating WikiProject directory that gives you lists of users participating in the WikiProject and editing in that subject area.
We have a live demonstration of the new WikiProject workflow at WikiProject Women in Technology, a brand new WikiProject that was set up as an adjunct to a related edit-a-thon in Washington, DC. The goal is to surface action items for editors, and we intend on doing that through automatically updated working lists. We are looking into using SuggestBot to generate lists of outstanding tasks, and we are looking into additional options for automatic worklist generation. This takes the burden off of WikiProject editors to generate these worklists, though there is also a "requests" section for Wikipedians to make individual requests. (As of writing, these automated lists are not yet live, so you will see a blank space under "edit articles" on the demo WikiProject. Sorry about that!) I invite you to check out the WikiProject and leave feedback on WikiProject X's talk page.
Once the demo is sufficiently developed, we will be working on a limited deployment on our pilot WikiProjects. We have selected five for the first round of testing based on the highest potential for impact and will scale up from there.
While a re-designed WikiProject experience is much needed, that alone isn't enough. A WikiProject isn't any good if people have no way of discovering it. This is why we are also developing an automatically updated WikiProject directory. This directory will surface project-related metrics, including a count of active WikiProject participants and of active editors in that project's subject area. The purpose of these metrics is to highlight how active the WikiProject is at the given point of time, but also to highlight that project's potential for success. The directory is not yet live but there is a demonstration featuring a sampling of WikiProjects.
Each directory entry will link to a WikiProject description page which automatically list the active WikiProject participants and subject-area article editors. This allows Wikipedians to find each other based on the areas they are interested in, and this information can be used to revive a WikiProject, start a new one, or even for some other purpose. These description pages are not online yet, but they will use this template, if you want to get a feel of what they will look like.
We need volunteers!
WikiProject X is a huge undertaking, and we need volunteers to support our efforts, including testers and coders. Check out our volunteer portal and see what you can do to help us!
As an aside...
Wouldn't it be cool if lists of requested articles could not only be integrated directly with WikiProjects, but also shared between WikiProjects? Well, we got the crazy idea of having experimental software feature Flow deployed (on a totally experimental basis) on the new Article Request Workshop, which seeks to be a place where editors can "workshop" article ideas before they get created. It uses Flow because Flow allows, essentially, section-level categorization, and in the future will allow "sections" (known as "topics" within Flow) to be included across different pages. What this means is that you have a recommendation for a new article tagged by multiple WikiProjects, allowing for the recommendation to appear on lists for each WikiProject. This will facilitate inter-WikiProject collaboration and will help to reduce duplicated work. The Article Request Workshop is not entirely ready yet due to some bugs with Flow, but we hope to integrate it into our pilot WikiProjects at some point.
For the first time, we are happy to bring you an exhaustive, comprehensive WikiProject Directory. This directory endeavors to list every single WikiProject on the English Wikipedia, including those that don't participate in article assessment. In constructing the broadest possible definition, we have come up with a list of approximately 2,600 WikiProjects. The directory tracks activity statistics on the WikiProject's pages, and, for where it's available, statistics on the number of articles tracked by the WikiProject and the number of editors active on those articles. Complementing the directory are description pages for each project, listing usernames of people active on the WikiProject pages and the articles in the WikiProject's scope. This will help Wikipedians interested in a subject find each other, whether to seek feedback on an article or to revive an old project. (There is an opt-out option.) We have also come up with listings of related WikiProjects, listing the ten most relevant WikiProjects based on what articles they have in common. We would like to promote WikiProjects as interconnected systems, rather than isolated silos.
A tremendous amount of work went into preparing this directory. WikiProjects do not consistently categorize their pages, meaning we had to develop our own index to match WikiProjects with the articles in their scope. We also had to make some adjustments to how WikiProjects were categorized; indeed, I personally have racked up a few hundred edits re-categorizing WikiProjects. There remains more work to be done to make the WikiProject directory truly useful. In the meantime, take a look and feel free to leave feedback at the WikiProject X talk page.
What have we been working on?
- A new design template—This has been in the works for a while, of course. But our goal is to design something that is useful and cleanly presented on all browsers and at all screen resolutions while working within the confines of what MediaWiki has to offer. Additionally, we are working on designs for the sub-components featured on the main project page.
- A new WikiProject talk page banner in Lua—Work has begun on implementing the WikiProject banner in Lua. The goal is to create a banner template that can be usable by any WikiProject in lieu of having its own template. Work has slowed down for now to focus on higher priority items, but we are interested in your thoughts on how we could go about creating a more useful project banner. We have a draft module on Test Wikipedia, with a demonstration.
- New discussion reports—We have over 4.8 million articles on the English Wikipedia, and almost as many talk pages as well. But what happens when someone posts on a talk page? What if no one is watching that talk page? We are currently testing out a system for an automatically-updating new discussions list, like RFC for WikiProjects. We currently have five test pages up for the WikiProjects on cannabis, cognitive science, evolutionary biology, and Ghana.
- SuggestBot for WikiProjects—We have asked the maintainer of SuggestBot to make some minor adjustments to SuggestBot that will allow it to post regular reports to those WikiProjects that ask for them. Stay tuned!
- Semi-automated article assessment—Using the new revision scoring service and another system currently under development, WikiProjects will be getting a new tool to facilitate the article assessment process by providing article quality/importance predictions for articles yet to be assessed. Aside from helping WikiProjects get through their backlogs, the goal is to help WikiProjects with collecting metrics and triaging their work. Semi-automation of this process will help achieve consistent results and keep the process running smoothly, as automation does on other parts of Wikipedia.
Want us to work on any other tools? Interested in volunteering? Leave a note on our talk page.
The database report which lists WikiProjects according to the number of watchers (i.e., people that have the project on their watchlist), is back! The report stopped being updated a year ago, following the deactivation of the Toolserver, but a replacement report has been generated.
New end date
Proposal to extend the reporting deadline from August 10 to September 15.
Having launched our first round of prototypes as recently as July 10, we would like to have enough time to gather data and collect feedback from participants on our pilot projects.