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Grants:IdeaLab/Identify knowledge or skill bottlenecks

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Identify knowledge or skill bottlenecks
In many projects of the Wikiverse, there are single or very small groups of users which are the only ones to possess a required knowledge or skill. This is most obvious for skills such as operation of a bot, fixing and creating templates or adjusting editing filters. Non-technical skills are e.g. the creation of maps or diagrams. This is problematic for at least two distinct reasons: On the one hand, it places pressure on these users to continue providing their knowledge or skill to their community which can quickly become a burden. On the other hand, when these users are absent temporarily or leave permanently, vital parts or workflows of the project cease to function. This is again most obvious when e.g. a vital bot stops working, but is true for all other knowledge and skill bottlenecks.

In a healthy community, no such bottlenecks exist, because there is always a sufficient amount of users who possess the necessary knowledge or skill. There have been some measures such as the abandoned tool policy on Toolforge, but for most projects and skills we even lack a basic understanding of what these bottlenecks are, who the users at these positions are, and how they feel.

Note that there are of course many more areas of projects, such as particular topic areas of Wikipedias, where there are only a few active users. Part of a bottleneck identification therefore is to come up with a clear separation of vital and non-vital skills and knowledge. This is not to say that we should not strive to also fill other bottlenecks, but this idea here is really concerned with what and who keeps a project and its community going and functional, not with the specifics of its content.
themenot sure
contact email• kilian.kluge@wikipedia.de
idea creator
this project needs...
project manager
created on18:54, 23 July 2018 (UTC)

Project idea


What Wikimedia project(s) and specific areas will you be evaluating?


Is this project measuring a specific space on a project (e.g. deletion discussions), or the project as a whole?
Every Wikimedia project is affected.

Describe your idea. How might it be implemented?


Provide details about the method or process of how you will evaluate your community or collect data. Does your idea involve private or personally identifying information? Take a look at the Privacy Policy for Wikimedia’s guidelines in this area.
There are many ways to approach this. The most promising approach is a combination of qualitative research to identify possible bottlenecks and some quantitative analysis of edits or log actions.

Are there experienced Wikimedians who can help implement this project?


If applicable, please list groups or usernames of individuals who you can work with on this project, and what kind of work they will do.

How will you know if this project is successful? What are some outcomes that you can share after the project is completed?


At the end of the project, there should be a list of bottlenecks to evaluate a community for, possibly grouped into different categories. For each bottleneck, there should be a clear definition and instructions how to "measure" whether this particular bottleneck exists for a community.

How would your measurement idea help your community make better decisions?


After you are finished measuring or evaluating your Wikimedia project, how do you expect that information to be used to benefit the project?
It would not directly lead to better decisions, but would shed a light on vital areas which often go unnoticed.

Do you think you can implement this idea? What support do you need?


Do you need people with specific skills to complete this idea? Are there any financial needs for this project? If you can’t implement this project, can you scale down your project so it is doable?
While I'm quite interested in thinking about this problem further, I'm afraid that I lack the necessary skills and time necessary. However, I'd be happy to collaborate with others on the topic.

Get Involved


About the idea creator


Longtime Wikipedian on the German-language Wikipedia with some experience in the technical parts.




  • Llywrch (talk) 03:45, 24 July 2018 (UTC) As long as this survey is not limited to technical knowledge. And not just expertise in topic areas. For example, at one time en.wikipedia had several people fluent in Amharic, Tigrinya & Somali languages; now AFAIK we have no one competent in any of those languages. Considering how the Foundation is constantly harping on bridging the digital divide, the loss of these resources clearly frustrates the Foundation's ostensible efforts.
The investigation is not limited to technical knowledge, but explicitly excludes expertise related to content topic areas. The latter is quite straightforward to find, as one can easily analyze the number of edits and the number of editors within say certain categories on Wikipedia. But having someone who writes/creates content on a specific topic or not is not crucial for community health. Skills which often go unnoticed, such as being able to coordinate various kinds of efforts on-wiki, or tasks like maintaining and updating noticeboards and calendars, being able to transform "Wikipedia is broken again"-style messages into bug reports which the WMF developers can work with, guiding newbies in navigating MediaWiki etc. are all examples of what I consider skills and knowledge vital for long-term community health. That's what I would like to see investigated and analyzed. If you have any suggestions on how to get this point across better, I'm happy for any hints!--Cirdan (talk) 18:37, 24 July 2018 (UTC)
  • There is a problem with those having specific expertise on a subject: their contributions might well be be substantial, but, constitute Original Research to the sticklers and be ejected, since there would be no article to be referred to amongst approved sources of references. And copying from or referring to one's own "research paper" or other publication (if it existed) would be self-promotional. This is more of a problem in the main W. collection. NickyMcLean (talk) 05:44, 24 July 2018 (UTC)
This idea is decidedly not about content. It's about skills and knowledge vital to keep a community healthy and active. If you have any suggestions on how to get this point across better, I'm happy for any hints!--Cirdan (talk) 18:37, 24 July 2018 (UTC)
This idea is not about sharing knowledge/teaching, but identifying knowledge and skill bottlenecks. If and how they can be closed is not part of this proposal.--Cirdan (talk) 13:41, 30 July 2018 (UTC)
  • Support Support Yes, absolutely. This idea should merge with the other ideas of online coursework in Wikipedia editing. Ouranista (talk) 15:38, 28 July 2018 (UTC)
This idea is not about online coursework.--Cirdan (talk) 13:41, 30 July 2018 (UTC)
  • Support Support But I think the current form of this idea is extremely weak. There needs to be some epistemological foundation here. What does it mean to have knowledge or skill in some area? At the highest level, I think it means you understand the overall shape of the solution space and you know the important factual landmarks within that space, so you can solve problems or answer questions in meaningful ways. I like the example of a plumber. An expert plumber does need to know certain things that can be tested on paper, but the full knowledge of a plumber has to include such skills as how it feels to thread a pipe properly, and you have to test each aspect of the solution space in appropriate ways. (Warning: I am NOT a plumber and know nothing about the real assessment of that expertise.) Of course I'm trying to find the nails for my personal favorite hammer, EPR, but I don't see too much of a fit here... I suppose there could be a dimension for a contributor's broad versus narrow knowledge? You might ask broad contributors to help recognize candidates with local expertise, but it's much harder to ask a narrow contributor about the expertise of a deep expert from a different hole, even if it's nearby. Shanen (talk) 23:21, 28 July 2018 (UTC)
I don't want to assess knowledge, I want (someone) to figure out which skills/knowledge are critical to a functioning Wikimedia community to then assess whether a given community has a sufficient amount of users in possession of these skills. My idea is much more "meta" than your example.--Cirdan (talk) 13:41, 30 July 2018 (UTC)

Expand your idea


Would a grant from the Wikimedia Foundation help make your idea happen? You can expand this idea into a grant proposal.

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Does your idea not require funding, but you're not sure about what to do next? Not sure how to start a proposal on your local project that needs consensus? Contact Chris Schilling on-wiki at I JethroBT (WMF) (talk · contribs) or via e-mail at cschilling(_AT_)wikimedia.org for help!