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CIS-A2K/Community support/Community building using help desks

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CIS-A2K (Centre for Internet and Society - Access to Knowledge) is a campaign to promote the fundamental principles of justice, freedom, and economic development. It deals with issues like copyrights, patents and trademarks, which are an important part of the digital landscape.
If you have a general proposal/suggestion for Access to Knowledge team you can write on the discussion page. If you have appreciations or feedback on our work, please share it on feedback page.

Screenshot of "Odia wikipedia Chatasabha"


New editors across our projects often have doubts or make mistakes that they need help with. They need a place where they can ask questions or get clarifications - and when they begin, they are usually unfamiliar with village pumps or mailing lists or even talk pages.on basic editing. Many existing editors want to help new editors and could appreciate a central place where they can meet and help new editors.

There is a need for a Help Desk for new editors. Currently, most Indic Wikipedias do not have a Help Desk. Odia community wants to establish a Help Desk. They have also looked at the Teahouse project was was started on English Wikipedia to support new editors - and taken lessons and tips from there. The result is the Chatasabha has been running for past few weeks on Odia Wikipedia. A few new editors have already become active after receiving help on this from existing editors. Incidentally, Chatasabha means "place for students."


  • Help build the community by encouraging new editors
  • Help build the community by providing a channel for existing editors to help new editors and build relationships
  • Help build the community by encouraging collaboration among existing editors on the Help Desk

Basic design[edit]

  • New editors (guests) can ask questions which experienced editors (hosts) will answer
  • Chatasabha will have a simple (uncluttered) and user-friendly interface
  • It will have minimal Wiki formatting and codes for guests to ask questions
  • Answers will be given in simple language that new users can understand
  • Guests can ask questions without usernames or logging in - but will be encouraged to do so, so that hosts can continue to help the on-wiki
  • Hosts can ask or answer questions without having to register - but will be encouraged to do so
  • Hosts will be encouraged to stay in touch with guests and help them along as they reach their first 100 edits - after which they are usually relatively able to manage independently.
  • Given that community sizes are tiny, a constant effort will be made to reduce the effort load on the existing community by having editing tutorial resources readily available for guests to go through (before they ask questions) or for ready made answers to common questions (so that hosts don't have to type out the most common answers to common questions over and over again)

Guidelines to hosts[edit]

  • Make some sample answers available at the very beginning on the Chatasabha page so that guests can read and learn them by themselves. If they still have a problem, the option to ask a question is of course there
  • Keep Chatasabha on your watchlist so questions get answered quickly
  • Provide answers that should be descriptive, brief and specific to the question
  • Don't just provide links to policies (WP:NPOV, WP:Notability, WP:Citations, Use of Templates, etc.) Add these as part of answers with brief descriptions in simple sentences that are specific to that question / policy. (New editors don't understand wikispeak and will need time to become familiar with Wiki terms)
  • Illustrated tutorials should be used if available as they are more effective for explaining (e.g. using infobox, referencing, categorization, etc.)
  • If questions are asked from an IP address, invite them to create a new user account and log in next time while asking questions. Ask them to provide email in "My Preference" so they could be replied back by mail.
  • Always end the answer in an open manner like, Please let me know if you are able to do this.
  • Leave a link that the question has been answered on the the user's or IP address's talk page, so the user notices it while editing the next time.
  • If the guest doesn't reply back after a day of the question being answered, leave a message on the her/his talk page with a link to the question's answer section.
  • Document answers in a central page so that other hosts do not waste effort and time answering the same kind of questions in future

Please see this section to see how sample questions will be answered.

Workplan & Timeline[edit]

Time Task description Process Progress
Week 1
  • Finding mentors
  • Call for volunteers from the existing community members via mailing list, village pump lists, one-on-one discussions
  • Discussions with volunteering editors in groups and one-on-one
Week 2
  • Creation of project page
  • Translation of project template, descriptions, etc.
  • Creation templates, categories
  • Preparation of quick links in the form of central notice(s), side bar(s) with clear, simple messages
Sample Central notice messages:
  • Do you know that you can also write on Odia Wikipedia? Ask here!
  • Want to improve an article on Odia Wikipedia? Ask here!
  • Building list of hosts and updating details on wiki
  • Quick answer templates (How to make bold, italics, inter-wiki, categorisation, adding images etc.)
  • Chatasabha Live Hour: Hosts and guests at Chatasabha can talk to each other live on IRC at a specific time, maybe every month or fortnight
  • Development of illustrated tutorials to be used additionally to answer complex questions
Week 3
  • Inviting new editors
  • Answering questions asked by new editors
  • Inviting users who have very few recent edits (i.e, less than 10) using templates
  • Inviting every new user (who creates a new user account) with an invite to join the Chatasabha
  • Inviting new editors who might be more active but still need support
  • Giving specific points based on newbie's edit on wiki in their talk pages
  • Answering questions from new / less active editors and hand holding them as they edit
  • Once the new editors ask a question they should be informed to check the page within 12 hours
Week 4
  • Ongoing management
  • Updating patterns of common questions, preparing standard answers and sharing these with hosts
  • Hosts continue to hand hold guests that they have helped
  • Hosts answer questions of new guests, and hand hold them on their first few edits
  • Regular updates to be provided on village pumps and mailing lists
  • Constantly invite existing editors to join to answer questions and mentor new editors
  • Regular creation of archives and keeping the Question page clean so it doesn't confuse the guests

Measures of Success and Assessment[edit]


Measure Objective Baseline Actual Assessment / Comment
Prepare Guidelines / Tips for Chatasabha Easy reference guides for hosts to help guests they can support new editors Share the guidelines and help hosts understand them and get inputs for hosts to improve them to be completed by July 15th 2012 To be filled in end Oct 2012
Demonstrating how this has been implemented on Odia Wikipedia Implement based on the plan and improve based on lessons from Chatasabha Regular updates to all communities Fortnightly updates starting July 15th 2012 To be filled in end Oct 2012


Measure Objective Baseline Actual Assessment / Comment
Guests Convert 10 % of guests to editors
  • Once coached on Chatasabha, hosts should help encourage guests to edit by providing feedback beyond just the questions asked, suggesting articles, hand holding based on their contribution history, etc.
  • They should gradually introduce them to more detailed Wikipedia policies
  • They should keep trying to provide all support them on wiki
To be filled in fortnightly reports starting end July To be filled in end Oct 2012


Lessons So Far[edit]

Based on the experience of Odia Wikipedia, Teahouse as well conversations with community members who have been involved in similar initiatives, the following lessons are already available

  • New editors usually don't know where to go to ask questions or seek help - and would appreciate a easy-to-reach Chatasabha
  • The number of questions or guests is low - unless there is a way of directing new editors to then
  • Many have basic doubts such as
  • Can I also write/edit articles on Wikipedia?
  • How can I type in my language?
  • Where do I start? How do I start?
  • How can I change incorrect facts?
  • New wikipedians prefer more "casual" channels to ask questions (like Facebook, etc.) and one reason is that they need their answers more simple and less formal
  • Even more experienced Wikipedians need help and a Chatasabha would be useful for them as well.

Future Learning Points[edit]

  • What are the most commonly asked questions?
  • What is the simplest way of asking these questions?
  • How do we invite more guests?
  • How can we improve our design to get more participation from both guests and hosts?
  • How do we encourage more hosts?

Going Forward[edit]

The following can also be looked at going forward.

  • Build confidence in new editors who learn about editing and are comfortable with editing to become hosts
  • Preparation and constant updating of an FAQ of commonly asked questions & answers which can be prominently placed at the Chatasabha
  • Promotion in social media or in media / press (You want to write on Wikipedia, come join us! If you want to ask any question go to http://or.wikipedia.org/wiki/WP:CS)
  • Preparation of a more detailed standard guidelines for hosts