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Learning patterns/Expert involvement

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Expert involvement
problemYou don't have all the skills or knowledge needed to accomplish your project alone.
solutionInvolve other community members with specific areas of expertise.
creatorJmorgan (WMF)
created on29 January, 2014
status:in progress

What problem does this solve?[edit]

Many projects involve tasks that require specific sets of skills or background knowledge to perform well. When you are working on your project independently or in a small team, you may not possess all the skills you need to accomplish your project's goals. You may not even be aware of important considerations that the success of your project hinges on.

What is the solution?[edit]

Wikipedia is a testament to the fact that, given enough time and freedom, a community of dedicated amateurs can achieve incredible things. However, most projects don't have an army of Wikipedians behind them, and there usually is a deadline.

Involving experts in your projects, either as paid contractors or as volunteers, can speed up your process by helping you avoid pitfalls and take advantage of opportunities, and can improve the quality of your results. Projects focused on designing software tools and web-based resources may benefit from the expertise of designers, programmers, and user experience professionals. Projects that focus on educational initiatives can benefit from the expertise of teachers. If your project requires extensive publicity or outreach, such as a social media campaigns or a wiki conference, you may find that someone with experience in event planning or communication strategy will help you increase your reach and participation.

General considerations[edit]

Expertise is experience[edit]

Experts don't have to have special credentials, and just because someone has an impressive-sounding job title or degree doesn't mean they can provide you with the expertise you need. When working with experts, don't assume that they will automatically know exactly how to help. Make sure to explain your project to them in detail, describe how you think they might be able to help, and listen to their ideas, and develop a plan together.

Look for complementary skillsets[edit]

The leader of The Wikipedia Library project recruited a fellow Wikipedian who was also a library professional to manage the on-wiki portal and also assist in managing relationships with participating libraries.[1] The WikiArS project found success with a similar strategy, involving a Wikipedian and geoscience researcher with who was able to reach out to relevant institutions and research communities about the project. [2]

In Wikimedia projects, people who are capable of translating external skills (or their "day job") into our community context may be more effective than people who are completely unfamiliar with Wikimedia. In general, people who have multiple, complementary skillsets are often especially valuable in small teams where all members play more than one role.

WMF engineers are useful resources[edit]

If you have plans to use Wikimedia or Mediawiki infrastructure, knowing a WMF engineer can be useful to quickly find the right answer or right person to contact to get something done. Many are easily reachable through IRC and have a quick reply time. The Wikimaps Atlas team found the support of YuviPanda invaluable to get a labs account with the credentials required for using postgres databases within 10 minutes [3].

Working with domain experts who are not experienced Wikimedians[edit]

Domain experts are very important but can be intimidated by the Wikimedia environment (including talk pages) or by data modelling experts (in the case of Wikidata). They need support, encouragement, and possibly some one-on-one coaching. As project manager, you have to treat them with great consideration or they may feel undervalued and become disengaged. You can do this by assigning them very specific tasks that fall within their area of expertise and by inviting them to provide input outside of the Wikimedia environment if necessary. If you need their participation in talk pages, provide brief "how-to" guidance.

When to use[edit]


See also[edit]

Related patterns[edit]

External links[edit]


  1. Individual Engagement Grant: The Wikipedia Library. final report
  2. Individual Engagement Grant: Consolidate wikiArS to involve art schools. final report
  3. Grants:IEG/Wikimaps_Atlas/Midpoint