Research:Developing Wikimedia's anti-harassment and behavioral dispute resolution systems/Focus groups

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Although individuals may each have their own approaches to creative thinking (the process by which individuals get their creative juices flowing),[1] combining the strengths of such varied approaches via facilitated collaborative thinking allows for more thoughtful innovations.[1] One advantage, for example, is that having a larger number and variety of ideas generated during brainstorming produces stronger prototypes once ideas are refined towards the end of the design process.[2]

Creative thinking is a skill that can be learned, and a facilitated design thinking process is one way to tap into that skill. Process and structure help participants learn “how to plan and think through alternatives”, “have a method that they can apply and reapply”, and “exchange and compare ideas and different solutions.”[3] Through this focus group, we hope that guiding a small portion of the Wikimedia community through the design process will not only expose participants to a method of systematic problem solving to generate ideas for the community but also help us identify potential solutions better tailored for participants’ respective communities. We also encourage participants to reflect on potential applications of this collaborative problem-solving process in their communities.

As creative thinking comes in many forms, the process of collaborative thinking may also vary.[1] In this focus group, we will engage in one interpretation of the design thinking process. Specifically, we will draw upon a process for designing interface for software applications called the Five Design-Sheet methodology[1] as the concerns explored in designing software applications seem contextually related to the problem we will be tackling in the focus group.   

On Collaborative Design and the Wiki Platform[edit]

As you navigate through the rest of your life, be open to collaboration. Other people and other people’s ideas are often better than your own. Find a group of people who challenge and inspire you, spend a lot of time with them, and it will change your life.

—Amy Poehler

In Lean UX: Designing Great Products with Agile Teams,[2] Jeff Gotheif and Josh Selden write that collaboration is the most effective way to rally a team around a design direction. They stress that compared to “hero-based design,” or the practice of calling in a designer to drop in to rescue a project, collaboration yields better long-term results. Collaborative design increases the “Design IQ” of a team by giving designers a much broader set of ideas to draw upon as they refine the design. It also builds a shared understanding and decreases the amount of redundant information that must be recorded for the project to move forward.

Wikis provide a new and promising forum for collaborative design. James West[4] and Margaret West[5] recognize the potential of Wikis as a platform for online collaboration and learning.[6] They also emphasize the need for planning and effective facilitation to maximize the utility of wikis as a collaborative opportunity.[6] Although we are confident that Wikimedians are familiar with values that create the “highly accessible, shared, participatory environment”[6] that makes Wikis powerful collaborative tools, HNMCP will participate in the focus group as a facilitator to encourage learning conversations geared toward problem solving.

As such, the role of HNMCP will be to establish and maintain ground rules necessary to maintain constructive and collaborative discussions in accordance with behavioral norms[7] emphasized in both dispute resolution and collaborative design literature and case studies. These rules are designed to identify and maintain common understandings[8] and commitment to change that are essential for problem solving.

The rules are as follows:

  1. Open the Mind: “Openness is an invitation to scrutiny by others.”[8] It requires relinquishing the self to appreciate diverse, new, and alternative approaches to solving problems. We ask that participants allow others to comment on their contributions and welcome edits, modifications, and additions to their ideas.
  2. Listen: We ask that participants separate individuals from opinions and to defer judgment in order to encourage input and collaboration. Enabling learning conversations[9] to involve diverse opinions and interests allows for a more creative solution equipped to address broad concerns.
  3. Peer Up: Seek to organize around the outcome. Look for “unlikely partners” rather than relying on top-down hierarchies or formal authorities.[9]
  4. Share: Prepare to share not only ideas and goals, but also the outcomes. In true collaboration, no single person is responsible for any of the outcomes.[9]
  5. Act Globally: Aim to create outcomes that benefit multiple communities.


The Purpose of this Focus Group is to:

  1. introduce a design-based approach to generating, evaluating, and building on ideas through community collaboration; and
  2. help us identify potential solutions better tailored for participants’ respective communities.

The exercise will involve a facilitated dialogue around designing a new experience for users and administrators that will allow for streamlined reporting and processing of harassment issues in Wikimedia communities. HNMCP will facilitate the discussion, provide clarification on guidelines, and ask follow-up questions to further develop ideas and to encourage continual reflection on the process.  

As participants, please allow this focus group some priority for the next two (2) weeks. We believe the focus groups would have the greatest benefit with continued engagement and thoughtful, substantive answers from each individual. We value all of your opinions and look forward to hearing from each of you.

The aim is for each participant to post at least once at each stage of the process. Participants are welcome to post more in response to follow-up questions or comments. More engagement will create a more sophisticated result at the end.

The schedule is as follows:

Sun-Tues: Understanding the Problem[edit]

(6:00 PM EST - Tuesday 6:00 PM EST)

Here, we will present the context that will generally describe the problem. Participants will be asked to narrow the scope of the problem, clearly define community needs, and identify the gaps within the community and the Wikimedia platform that must be addressed in order to meet those needs. Participants should draw from personal experiences, community data, case studies, outside research and literature, or examples from comparative online communities and expect to contribute substantive responses to questions designed for in-depth exploration and building common understanding.

Wed-Fri: Follow Up From HNMCP & Community Response[edit]

(12:00 PM EST - Friday 6:00 PM EST)

Here, HNMCP will pose follow-up questions to responses from the previous day. Participants are asked to privately consider the questions and prepare answers individually without consulting others’ posts. Participants are encouraged to present their personal perspectives on the matter. All participants should defer judgment and no participant should evaluate another participant’s opinion or perspective. Deferring judgment is important to creating a welcoming atmosphere most conducive to generating a large number of ideas.

Sat-Mon: Summary by HNMCP & Brainstorming[edit]

(12:00 PM EST - Monday 6:00 PM EST)

Here, HNMCP will post a summary of findings from Understanding the Problem. We will also present common concerns and salient needs that determine the parameters of the design direction. Then we will present rules and considerations for the brainstorming stage of the design process. Participants are asked to privately consider the questions and prepare answers individually without consulting others’ posts. Participants are encouraged to freely present their ideas or vision and asked to suspend judgment or evaluation of ideas.

Tues-Thurs: Summary by HNMCP & Evaluation[edit]

(12:00 PM EST - Thursday 6:00 PM EST)

Here, HNMCP will present a summary and list of ideas presented from the previous day. Participants will then evaluate the ideas by noting both strengths and weaknesses of each idea. Participants are discouraged from defending their ideas and encouraged to offer constructive criticism in the spirit of collaboration.

Fri-Sun: Summary by HNMCP & Refinement[edit]

(12:00 PM EST - Sunday 6:00 PM EST)

Here, HNMCP will present a summary of strengths and weaknesses identified for each idea from the previous day’s session. Participants will then be asked to engage in a design exercise to build up presented ideas by addressing each idea’s strengths and weaknesses. This final step will ultimately ask participants to imagine implementation of select ideas to produce rough prototypes.

Once the focus group concludes, HNMCP will ask participants to fill out a quick survey for Reflection and Feedback.

Participants, thank you in advance for your time and thoughts. We look forward to working with you.


  1. a b c d Roberts, Jonathan C.; Headleand, Christopher J.; Ritsos, Panagiotis D. (2017). Five design-sheets : creative design and sketching for computing and visualisation. Cham: Springer. ISBN 9783319556277. 
  2. a b Jeff, Gothelf; Selden, Josh. Lean UX : designing great products with Agile teams (Second edition ed.). Sebastopol, CA: O'Reilly Media. ISBN 1491953608. 
  3. Preface, V. Five Design-Sheets: Creative Design and Sketching for Computing and Visualization, Jonathan C. Roberts, Christopher J. Headleand, Panagiotis D. Ritsos (Springer International Publishing AG2017)
  4. James West is an associate professor in the Department of Instructional Design and Technology at Western Illinois University. Prior to joining the faculty, he was senior consultant for Performance Systems Design Corp., where he designed training, distance learning, knowledge management, and curriculum development for companies such as Sears, Unext, and Monsanto. For more information, see James A. West and Margaret L. West, Using Wikis for Online Collaboration: The Power of the Read-Write Web, Jossey-Bass A. Wiley Imprint, 1e. 2009.
  5. Margaret West is an instructional technology systems manager in the Center for Innovation in Teaching and Research at Western Illinois University. She was a senior consultant for Performance Systems Design Corp., where she designed distance learning and training programs for companies such as Sears, Diamond Technology, and Motorola. She has over twenty years of experience as an instructional designer and consultant. For more information, see id.
  6. a b c West, James A.; West, Margaret L. (2009). Using wikis for online collaboration : the power of the read-write Web (1st ed.). San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass. ISBN 9780470343333. 
  7. Rogers, Nancy H. Designing systems and processes for managing disputes. New York. pp. 132–135. ISBN 9781454808183. 
  8. a b Fisher, Roger (2005). Beyond reason : using emotions as you negotiate. New York: Viking. ISBN 9780143037781. 
  9. a b c Fisher, Roger; Ury, William (1991). Getting to yes : negotiating agreement without giving in (2nd ed ed.). New York, N.Y.: Penguin Books. ISBN 9780140157352.