Research:Wikistories Early Adopters Research
Visual and short forms of online content have grown globally in the last decade, with both young and newer internet users being introduced to visually engaging content as their primary internet experience. Wikistories introduces a way of creating visual narratives from Wikipedia and Commons content in a short snackable format on mobile devices. The MVP of this product was released to the Indonesian Wikipedia in July 2022 as a beta feature. The goal of this research project was to understand the experiences of early Wikistory adopters, both creators and readers, focusing on their motivations and experiences creating and sharing stories.
In order to more effectively conduct research with the Indonesian community, we worked with FloLab, a Jakarta-based UI consultant to help us with this project. Our aim was to understand the experiences of early Wikistory adopters, both creators and readers, focusing on their motivations and experiences creating and sharing stories. We also wanted to understand what motivated current and potential Wikistories readers and creators to engage with this feature.
To complement existing and ongoing research, we decided to conduct in-depth interviews and user testing across three segments that we identified as being key stakeholders for Wikistories. These were:
- Creators: people who actively created content for social media, with an emphasis on visually engaging content on image- or video-heavy platforms such as Instagram, Youtube Shorts, or TikTok. For this study, we specifically recruited content creators who produced informative works, who had previously used Wikipedia as a source of information.
- Editors: current Indonesian Wikipedia editors, who had edited at least once in the past three months. Half of the participants had previously made Wikistories before, while half had never used this feature.
- Readers: people who actively consumed, and preferred, short-form visual social media content. For this study, participants had to be at least familiar with Wikipedia.
Since we anticipated differences in social media consumption and creation across age groups, half of the participants from each of the Creator and Reader segments were Gen Z (aged 18-26), while half were Millenials (aged 27-40). There was no such age-based recruitment for the Editors segment.
All interviews were conducted remotely over Zoom. Sessions were conducted in Bahasa Indonesia, with simultaneous interpretation into English for observers from the Wikimedia team. These interviews focused on a few topic areas, such as:
- What were the participants' social media consumption or creation habits?
- What motivated them to create content or edit Wikipedia?
- What were their perceptions of Wikipedia as an information source? Did they think that it was trustworthy?
Participants were then directed to the Wikistories feature and asked to try creating their own Wikistory. Throughout this guided process, they were prompted to say their thoughts out loud so that researchers could understand their thought processes, and to better identify points of confusion or friction. After creating their Wikistory, participants were asked some general questions about their perceptions of the creation process, and features they liked or thought could be improved.
Partipants in the Reader segment completed one interview. Creator and Editor participants were invited to do two interviews with a one-week gap in between. They were asked to explore the Wikistories feature on their own time, and to fill out a short survey about that experience, in between the two interviews. The second interview focused more on the experience of using Wikistories, with an emphasis on features that the participants liked and features that the participants wished Wikistories had.
All participants were rewarded for their participation in this study.
The results from our study can be roughly grouped into two categories, findings relating to how people read Wikistories, and findings relating to how people create Wikistories.
This research highlighted that viewers of media online generally rely on four areas when assessing the usefulness or credibility of content they encounter on social media and online:
- Author: is the creator of this content known to them? Is this someone they can follow as a reliable source of content similar to what they just saw? If there is no sole attributable author, what is the closest entity that can serve this function?
- Interactive features: what features does the platform have to allow readers to interact with this content? Can they indicate liking or disliking something? Can they share it more widely with their social circles? Does this interaction have a guarantee of reaching the creator of the content?
- Format: is this content primarily text-based, image-based, audio-based or video-based? Is it a mix of formats?
- Content: is this content on a topic of interest? Is it informative, entertaining, or does it serve some other function?
With regards to Wikistories, readers generally found it easy to find Wikistories that already existed for a given topic. The most successful Wikistories tended to include high-quality (high resolution, centered and in-focus) images that were directly relevant to the theme and topic of the Wikistory. Titles that were more descriptive were also better recieved than more general titles. For example, the title "Keunikan Orang Osaka", "The Uniqueness of the People of Osaka", stood out as a better title to our participants than a Wikistory that was just titled "Osaka". These Wikistories also had a proportionate amount of text to the image, and did not overwhelm the image with too much text on-screen. Our Reader participants also preferred Wikistories where images were not reused.
This research pointed at a few key motivations for people who want to create a Wikistory:
- Sharing accurate information on a specific topic
- Demonstrating subject matter expertise
- Expressing and supporting their opinion with credible sources
- Promoting awareness about a cause
- Promotion of cultural sites and destinations (such as museums and galleries)
Many of our potential creators also mentioned that basic statistics and analytics, common on other image- or video-focused social media sites, helped them keep motivated and understand what types of content would resonate with their audiences. For example, multiple participants mentioned wanting to see the amount of views on a created Wikistory or some equivalent to likes or shares to get a sense of how well received their Wikistory was.
In terms of workflow, we identified two major starting points. Existing editors of Wikipedia tended to use a text-first approach, where they started their Wikistories by finding a section of text from the article that they wanted to then highlight with relevant images. While other media creators also approached Wikistory creation from the text, they also used an image-first approach where a specific image would inspire them to pair it with relevant information from articles on the topic. However, one major issue facing potential Wikistory authors using the image-first approach was that it was difficult for newcomers to Wikipedia to realize that images must first be uploaded on Wikimedia Commons. Because this took them to a different website, it was difficult for them to figure out that this was necessary in order to use images from outside Wikipedia.
During user testing, we also noticed some common issues regarding the process of making a Wikistory. Nearly all participants wanted to have some way to style or format their text, such as changing the text color, font size, font style or placement of the text. Some of the help text was also unclear or ambiguous. Participants using the Chrome mobile browser also foudn that the Google Translate pop-up would cover important features that were placed at the bottom of the screen, making it difficult to save their highlighted text for the Wikistory they were making. For authors with a text-first approach, jumping into the Wikistory creation interface also meant that they would often struggle to find the original part of the article that inspired them to create it in the first place. This was because many of the highest-rated articles are quite long and scrolling through such long articles is very clumsy in the current mobile interface.
We also noticed some slight hesitancy on the part of authors to edit selected text in their Wikistories even if it might benefit the Wikistory overall (by being shorter or more concise). Participants were also generally positive about the ability to edit a finished Wikistory at any time. Some non-Wikipedia editors were uncomfortable about the possibility for anyone to edit their Wikistories since they were concerned this might allow anyone to change their Wikistory away from their original intent. Our participants also wanted a way to see a list of all their Wikistories after they had been created.
Overall, the similarity of Wikistories to other image- or video-based shortform social media content seemed beneficial since it allowed them to quickly pick up and understand how to use this feature. However, this also meant that there were certain expectations (such as the ability to style text, the ability to upload images, and the availability of metrics like likes, views and shares) that are not currently being met by the Wikistories feature as it stands.