Welcome to the first report of the Small Wiki Editor Engagement Project! As you may already know, as a part of our current experimental small Wikipedia, we are currently working on Bangla language version of Wikipedia which has around 23,500 articles and 33,000 registered users which around 200 of them are listed as “active users” in the system.
Over the last month we have worked on collecting information and usable data and also sharing ideas about getting more new editors and editor engagement in Bangla Wikipedia. Bangla Wikipedia has around 10 very active users who usually contribute to this Wikipedia almost every day in a week. Although this Wikipedia has a very small editing community, but was very enthusiastic in taking part of this discussion. The discussion took place in 3 places of 3 different pages.
- Local village pump or administrators' noticeboard
- Talk page of the local project portal
- Project discussion page
Barriers to new editors and editor growth that we've learned about
There are several issues and suggestions that the community pointed out to us and have agreed to work on to improve the editing environment of Bangla Wikipedia for new editors. These can be divided into 3 following types.
- Awareness and motivation
- Technical barriers and usability
- Help and guideline pages
- Lack of follow-up discussion
Awareness and motivation
Bangla is a language mostly spoken in South Asian country Bangladesh and India's West Bengal state; it is an official language in both places. This two geographical regions comprise around 220 million speakers and the total number of Bangla speakers is close to 280 million. Because of socioeconomic conditions, most of people of this region do not have the computer or internet access necessary to read Wikipedia. According to the opinion the of local editing community, despite these socioeconomic conditions, there are still a lot of people who know and use Wikipedia. A huge portion of the total users would be the college and university students who use Wikipedia for educational purposes. Also there are many Bangla blogs, forums, and online version of newspapers available in the internet to provide information to the readers in Bangla.
Most of the Wikipedia users in this region rely on English Wikipedia. There are a few reasons behind this. The primary reason could be that with around 4 million articles English Wikipedia has better coverage of topics than Bangla Wikipedia, so most of the time it is likely that they do not get the desired information in Bangla Wikipedia. Another important reason is that there are users who do not search Wikipedia directly but do this through Google instead. As Bangla needs additional font help for viewing and typing, people usually search in English and eventually get the search result from English Wikipedia. There is also a lack of local offline outreach -- this is the point where the whole community agreed on.
As a result of these issues, Bangla Wikipedia also has a problem with motivating new users in Wikipedia editing. Bangla Wikipedia has close to 34,000 registered users, but until now, there has been no online initiative on Bangla Wikipedia to motivate the new editors to contribute to Wikipedia.
Technical barriers and usability
Bangla Wikipedia suffers from technical and usability issues frequently. There are not not enough capable volunteers to help out with technical issues and they frequently ask help of capable users from the global community. They have several bugs filed open that are not solved yet. The most spoken technical problem is the editor panel. All of the new editors participated in that discussion complained about the usability of the editor panel. All of them found the MediaWiki editor too complex to deal with and suggested edtiors like CK Editor, FCK Editor, TinyMCE Editor, WYSIWYG editor.
The local community also pointed out the need of a easy help system so new editors who do not know about editing Wikipedia can ask questions easily without knowing how to edit Wikipedia or use a MediaWiki edit panel. They agreed with the suggestion of using a Blogspot/WordPress-like comment system as that is widely known among the readers.
Help and guideline pages
Being a small community, Bangla Wikipedia does not have enough contributors to work on the help and guideline pages which attempt to help or target new editors. Most of the pages in the project and help namespaces in Bangla Wikipedia are copied from English Wikipedia and have been translated to Bangla directly. There are even very few help pages that are completely translated into Bangla. Most of them are in English, being a mirror of English Wikipedia pages. This is not helpful to a new editor in following ways.
- New editors do not have the patience or need to read all the long texts in a given help page
- As it is Bangla Wikipedia, when new editors see the help pages in English it often makes a bad impression and the new editor might find it unhelpful
Lack of follow-up discussion
Because it is a very small community, sometimes help seekers get response to their queries too late. Also when questions are on topics that the active community members are unfamiliar with, the queries do not get any response at all.
Other issues working against new editors' engagement might be:
- Prompt tagging of a newly created page for deletion which quickly discourages a new editor to continue.
- Tone of warning template might not be friendly enough for them and may sound discouraging.
Ways the community has tried to solve with this problems so far
Bangla Wikipedia editors do not do any outreach as a whole, but some active contributors try to write blogs about it as a part of their personal initiative. Most of the outreach is done by the associated chapters or offline community.
Solutions this project will focus on
- Motivation banners to motivate the visitors to contribute to Wikipedia as editors
- Welcome message redesign to make the welcome message more effective and appealing
- Help page redesign to make it usable for new editors
- Setup a mentor team for follow-up with newbies
- Push local community in offline where there is a necessity
- This could be because of the lacking of necessary and helpful documentation about the editor, because none of the more experienced and long-time users complained about the default editor being uncomfortable to deal with. At the same time, all those said the MediaWiki editor is too complex to deal with also agreed that the editor problem is not the biggest problem behind not having new editors, and the biggest problem is lack of awareness and motivation.