Newcomers are a key indicator to the success of the movement
Q 1 What is your Recommendation?
We recommend developing and strengthening programs, structures, processes and technology to support newcomers in various ways.
This means :
- providing newcomers with easy-to-find and easy-to-understand resources that will help them independently find their way,
- developing programs that actively reach out to (possible) newcomers. based on an assessment of current best practices both within the movement and elsewhere.
- Supporting regionally developed and coordinated efforts and programmes so as to best meet the needs of communities.
- Building or assimilating knowledge necessary for communities to support newcomers
In principle, we don’t limit the definition of newcomer to individual contributors. It can be editors as well as new communities, new affiliates, new partners, and so forth. Issues concerning these newcomers are dealt with in the recommendations of the Capacity Building and Partnerships working group.
Q 2-1 What assumptions are you making about the future context that led you to make this Recommendation?
Wikimedia is just one of many current and potentially future online destinations newcomers can participate in, share their knowledge with, and learn from. If we want to be the destination of choice for such people, both in joining our existing communities of volunteers and readers and in building new ones, we have to make offers to them that meet them where they are, with their needs and in their language(s).
As significant numbers of newcomers only have mobiles at their disposals (as reflected in the CHWG survey), this includes rethinking the traditional desktop-centric setup our projects traditionally rely on (see Recommendation: “Investing in equity-centered technologies”).
Newcomers (people, communities, partners) are essential to our movement as it diversifies both in terms of knowledge and people. The strategic direction challenges Wikimedia to reach out and embrace both new stakeholders and new forms of knowledge in the pursuit of knowledge as a service and knowledge equity.
Newcomers face a diverse set of challenges that are well documented (including by the CHWG survey), the AN/I survey, and the ESEAP Strategy Summit) ; these challenges need to be systematically assessed and incorporated in decision making at all institutional levels.
Q 2-2 What is your thinking and logic behind this recommendation?
Our research and consultations indicate that throughout the Wikimedia movement, newcomers currently are often met with impatience, distrust or open hostility, especially if they are from previously underrepresented groups. Also, newcomers in established projects report being baffled by the number of rules and regulations, and the difficulty of finding answers to questions. In almost all communities the retention rates of newly trained editors are consistently low. We need to use existing wisdom and build new knowledge on supporting new diverse community members. This recommendation addresses that deficit.
Q 3-1 What will change because of the Recommendation?
- Newcomers will be valued and appreciated.
- Wikimedia communities and projects will have established processes for welcoming and mentoring newcomers.
- Affiliates will see motivating and mobilising newcomers as one of their responsibilities and will develop relevant programs. Projects that only have a small or no community at all will be able to draw on partnerships to build communities and affiliates where necessary.
- Tools such as the mobile application are needed; existing tools need to be improved to support the needs of the newcomers.
- Research will provide insight in motivations, support and other factors that helped in making and retaining Wikimedians.
Q 3-2 Who specifically will be influenced by this recommendation?
Everyone: Affiliates, WMF, project communities, external partners, individual editors.
Q 4-1 Could this Recommendation have a negative impact/change?
Mis-use; misapplication; avoidance, hostility by some established members of communities towards newcomers or the measures introduced to support newcomers. Competition between various Wikimedia-projects, for example, in some languages there is a competition between Wikidata and Wikipedia about attracting new editors, while WikiSource editors feel not enough is done to attract new editors for them.
Q 4-2 What could be done to mitigate this risk?
When it comes to trying to change the behaviour of communities towards newcomers, there needs to be a change process introduced in each community to build consensus on the exact changes to the current processes and the mindset of experienced users towards newcomers. On the one hand, we do not want to overwhelm newcomers with information, regulations; on the other hand, too little will have a similar effect. Offering learning materials on how to deal with newcomers and understand their motivation to participate will be an important step towards mitigating the risks.
Q 5 How does this Recommendation relate to the current structural reality? Does it keep something, change something, stop something, or add something new?
Currently there is no coordinated approach towards mobilising and mentoring newcomers. There is some training available, but not widely known or applied across all projects, or to all newcomers, or to Affiliated communities, or to Partners. Experiences about targeting newcomers and doing campaigns around this aren’t shared widely, while they have existed for a while.
Q 6-1 Does this Recommendation connect or depend on another of your Recommendations? If yes, how?
- Building an inclusive global community
Q 6-2 Does this Recommendation connect or relate to your Scoping Questions? If yes, how?
Yes. For example, responses to our survey questions identified several reasons why this recommendation is necessary:
- no coaching/mentoring of new editors,
- no patience/tolerance/appreciation of newcomers
- no retention strategy for newcomers
- People outside of the movement often think Wikipedia is complete and there is not much to do for them. It would be helpful to identify uncovered areas of knowledge so it becomes clear to the people where their help is needed.
Q 7 How is this Recommendation connected to other WGs?
Diversity; Capacity Building; R&R; Partnerships; Resource Allocation; Technology