Talk:Access To Knowledge/Community support/Community building using help desks

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This page is for the discussion for the page "Community building using help desks" , please give your ideas and suggestions below.--Subha WMF (talk) 11:06, 25 June 2012 (UTC)

I am keeping my fingers crossed for the next pilot from India programs :) These are normal things which the community can do by itself even if it is very small. We did this in Tamil Wikipedia 7 years before.

1. Create help pages in "Help" namespaces. This is time consuming and ongoing. Creating video tutorials will be best.

2. Create a Wikipedia:Help desk page and link it from site notice. If the community is OK, they can also share few chat / mail / phone IDs there.

That should be all and both can only be done by the community.

The elaborate planning at http://meta.wikimedia.org/wiki/India_Program/Pilot_Designs/Community_building_using_help_desks is unnecessary and will only increase the work load of an already small community.

I hope the money we donate goes in to doing bigger things and not for every single thing done in the name of "Pilot".--Ravidreams (talk) 14:55, 25 June 2012 (UTC)

Thanks for your comments, Ravi. I'd like to clarify on 3 points you raised, as well as acknowledge the suggestions you have made.
  • Pilots
The term pilots is used for the majority of the work we are doing. It acknowledges that we are doing experimental work. This is the first catalyst project of WMF - and the work we are doing on community building in our community's context is such that we need to experiment or cross-pollinate. In any pilot, we are not inventing anything radical. We look for things that worked for other communities and try and improve them. (This is very similar to us picking tips from the Tamil community and seeing if other communities can benefit from them and if there are improvements that we can collaboratively build in.) Also, we want to be able to design our work properly, establish clear objectives and document results and lessons - and hence we document them under Pilot Designs. This will help with transparency, collaboration, documentation of lessons as well as helping other communities take ideas.
  • Community "Capacity"
I have an alternate view on the capacity of communities to do different things. Different communities are at different stages - and hence have the interest and ability to do different things. For instance, you mentioned that a Help Desk is something that has been done by the Tamil community 7 years ago. That is great! I believe Assamese and Bangla and Malayalam have Help Desks too, which is wonderful! However, I know that the majority of Indic Wikipedias do not have one. Help Desks can be really helpful - as is evidenced by the traffic on the English Help Desk or the Tea House.
The idea of the pilot is to support communities to accelerate the adoption of ideas like Help Desks. Please do look at India as a series of very distinct communities.
Even for those communities that already have Help Desks, there might be lessons that we can share back with them from our pilot. For instance, are there ways of encouraging more new editors to ask more questions? Is there a way that we can make the efforts of existing editors more productive? How can we encourage more existing editors to be more active on Help Desk? Are there lessons from Help Desks that can can get incorporated back into outreach sessions?
  • Community Effort
A lot of the elaborate work that you have mentioned is intended to reduce the effort of community members. Documenting common Q&As will help editors answer questions faster and with less effort. The putting up of standard editing Q&As will encourage new editors to learn stuff on their own and ask questions only if these are still unanswered - which will reduce the effort and time of existing editors.
  • Other Suggestions
  • You mentioned video tutorials - which is a great idea and is something we will explore.
  • Help pages under "Help" namespaces is an idea that will also be built into the Help Desk once it has started seeing the common Q&As getting documented.
  • The Help Desk link from a site notice is exactly the design that is being followed.
  • You also spoke about contact details of community members which is something that we can suggest to folks involved in the pilot. Of course, that will be entirely up to them - but I have heard this suggestion from other community members too. Hisham (talk) 08:22, 26 June 2012 (UTC)
Hi Hisham, I think Ravi's larger point is very worth noting and doing something about. Would it help, in the organisation of your own activity, to categorise your activity into 'Pilot Programs' and 'Community Catalyst Programs' - or some other such names - so as to distinguish between things that the India Programs office is running that are (a) beyond the ordinary capacity of volunteers to do and (b) community activities that are being catalysed, at the request of the communities involved? On this note, I think it may be helpful in each instance to record (either in advance or on ad hoc basis) the community demand for your involvement in this catalysis - that makes it clearer to understand for people like me and others who have not been part of the internal process by which you decided to do something. I think I understand your response to Ravi here, that you are helping 'a' community do something that other communities have done but don't have the capacity to currently do. However, making the catalyst process simple for users, esp new suers, and documenting the demand for catalysis from existing community members, however few of those there may be, would be very useful in my opinion. Cheers aprabhala (talk) 15:49, 26 June 2012 (UTC)
Hi Hisham, thanks for explaining. In my view, this is neither an experiment nor a pilot. They should be something small or big that is never tried elsewhere or tried in a new context. IEP is a pilot. Google translation project is a pilot. They can be scaled if they work well. Every mature community has a list of lessons that can be compiled in to a best practice document for all budding communities. Perhaps, it is helpful to compile such a document from Indic and other global non-English communities which are somewhat in a similar socio-economic status like us. The way and pace it is implemented should be left to the communities themselves. A work plan like http://meta.wikimedia.org/wiki/India_Program/Pilot_Designs/Community_building_using_help_desks#Workplan_.26_Timeline is first of all daunting and looks somewhere between top-down management and spoon feeding. Need for such a plan and documentation is understood in the context of a professional framework in which India programs operates but it is needless hassle for a budding community. Every community needs to evolve by itself and it takes its own time even if you have the blue print of a successful community. --Ravidreams (talk) 08:15, 3 July 2012 (UTC)
Many thanks, Ravi & Achal.
  • I totally agree with you on the terminology about what can be called an experiment or a pilot, and what should not. Will make the changes accordingly.
  • Ravi, I think your idea of compiling some kind of place where we have a list of lessons and put together as a Best Practices document is great. It is complex because it needs to be done in a user-friendly manner. Will think through how best we can do this, and we will attempt it. Would love your help on this!
  • Ravi, where I disagree with you is on your regarding some of the work as either top-down management or spoon feeding. The former will never work and is not what we are doing in any part of India Program. The timelines and workplan is merely to structure work. You will find that individual communities will eventually adapt and adopt their own specific plans - as they should! The latter (spoon feeding) is something that you feel because you know what is to be done and how it is to be done. That is not the case with so, so many community members and communities.
For instance, many community members are not (yet) familiar with the benefits of community building and how this can be done. There are so many communities who want to do so many activities (such as Wikiprojects) but are not sure how to go about them, or even where to begin. Let me illustrate with even more specific, real-life examples. Communities are responding to our suggestions on topics for WikiProjects, because they struggled on what to do - even though they want to collaborate and know about the concept of WikiProjects. We are advising communities on other things such as fixing infoboxes, or installing Narayam in their Wiktionary or other sister wiki projects, or enabling transwiki import facility in their Wikipedia or setting up a proof-read extension on their Wikisource. None of these are particularly complex. However, much of it has not been done in so many communities. At another level, some community members want to do outreach but don't have the confidence or the collateral to do so.
I urge you to look at it not from your personal situation or indeed the current position of Tamil (or other relatively more mature) communities. The very fact that much of Shiju's work can be classified as basic community building is exactly because that is the single biggest need right now. Let me make one more point. There is nothing in the Wikimedia world that cannot be done by the community. However, even though many things might be simple, they are not being done or could be done more productively or faster for the community. That is the entire rationale for a catalyst project. India Program is able to apply smart program design and resources to accelerating the process.
I also request that you look at the work that we are doing - even if you might regard some to be basic - and explore whether there are areas that it can be of value to the Tamil community. Can the social media efforts we are supporting with other communities be extended to revitilise the Tamil social media efforts? Can the help desk work being done for Odia be used to get more visibility and traffic (and therefore questions and answers and new editors!) to Tamil's Help Desk? Can the GLAM or education endeavors with other communities be useful for similar initiatives in Tamil? Also, are there any areas that we can help the Tamil community with?
  • Achal, you have a valid point and what I'd like to suggest is that we invite and encourage community members and communities who need our support - however simple it might appear to others - to put a note on the India Program page. It could serve to do 3 things. Firstly, other community members from the same community might step in with a helping hand. Alternatively, folks from other communities could reach out to assist. It could also serve to show that this assistance has been specifically asked for by a community or community members that need this help because they are still young and growing. Hisham (talk) 10:45, 4 July 2012 (UTC)
Hisham, thanks for explaining. I understand that not all communities have similar and equal capabilities at any stage and your help is well intended. What concerns me is that how and if such communities will fare in future if they are not able to get started with such basic tasks by themselves. Thanks for offering help for the Tamil Wikipedia community. Shiju has alread informed us of this in the village pump. We will get in touch if a suitable situation arises--Ravidreams (talk) 20:51, 21 July 2012 (UTC)