Talk:Strategy/Wikimedia movement/2018-20/Recommendations/Iteration 3/Invest in Skills Development

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About expected outcomes[edit]

In re: "Create a user-friendly, multi-lingual, multi-formats platform to host training materials, enabling autonomous and self-directed learning, peer-learning, mentoring, and networking" -- we have that already. It's called a wiki, we have a number of people with experience with that platform. Or are there issues with it you haven't informed us about? -- Llywrch (talk) 20:57, 21 January 2020 (UTC)

Hi Llywrch, thanks for your comment. A wiki is indeed a great platform, but some people find it not easily navigable. Newcomers can get discouraged, especially when compared with other popular learning platforms on the web today. In general, it's not easy to connect need with resource or tap into the great expertise that exists in the movement, unless you know how. The "why" section in the recommendation sheds some light on this. This ask also comes from many community discussions, take a look at the community input page. This recommendation connects well with managing internal knowledge and improving user experience in this regard. Thanks for being here and for your input. MPourzaki (WMF) (talk) 20:52, 22 January 2020 (UTC)
Can you be more specific? Remember, amongst the volunteers in the several projects are world experts on wiki software. (I'm not counting myself in that group.) If you were to explain the issues to the communities, chances are good you'd find people who can address & fix the problems. But the bottom line is this: Wikimedia/Wikipedia is firmly meshed with wiki software. It is & always has been how we do things. It is part of our identity. For us to abandon it lightly because "it's not easy" means we are denying our heritage; we are surrendering part of our identity; we are betraying ourselves. While there may be reasons to do so, this is not a choice to be done lightly, but only after much thought, & understanding the consequences. I don't see evidence of any of that being done. (Definitely not in evidence at that link.) -- Llywrch (talk) 21:35, 22 January 2020 (UTC)
the wiki tends to reinforce the "reinvent the wheel" rather than building off existing knowledge base, such as https://outreach.wikimedia.org/wiki/GLAM_Boot_Camp, and https://meta.wikimedia.org/wiki/Community_Engagement/Leadership_Development_Dialogue engaging with those editors who have been talking leadership for a while, might build some continuity. Slowking4 (talk) 23:21, 22 January 2020 (UTC)
Thanks Slowking4 for your input. There is indeed a robust existing knowledge base that many newcomers feel difficult to navigate or tap into without reinventing the wheel. The movement strategy recommendations try to address this through improved knowledge management, and better connectivity of expertise and resources, including mentorship and trainings, on- and off-wiki. Hi Llywrch. The principle of distributed knowledge and expertise lays this foundation for us, so diverse contributors could benefit from the expertise in the movement. Wiki software is here to stay, but through the principle of inclusive community development, we can also collaboratively explore alternative means and platforms to facilitate learning and networking, so people don't have to resort to social media and external channels. Much respect. MPourzaki (WMF) (talk) 21:11, 23 January 2020 (UTC)

@Llywrch: learning systems have a very different feature set compared to wikis (think of what kind of features MOOC courses support, for example - quizzes, group work, videos that are synchronized with the rest of the learning experience). There are a number of open-source e-learning systems (e.g. Moodle or Open edX), setting up one of those would probably be a more feasible alternative to trying to build things on top of MediaWiki. --Tgr (talk) 09:23, 26 January 2020 (UTC)

I was also startled by this. Does this mean that Wikibooks and/or Wikiversity should be abandoned because those should be the obvious first choices for us to host training materials? If we can't dogfood our own projects, that is saying something quite loud and clear. Ainali (talk) 21:21, 11 February 2020 (UTC)

Finance vs Evaluation[edit]

Hi,

It's a little less clear in this one that the previous recommendation, but is there being financial incentives (specifically pay, rather than "pure" expenses for items) given to certain volunteers here (e.g. coaches in under-represented communities)?

While I was a little against it in concept, it clearly has some associated positives. However, what I want to know is way more detail to determine that no money is being mis-spent, resources aren't being lost from any individual's malfeasance or just conventional mis-use. How is the WMF, with their commitment for transparency, going to ensure this - and what level of "waste" is being used as a red marker for an efficiency failure?

By nature, the actual admin practicalities of this will be mainly handled by the WMF, even if the teaching material etc is more broadly considered. Therefore I need to know the details now before judging whether it should be supported. Nosebagbear (talk) 10:39, 23 January 2020 (UTC)

Hi Nosebagbear, thank you for this feedback. I recall you sharing similar sentiments around the capacity building working group's recommendations. The idea had not been discussed at that level yet, i.e. safety measures for funds dissemination and resources, but rather that it's a big void in the movement and needs focused and sustained investment beyond one-off events. Thanks for your feedback. We'll have to think about making this clear and explicit in the final recommendation. MPourzaki (WMF) (talk) 17:23, 25 February 2020 (UTC)

This needs to be more realistic[edit]

First off, let's be honest with ourselves. Almost all of our projects and organizations have performed reasonably well without this infrastructure; that it would be useful is true, but "certification" is no guarantee of quality performance. I do support educational opportunities and believe that some (but not all) training and education performed to date has been useful to the participants, who hopefully are able to put these new skills to work for the betterment of the movement (whether by being a better editor, a better board member, etc.) My biggest concern here is that by the creation of badges and certification programs, we will wind up doing the opposite of what is intended; that is, not permitting people to try new things or have new experiences unless they have the requisite prior certifications. This is endemic in much of the world, and we have no evidence of correlation between participating in certain types of education and being effective at the desired level. There is also no process by which skills developed outside of the movement process will be recognized. Today, a lot of the leaders on- and off-wiki are people who have been leaders outside of "wiki-life". This is a good thing, because they bring a lot of different perspectives. We cannot afford to lose those outside skills.

But mostly, what is proposed here is an incredibly expensive, regimented system. While there should definitely be more educational opportunities available than are available now (and I note that almost every movement organization has failed to expand, or in some cases reduced or eliminated staff who provide this kind of support), there is not really a good reason for every project or group to do things the same way. There definitely isn't a well-articulated reason for a certification system; in fact, it's a process that has been widely deprecated within the Wikimedia community and is pejoratively referred to as "hat-collecting". I note that it's contrary to the philosophies being espoused in limiting the concentration of "power" positions that any one individual should be able to hold, discussed elsewhere in the strategy. Spend more on skills development, yes. Create a bureaucracy around it, no. By improving existing documentation, we could do at least half of what is proposed here at about a tenth of the cost, and that's assuming we'd have to pay people to improve documentation. Risker (talk) 00:54, 12 February 2020 (UTC)

Hi Risker, as we are collating and gathering community feedback, I wanted to thank you for this rich input. Your thoughts around certification, bureaucracy, and cost are really pragmatic, thank you. Glad to see your support for improving existing documentation, that was a big part of the thinking around the next recommendation, manage internal knowledge. In fact, it was envisaged that skills development would be highly dependent on improved knowledge management and coordination as needed infrastructure. Really appreciating this. MPourzaki (WMF) (talk) 17:33, 25 February 2020 (UTC)

Highlights from the Spanish Speaking Conversations - Invest in Skills Development[edit]

About 70-80 present in conversations at different degrees (not everyone said something, of course). There wasn't as much feedback as in other recommendations. People were very supportive of Barnstars (here, translated as wikiestrellas). One user even suggested a point-system that could reward editors with prizes from Wikipedia-shop.

Another suggestion was to have “learning paths” rather than “learning packs”.--FFort (WMF) (talk) 16:29, 13 February 2020 (UTC)

It feels like some word got lost. 70-80% did what? Ainali (talk) 19:17, 13 February 2020 (UTC)

Highlights from the Catalan Speaking (Valencian) Conversations - Invest in Skills Development[edit]

This recommendation is like the previous one, but perceived as better because it seems to be less focused on cash, but more focused on the community. Really good. Distributing skills across the community as a whole sounds better to their ears than the previous point. It is more interesting to distribute to the whole movement, not to "leaders". And it should be noted that many people collaborate or act as leaders of micro-communities or even Wikiprojects that are invisible to our radar right now (like, “that guy who only edits about the festivities of Valencia”).

"Recognize Skills" Questions: Barnstars and user templates that identify "who can help me" are OK. Having the "official Wikisource publisher" sounds worse, especially if the listener understands that the movement is going to pay him for the sake of being “that guy who knows about something”.

The "learning packages" are not much needed in our context, but they do not sound bad to us. The risk, as in many recommendations, is in how the money can disentangle or discourage the veteran volunteer publisher, our core-user. Art + Feminism already has packages, which have been used on Wikimujeres. We're not inventing the wheel on this.--FFort (WMF) (talk) 16:29, 13 February 2020 (UTC)

Feedback from Hindi Community for Invest in Skills Development Recommendation[edit]

There was support from four users on the development of multilingual, multi-format online platforms to host training materials for communities. It was expressed that such shared platform can vastly improve the capacity building initiatives from our community by enabling self-directed learning, peer-learning, mentoring, and networking. There was a support of development of skills assessment system by two users on creation of a system of skills assessment to map available and missing skills in the movement to decipher the strengths and weaknesses of our communities and bridge the skills that are missing from our group. It was mentioned by one user that we shouldn't create too many internal platforms with a lot of staff. RSharma (WMF) (talk) 15:19, 14 February 2020 (UTC)

Feedback from Office Hours from 2 February and 9th February with members from Emerging communities from South Asia and Africa[edit]

Anass Sedrati (Strategy Liaison - Arabic) and Rupika Sharma (Strategy Liaison - Hindi) hosted Office hours on two Sundays (February 2nd and 9th) to discuss with members of Emerging communities from South Asia and Africa. Overall, around 50 people in total participated in either of the calls, representing various areas and regions.

There was a strong support for recommendation 7. It was suggested that knowledge management is key to advance community growth. Instead of a skill sharing platform, there was a strong support on having paid staff for working as knowledge managers that can provide information for different resources for community projects and initiatives. There needs to be dedicated staff for skill development.

Regards -- ASedrati (WMF) (talk) 21:07, 16 February 2020 (UTC)

What are the indispensable technical skills needed to contribute?[edit]

In my experience with new users one of the biggest hurdles to contributing is not knowing very well how to research and write about a topic. Enthusiasm alone doesn't help much (there have been several ArbCom cases on dewiki concerning users who created a very large number of problematic articles and whose quality of output did not improve over time). The user-interfaces of our projects are IMO a comparatively minor problem, using them can be taught and learned relatively quickly. But we can't rely only on journalists and people who went or are going to university (thus outsourcing a large part of our Skills Development) and even some of those might profit from a refresher course. --HHill (talk) 23:09, 16 February 2020 (UTC)
PS: Being able to create good content could also be considered a form of leadership, leading by example (cf. Strategy/Wikimedia movement/2018-20/Recommendations/Foster and Develop Distributed Leadership). --HHill (talk) 23:40, 16 February 2020 (UTC)

I agree with many of these points. Addressing them (& a few more) each:
  • From my experience reading articles in en.wiki, no country adequately trains its students how to perform research. Right now, most beginning editors seem to depend too much on using Google to find information, unaware of the other tools out there. (I'll admit that Google is an improvement over what I had been taught, pre-Internet -- the library card catalog, Reader's Guide to Periodical Literature, both of which were useful if you knew what you were looking for, useless if you little or nothing about the subject -- but far too often one had to just wade thru back issues of relevant periodicals or browse the library shelves to find sources if one had no idea about bibliographies or handlists.)
  • A related issue is accessing information in other languages. Far too often I've discovered that articles in other language Wikipedias about topics I'm interested in, these are translations of the article in the English Wikipedia -- & often a translation of an out-of-date version of that article. Even when there are better resources in that language. (One example I found very frustrating was the subject of the Empire of Trebizond; the latest work has been published in Greek & Russian, yet articles in those language Wikipedia were translations of the English -- which were based on a book published in 1926!)
  • Writing is a skill that to do well is far harder than it looks. It takes a lot of practice & useful feedback. And some tricks developed at en.wikipedia came from trial & error. I know that studies have been done about move effective presentation of information; I just don't know any bibliographies or handlists that provide them, nor even the keywords to find them. I would appreciate it if the Foundation were to fund someone to create a those then release it under a free license. (In other words, don't determine which of these we should use, but simply make them available for us to find, read & evaluate.)
  • One issue HHill did not mention, but worth addressing: enable Wikipedians to find money to support their work. While this includes grants from the Foundation, much more could be covered. For example, instructions on obtaining a Wikimedian-in-Residence position. Having a hint about what part of a university or other group would be most useful to approach. Another example would be how to write a request to obtain funding from other non-profits. To succeed at these, one must be skilled at marketing oneself, & I suspect that, for many Wikipedians, if we were good at marketing ourselves we wouldn't be donating our time & labor in the first place. (At least by offering some ideas how one can do this, we would be attracting more volunteers.)
These are a few I've thought about. I'm sure others have more ideas. -- Llywrch (talk) 20:49, 17 February 2020 (UTC)

Feedback from Wikimedia UK[edit]

Whilst the implication of this recommendation is that the Wikimedia Foundation - or another entity within the movement - will start to define training needs and develop an in-house way to meet them, it isn’t explicit about that. One of our volunteers comments that: “The WMF went astray on "instructional design" a while back, and needs to make up for lost time.”


The above discussion is preserved as an archive. Please do not modify it. Subsequent comments should be made in a new section.
Hi HHill, hi Llywrch. As we are collating feedback from communities, I wanted to thank you for the ideas put forward. Indeed, quality writing and research are complex skills that take time and trial. Providing various entries to strengthen these skills among existing and new contributors would be key, online learning for some, while I'm personally a big fan of mentorship, especially considering the existing expertise in the movement. Thanks for identifying additional key areas where capacity is needed, like around partnerships and fundraising. Super useful. Thank you both. MPourzaki (WMF) (talk) 17:49, 25 February 2020 (UTC)