User:Johan (WMF)/Why I like surveys
These are personal notes. They don't necessarily reflect the opinions of the Wikimedia Foundation.
Why I like surveys
First of all, the Wikimedia Foundation spends an inordinate amount of time listening to a smaller number of voices that are very good at making themselves heard. There's nothing wrong with engaging in conversation with those who have opinions, ideas and want to engage in conversations, of course. Nor are editors at fault for speaking up about problems they see, and solutions to these problems. However, there are individual English-speaking editors who get more attention from the WMF than entire Wikimedias wikis. I believe surveys, or even voting, can and should be used as a complement to balance this: it allows the editors who spends almost all their time editing content to have a voice on the same level as the ones who have hours and hours to spend in discussions (a category of editors to which I've belonged myself on several occasions throughout the years). I believe this gives us a chance to gauge what more Wikimedians want, instead of misjudging opinions and consensus because twenty long comments are more visible than one short comment.
Second, the Wikimedia Foundation is suffering from the language barrier. We're an international movement, yet we are very focused on conversations in English. This shuts out a lot of Wikimedians from our discussions. Surveys are better suited at bridging the language gap than conversations are. They are more structured. This makes it easier to understand them if you don't speak the language very well, easier to translate because the text needing translation is more easily defined and doesn't change from hour to hour, and it's easier to merge the replies from different wikis. We have limited resources. We can't expect Wikimedia editors to translate all posts in important conversations from and to dozens of languages – experience tells us this simply doesn't happen, and our translator community has plenty enough to do as it is.
Surveys are a tool to broaden the reach.
When surveys shouldn't be used
Surveys are a complement to being active on the Wikimedia wikis and engaging in conversations with the users. They are not a substitute. The WMF should be in constant dialogue with the communities, to make sure we can best work together. However, there are only so many who can do this, and a good amount of wikis they need to cover.
Surveys should only be used when one plans to actually use the information. Surveys where the answers are not somehow used to guide a process are a waste of editors' time and energy and will only make the communities lose confidence in the WMF.
Surveys are not an excuse not to work hard on bridging the language gap in other ways.