User:Yurik/I Dream of Content

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I Dream of Content

Hands-on museums are fun because they turn observers into participants

I would like to offer a vision for one aspect of Wikipedia’s future - a way I believe could improve both relevance and interest in our favorite site. Wikipedia has been around for almost 15 years, yet it seems to still operate in the paper-bound world of static content. Even our latest user survey (p 38+) indicates that better rich content is one of the top demands of our readers. Let's explore how we can achieve that.

Participants, not viewers[edit]

4-stroke engine

Reading information is not as fun as interacting with it. An article about the internal combustion engine would turn most people away if it was only text. Pictures and cross-section schematics greatly enhance an article; animations, videos, and engine sounds improve it even further. Yet, all these forms treat the user as a passive information consumer. To truly engage our readers, we need to allow them to interact with the knowledge. For example, the internal combustion engine animation could offer a slider to move the position of the animation back and forth, allowing the user to look closer at the different burning stages, possibly in 3D from different points of view.

The same "time" slider can show how an armed conflict developed on a map with time. Or the spread of a disease. Or the change in the voter preferences in different regions. Or the movement of planets. We could even allow for the "what if" - by building a simulation on top of the real data.
Sternomastoid muscle animation2.gif
Interactivity extends beyond animations. One fourth of all wiki articles contain geo-coordinates, and all of them can benefit from an interactive map. The user should be able to see the areas affected by malaria, examine how it changed with time, and be able to read about the affected cities and counties shown on the map.

Finally, the 3D models will benefit articles about physical objects, from art works to molecular structures.

Data, Data, Data[edit]

Data is one of the key ingredients to knowledge. Employment data show what professions were in demand in the last 150 years. Birth rates and life expectancy data allows interactive historical per-country visualization. Stock prices show relative corporate performance. Yet, the only data Wikipedia has is Wikidata. While an amazing project, Wikidata concentrates on facts - small pieces of data from many sources. This leaves big data - large files produced by a single source - unsupported.
Mongol Empire
Big data has a number of challenges. If the “master copy” is external to Wikimedia servers, it comes in different formats and may change without notification. Being external means that Wikipedia has to make a copy before using it. The community would have to establish a process to verify it as meeting our standards. Once accepted, the system has to be set up to automatically download and later refresh the data, verify data structure, and possibly convert it into a more usable format. And ideally, the community should be able to do all these steps without requiring any engineering help. If large data is hosted primarily on our servers, it will no longer be produced by a single source, and we would need to provide adequate tools to edit it, and also solve a number of technical challenges.
Serotonin is happy

A book is better than a stack of pages[edit]

Learning from Wikipedia should be as addictive and engaging as following friends on a social network. Science encyclopedias for children are a great example of a “streaming discovery”, where kids are presented with a narrative, rather than multiple unrelated exhibits. Similarly, Wikipedia readers should be enticed to view more information.

There are many ways to tie multiple articles together. Links require an action by the user in order to be explored, and are not as engaging. In addition to links, we should pro-actively display additional related information, but in a non-distracting way.

Currently, desktop Wikipedia articles span the entire width of the screen, making them very hard to read. I believe the article space should be made narrower, and use the margin as a means to promote other content such as multimedia, articles, fun facts, and news.

Contributors Diversified[edit]

We all like to contribute in different ways. Among the writing contributors, some enjoy adding new information, while others prefer to improve the existing content. Furthermore, it could be theorized that most “simple” content has already been added to Wikipedia, causing contribution numbers to subside. Wikidata offered a new way to contribute and enjoyed a very speedy growth as a result.

Enhancing multimedia content, such as video, animation, graphs, 3D models and map overlays could re-energize the volunteer interest in the new types of data contributions.

Summary[edit]

Enhancing content and adding interactivity to wiki articles ensures that Wikipedia will cater to a much broader audience and directly addresses our main mission by making knowledge interesting rather than simply available. These are just some ways I believe will help achieve this goal. Your healthy criticism is not only welcome, it is required for this initiative to be a success.

Interested?[edit]

See proposed implementation steps.