Wikimedia Blog/Drafts/Timestamp experiment

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It's alive! Highlighting the revision history of Wikipedia[edit]

The current default timestamp, at the bottom of articles
The new timestamp as it appeared during the test

Wikipedia pages each have their own <a href="https://meta.wikimedia.org/wiki/Help:Page_history">history</a> with detailed information about every revision, and this public log is one of the core aspects of the project. However, unless you find and use the special "View history" tab, the only information on Wikipedia articles that directly tells you the time and nature of the last change is on the bottom of the page, in tiny font and in UTC time.

We think that information about when an article was last changed should be far more transparent on Wikipedia. For one week, we tested a new feature for readers and editors that we will hope will provide a more direct window into the editing process. On a sample of around 20,000 English Wikipedia articles, we added a much more prominent timestamp to articles (see screenshot). The text of this timestamp was relative to the reader (e.g, "Last updated 5 minutes ago") and linked directly to the full revision history.

What we found was that, rather than clicking on the new timestamp in droves, the feature more than doubled the clicks through to the existing "View history" tab by readers and anonymous editors; for registered users, there was a small but less noteworthy increase in history views. This result was seen even when we controlled for repeat clicks on either link. The conclusions from this comparison are described in detail on the <a href="https://meta.wikimedia.org/wiki/Research:Timestamp_position_modification">wiki page about our experiment</a>, and we'll be releasing the anonymized data associated with it soon.

Prior to this experiment, there was little to no data available about how many readers were really aware of the history tab's location and purpose. The results we've seen in this A/B test strongly suggest that many people are interested in the history of Wikipedia articles they are reading, and that giving information about the last edit encouraged more people to take a closer look at the editing record. This is a relatively small change in the Wikipedia interface, but we're extremely excited to see interest in deeper engagement with the encyclopedia among readers. Future iterations of this experiment may involve transforming this timestamp in to a more direct call to edit articles that are severely outdated, though clearly the point at which an article becomes out of date is somewhat subjective.

While our experimental features group is primarily interested in ways to <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wikipedia:Editor_engagement">engage editors</a>, we did not try to correlate any increase in editing activity with the appearance of the timestamp, since any impact would be indirect and minor at best. Future iterations of this test might involve a more specific call to edit when a page is particularly out of date (e.g. has not been edited for months or years). If you're interested in learning about feature experiments we plan to test in the near future, check out <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wikipedia:Editor_engagement_experiments">our documentation on Wikipedia</a>.

The Editor Engagement Experiments team