?

Log in

No account? Create an account
Wikipedia Task Force: Reader Conversion - Zer Netmouse
October 28th, 2009
09:36 pm

[Link]

Previous Entry Share Next Entry
Wikipedia Task Force: Reader Conversion
I have been selected to participate in the Wikipedia task force to increase contributions from readers and under-represented groups. In other words, to convert wikipedia readers to editors.

I have posted a few of my pet theories as to why people are discouraged from or disinterested in editing wikipedia on my wikipedia strategic planning user page. I welcome discussion there or here about why you or people you know choose not to edit wikipedia.

(40 comments | Leave a comment)

Comments
 
[User Picture]
From:dd_b
Date:October 29th, 2009 01:59 am (UTC)
(Link)
The procedure for discussion on Wikipedia is completely unclear, and I say that as somebody who has been editing articles for years. It must be completely invisible to newcomers, they probably don't even have a clue how to enter in.

Or, to put it another way, are we supposed to just start editing your list?

Gack; and it wants me to create a THIRD username/password pair for what is, to me, "the same thing"? And I think it said the username I use on Wikipedia isn't even a valid one at Wikimedia.
[User Picture]
From:netmouse
Date:October 29th, 2009 02:13 am (UTC)
(Link)
Hee. That right there is a wonderful point. When I invited people to discuss, my assumption was that people would come to the user page, click on the "Discussion" tab, either join or start a new topic, and write their comments in some sort of hierarchical (indented) list.

I have seen this problem come already in one of the other pages, where discussion is a mix of numbered topics and bulleted lists and comments that are just indented without numbers or bullets.

It gave me the same issue with not being able to use my wikimedia username even though it says you should be able to. You'd think they'd have those sorts of details smoothed out by now. After all, they've had some practice!
[User Picture]
From:sorcycat
Date:October 29th, 2009 02:22 am (UTC)
(Link)
If you are going to add social interactions to wikipedia, you might suggest a reputation system like stackoverflow.com has for editing entries.
[User Picture]
From:cos
Date:October 29th, 2009 02:38 am (UTC)
(Link)
I suspect that adding social interactions of that sort would be counter to what wikipedia seeks to be.
[User Picture]
From:eleri
Date:October 29th, 2009 02:28 am (UTC)
(Link)
the couple times I have tried to contribute anything to Wikipedia, it was met with such incredibly nasty attitude, that I never went back.
[User Picture]
From:netmouse
Date:October 29th, 2009 02:33 am (UTC)
(Link)
Can you clarify? What do you mean by "it was met with such incredibly nasty attitude"?

Do you remember which pages you tried to contribute (to)?

Do you mean your edits were reversed, or re-edited?

Did people make nasty comments on the article discussion page, or on your user talk page, or both?
[User Picture]
From:alicebentley
Date:October 29th, 2009 02:32 am (UTC)
(Link)
I was an interested editor when Wikipedia first started up, but after the third or fourth time my extensively researched pages were dumped for some fanboy's screed I just stopped trying.

Now years have passed, it has no doubt vastly improved, and I really need to be doing my grad school work right now. i figure I'll check in with Wikipedia again next summer.
[User Picture]
From:cos
Date:October 29th, 2009 02:41 am (UTC)
(Link)
Thing is, anyone can do that sort of "dumping", and it's also easy to un-dump. I've occasionally checked back on pages I edited in the past, and restored my work when I thought it was pointlessly damaged or replaced. People who care enough to come back and engage with that, often have something useful to contribute.

Did you actually have the very same page consistently destroyed? Or do you mean that this happened for several different pages, and you didn't restore your work?
(no subject) - (Anonymous) - Expand
[User Picture]
From:theferrett
Date:October 29th, 2009 02:44 am (UTC)
(Link)
Two reasons:

1) The process is fairly opaque to me. I don't really know how to start; people say it's easy, but from what I see on my remote viewpoint is that there's actually a lot of political stuff (Home on the Strange had a web page, then got deleteamated for "not being of interest," despite the fact that it had like 30,000 daily visitors), so why bother?

2) I'm never clear where the lines are drawn, and anything I'm interested in, I'm involved in. I know that making my own Wikipedia entry is wrong (not that I would), but I'd also feel uncomfortable editing, say, the Clarion page because I'm involved with that. Or Kelly Link, because I know her. In short, there's some fuzzy line between "my own self-interest" and "the public good," and I'm not sure where to draw that. But the places I'd be most likely to know enough to edit are the ones where I'm not sure if I'm ego-editing.
[User Picture]
From:cdave
Date:October 29th, 2009 11:16 am (UTC)
(Link)
It's point 1) for me too. There was a period a few years ago where one or two editors had targeted webcomics as an area that needed tidying up. They were deleting as non-notable webcomics which had higher reader numbers than many US newspapers, and which the creators were making a living from.

No amount of rallying from the readers would persuade these editors not to delete these entries.

I still occasionally tweek errors in articles, but don't normally bother.


For instance in Time of Eve, it states that couple of things happened, when they are only _implied_ to have happened. A big difference in a show where the main premis is about the characters concealing things. But I can't be bothered to edit it, as there's every chance it'll be decided it's non-notable and disappear soon anyway.
[User Picture]
From:dd_b
Date:October 29th, 2009 02:47 am (UTC)
(Link)
There's a real problem with admin attitude. It's nearly always the case, when I've seen it happening, that the admin is relatively ignorant in the area of the article compared to the contributor he's arguing with. But they puff themselves up and try to make themselves look big. Since, on Wikipedia, they ARE big, bigger than me, there's usually nothing I can do about them, so I go away. Admins should be trying to help people make the pages better. Having to delete something is a *failure* for Wikipedia.
[User Picture]
From:dagibbs
Date:October 29th, 2009 03:12 am (UTC)
(Link)
I have gotten the feeling that if you're not part of the secret cabal, then any changes you make will just get dumped. Doesn't matter how useful or not. Or, maybe labeled as irrelevant and not worth having in wikipedia, then dumped.
From:(Anonymous)
Date:October 29th, 2009 06:57 am (UTC)
(Link)
It was discouraging to see subject matter cut because someone (who obviously knew less about the subject as well as less about English grammar) thought it made the article too long. I thought the principal of Wikipedia was that links could be given to anything relevant.

It made this article (on C. S. Lewis iirc) seem like the preserve of a clique, and an immature clique at that. This was discussed on alt.books.cs-lewis (while that lived) and the consensus was to stay away, not waste time adding material that would disappear or become distorted.

[User Picture]
From:atdt1991
Date:October 29th, 2009 03:29 am (UTC)
(Link)
I don't consider myself an expert, generally speaking - I suppose I could go trolling video-related web pages, but my skill-set is very well represented, I think. Essentially, I would have to go looking for something specific that I know more about than most people, such as something local.

And at that point, when I'm trying to hunt down anything I might have unique knowledge of, it starts to sound more like a chore, y'know?
[User Picture]
From:nwhyte
Date:October 29th, 2009 09:08 am (UTC)
(Link)
My experience of Wikipedia as a community has been pretty negative.

Example 1) A friend of mine was an editor, was blocked in error in July 2007, and it seemed absurdly difficult to unblock him - let alone for anyone at Wikipedia to take responsibility for the mistake or to apologise. See this affair chronicled at these links:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wikipedia:Administrators'_noticeboard/IncidentArchive276#User:Gerry_Lynch_Unfairly_blocked_as_a_sockpuppet
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/User_talk:Alison/Archive_12#Gerry_Lynch
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/User_talk:Gerry_Lynch#Unblock

It seemed to Gerry (and it seems to me) that if he and I had not flagged up this on our respective blogs, and got friends to directly lobby the admin involved, his block would have been allowed to stand. (And one person who tried challenging the block on Gerry was then himself blocked, which is appalling.) As it is he is discouraged from contributing as he once did, and I am discouraged from doing much at all.

http://sammymorse.livejournal.com/tag/wikipedia
http://nwhyte.livejournal.com/905163.html
http://matgb.livejournal.com/222634.html
http://nielsenhayden.com/makinglight/archives/009200.html

Example 2) This is rather more minor but much more personal to me. Back in January 2008 I created a page about my ancestor Sir Nicholas White - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nicholas_White - who was a moderately well-known political figure in 16th-century Ireland. I was dismayed to get a comment a few months later on a livejournal post on a completely different topic as follows:
Do you think you can make your way towards supplying sources for Nicholas White (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nicholas_White), specifically the ones you were working from when you created the article? This stuff is supposed to be verifiable, in case you've missed the last more-than-half-a-decade's worth of policy development.
No "thank you for your contribution to Wikipedia", just, as a subsequent commenter put it, an "insultingly offhand and demanding" comment which very effectively vandalises my commentary on the quality of St Mark's written prose. Why did this anonymous person not email me, or comment on my user page? Is it wikipedia policy to vandalise newbie users' blogs if they don't keep every rule? Because that is what I felt had happened.

Well, bugger that. I shall create content where I know it is valued and useful, which is clearly not Wikipedia.


Your list of points is very good. I completely agree that "conventions are non-obvious"; I also agree that it is a problem that if your own wikipedia page is wrong, you can't change it yourself or even put in an official request to have it changed, you have to find a friend who knows their way around Wikipedia and isn't obviously linked to you, which is an absurd way of having to game the system. But very simply, there is no openness, no obvious way into the system, no helpdesk. Wikipedia appears to cater for experienced Wikipedians without very much interest in increasing their number - indeed, the two examples I gave above actually look like attempts to intimidate the faint-hearted, and frankly whether or not that was the intention it was successful for both me and Gerry.
[User Picture]
From:sarahmichigan
Date:October 29th, 2009 01:30 pm (UTC)
(Link)
Another option not listed (that I can see):

I don't take Wikipedia seriously.

Sure, I do use it from time to time, but I'd never use it as a serious citation and would always double-check "facts" on an entry with another couple sources.
From:sethb
Date:October 29th, 2009 02:45 pm (UTC)
(Link)
It seems the most under-represented group is "people who actually know what they're talking about and care more about the subject than about scoring points."
[User Picture]
From:foms
Date:October 29th, 2009 03:09 pm (UTC)
(Link)
I don't consider myself to be expert enough on a large variety of topics. Where I do think to make a contribution, generally someone else has made it first.

As others have mentioned, the interfaces, both technical and social, are not of the friendliest.

A couple of examples:
At a very basic level, if one clicks on the link to edit a Wikipedia article, one is usually confronted with a mass of wiki mark-up. for the uninitiated, this, in itself, is sufficiently daunting to have a good chance of scaring one away. The same applies to discussion. In addition, for discussion pages, one must understand that the discussion page is a wiki, itself. This is not necessarily obvious even to someone who already uses the web; it is not the usual interface for providing content.

I have not contributed to Wikipedia at all, even to fix obvious typos. I have read quite a few history and discussion pages for Wikipedia articles. Much there often seems to be expressed in such a way as to lead me to doubt intent toward cooperation.

Interesting that you should be bringing this up today. It was only a Tuesday that I became curious about what hacking might be happening using Wikipedia. I searched on just those terms and came up with a bunch of articles such as this: http://www.seomoz.org/blog/the-dark-side-of-wikipedia. It seems that there is a certain justifiable paranoia, though that is no excuse for unpleasantness as a policy or even as a common response when dealing with newbies.

I will, however, plug another on-line, volunteer cause: Distributed Proofreaders (www.pgdp.net). I did a bunch of work for them early on (about 2000-2001). It's fun nit-picking, if you like that sort of stuff and I think that the cause is good. I should really get back to doing more of that.
[User Picture]
From:dd_b
Date:October 29th, 2009 07:38 pm (UTC)
(Link)
You're right about the markup. It's the templates and all the special things, which cluster at the start of the article. I've done web development professionally, and I'm self-taught in that and computer software, and I've been doing computer software for 40 years, which is to say I'm used to diving in and learning stuff and I'm not easily intimidated. And Wikipedia still looks like kind of a mess at the "looking at start of article" level.

(The templates and such are used for a reason, and they're a pretty decent mechanism for what they do, so I don't have a really good solution here. Maybe better tutorials? Or more loud assurances that mucking that stuff up a little bit isn't that serious a thing.)
[User Picture]
From:matt_arnold
Date:October 29th, 2009 04:14 pm (UTC)
(Link)
Notability is a cultural value judgment. Some subcultures are welcomed on wikipedia and considered notable while others are not. It feels arbitrary and unsafe.
I recommend you use "uncomfortable", "unwelcome", or "exclusionary" when that is what you mean. Over-use of "unsafe" frames a problem of etiquette and diplomacy as if it were a moralized issue of injury, and makes the statement hyperbolic.
People do not want to invest time in an article only to have it deleted because a band of young male editors don't appreciate it.
There is definitely a problem with 14-year old guys. This is why Metafilter is so great. The $5 one-time fee, and one week before being allowed to post or comment, is all the barrier to entry a community needs.

That having been said, I would still stop contributing if women or the elderly unjustifiably deleted my work. Sometimes I've posted to Metafilter and it was deleted for reasons that I understood better afterwards. But if it happened for reasons I disagreed with, I'd just stop attempting to contribute. Wikipedia needs standards that they can justify to a broad range of people. But there will always be a spectrum outside that range who will never contribute for this reason.
[User Picture]
From:netmouse
Date:October 29th, 2009 08:45 pm (UTC)
(Link)
Thanks for the comments. I clarified my language a bit.

I do think that people feel injured when their work is destroyed. Not in a "moralized" sense, but simply in the sense of having experienced a loss and also perhaps an insult.
[User Picture]
From:gary_farber
Date:October 29th, 2009 06:38 pm (UTC)
(Link)
Because editing Wikipedia gives the appearance of being A Way Of Life, rather than Just A Goddamn Hobby.
[User Picture]
From:gary_farber
Date:October 29th, 2009 06:44 pm (UTC)
(Link)
As a smaller matter, I don't understand the entire philosophy of looking for entries to delete. If an entry is totally wrong or useless, sure, delete it. If it's 100% pure vanity, sure, delete it.

But otherwise, what's the point in deleting entries that are about minor subjects? Is Wikipedia going to run out of room?

That a lot of time seems to be wasted on arguments about what constitutes "too minor" is a canary to me indicated that people waste too much time on pointless arguments. Which is what most of wikipedia involvement looks to consist of.

If it were just a matter of adding good information, relatively seamlessly and transparently, rather than giving the appearance of having to take a combination of grad course and fraternity initiation in order to understand the arcane rituals, and then devote hours per week to upkeep on one's pet articles, I could see spending a little time on Wikipedia.

Though my other big reason not to is avoidance of more timesuck. But the overall issue is that the timesuck seems vastly disproportional to any ultimate benefit.

Maybe my perception is completely out of whack with reality since it is, to be sure, second-hand.
[User Picture]
From:alicebentley
Date:October 30th, 2009 10:57 pm (UTC)
(Link)
I'm not sure this forwards the discussion, but here's another example of why Wikipedia isn't attracting the high quality of input it wants: even people who aren't using the page feel insulted and belittled by the attitudes they encounter from the current admin.
Netmouse on the web Powered by LiveJournal.com