Wikipedia:The Wikipedia Adventure
|*This project is going through beta-testing. Please leave any feedback you have!
*As part of the adventure, you will send some messages to your own Wikipedia userpages automatically.
Problem: Wikipedia is a very difficult environment for new users. In addition to a new interface, the community has its own policies and customs; and that is on top of the already challenging task of approaching the world of information with critical thinking and neutrality.
Reality: Very few people edit Wikipedia, far fewer than those who read it or who have the capability or interest to edit it. Many struggle for days or weeks to learn the basics. Most find the environment off-putting and intimidating.
Solution: Create an educational, interactive, web-game using a simulated Wikipedia interface which leads new users through a series of realistic 'missions' to familiarize them with the mechanics, navigation, philosophy, and practices of actual editing.
Goal: Have new users leave the game feeling capable to start editing, knowing what to do if they run into obstacles, and feeling some sense of success, pride, and possibility as new editors.
|The Wikipedia Adventure|
The Wikipedia Adventure is an online guided journey, a learning tutorial, and an educational game designed to make an editor's first 100 edits a positive and encouraging experience. The game takes the user from the first rudiments of editing—registering an account, creating a userpage, basic markup—all the way through to more intermediate tasks such as adding images and references and asking for help at noticeboards.
There are 12 levels to the game, centering around the hypothetical article Earth (actually a modified form of the Simple English Wikipedia's article on Earth). Earth was selected as a focal point, because it has literally universal appeal and avoids the cultural favoritism involved in choosing a representative article that may only appeal to some readers (e.g. The Beatles or Mother Teresa).
Through a realistic but not 'live' emulated interface, the user gets to experience what happens at a real article. It begins with an invitation from another user to work on the Earth article and involves interactive tasks such as typo-fixing, identifying reliable sources, crafting writing from a neutral point of view, understanding core content policies, and even dealing with vandalism and unconstructive edits.
The game focuses on more than just the technical mechanics of editing, infusing the script with mock interactions with simulated 'real' editors. Some of them are friendly, some are less so—and the user has the experience of learning about how to communicate in a productive and effective manner. At the heart of the game is the lesson of cooperation and collaboration, that what makes Wikipedia work is the spirit of the people who write it and that anyone can be a part of it if they learn a few basics.
At the end of each lesson editors would be given the option to complete one or more real tasks on Wikipedia, so that their progress in the game is matched by their progress as real editors. The ambitious goal is that new editors would not feel out of place or ignorant as they confront the actual editing environment of Wikipedia but instead would be prepared and even enthusiastic to get started.
Learning to edit Wikipedia is hard, frustrating, confusing, and overwhelming. The purpose of this game is to remove all of that and create a learning experience that 'curates' a person's first impressions and lessons of Wikipedia. So, rather than walk away from the site feeling like it is incomprehensible or worse—threatening, users will graduate from The Wikipedia Adventure ready to face the challenges and opportunities of the real site and community.
One of the Wikimedia Foundation's core goals has been new editor engagement and active editor retention. The Wikipedia Adventure targets these two goals by reducing the steepness of the learning curve to joining the community. If more new editors have a better first experience with Wikipedia's concepts and mechanics, more will go on to be active editors. If those editors are prepared to deal with some of the common pitfalls of the community, then they will be more likely to remain on as productive contributors to the community.
This project has concrete goals and measurable targets:
- Build a platform that realistically emulates Wikipedia and can incorporate interactive elements (this is already underway via User:Dcoetzee; see his prototype here)
- Code the first 6–12 levels, depending on time and difficulty
- A/B test the game on a sample of new editors to determine if it increases activity or durability of new editors
Secondary but important goals include:
- Localizing the script and game modules to work in non-English languages
As a result of this game, Wikipedia will have another tool in its arsenal to educate new users and improve their initial experience as members of the community. In addition to general new editors, the game may have applications in K–12 education and recruiting non-technical editors.
This game serves the many, but in a personalized way. As an online game, it scales easily and can be delivered to tens, hundreds, thousands, or hundreds of thousands of people. There is no limit to the game's potential exposure; if effective, it could be a standard element of welcoming new editors across all of our 280+ languages.
It's important that the game's expansion would continue beyond the initial implementation. This would be facilitated in several ways. For one, the game's script and code are all already released under open source, 'free' licenses that permit use, adaptation, or even commercial applications. That would be essential to allowing others to build on the platform. Second, the platform itself would be designed to allow other users to build their own tutorials and modules. One of the strengths of Dcoetzee's involvement is his commitment to building not just a game but a game development platform which the community can leverage to create learning experiences however they see fit.
Do Wikipedia Adventure graduates go on to be more active, more successful Wikipedians; do Wikipedia Adventure graduates have a better perception of Wikipedia and experience fewer frustrations; do Wikipedia Adventure graduates remain with the community for longer than editors who are not exposed to it?
- Experimental design.
Compared to a control group, does going through The Wikipedia Adventure increase constructive editor activity and retention?
- more edits?
- longer engagement?
- more article space edits?
- fewer edits reverted?
- User:Worm That Turned