Efforts to improve editor retention continue
As reported last week ("Fighting the decline by restricting article creation?"), concerns about editor retention and the attraction of new users have spawned several new projects and proposals, including the Wiki Guides, the new pages incubation trial, a village pump discussion on restricting the ability of new users to write new articles, and the work of User:Snottywong and User:Kudpung to document new page patrollers and their contributions. This issue looks at both how these various projects are doing, and also new events in the area which have occurred during the week.
On Friday 8 April, the Wikimedia Foundation's Board of Trustees published an resolution on "Openness", affirming the WMF's commitment to keeping the projects open to new users and asking individual projects and contributors to follow the same principles:
The Wikimedia projects are founded in the culture of openness, participation, and quality that has created one of the world's great repositories of human knowledge. But while Wikimedia's readers and supporters are growing around the world, recent studies of editor trends show a steady decline in the participation and retention of new editors....Wikimedia needs to attract and retain more new and diverse editors, and to retain our experienced editors. ... We consider meeting this challenge our top priority.
In particular, the resolution urges the community to
||promote openness and collaboration, by:
- Treating new editors with patience, kindness, and respect [...]
- Improving communication on the projects; simplifying policy and instructions; and working with colleagues to improve and make friendlier policies and practices regarding templates, warnings, and deletion;
- Supporting the development and rollout of features and tools that improve usability and accessibility;
- Increasing community awareness of these issues and supporting outreach efforts of individuals, groups and Chapters;
- Working with colleagues to reduce contention and promote a friendlier, more collaborative culture, including more thanking and affirmation; and encouraging best practices and community leaders; and
- Working with colleagues to develop practices to discourage disruptive and hostile behavior, and repel trolls and stalkers.
The resolution comes less than two weeks after the Board's "Message to (the) community about community decline", and less than a month after the Executive Director Sue Gardner's "March 2011 Update" (Signpost coverage).
Update on ongoing projects
The proposal on requiring new users to attain autoconfirmed status has now entered the Requests for Comment stage. Attracting around 200 distinct users, the proposal appears likely to pass - the most popular comment in favour has 144 endorsement, while the most popular comment against it has 44. With this apparently clear, efforts have shifted to determining how it should be activated; should a trial be launched, and if so, in what form, or should the proposal simply be passed on to the developers and activated? Trial proposals vary; one suggests activating it for 3 months, and then analysing the results, leaving the system activated until the results are analysed and consensus can be reached on the back of them. Another suggests a similar chain of events, but with the system deactivated after the 3 month period. A third suggests that, if the new users are to rely on the Article Wizard and Wikipedia:Articles for Creation, these should be revamped and made friendlier before anything comes into effect.
Initial statistics from the Wiki Guides
project, showing the article editing counts over time of mentored and non-mentored users
The Wiki Guides project, which pairs experienced editors with newbies (or "turtles") in an attempt to improve retention rates, while comparing their actions to those of non-paired newbies ("controls"), has now entered its sixth week. The first statistics have been published with an analysis; James Alexander is preparing to publish the second round of statistics as the Signpost goes to print. The project has now attracted 65 experienced editors helping to guide new users, including 8 in the last week - more, however, are always appreciated and invited to sign up on the project page.
In contrast, the new pages incubation trial, launched 3 weeks ago, is not going so well. Only 8 articles have been submitted to the program - James Alexander, the lead Community Department contact for the project, tells the Signpost that the trial "was a great idea but unfortunately simply isn't scalable; interest is not sufficient for it to expand. As such, we've backed off from that approach; that being said, those currently involved (and those interested in it) should join the Wiki Guides who, if successful, will eliminate the need for incubation".
Malayalam loves Wikimedia
Malayalam Wikimediayaye Snehikkunnu (Malayalam loves Wikimedia) is a free image photography initiative by Malayalam Wikipedians. Inspired by the resounding success of Wiki projects elsewhere—like "London loves Wikimedia"—the new Malayalam Wiki project seeks to bring in more free and copy-left images to Wikimedia Commons and Wikipedia in this two-week project. National daily The Hindu quotes Shiju Alex, Malayalam Wiki activist and sysop, "During the two-week project period between April 2 and April 17, we intend to sensitise Malayalam Wiki contributors and users to enrich Malayalam Wiki ventures by contributing free-to-use photographs. Despite boasting over 17,000 articles on a variety of topics, the Malayalam Wiki can't claim to have many copyright-free pictures. Hence the project". Wiki activists Rajesh Odayanchal and Ajay Kuyiloor have designed a logo and advertisements for the project. More than 1150 images have already been uploaded as a part of this project, which is the first of its kind in India.
Foundation releases monthly report and yearly tax form, signs amicus brief
The Wikimedia Foundation has published its monthly report for March 2011. Apart from various items previously reported in the Signpost, it notes that at the end of March, 24 of 30 Wikimedia chapters had signed a chapter agreement with the Foundation (among the missing ones are two of the oldest Wikimedia chapters, Germany and Italy). This year's WikiSym conference will be supported by a $20,000 grant. The legal department has started the search for a Deputy General Counsel, a new position whose duties will include "participating in effective and clear communications relating to legal topics with chapter organizations and members of our Community, including users and volunteer editors" according to the job opening posted last week. The legal department also "worked on policies to help guide WMF employees on how to approach content issues."
The report mentions that the Foundation was going to sign an amicus brief in Golan v. Holder, a US court case started in 2001 "where the Supreme Court must decide whether the Copyright Clause gives Congress authority to take a work out of the public domain". (In 2007, the Foundation had signed an amicus brief in Jacobsen v. Katzer, a case involving the enforceability of free licenses.)
Also last week, the Wikimedia Foundation published its tax form for the 2009–10 fiscal year (Form 990, due on May 15), accompanied by a Q&A. The (voluntary) financial report for the same period had already been released in October (Signpost coverage: "Foundation's financial statements released"). Among the mandatory information, it lists the compensation for all independent contractors: The Bridgespan group, a non-profit which for example facilitated the strategic planning process (Signpost coverage) received $304,210 for consulting services, PR firm Fenton Communications was paid $195,000 for communications (including work on the somewhat controversial "WIKIPEDIA FOREVER" 2009-10 fundraiser), and law firm Squire, Sanders & Dempsey received $116,627. The functional expenses total around $10 million, including $311,564 in Paypal fees.
- New gadget simplifies referencing: A new gadget simplifies the addition and formatting of references. The Citation expander, which logged-in users can enable via their user preferences, brings the functionality of the Citation bot to the edit page. After entering minimal information into a citation template, the gadget will consult online databases to complete any partial citations on the page being edited, whilst making the formatting consistent with existing references.
- Wikimedia Estonia report: The Estonian Wikimedia chapter has published its report for January–March 2011. It mentions a meeting at the Nordic Council of Ministers office to prepare a now-ongoing article-writing contest in the Estonian Wikipedia about the cooperation of Nordic countries, and meetings with Estonia's National Heritage Board and the metropolitan of the Estonian Apostolic Orthodox Church about cooperation on the upcoming "Wiki Loves Monuments" contest.
- Wikimedia Sweden report: The Swedish Wikimedia chapter has published its monthly Chapters Report for March 2011, which included the election of a new Board at its annual meeting. Jan Ainali is the chapter's new chairman, succeeding Lennart Guldbrandsson who stepped down because he took up a fellowship at the Wikimedia Foundation (Signpost coverage).
- Wikimedia Denmark report: Having committed itself to quarterly reports, the Danish Wikimedia chapter published the first one, for the first quarter of 2011. It lists collaborations with the National Museum of Denmark and the Danish State Archives planned later this year, possibly involving Wikipedia-in-residence like positions.
- Wikimedia Nederlands elects new board: The Dutch Wikimedia chapter elected a new board on April 2nd. The new president is Ziko van Dijk (User:Ziko) - remarkably a German citizen, while vice president Austin Hair (international relations) as well as board member Jane Darnell are Americans. The chapter has recently acquired dedicated office space and is hiring its first employees.
- Tamil Wikipedia crosses 30,000 articles: Tamil Wikipedia becomes the fifth Indic language Wikipedia to cross the 30,000 articles milestone. It took more than 2 years for the first 1000 articles, while the last 1000 articles were created organically in just the last 3 weeks.
- Using Wikipedia edits to get tenure: A blog post from the Foundation Policy Initiative ("Tenure awarded based in part on Wikipedia contributions") describes how a U.S. academic added mention of his Wikipedia contributions to the "research" part of his portfolio for an eventually successful tenure application, "based on the claim that Did You Knows, Good Articles, and Featured Articles are all scrutinized more or less during (sic?) a peer-review process".
- How to read a version history: Also on the Foundation's official blog, a posting by two Wikimedia Campus Ambassadors explained how to read the version history of a Wikipedia article, using as example the recent erroneous media reports that singer Christina Aguilera's mistaken lyrics in a performance of the US national anthem had originated in a Wikipedia error (Signpost coverage: "UK tabloid wrongly blames Wikipedia for US national anthem gaffe at Super Bowl").
- New mailing list on education and Wikimedia: A new mailing list devoted to the Educational use of Wikimedia content or projects and related topics was started on April 8.