News and notes
Article Feedback tool faces community resistance
Article feedback, at least through talk pages, has been a part of Wikipedia since its inception in 2001. The use of these pages by new editors, though, has typically been limited at best.
As part of the Wikimedia Foundation's (WMF) Public Policy Initiative, a specialized form of article feedback was developed and added to a selected set of English Wikipedia articles in September 2010 (see Signpost coverage). Over the next several months, the tool was tweaked several times, resulting in several iterations until version four was deployed to every English Wikipedia article in July 2012. This iteration allowed readers to rate articles from one to five stars in four categories: trustworthiness, objectivity, completeness, and how well it was written.
An early image of version five, showing the possibility of entering feedback via a text box.
In December 2011, the WMF began the transition to adding version five (also known as AFTv5) to 10% of the articles, aiming for a full deployment in the first quarter of this year. Version five added an area where readers could give written feedback on articles. The feedback is directed to a centralized page, with various options, including seeing feedback from specific articles or only articles on your watchlist. Editors have the ability to feature a post, mark the concern as resolved, hide the post or request oversight, up- or down-vote a post, or flag the comment as abuse.
A request for comment (RfC) on the project was opened by MZMcBride in mid-January 2013. His impetus, as described in a Signpost op-ed in August 2012, was that the extension was "deployed without anti-abuse mechanisms", leading to the feedback area becoming a "safe haven for spam and other useless noise." In addition, he told the Signpost:
||I've been seeing a dichotomy between tools that help editors reduce backlogs and tools that create new backlogs. For tools that create new backlogs, I think there must be a clear demonstration from the community (or whoever is expected to work on these backlogs) that they're interested in creating these piles of work. In the case of AFTv5, there hasn't been such a demonstration, as far as I'm aware. Compare to [AFTv5 to] tools such as Page Curation that help editors reduce the backlog of unpatrolled new pages. In that case, the tool is helping, not hurting, and there's sufficient community consensus that we want new articles.
In his view the feedback tool should be used only on an opt-in basis, where editors who are interested in the article—e.g. someone who wrote the piece and wishes to solicit feedback on how they can improve it further—will actually respond to the feedback. He believes the new backlogs are a burden, and deploying the tool to the entire site would make the issue worse. This has a strong basis in fact: according to the WMF, readers submitted an average of 4100 posts per day, of which fewer than 10% were moderated. These figures have fallen since that blog post. When scaled to the full site, the WMF expected that over 900,000 posts per month, or over 30,000 a day, would come in via the feedback tool—a figure per month more than all of the current feedback put together.
A more radical viewpoint was put forward by GregJackP, who simply stated that "the tool is useless" and that the community "should eliminate the feature." He expanded on his views to the Signpost, saying that he believes the most feedback is blank, "a general statement of dissatisfaction or satisfaction, or just garbage/spam." In GregJackP's assessment, the amount of time it takes for editors to find the positive feedback is far outweighed by the "garbage", and the positive feedback is typically " just a question that you have to research and determine if it [is] something that can even be found."
Contrary to this view, editors like Mike Cline believe that the tool is becoming a major source of data for how the public views Wikipedia. Tom Morris eloquently stated:
||Shutting down the article feedback tool rather than improving it is a bad strategy. We do need better tools for churning through AFT5 responses and patrolling them. We need something like Huggle or STiki to do basic triage on the feedback we get, to remove libel and the "OMG I LOVE JUSTIN BIEBER" type things. The rest, though, those are telling us about potentially fixable issues with Wikipedia. If a reader, in good faith, wishes to give us feedback about an article, we should listen. We might set the feedback to one side because we aren't the sort of editors who can necessarily do anything about it. But if we stop listening to readers who have information that can improve the article, what's the damn point?
Oliver Keyes, the community liaison for the article feedback program, acknowledged the low level of moderation to the Signpost: "Are there sufficient resources to moderate and respond to all of the feedback? The honest answer is 'probably not'." However, he then related the issue to Wikipedia as a whole: "I don't see this as a problem: we're a wiki. Always have been, always will be. Edits will need oversighting or deleting, bad edits will slip through the cracks, and we accept that because it's necessary to produce the good things that an open system gives us. I see no reason not to take the same attitude with feedback."
Keyes told the Signpost that between 30 and 60 percent of all feedback was rated by editors as 'useful', which was a finding backed up by the fourth quarter report from the article feedback team, which reported that 40% of a random sampling in February through April was found to be helpful by at least two editors. In addition, he says that the WMF communicated its goals through the program through 17 different office hours on IRC (held at different times to target different regions of the world), mailing lists, and the village pump, in addition to the project talk page and a regular newsletter. The latter two alone reached at least 220 people, and probably more, far more than any typical Wikipedia discussion.
Still, the current request for comment has a large majority in favor of GregJackP's comment, more than double the second-most supported view (MZMcBride's) at the time of writing. The RfC will remain open until February 21.
- Wikimania scholarships: Applications for scholarships to Wikimania 2013 in Hong Kong are now being accepted. Both full and partial scholarships are available—covering airfare, lodging, and registration; and up to half of the estimated airfare, respectively. Applicants will be rated on their Wikimedia activity (both on- and off-wiki), their open-source activity more broadly, their interest in both Wikimania and the Wikimedia movement, and their grasp of English. Applications will be accepted until 23:59 UTC on 22 February.
- Chapters association: The Signpost reported last week on the problems with the proposed name of the planned association ("Wikimedia Chapters Association"), since the use of the name Wikimedia was inconsistent with the Wikimedia Foundation's trademark policy. On February 5, the WMF's Board of Trustees published a letter setting out its position towards the organization. It states, in part, that "Our reservations about the Chapters Association are serious, and we have difficulty envisioning circumstances in which the Wikimedia Foundation would be able to recognize it."
- Ann Arbor edit-a-thon: The newest Wikipedian-in-Residence, Michael Barera (see the Signpost's coverage last week), along with the Gerald R. Ford Presidential Library and the Michigan Wikipedians, will be hosting an edit-a-thon at the presidential library, with the goals of assisting new editors and creating or improving Wikipedia's coverage of Gerald Ford, the 38th President of the United States.
- Guided tours: As announced on the Wikimedia Blog, the Editor Engagement Experiments teams has built and launched a new guided tour system for new users.
- Individual Engagement Grants: Applications for IEGs, the new WMF grant scheme, are due by February 15 and can be reviewed on Meta.
- Steward election: The annual election of stewards, who have complete access on all WMF wikis to deal with transproject vandalism, among other matters, will open for voting on February 8.
- English Wikipedia