Wikipedia:Wikipedia Signpost/2018-03-29/Special report

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Introduction

In the Signpost issue of 25 September 2017, it was reported that: 'The Autoconfirmed article creation trial (ACTRIAL) began on 14 September 2017 and will last for 6 months. The WMF will study the impact on newly registered accounts, quality assurance processes, and content quality. Information gathered during the trial period will be reported to the English Wikipedia community, and the community will decide if any additional steps should be taken based on the results.'

On 14 March the six month WP:ACTRIAL came to an end. The trial, originally demanded by an extremely strong consensus in 2011 in a Request for Comment participated by over 500 editors, was designed to test the effect on Wikipedia new articles by restricting the placing of New Articles directly in mainspace by non auto confirmed users (those who have not reached a total of ten edits and have been registered for at least four days). According to the closer, '…more than two-thirds of those expressing a clear "support" or "oppose" opinion supported the proposal to limit article creation to autoconfirmed editors, either as a trial or on a permanent basis. Non-autoconfirmed editors would either need to submit new articles to Articles for Creation or create a userspace draft, preferably using an improved Article Wizard. In a second RfC the community agreed that the interventional phase should run for 6 months, and then the changes should be reversed for a period of one month while their effects are discussed.

How we got here

Eleven years ago, co-founder Jimmy Wales suggested Wikipedia contributors should shift their focus from the number of articles and instead work on improving their quality. In July 2017, on a thread that was begun by User:Majora [1] on Wales' talk page, Kudpung commented:

'There is this popular misunderstanding, taken out of all context by its detractors, that Actrial is only about introducing a minor restriction to the creation of new pages. That's only one part of it, the other two thirds of it are about properly informing new uses (sic) and providing the genuine ones among them with some help rather than slamming a CSD door in their faces (…) without AC-TRIAL results enabling us to find solutions for the future, Wikipedia will degenerate into a slum of spam, adverts, hoaxes, attack pages and general vandalism, and it's happening already.'

Wales responded with a personal statement [2] regarding ACTRIAL, supporting the use of limited trials to gather data to make Wikipedia policy decisions.

Following a series of discussions begun by Foundation staff Danny Horn with Ryan Kaldari on May 31, 2017 at New pages patrol/Analysis and proposal, and the English Wikipedia editing community, in a significant reversal of the WMF's previous rejection of ACTRIAL as reported in the Signpost issue of 26 September 2011 by Skomorokh, Jorgenev, and Daniel Mietchen, it was jointly agreed that the trial should finally go ahead with Horn stating:

'The people we've been talking to, here and on related pages, have made a lot of good arguments in favor of ACTRIAL. So we're interested in running ACTRIAL as a research experiment, so that we can look at the impact on new user retention and productivity, as well as the impact on page creation and reviewing. '[3]

Funding was accorded to the Community Tech team at the Wikimedia Foundation to hire a data analyst contractor, Morten Warncke-Wang, in collaboration with senior Foundation staff Aaron Halfaker and Jonathan Morgan to provide both hypotheses on the effect of the trial, and to publish the results of their analysis of the trial. The trial was implemented on 14 September 2017.

End of trial; report on findings

As agreed by the proposers and organisers, on 14 March 2018 the trial was switched off, with the rules for article creation reverting to their pre-trial status. Since ACTRIAL was reverted after its 6 months, New Page Reviewers have noticed some differences in the content of the New Pages Feed, namely the large increase of inappropriate new pages requiring deletion, or removal to the Draft namespace, and that the backlog is beginning to rise again.
The WMF full summary which can be read at Post-trial Research Report begins with a brief résumé of their findings as:

  • No apparent effect on new user activity levels and retention.
  • A shift in content creation from the article namespace to the Draft namespace, with a subsequent shift in review workload from New Pages Patrol to Articles for Creation. This shift leads to the latter reviewing process struggling to keep up with an increasing backlog of review requests.
  • There is a reduction in unencyclopedic content being created in the article namespace.

Community reactions to the trial

Around the various talk pages, the majority of user comments concedes that the trial has generally been a success. While concerns have been voiced about an increase in the workload at the Articles for Creation project, the Article Wizard was given a substantial face lift in preparation for the trial. The WMF has stated that they will take a close look at the situation of AfC and will 'devote resources to studying the article creation process and how new contributors are welcomed to Wikipedia' [4]. Six years ago (Signpost 28 May 2012) WMF developer Ryan Kaldari was the first to admit that despite the amount of time WMF developers were putting in to communicating with communities, more could still be done.

The ensuing RfC, proposed by TonyBallioni to debate the final outcome is taking place at Request for comment on permanent implementation and will run for 30 days unless a clear consensus is already reached.

Kudpung has been a Wikipedia contributor since 2006 and and an administrator since 2011. His focus is on policy changes concerning deletions/notability, RfA, and the improvement of the new page patrolling and AfC processes. The views expressed in this article are his alone and do not reflect any official opinions of this publication.