Grants:IEG/Reimagining Mentorship on Wikipedia (old)

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Reimagining Mentorship on Wikipedia (old)

project contact:

cro0016(_AT_), jacksonpeebles(_AT_)



  • Steven Zhang wrote one of the first adoption programs which is still in use, and has mentored editors both voluntarily and as part of mandatory arrangements, and will work with metrics, implementation, and as project leader
  • Jackson Peebles is designing curriculum and coordinating community outreach


  • EpochFail is providing software & analysis support
  • Matty.007 is helping wherever he can
  • Gabrielm199 interested in supporting analysis and relating relevant experience from education program.
  • Go Phightins! is interested in helping wherever possible including providing resources from his personal adoption course (en:User:Go Phightins!/Adopt) if necessary as well as being a resource as someone who has experienced Adopt-A-User as both an adopter and an adoptee.
  • TheOriginalSoni will take up whatever role is required to complete this proposal and take over any necessary tasks



Creating a new, lightweight mentorship program where the focus is on matching up newer editors to more experienced ones that can teach them the skills they want to learn to be successful.

engagement target:

English Wikipedia

strategic priority:

Increasing Participation

total amount requested:

18,000 USD

2013 round 2

Project idea edit

Mentorship on Wikipedia as a whole has differed in approach over the years, but largely consists of different lengthy curriculums that require a mentee and mentor to commit to a lengthy program to "learn it all" that lasts for three to six months. This can seem daunting, both for the mentee and mentor, requires the mentee to seek mentorship and approach a mentor, and take on a large amount of learning when all they may want to learn is a few skills now and then. Some mentors may be skilled in certain areas but not others, or may not have the time to dedicate to a full time arrangement like the current setup.

By looking at mentorship in a different way, where instead of experienced editors teach newer ones key skills, and instead of mentees seeking out mentors at random, matching software will guide them to editors who can best teach them the skills they want to learn. Recognition and reward will be a big part of this, going both to mentors and mentees.

Project components edit

The project will be built around four core components

  • Profile: Mentors and mentees create a basic profile, on what they'd like to learn/what they can teach and a bit about themselves. Can also include a timezone to help sync up to each other.
  • Matchmaking: directing new users to people and projects through matching up profiles. This could be done manually by the mentee, but matchmaking software will also be developed to help pair up a mentee to potential mentors that can teach them the skill they're after.
  • Light-weight learning: New editor can navigate to new mentorship portal to find a list of skills they can learn, and by clicking on a skill, can be pointed to someone that can teach them the skills they want to learn.
  • Recognition & Rewards: Mentors receive recognition for assistance given to the new editor, mentors reward the mentee for learning the skill (with a badge)

Project goals edit

Improve new contributors experience. Increase onboarding and retention rate of new Wikipedians. Increase knowledge flow from experienced wikipedians to new wikipedians, but do so in a more light-weight, less daunting way.

Project plan edit

Scope: edit

Scope and activities edit

If this project is funded, substantial time will be spent on the aforementioned objectives.

  • A system of semi-automated invitations to this program will be developed, preferably with integration into existing systems such as the Teahouse, Snuggle, etc. (for example) to recruit participants.
  • Mentors will fill in some basic info about themselves, and the skills they can teach mentees. Matching software will match potential mentees with folk that can teach them the skills they want to learn.
  • Previously written adoption curriculum will be rewritten into a new format, focusing on delivering skills rather than large lessons i.e "I want to learn how to upload images", "I want to learn how to reference articles" and so on, to break things down into more manageable chunks.
  • Best practices regarding what to automate and what to present one-on-one will be developed based upon mentor and mentee input in existing systems and available research.
  • Badge graphics ("barnstars") will be created and awarded for successes for each learned skill, which can be given by the mentor. Mentee can thank the mentor for their assistance.
  • Collaboration with the WMF and other projects will be encouraged to recruit as many new users as possible.

It is the hope of the grantees that this project will culminate in the retention of a greater amount of editors who are contributing at a more beneficial level. Thus, this should serve to reduce burnout of mentors and mentees, improve edit quality, and create more experienced and engaged editors.

Project map edit
  1. Establish a baseline - get an idea of where things are at now
    • The first step of the project will be to get an understanding of where things are at now, and get an idea from the wider community on their ideas on things that can be done to improve mentorship. This would be done in two ways, a brief survey sent to both past mentees and current mentors, and an analysis of mentorship as a whole (how long do people wait for a mentor, how long do they remain active in the mentorship, after completing mentorship, how much do they edit/what do they edit compared to before mentorship, and compared to new editors that go through no mentorship arrangements.) These results would be written up and used in planning the next stage.
  2. Start development on new process
    • The new mentorship space would be created with the current adopt-a-user process remaining active. A designer would be hired as part of this project and one of their tasks would be to help design this space to ensure a consistent look and feel throughout. Components would include a list of mentors (and their profiles), skills that can be learned, badges that can be earned and a section where mentees can list a bit about themselves and the skills they want to learn.
  3. Matching up, trial process, measure results
    • A software programmer will be hired to aid in creating ways to match up mentees to mentors (based on interests, skills they want to learn, location, mentor workload). A new editor (through a bot, based on their edits (Snuggle could come into play here) would invite them to the new mentorship portal, where they could select a skill they want to learn (or the bot could suggest a skill for them, based on their past edits), with the matchmaking software suggesting editors that could show them the skill. They would then pair up and be taught how to perform that skill (upload images, cite articles, so on) and once done, the mentor could recognise their effort with a badge i.e. "Example now knows how to upload images" and the mentee could thank their coach with a badge like "Example taught me how to upload images", creating reward and good-feeling all round. The participants in the new mentorship program would be monitored, with the results of the trial period measured against a control group (editors using the current adopt-a-user process), with these reported on to determine if the new mentorship program has been successful, with wider implementation looked into in the future.

Tools, technologies, and techniques edit

Google Hangouts are currently being used in project planning and will continue to be utilized as a free means of communication. It may, however, be advisable that participants attend a mutual Wikimedia conference. RfCs and the Wikimedia-l list will be used to recruit advice from the community on actions to take. Analysis of results will be necessary via database queries and other methods, this is partly beyond the scope of the grantees knowledge so may need some outside support, which is accounted for in the budget. Gadgets will be necessary; this is also accounted for in the budget as a JavaScript programmer.

Budget: edit

Total amount requested edit

$18,000.00 USD

Budget breakdown edit

Number Category Item description Unit Number of units Cost per unit Total cost Currency Notes
1 Programmer JavaScript/Database Programmer compensation for creation of profile matching, reward mechanisms, and page curation tools Contract 1 3,000.00 3,000.00 USD
2 Graphic Designer Graphic Designer compensation for working on theme of the site, page layout, profiles, and badges Contract 1 5,000.00 5,000.00 USD
3 Project Leader Project Leader's time compensation for guiding the designer and coder, running a pilot of the project and analyzing the impact of the pilot program Stipend 1 7,000.00 7,000.00 USD
4 Curriculum and Community Developer Project Leader's time compensation for building a skill-based curriculum, doing community organizing to recruit mentors and mentees, and applicable reporting. Stipend 1 3,000.00 3,000.00 USD

Intended impact: edit

Target audience edit

The entire English Wikipedia community will benefit as a result of this project. Inexperienced users will benefit from more light-weight training and a way to get some one-on-one guidance as needed, with recognition added to boost morale. Advanced editors who are currently serving as mentors will benefit by from a reduced workload and less required commitment. The program has the potential (if more new editors jump on board) to create higher quality edits, less vandalism and more editors.

Fit with strategy edit

Attrition is a major concern of the Wikimedia movement, until recently, we struggled to understand the constant editor decline. With initiatives like the Visual Editor being rolled out, we are slowly removing the "it's too hard barrier" to editing. By creating a more light-weight approach to mentorship, new users can learn the skills they feel they need (and receive some general support from a more experienced editor) without a requirement to sign up for a long, formal agreement (It's too long, it's too hard), over time creating more editors that contribute more often, with higher quality. Over time, these editors could train others, making the project a sustainable one.

Sustainability edit

By making this project more light-weight, with some automation in the process, long term the project has good prospects of being self-sustainable, with burnout of volunteers minimised by the fact that skills are being taught with little long term-committment. Mentees over time may become mentors and teach skills they have learned to others, creating a repeating cycle that sustains itself.

Measures of success edit

  • Editors that go through the new mentorship program go on to edit longer, more often, and more diverse contributions than the established baseline for previous mentees. This would be established first by analysing editors that have gone through adoption (we can check the transclusions of the {{adopted}} or {{adoptee}} templates for potential candidates), get an idea of their edits before adoption and after. We can then experiment with an alternative model in parallel with the existing process (take a sample of say 10-20 editors with the old process, and the same using the new process) and compare results to measure how effective the changes have been.
  • More newcomers will seek and attain mentorship
  • Higher satisfaction from surveys of mentors and mentees
  • Fewer mentees waiting for a mentor due to a more light-weight design (more skill based learning rather than a large course that is common at present).

Participant(s) edit

  • Jackson Peebles is designing curriculum and a project leader
  • Steven Zhang wrote one of the first adoption programs which is still in use, and has mentored editors both voluntarily and as part of mandatory arrangements, and will work with metrics, implementation, and as a project leader
  • EpochFail is providing software & analysis support
  • Matty.007 is helping wherever he can
  • Gabrielm199 interested in supporting analysis and relating relevant experience from education program.
  • Go Phightins! is interested in helping wherever possible including helping write curriculum using resources from his personal adoption course (en:User:Go Phightins!/Adopt) if necessary as well as being a resource as someone who has experienced Adopt-A-User as both an adopter and an adoptee.
  • Technical 13 is available for any technical support involving templates, scripts, or extension development.

Discussion edit

Community Notification: edit

Please see Grants:IdeaLab/Reimagining WP Mentorship for the IdeaLab discussion on this project.

Endorsements: edit

Do you think this project should be selected for an Individual Engagement Grant? Please add your name and rationale for endorsing this project in the list below. Other feedback, questions or concerns from community members are also highly valued, but please post them on the talk page of this proposal.

  • I think this project is incredibly important and should be pursued. The newcomer retention issues in Wikipedia are both concerning and complex. While personal support of promising newcomers is a clear solution in theory, in practice, it's hard to see any clear, positive outcomes of the current mentoring system[1]. The proposed project would both solve some underlying problems in the current state of mentoring and serve as a unifying space for other newcomer support activities within the Wikipedia community (e.g. Teahouse, Snuggle, etc. ). I believe in this project strongly enough to volunteer my time to help it be successful. --EpochFail (talk) 15:44, 24 October 2013 (UTC)
  • As EpochFail has said, many contributors on WP are made by passing editors, who make only a few edits. If we have a system to encourage editors not to make a few contributions then leave; we can teach them the tough policies and guidelines which are hard for newcomers to understand on their own. Matty.007 (talk) 12:07, 27 October 2013 (UTC)
  • Socializing newcomers in open online communities remains a challenging proposition. Researchers and practitioners continuously explore new ways to make such informal and ad hoc environments less chaotic and uncertain for newcomers. I think this project will be a valuable addition not only to finding new ways to help newcomers on Wikipedia, but to the broader community of researchers and practitioners exploring similar issues in other open online communities. Gabrielm199 (talk) 14:35, 1 November 2013 (UTC)
  • We all know that the pool of experienced editors is steady or shrinking and those who remain are overworked. Having a matching tool potentially increases the amount of mentorship taking place without necessarily increasing individual workload, and the potential of this program's outcomes to benefit other communities under the WMF umbrella is high. I wish the proposers all the best. Orderinchaos (talk) 07:55, 21 November 2013 (UTC)
  • There's a huge potential to help all Wikipedians. As a new editor, I didn't find a mentor. If not for the Teahouse, I would not be active. Creating bite-size modules/classes and matching editors to guidance from an experienced mentor is ideal. Once developed, this project has the potential to organize/reorganize diverse training and education programs. It will guide those needing a skill to the right place. University professors joining the en:WP:Education_program need answers and mentors as much as the average new user. A teacher guided AP/Honors students in collaborative editing of an article related to a class project with help found accidentally; this project would have provided needed guidance earlier. Definitely worth the investment. I'd like to help. Doctree (talk) 20:28, 21 November 2013 (UTC)
  • Community member: add your name and rationale here.
  1. David R. Musicant, Yuqing Ren, James A. Johnson, and John Riedl. 2011. Mentoring in Wikipedia: a clash of cultures. In Proceedings of the 7th International Symposium on Wikis and Open Collaboration (WikiSym '11). ACM, New York, NY, USA, 173-182. 10.1145/2038558.2038586