Grants:IdeaLab/Speedy access to a user-to-user help team

Speedy access to a user-to-user help team
Speedy access to a user-to-user help team
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idea creator
created on16:27, Sunday, June 12, 2016 (UTC)

Project ideaEdit

What is the problem you're trying to solve?Edit

One of the biggest problems faced by harassed users is that our format for user support by the community for dispute and problem handling, isn't well-suited to harassment and similar problem behavior between editors, and is "not fit for purpose" by 2016 standards where we take it more seriously. It demands too much of the user. Many give up/can't cope. The good news is, we also know how to do it better, because we already "do it better" elsewhere on Wikimedia! So we can "clone what works".

A person who experiences harassment, above all needs a way to feel safe and to say immediately (before it can get worse or more stressful) "There's a problem, can somebody help me". But we don't give people that. We ask them to jump through quite arcane hoops. When it comes to abuse, we shouldn't require that. Compare our current harassment/dispute support to the OTRS or Suppression team support, from a user experience viewpoint:

  • Harassment - user must find where to go on wiki to get help. Has many confusing options. Must put it all "in public" which may be seen as risking escalation. Has to word a post and probably get diffs which takes experience. Cannot easily express their upset in "everyday language". May be met with a flurry of in-community "jargon" or "he said/she said" by the harasser. Above all lacks immediacy (must post then wait, perhaps for ages). At best 50:50 whether they will get good "handholding" or experienced + competent help to know what to do. Can feel that the rules are arcane when this should be easy, and more trouble than its worth/often unfair. Can also feel like any resolution takes forever, or that it's unhelpful ("the rules are on these pages, good luck"). So it doesn't really provide help in the way it should do, in 2016.

Compare what we do if a user is harassed, to the help we provide for other serious issues:

  • COMPARISON #1: User has a BLP/copyright/other complaint (emailing OTRS) - Can use ordinary language to express problem. Team member is competent and will proactively try to help, explain, look into and resolve the issue and if reasonable/within policies will do what they can to make user satisfied with handling. Response quite often almost immediate, and very unlikely to "just be ignored". Feels like a problem-solving team one can ask for help and it will be given.
  • COMPARISON #2: User has a privacy/copyvio issue (emailing Oversight) - Once they know a route exists to fix privacy/copyvios, all they have to do is email the suppression team, and it's "taken care of". Even if it can't be suppressed, they get very good support and handholding. Response is almost immediate.

A user who feels they are being harassed is in a similarly urgent position, and also needs "click of a button" access to some kind of 1-to-1 live support in a chat/email style, not a wiki page and a "wall of text" of rules to read. They often don't have the "wiki bureaucracy" experience to know how to call a bad user quickly to account, when needed, as experienced users do, so things fester and get worse. They need to be able to say "I'm being harassed and I need help", and to trust that help is quick (ideally "live"), reassuring, and supportive/handholding through to resolution or at least to a point it feels under control.

To be clear - 1/ I'm not suggesting a user advocacy or dispute resolution service, we have those. I'm suggesting that the first thing a harassed user needs, and probably the most important from their perspective, is to quickly get hold of someone experienced and level headed who knows what's what, and can help them 1-to-1 from the point a problem arises. We provide that to everyone already, for OTRS and Suppression. 2/ I'm also not suggesting an off-wiki dispute resolution service. The user might eventually need to write some kind of wiki post or seek DR, but it shouldn't start there. 3/ Some users will bring groundless complaints ("my promo article keeps being deleted!"); we need to help them too, if we can, and can explain why what they are doing isn't okay, and why the action they are receiving is happening. We do this a lot on OTRS.

What is your solution?Edit

  1. A team is set up for user support (either one queue per wiki or a global queue for all wikis).
    • It's modelled on OTRS, because we already have experience with OTRS (application and teamwork), no need to reinvent the wheel.
    • Although the help is provided by a "pool" of cross-wiki users, the team aims to help the user within the context of their own wiki community, which is the most suitable route in most cases.
    • It's open to any user on any wiki, based on whatever criteria each community chooses, perhaps using a simple request page such as that for reviewer or rollback rights. Adminship is a possible criterion, because adminship is a standard that every wiki operates, it filters specifically for experience + trust of community, and admins tend to be users who have some competence at helping others or dealing with issues that may arise in ordinary editing, including reviewing disputes. But it doesn't have to be admins and some people may feel it shouldn't be limited.
    • No private information is involved (we make this clear to users). So the team can be very "open" to any user who would be interested in helping others and reasonably competent at doing so. There shouldn't be any complex assessment/election/non-public policy impact.
    • It's separate from OTRS so that OTRS stay focused on more significant issues and so OTRS doesn't become a "go-to" place for everything on-wiki.
  2. The Wiki UI gets a button which any user (logged in or not) can click to ask for help. The button opens a dialog which gives a brief explanation and a text box limited to say 1000 characters for the user to describe the issue. It states not to write any personal private information. It gives a short list of issues which should be submitted to a different team (eg actual threats, bad adminship, legal issues, suppression issues). If not logged in or no email is held for the user, they can enter an email address for this matter only (which perhaps the team member doesn't need to see, anyway).
  3. The user is presented with a chat box sidebar, similar to the "live customer service chat" used on a lot of websites. (Or is promised an email response if it's to be done by email). I think live chat would be better but email can be done quicker and would take less development.
  4. The user, now in contact with someone, is able to get support.
    • The team member can clarify the issue, look at the posts or other problem, and help the user to understand what our policies are, and how to best handle their specific issue in the wiki-universe.
    • They can review a user's draft post, suggest the best noticeboard for the issue, show the user where to look for the relevant policies or what they say, explain what usually happens and how these kinds of problems usually resolve, suggest how the user can best "help themselves" (by not being escalating) and provide help with calming, act as a "sounding board" for the user to get an idea how to deal with the problem and what to expect, and someone to come back to if it doesn't resolve.
    • The team member will act much as an administrator or experienced user asked for help on their user-page would, in that the advice/support is "whatever seems most useful" - just like on-wiki, some people will "go the extra mile", a team member who is happy to do more to help should feel that it's up to them if they want to. If the help will become more interventional, dialog should move to the user's talk page for transparency.
  5. The user is very quickly empowered. They know what policies exist, how experienced wikipedians (who have seen this before) would handle it, where to go and the points that are worth making, and how our DR processes can help them. If needed and the team member is willing, they also have an experienced user's input on the issue.


The biggest issue with harassment on-wiki is that there isn't quick and reassuring support, users can feel too much "left on their own", to sink or swim. Good luck - and hope the user wasn't too stressed to read up enough of our very long project pages to know how to handle a troll or harasser without being uncivil or gamed themselves!

That's unfair and unrealistic. We provide immediate experienced-user recourse for all manner of issues with OTRS and suppression, and we can provide the same for harassment using existing tools without reinventing the wheel. We ask too much of someone experiencing harassment, and should meet them more than half-way.

Often a user who is harassed doesn't really know where to go or what an experienced user would do. Harassers can also be experienced at "gaming the rules". He/she either endures it, or watches it escalate, or gives up. The end result should be that users who would otherwise suffer can quickly feel the situation is in control and they have the help they need.

As a bonus, it provides a "ripple effect" - a way for users within communities to help other users, and opens an OTRS-like team spirit to a wider range of people (and ensures a large pool of supporters) which benefits the wider communities.

It's also lightweight in terms of resources (although if someone wanted to add live chat to our IU or create links to etherpad/irc/whatever for requests ... :) )

Get InvolvedEdit

About the idea creatorEdit

I've been an editor for about 12 years, an administrator for about 8 or 9 years. I was heavily involved in drafting enwiki's harassment policy way back in time. I also wrote/rewrote a large chunk of enwiki's project pages which became the stable format, covering Gaming the system, Assume good faith, No personal attacks, Disruption to make a point, Block/ban/appeal pages, and other pages related to disruptive and harassing conduct, and how to get help. I made sure these pages supported users in such situations (as best they can) and reduced common loopholes used by gamers. On OTRS I tended to handle more difficult and sensitive cases, for example when someone asked on the list for eyeballs on a difficult ticket. I see harassment as something we should do more to counter, as it drains our community of the people needed to keep it alive, and distracts our efforts on content. I see the biggest problem as being that we just don't make it easy to get help at the point it's needed and in a format that's immediately helpful.



  • There is a lot here, and details need to be filled in. Feasibility should be addressed in detail. But this is a solid plan to move forward. I'll go to the talk page with specific questions/suggestion in a while. Smallbones (talk) 12:19, 13 June 2016 (UTC)
  • Because using Wikipedia, be it in reading or editing, has become like fishing in the ocean. Asking questions that never get replied to, or rude remarks, lies etc. by some users. It is sad, very sad. Lotje (talk) 13:25, 13 June 2016 (UTC)
  • Some administrators make reversion unjustifiably using personal criteria and coarse remarks (Alguns administradores fazem reversão sem justificativa usando critérios pessoais e observações grosseiras. Causando humilhação) Elilopes (talk) 15:47, 13 June 2016 (UTC)
  • I don't know enough to comment on how it would work but as a user I have several times felt harassed and bullied by more experienced editors. They run circles around you, and know the way wikipedia works inside out. You have identified the issues very well. For instance the first time I was taken to ANI (inconclusively). I hadn't heard of ANI when I got the announcement about it on my talk page, and the whole thing was quite bewildering. We need advice sometimes just to understand what they are doing and what they mean by the things they say when they use wikipedia tags we don't know about. And it is not at all clear where to turn for help. And the people who you turn to for help may get annoyed with you for asking so many questions that seem stupid to them, so what do you do next? A button you can press to ask for help or similar, something very simple and immediate would make a big difference here. Also just to say it is needed for long term editors as well as newbies. I'd been editing wikipedia for around six years I think, but never had any dealings with ANI. Robert Walker (talk) 17:52, 16 June 2016 (UTC)

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