Grants talk:IEG/WikiProject X

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Love the idea to use what's working for some to improve the experience for allEdit

Thanks for writing this idea up, James! I'm really glad we got to spend some time brainstorming at Wikiconference USA :) Learning from what's working in the most active Wikiprojects and then using this to create and test a kit for Wikiprojects to improve the community-organizing experience for all feels like a very useful endeavor. Pinging the wub as I imagine he might be interested as well. And Mabeenot, who has been interviewing Wikiprojects for the Signpost for several years, could be a good person to include in a list of interviewees as well. Cheers, Siko (WMF) (talk) 16:52, 6 June 2014 (UTC)

Updates for IEG & another connection suggestionEdit

Hi James, I see you've moved this idea into an IEG proposal so I made some updates to your page to reflect the updated proposal format we're using this round. I'm also pinging User:WhatamIdoing, who I know has some useful thoughts and data-points on Wikiprojects that you might want to touch-base about as well!

Happy to give further input as you think about fleshing out a project plan further. Cheers, Siko (WMF) (talk) 23:11, 16 September 2014 (UTC)

Thanks for the ping, Siko.
A few years ago, I started wondering whether my anecdotal observations about success for newly created WikiProjects was accurate. I started collecting data on how active new WikiProjects were six months after creation, as measured by talk page comments. You can see how far I got in collecting data here. My goal was to find out two things: did the number of initial supporters/members matter (tentative answer: yes), and did the experience level of the proposer, as measured in age of account and number of edits as of the time the proposal was made, matter (I didn't get that far, but anecdotally, WikiProjects started by newbies are all failures).
One of my thoughts was that if we had some idea of what characteristics were likely to result in a failed WikiProject, then we might be able to convince the community to adopt recommendations for starting new ones, along the lines of "Please don't start a WikiProject unless you have made at least 100 edits yourself, because if you do, then your project is almost certainly going to fail".
I haven't gotten back to this since then, but I think that knowing when projects are likely to fail would be helpful to en.wp. It might also be useful for mid- and large-size Wikipedias that would like to have more WikiProjects (specifically, by helping them have a few successful ones rather than a bunch of failed ones). WhatamIdoing (talk) 04:53, 18 September 2014 (UTC)
WhatamIdoing, The wub, and Mabeenot: Now that the proposal is finished, please let me know what you think. Thanks! harej (talk) 23:57, 30 September 2014 (UTC)

Finalize your proposal by October 1st!Edit

Hi Harej. Thank you for drafting this proposal!

  • Once you're ready to submit it for review, please update its status (in your page's Probox markup) from DRAFT to PROPOSED, as the deadline is September 30th.
  • If you have any questions at all, feel free to contact me (IEG committee member) or Siko (IEG program head), or just post a note on this talk page and we'll see it.

Cheers, Ocaasi (talk) 20:16, 25 September 2014 (UTC)

Introducing volunteersEdit

Hi! Great project you have here. Field research on what makes collaboration work is much needed, and it's a concrete proposal that could help reinvigorate the community, which has stalled in recent years.

I have some experience in knowledge management and interaction design. I don't think I'll have much time to participate in the project, but I would love to participate with some comments here and there about the research and design proposals. Diego Moya (talk) 15:47, 1 October 2014 (UTC)

Oooooooh... and I've just learned that Appreciative inquiry has a Dream step. I would love to help with that, too! :-) Diego Moya (talk) 16:38, 1 October 2014 (UTC)
Hello Diego Moya! Very happy to have you on board as a volunteer. harej (talk) 23:59, 1 October 2014 (UTC)

Confusing nameEdit

I'm not sure in what contexts the name "WikiProject X" will be used going forward, but I find it a very confusing name. There are a few things commonly referred to by the single-letter name "X" that this could be confused with (the X Window System being the one I immediately thought of). Would it be possible to change the name to something more meaningful? - dcljr (talk) 06:20, 2 October 2014 (UTC)

I thought of Wikiproject Wikiprojects to reinforce the "meta" nature of this project, but that's not much better in terms of clarity. :-) How about "Wikiproject Drive" or "Wikiproject Impulse" to highlight the goal of community engagement? Alternatively some variation "Wikiproject Social" would emphasize the nature of community coordination, although "Social" is itself too broad. I don't know what the project initiators will think of a rename, as the choice of the name "X" is not explained. Diego Moya (talk) 08:32, 2 October 2014 (UTC)

Familiar with previous research?Edit

There's been quite a lot of research on WikiProjects. Can you please explain how you learn from and use the existing published research? Jodi.a.schneider (talk) 08:49, 2 October 2014 (UTC)

Hello Jodi.a.schneider, I would be happy to review the existing literature. Do you know where it has been published? harej (talk) 18:52, 2 October 2014 (UTC)
CSCW is a common venue. See also the Research:Newsletter. Jodi.a.schneider (talk) 21:12, 2 October 2014 (UTC)

I'd agree with this comment. I'm sure that I've taken part in surveys about my participation in Wikiprojects before, and representatives from various Wikiprojects have given presentations on good practices to Wikimania and other forums. This proposal appears to involve reinventing the wheel to some degree given that it's not currently informed by the results of previous surveys and presentations. Nick-D (talk) 02:00, 3 October 2014 (UTC)

@User:Nick-D, User:Jodi.a.schneider: could you name specific papers? I don't recall much being published, and I am a regular contributor to the WRN. What is CSCW? A conference? Conference papers are of poor quality, often not worth including in lit reviews (or perhaps it's a bias from my field - sociology - where only peer reviewed articles matter for one's career, and conferences are just excuses to travel and chat). --Piotrus (talk) 08:58, 8 October 2014 (UTC)
@Piotrus: The Association for Computer Machinery CSCW conference is a top venue in computer science (CS), where the best research gets published -- in human-computer interaction peer-reviewed journal articles are less important than publications at the top conferences. The appropriate places to search for CS research are The ACM digital library and Google Scholar. WikiProject, socialization Wikipedia, would be good terms to search for. Sorry for assuming too much! Below I cite a few examples from top venues in computer science.
This is the particular example I was thinking of
  • Choi, Boreum, et al. "Socialization tactics in Wikipedia and their effects." Proceedings of the 2010 ACM conference on Computer supported cooperative work. ACM, 2010.] "We examined WikiProjects, subgroups in Wikipedia organized around working on common topics or tasks. In study 1, we identified the seven socialization tactics used most frequently: invitations to join, welcome messages, requests to work on project-related tasks, offers of assistance, positive feedback on a new member’s work, constructive criticism, and personal-related comments. In study 2, we examined their impact on newcomers’ commitment to the project. Whereas most newcomers contributed fewer edits over time, the declines were slowed or reversed for those socialized with welcome messages, assistance, and constructive criticism. In contrast, invitations led to steeper declines in edits"
A very few examples from the quickest possible search:
  • Morgan, Jonathan T., et al. " Project talk: Coordination work and group membership in WikiProjects." Proceedings of the 9th International Symposium on Open Collaboration. ACM, 2013. "we perform a content analysis of 788 work-related discussions from the talk pages of 138 WikiProjects in order to understand the role WikiProjects play in collaborative work on Wikipedia" -- (wiki-active) author @Jtmorgan: would be a good person to ask though I'm not sure that he has time to do this.
  • You'll also find research like this that should be mentioned and known but may not bear on the particular question

Solomon, Jacob, and Rick Wash. "Critical Mass of What? Exploring Community Growth in WikiProjects." (2014). AAAI

  • And perhaps the general literature on newcomer socialization and online groups (journal article):

Burke, Moira, Robert Kraut, and Elisabeth Joyce. "Membership claims and requests: Conversation-level newcomer socialization strategies in online groups." Small group research (2009).

Less far along but consistent and promising -- I would especially look at work in progress by Rosta Farzan and colleagues on socialization and Wikipedia, which generally discusses WikiProjects quite a lot. (I've seen a few of the workshop papers -- which still require more work than social science conferences since papers are written ahead, e.g. Farzan, Rosta, and Shuguang Han. "Guiding Newcomers’ Information Seeking in Wikipedia." CSCW 2013 Workshop on Social Media Question Asking.
From my perspective, literature review is a basic skill that someone proposing a research project should either already have or have mentors who are committed to supporting them on. So to me this research needs to go back to the drawing board and propose again after a full lit review. Jodi.a.schneider (talk) 10:18, 8 October 2014 (UTC)
Also, what about a list of previous WikiMania presentations about WikiProjects? That's where some of the more practical collective wisdom has been discussed. I seem to remember several of those... Jodi.a.schneider (talk) 10:20, 8 October 2014 (UTC)
@User:Jodi.a.schneider Thank you for this very helpful lit review. I think the major difference between those papers and this project is the promise of developing specific software tools to help WikiProject; rather than just more academic digressions read by (few) academics and nobody else. --Piotrus (talk) 08:21, 13 October 2014 (UTC)
Ouch. Well, I'm trying not to get my feathers too ruffled about the 'academic digressions' dig. But anyway: en:User:Md_gilbert is working on a Virtual Team Explorer and some other tools to support Wikiprojects. The VTE is available as a user script right now (tho it's still work-in-progress). You should ping him. I'm sure he'd be happy to get feedback and/or collaborate. Also, I interviewed 18 WikiProject members for my own dissertation research... which focused on what makes WikiProjects succeed and fail. You can read findings here, here, here and here. And I'm happy to chat about WikiProjects any time. Cheers, Jtmorgan (talk) 17:36, 14 October 2014 (UTC)
  1. User:Jtmorgan No offense meant to anyone; first I might have missed some papers/research, and second, as a publishing academic myself I do believe that most published peer reviewed / conference presentations (including my work) are "academic digressions read by (few) academics and nobody else". From the fact that so much of that research is paywalled and thus inaccessible to most to the fact that most of what is is based on poor lit review and has little to no practical recommendations for improving the situation... Sigh. Of course there's a tiny yet vital percentage of studies that are well grounded, well written, impactful, and such, and here's hoping that more of our research can fit in this tiny niche. But the fact remains that in 99% of cases, a well written Wikipedia article will have a much more positive impact on the world than any academic publication. Let's just try to aim this and other studies funded by our grants towards the 1% group - and going back on topic, I repeat - the fact that this project plans on developing software to help manage WikiProjects seems like a step towards that 1% group. In other words, it clearly states "we will try to develop something useful for the community [if we can understand what the community wants]". --Piotrus (talk) 03:41, 15 October 2014 (UTC)

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Thanks, Piotrus. I understand that completely. However I still agree with Nick-D and Jodi's original point, which is that many of the research activities you are proposing have been performed by others, and many of the design activities you are proposing would benefit from familiarizing yourselves with this existing body of research. Especially since your project's scope is so ambitious. While I agree (enthusiastically) that "what makes Wikiprojects work, and how can we make them work better?" is a relevant question, I'm concerned that this project is setting itself up for trouble in the way it proposes to answer the question. At one point or other in the past few years, I've participated in most of the types of research, design, and development tasks you propose here: surveys, interviews, quantitative analysis of editing activity, social network analysis, running A/B experiments, coding invite bots, designing templates, mapping out workflows and project pages, moderating usability tests, etc. All on Wikimedia projects... often in the service of understanding or supporting WikiProjects (the Teahouse, for example). Performing any of these tasks well takes a substantial investment of time and energy. The research phase of this proposal alone is pretty ambitious for a 6-month project. If you familiarize yourselves with the existing research beforehand, perhaps you can take a more targeted, hypothesis-driven approach. Identify a tractable sub-question and perform focused research and design interventions that a small skilled team like yours can more reasonably hope to accomplish in six months, something like research suggests that WikiProjects often struggle because of FOO, so we analyzed the impact of FOO in these 10 projects and developed and deployed BAR to see if it helped. Best, Jtmorgan (talk) 21:06, 15 October 2014 (UTC)

Hi @Piotrus:, I completely agree, "the major difference between those papers and this project is the promise of developing specific software tools to help WikiProject". But that promise should be met by knowing what WikiProjects want and need, how they are different, etc -- which is what the existing literature can give us. I am still waiting for the project proposers to come back to say that they are going to read these things, summarize them, and list the action points for their development (of software & non-software tools). Did I miss that? Jodi.a.schneider (talk) 09:54, 17 October 2014 (UTC)
Jodi, I will review the literature and update the proposal accordingly. harej (talk) 19:19, 19 October 2014 (UTC)
Thanks @Harej: -- ping me/Jonathan when you want feedback on the revised version. Jodi.a.schneider (talk) 14:48, 20 October 2014 (UTC)
@Harej, Jodi.a.schneider, and Jtmorgan: I will try to help. For that reason, I suggest that the lit review can be done as a publicly available subpage here; and also - that any interested editor contributes to it. Collective intelligence for the win! --Piotrus (talk) 06:53, 23 October 2014 (UTC)

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Thanks Piotrus (talk · contribs). It would be useful to create a public artifact like that. Although to be clear, I still believe that the primary value of a literature review like this is in the doing: It is supposed to inform the research questions you ask and the design decisions you make, so the grantees themselves are the ones who need to actually perform a close reading of the relevant literature. And it should be done before the other work set out in this proposal: surveys, interviews, wireframes, etc. Cheers, Jtmorgan (talk) 20:09, 25 October 2014 (UTC)

Hey there WikiProject X-ers. I just wanted to follow up and say that I was excited to see your recent updates to the proposal, particularly around literature review, interview, and survey plans. This looks like a good direction to me, and this strategy should help address the issues of scope I raised earlier in the thread. Cheers, Jtmorgan (talk) 20:46, 21 November 2014 (UTC)
Hello Jtmorgan! The lit review had been ongoing but I finally had an opportunity to explicitly write it into the proposal. It is indeed good that there is an existing body of literature because this allows us to focus our research more precisely. I am planning on wrapping up the review around December and if I have any questions (even after reading your dissertation), I'll let you know. harej (talk) 20:49, 21 November 2014 (UTC)
(After much time...) I have now reviewed the literature. My notes are available here. My notes are mostly a combination of quotes and annotations. I'll work on making sense of all of this data, but I am making my own notes available so that if I miss anything, you can tell! (Pinging Jtmorgan, Piotrus, and Jodi.a.schneider) harej (talk) 16:30, 16 January 2015 (UTC)
Really great analysis (and synthesis!) here Harej. Thanks for sharing. I look forward to following up with you. Cheers, Jtmorgan (talk) 19:35, 20 January 2015 (UTC)

WikiProject literatureEdit

Here are some key findings from various WikiProject papers (most of which Jodi or I linked to above) that should help you in your investigation. As Jodi suggested, typing "WikiProject" into Google Scholar is a great way to find relevant research, and most of it is in conference papers, not journal articles, because it mostly comes from researchers outside of traditional social science disciplines.

TL;DR: topic-focused WikiProjects are much less active than they used to be; alternative WikiProjects are much more active; there is no one size, fits all model of project success, coordination work and participant recruitment can help a project succeed, but coordinators are more prone to burnout; and member lists don't tell you anything about project membership.

  • People use WikiProject talk pages to talk about all sorts of different stuff. But more than anything they request informal advice or feedback, alert project members to relevant happenings (like recent vandalism, or changes they made), and canvas for participation in discussions (RfD, GA/FA reviews, etc)
  • The people who list themselves as members of a WikiProject aren't necessarily the most active people in the project space (its pages and talk pages). Member lists are not useful for tracking who's a part of a project.
  • The people who talk most in projects don't necessarily edit project-related articles all that much, and conversely the people who edit articles most in a particular topic aren't necessarily affiliated with the Wikiproject, even if it's active.
  • Specialized tools designed to help project members coordinate (like HotArticlesBot, which helps editors keep tabs on what's happening in the articles they care about ) aren't always effective, even when they function well and are based on good ideas.
  • In 2014, most WikiProjects are inactive, or minimally active. And more and more of the action these days is in projects that don't focus on a single encyclopedia topic--projects like the Guild of Copyeditors, WikiProject AfC, and WikiProject Resource Exchange
  • One of the reasons WikiProjects become inactive (or never become very active in the first place) is because there's no one willing to take on coordination work: maintaining to do lists, creating style guides, organizing CotWs, inviting people to participate, etc. This work is time consuming and often not acknowledged, and coordinators are often both the most active project members and the quickest to burn out.
  • Other topic-focused projects peter out after a while when the "heavy lifting" has been done (creating and expanding major articles, categories and templates). It's harder to keep people motivated to participate at a high level when the subject matter is reasonably well covered and of ok quality. Filling in the gaps, boosting articles to FA/GA, and monitoring articles to keep the quality from degrading… these are often less glamorous and more time-consuming tasks, and you get less bang for your buck--you have to coordinate more to get the same amount of production work done.
  • Projects don't have to be big to be successful. There are projects that only have 3-5 regular participants that persist for years and get lots done.
  • Projects with a broad scope and lots of members (like MilHist) need more active coordination to work effectively than small projects.
  • But Projects don't have be very collaborative to be successful. You don't need a newsletter, CotW, to-do list, or a project coordinator if people are content to do their work on their own and just check in on the talkpage when they have specific requests or alerts. And importantly: if you try to make people interact more than they want to, you may drive them away from the project.
  • Newcomers don't know where WikiProjects are, or what WikiProjects are, and they can't tell an active project from an inactive one.
  • Most projects do not reach out to newcomers. Projects (and project members) vary considerably in terms of how they respond to newcomers who show up or join up: some folks go out of their way to be helpful and give a warm welcome, some are less open-armed.
  • Gaining critical mass is most critical at the birth of a project: the more people participate at the beginning (whether they are all highly active participants or not), the more likely the project is to survive long-term.

That'll do for a start, I suppose ;) Cheers, Jtmorgan (talk) 23:36, 21 November 2014 (UTC)

Outside WikipediaEdit

I think it is clear that the primary challenge WikiProjects face is that they're swimming upstream due to net editor attrition. We need to encourage projects to recruit new members from outside Wikipedia and not just ask existing editors to do more. Kvng (talk) 13:54, 2 October 2014 (UTC)

I agree. Invertzoo (talk) 15:50, 2 October 2014 (UTC)
Thank you Kvng and Invertzoo for your feedback. I know that WikiProject Medicine is regularly engaged with reaching out to the medical world outside of Wikipedia, and they are very organized in their work. Likewise, Keilana has promoted WikiProject Women Scientists at the in-person events she's held. So there are definitely things we can look at and try to replicate, though I am not sure they are options for every WikiProject. harej (talk) 19:13, 2 October 2014 (UTC)
Aye, I expect editor attrition is the common problem everywhere. Not enough people to keep those projects alive... so I think one of the goals of this will be streamlining of the WikiProject participation, make doing whatever project members do more intuitive, automated and easy. --Piotrus (talk) 08:56, 8 October 2014 (UTC)

Three immodest proposalsEdit

With regard to the editing community involved in science articles at English Wikipedia, I agree that it needs to be reinvigorated. The vast majority of my active contributions toward editing articles (as https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/User:Flying_Jazz) were before projects became prevalent here, and my opinion is that the key to renewing the community is to return the encyclopedia to resemble that earlier time. Below are three immodest proposals to do that. I'm aware that the individuals I'm interacting with have little ability to implement these suggestions, but I think my viewpoint about these matters may provide information to you about the topic under discussion.

1) Disband all projects. The place worked better when each article (or list or category or template or whatever) had its own individual community on the article talk page. Many editors leave the community because of those who stay and become "Project Builders" instead of editors like everyone else. These project builders begin to feel a sense of entitlement, management, and ownership over entire swaths of human knowledge. The idea that individuals editors ought to feel an obligation to follow "best practices" because an article falls under the aegis of some project that has "established" those practices is a distasteful idea to people who wish to edit for the sake of improving the encyclopedia. This "WikiProject X" grant idea follows the petty middle-management fallacy that what's really needed to motivate people to feel that they're part of a community are more rules, more outside encouragement, branding, more control of social spaces, and the deployment of prototype workflows. If projects ceased to exist then it would indicate to me that Wikipedia was finally beginning to get out of the way and let knowledgeable editors edit without having to worry about nonsensical bureaucrat junk.

2) Cease all grants. There is little incentive for me to volunteer when indirect monetary rewards for my work are being granted to others. There is little incentive for me to donate to the Wikimedia Foundation when my funds are going to grants dealing with the implementation of schemes that have no direct connection to article improvement. We live in a world where people who do work are persistently exploited by executives, marketers, and managers. Wikipedia was once an outlet for those who wished to escape that world for a time in order to do work for its own joy without being exploited and with the knowledge that others were doing the same. Now this "WikiProject X" is asking for grant money to create branding solutions and identity mechanisms as tools to attract new recruits that will do the work of maintaining and improving the encyclopedia for free. Few knowledgeable editors create and maintain science articles compared to the old days because we see through the grant facade to recognize the same underlying managerial exploitation that exists in our everyday lives. It could have been a place where professors and global experts interacted with a worldwide community under a mutual spirit of volunteerism, but that can't happen now. From my perspective, the heart of Wikipedia stopped beating years ago, and it won't beat again until and unless these types of grants are halted. If there's work that a PR person, manager, or executive wants done, act like an editor and do it without a grant.

3) Ban more users. Persistent, tendentious editing by a minority discourages knowledgeable people from creating and maintaining factually correct and well-written content here. Administrators and whichever other bureaucrats are responsible for temporary and permanent bans should recognize that a huge number of people on the planet are either unwilling or unable to contribute to an encyclopedia in a rewarding and helpful way. Good editors leave because bad editors stay. Flying Jazz (talk) 14:54, 2 October 2014 (UTC)

I agree that there's an underlying assumption here that subject-area Wikiprojects are a good thing in general, something many people would take issue with. It's not very serious research if the conclusion is built into the assumptions. Gigs (talk) 20:37, 2 October 2014 (UTC)
  • I endorse every word of point 1. This proposal seems predicated on the idea that highly active WikiProjects are a positive, which is highly debatable. In my experience, all of the non-moribund projects (including the much-vaunted WikiProject Military History), invariably become cliques fighting petty turf-wars over minutiae of style, and are actively off-putting to casual Wikipedia editors. Iridescent (talk) 21:52, 2 October 2014 (UTC)
  • @Flying Jazz: That's quite an anarchist perspective you've retained! I think there are a lot of drawbacks in a return to completely de-centralised talk now the project is so large. Deletion of articles you care about but weren't watching is a common complaint. A project is the best way to mitigate this as even a small topic area can leave a watchlist overflowing. A request for an expert opinion on a talk page is much more likely to be missed (you can easily wait a few years). As the article base has grown, so has the importance of structuring it in way that helps navigation (consistent layout is as helpful to readers as it is burdensome to editors).
  • That said, the establishment of needless rules, fiefdoms, and a culture of management over creation is problematic. As someone who has created a project, I would argue that WikiProjects aren't necessarily restrictive - it depends on the personalities involved. People's writing styles are very different and there's often not a lot of tolerance of that; it's a fine line between cleaning up messy bits/errors and imposing the "right way" of doing things. There are far more mechanisms to write rules than there are to foster tolerance between editors. Wikipedia attracts people who refuse to let go of little errors (that's often how editing starts). Sadly, this trait does not often come with an ability to stop, leave alone, and nurture other's work. Sillyfolkboy (talk) 00:23, 3 October 2014 (UTC)
To address a point that was raised, I wouldn't say highly active WikiProjects are inherently good things, nor do I endorse all the things they do. Just that to the extent that English Wikipedia is too big to have a site-wide community, it is worth looking into how WikiProjects can help facilitate some of that community building, particularly since they already exist and it's better to not have to re-invent the wheel. There are pitfalls to active WikiProjects—cliques, stifling bureaucracy and rules, enforcement of arbitrary guidelines—but it will be a net positive if this helps editors with their article writing or makes them feel like they are part of a community and not an uncaring wall of text. We will see if we can encourage pro-social behavior, rather than anti-social; I'd like to think of the Teahouse as a model worth emulating. harej (talk) 05:21, 3 October 2014 (UTC)
re 1) Disband all projects. In short: I do not see why ending Projects would solve anything. We'd still need a talkpage covering a topic when it is more than an article or a category. Of course, if project talk moves to a category, that category would become a WikiProject under another name, minus the Priject profits (overview, membership, central repository, ...) (and be assured, FJ, we gremlins will take over that category talkpage too in no time  ;-) ). The same WikiProject FJ has worked in/around has produced some great improvements, which are impossible to imagine happening when broken up into article talkpages. For example, about a year ago this discussion (15+ months, 400k) concluded graciously and without significant objections afterwards (which could signify a bad consensus process). It required edits in scores of pages, affecting hundreds of pages. Another WP:ELEMENTS discussion resulted in an editor loyally reverting their own change, rewriting articles and more. A third achievement for WP:ELEMENTS (and continuing) is that more and more articles reach higher article quality, with 24 FA's by now. In all such cases, I do not see how such blanket topic discussions could result from an isolated article talkpage, knowing that a topic can involve numerous pages in numerous ways.
There is another background, this one from FJ's interaction with editors. FJ claims authority while being uninformed [1], using ad hominem, PA and ridiculisation: [2] (a response), [3]. This made me conclude I have yet to see a discussion with Flying Jazz involved that did not turn nasty. Recently FJ forked an existing discussion without leaving proper notice; note the extensive bad faith paragraphs.
In other words, FJ shows unhelpful talkpage behavior (editor interaction, discussion, consensus building). We don't have reason to believe such behavior shall change by abandoning WikiProjects. I think this also answers proposal 3).
As for proposal 2): I hope this grant will be awarded, showing that WMF understands & supports the issue. -DePiep (talk) 11:38, 8 October 2014 (UTC) (en:User:DePiep)
  • Strongly oppose all of FJ's proposals per DePiep. I just don't see how the meagre positives of such proposals could outweigh the huge negatives. Double sharp (talk) 15:15, 8 October 2014 (UTC)
I'd like to apologize to the editors reading or contributing to this particular Grant talk page. It may have been a mistake for me to use the word "proposals" in the title of the post, and if I'd known that my ideas would initiate a response that would briefly turn this talk page into something so different from its intended purpose, I would not have written those views here. Flying Jazz (talk) 18:21, 8 October 2014 (UTC)

Please clarifyEdit

Could you explain what you mean by, "to facilitate collaboration across subject areas". Do you mean that the various different projects should be collaborating with one another more than they do? Or do you mean something else, such as that people should collaborate within one project who are currently usually working on different subject areas? Invertzoo (talk) 15:49, 2 October 2014 (UTC)

Hello Invertzoo, that was clumsy wording on my part. I meant within subject areas. Sorry for the confusion! harej (talk) 19:21, 2 October 2014 (UTC)

Eligibility confirmed, round 2 2014Edit

This Individual Engagement Grant proposal is under review!

We've confirmed your proposal is eligible for round 2 2014 review. Please feel free to ask questions and make changes to this proposal as discussions continue during this community comments period.

The committee's formal review for round 2 2014 begins on 21 October 2014, and grants will be announced in December. See the schedule for more details.

Questions? Contact us.

Jtud (WMF) (talk) 22:35, 2 October 2014 (UTC)

SurveyEdit

This proposal mentions a survey, but doesn't cover some relevant aspects of this:

  • How many respondents would you like to attract? (the proposal notes a minimum of 100, but this is way too few to produce statistically useful results - are you intending the results to be indicative?)
  • How will you recruit them? (will you invite all members of En-Wiki to participate through the site notice, or target particular groups of editors/use some kind of random sample?)
  • Will the design of the survey be informed by previous comparable surveys? If so, how? (will you be re-using questions which proved successful, and not using those which have been proven to not work?, etc)
  • How will you analyse the results of the survey? - are you hoping to conduct quantitative statistical analysis, or will you be treating the responses as essentially qualitative in nature?
  • Who will conduct this analysis? (is this the "data analysis" mentioned as forming part of the duties of the project manager?)
  • The proposal states "We will regularly communicate with survey respondents and interviewees; rather than engage with them only once, it is better to continually involve them" - what will this involve?

I guess what I'm getting at with the above is that conducting a survey which produces meaningful results is a non-trivial task, and this element of the proposal is a bit under-cooked. In particular, I'd suggest that you review previous surveys of Wikipedia editors and explain how you'll build on them (in terms of learning from their methodologies and filling gaps in their results). Nick-D (talk) 02:14, 3 October 2014 (UTC)

I echo User:Nick-D's concern. The most pressing questions are: "What questions do you want to answer in the survey?" and "What factors will you try to control for?" If you don't have experience with survey design and methodology, I encourage you to ask around, since there are plenty of people around wikipedia who do. Stuartyeates (talk) 07:47, 3 October 2014 (UTC)
I agree with the points raised by Nick-D and Stuartyeates. With all due respect, most of us would like (if possible) to understand what makes a WikiProject become successful and stay successful, but attempting to get meaningful answers to these very complex questions via surveys is generally not a very reliable methodology. It would be a shame to spend the money and do the work-hours and end up with a bunch of unreliable (or worse misleading) results. Invertzoo (talk) 13:36, 5 October 2014 (UTC)
Hello, Nick-D, Stuartyeates, and Invertzoo. I have recruited User:Piotrus as a volunteer for this project. He will be reviewing the methodology in the proposal for gaps. He could also recommend other surveys on which this survey could be based. In the meantime, I would like the resulting data collection to be as representative of the Wikipedia editing community as possible, though I am not sure how feasible that is to achieve. Participants will be solicited through the sitenotice. The regular communication component refers to involving survey respondents in the design process, as so: "Thank you for participating in the survey. We would like your feedback on this design." In any case, the survey is only one part of the research process. harej (talk) 19:48, 5 October 2014 (UTC)
I am glad to help :) --Piotrus (talk) 08:51, 8 October 2014 (UTC)

Measure of SuccessEdit

I don't think all WikiProjects that are active are successful. When I first started editing, I got a lot of constructive advice from Wikipedia:WikiProject National Register of Historic Places on how to create better articles along with very occasional corrections. Later, I've encountered a variety of WikiProjects which I won't name, where the only purpose seems to be to shut down outsiders from editing "their" articles. I would be interested in how many inexperienced editors WikiProjects bring in as one factor here.RevelationDirect (talk) 09:40, 4 October 2014 (UTC)

I'd be curious to learn of any negative experiences; I am not familiar with any myself. Anyway, I think we should add more measures of success: editor satisfaction with tools developed and wikiprojects in general. --Piotrus (talk) 08:53, 8 October 2014 (UTC)
It's a constant and growing problem. It's bad enough that I'd honestly like to shut the entire wikiproject system down and re-engineer it from scratch, with systems in place to prevent WP:OWN and WP:LOCALCONSENSUS problems. Basically, wikiprojects are increasingly being domineered one or a pair or a triumvirate of editors each, all of them hell-bent on pushing some point of view. It's a WP:FACTION matter, with projects increasingly only reflecting the view of their "masters", and acting as if they're sovereign like wiki-kingdoms. Most users seem blind to it, and cry about who many subject matter experts we're losing, and oh <insert hand-wringing here> if only there were more wikiprojects, wouldn't that solve the problem? Of course it wouldn't. Wikiprojects are a large part of the problem.  — SMcCandlish ¢ ≽ʌⱷ҅ʌ≼  23:36, 8 October 2014 (UTC)

More detailsEdit

I have understood the problem but I don't understand the solution. It seems to me that the solution is more connected to the users than to the leaders. It misses in my opinion the main problem of wikiprojects missing the leaderships. --Ilario (talk) 14:58, 7 October 2014 (UTC)

Much of this comes down to finding out what all is causing the problem for everyone involved, which will then lead to solutions. If an important issue is indeed a lack of good leaders, then why? We have many leaders among the projects that arise in other contexts, and if we can discover what's blocking them from doing so here, we can then work to address or help mitigate that. Suppose it's just that good leaders are scared off doing much by the weird technical requirements to reach out to and connect with members and potential members of the wikiproject - in that case, it's possible that all they'd need is a proper toolset. We won't know for sure until we look into it, though. -— Isarra 17:49, 7 October 2014 (UTC)
Self-appointed, point-of-view-pushing "leaders" are the problem, though. In a collaborative environment where no one's credentials can be verified, the only form of "leadership" that evolves without strictly controlled processes (like adminship and how to get it) is brow-beating tenacity. This basically means that systems, like wikiprojects, in which decisions are made in a lose "he who argues the loudest and longest wins" manner cannot continue to operate this way without severe detriment to the entire encyclopedia.  — SMcCandlish ¢ ≽ʌⱷ҅ʌ≼  23:40, 8 October 2014 (UTC)
That is quite possibly a significant contributing factor especially with some projects, but it will be best if we go into this without making such assumptions ahead of time. An unbiased approach will not just help to come up with real, working solutions, but also serve to dispel any doubts as to whether or not the problems even exist, because if you can demonstrably show the problem, people tend to be much more receptive to changes that seek to fix it. -— Isarra 00:46, 13 October 2014 (UTC)

Learning from other WikipediasEdit

Maybe it would be beneficial to include other language Wikipedias in the research. I often find that the German and French Wikis are in some areas systematically better than the English Wiki. --Elekhh (talk) 21:12, 7 October 2014 (UTC)

I would be interested in looping in non-English projects at some point; I just don't know if it makes sense for this initial phase. It's also worth noting that a comparison between a WikiProject on English and a WikiProject on French or German would not be an apples-to-apples comparison. As I understand it, the editing norms on German are much more restrictive than on English, meaning that a best practice for a German WikiProject may not translate well to English because the German Wikipedia provided the environment where such a best practice could emerge, while it could require significant culture change on the English Wikipedia to be possible. We would also need people competent in those languages to do research. harej (talk) 21:27, 7 October 2014 (UTC)

UXEdit

"Once we have researched the nature of successful WikiProjects, we would like to bring in an experienced user experience (UX) designer to design an ideal WikiProject experience as a prototype. This ideal experience factors into the consideration the actual layout of the WikiProject—namely the ability to interact with it—as well as the mechanisms to recruit people and communities into this WikiProject. We would deploy this new design on an experimental basis by reviving a long-defunct WikiProject and inviting new participants, converting an existing (functioning) WikiProject with their permission, or both. These experiments will be evaluated on the basis of their success in increasing WikiProject activity and increasing edits to Wikipedia articles in general. Future phases of this project could involve deploying variations of this design randomly and subjecting them to A/B testing or another form of experimentation."

I think what's needed is "interaction design" rather than "UX". Have you documented your experience, or how you propose to recruit someone with the appropriate experience? Jodi.a.schneider (talk) 10:23, 8 October 2014 (UTC)
Interaction design falls under user experience, and indeed is a large part of it.
What would be appropriate experience, however? I'm a MediaWiki dev and I have worked extensively with the UI here and elsewhere, but will that be enough? We don't know. But then, it's possible the entire thing will open up a massive can of worms and we'll find the wikipedian equivalent of a mad rat man living in the server. -— Isarra 00:26, 13 October 2014 (UTC)

Questionable approach right from the first sentence; the real reasons projects succeed or failEdit

"WikiProjects on the English Wikipedia are supposed to serve as social space" isn't correct. This was never their intent, and nothing on WP serves such a purpose, per WP:NOT#SOCIAL (Wikipedia is not a social network). Wikiprojects exist to centralize and facilitate topical collaboration; they are not independent membership clubs, social organizations, webboards, special-interest groups, or other autonomous entities. The more one is treated by its participants like it is, the more problematic it tends to become (principally via WP:LOCALCONSENSUS problems - the idea that a micro-"consensus" at a wikiproject can trump site-wide consensus more generally, e.g. the invention of wikiproject-level naming convention or style convention that violates rules already established at WP:Article titles policy or the WP:Manual of Style guideline.

Wikiprojects tend to fail for the following predictable reasons:

  1. Problems of the kind identified above, which leads to participants in the wikiproject getting involved in an increasing and worsening number of disputes with other editors until many resign as editors in frustration.
  2. Insufficient breadth of coverage to attract a critical mass of editors. The WP:WikiProject Council/Proposals process generally ends up opposing the creatiomn of most projects as superfluous and understaffed, but many ignore what they're told and do it anyway. There simply is not enough content and there are not enough editors to support a WikiProject Torchwood or a WikiProject Salamanders. Editors deeply interested in such narrow subjects need to instead for workgroups/taskforces under larger, actually active projects, namely WP:WikiProject Doctor Who (where there's a WP:WikiProject Doctor Who/Torchwood taskforce already), and WP:WikiProject Amphibians and Reptiles (with no taskforces yet), respectively.
  3. POV-pushing, self-declared leadership. A serious problem affecting a large number of projects is that most of them consist of quiet editors here to work peaceably on a category of articles without a lot of stress and politicking, strife and drama, but a handful are not, and take over. Unfortunately, a driven minority thrive on those things, and see "being in charge of" or "speaking for" a wikiproject and leading it on wiki-crusades (see WP:ADVOCACY and WP:GREATWRONGS) is a way to gain attention, as well as power of a kind different from adminship, and will pursue such goals to the detriment of the wikiproject and the encyclopedia as a whole. These range from position pushing on geopolitical matters (various WP:Arbitration Committee cases are the result of such actions) to things as trivial as incessant style debates about technical nitpicks within their field (the essay WP:Specialist style fallacy was written to address these behavior patterns).

How a wikiproject succeeds:

  • A core but unofficial group of neutrally-minded participants, doing real work to identify missing articles, articles in need of work (and of what kind), categorization problems, and other wikiproject-level, infrastructural work to make the wikiproject viable, and its scope well groomed. Two to three of these are sufficient, and they need not be the same people over a long period of time. If any of these people are drafting naming conventions or style guidelines for the project that aim to impose things not permitted by the current policy and guidelines, these people need to be overruled, and what they're working on replaced with interpretations of extant policy and guidelines and how to apply them to the scope of the project. This community correction alone would eliminate probably half of the strife surrounding wikiprojects today. All of that energy could instead be spent on article peer review and improvement, and pooled resources for the project such as lists of links to journal archives and other reliable sources liable to be needed for improving the articles within the scope.
  • A broad, notable, and clearly-defined enough scope to attract content editors in sufficient numbers to keep the project running. At least a dozen are needed at any given time, and they come and go. (Note however that if a project cannot maintain this, it will fail, and it should be a workgroup/taskforce of a more general project. If a project is about a pop-culture phenomenon with a life-span, e.g. a TV show or video game franchise that has ended, it is natural at some point that the project go dormant and be tagged as historical. Not every project should remain active; when projects like that remain active indefinitely, it's usually a sign that obsessive trivia-mongering is going on.) For projects that should continue, active recruitment of editors seen to frequently edit within the scope is needed to keep projects going long term. This is best done by stressing that the wikiproject is a resource, and way to help foster collaboration on articles the editor cares about, not as a membership group or a way to get POV-pushing leverage.
  • A scope not so overbroad that it conflicts with a large proportion of the work already being done by another project.
  • Vigilance on the part of its participants that no one in the group with a charismatic personality, a hot temper and/or a deeply-held point of view to push embroils the project in quarrels that most of the project participants do not agree are important for the project to get behind (hint: almost no quarrels are important for an entire wikiproject to get behind; see WP:BATTLEGROUND), or who bends the project to push particular points of view instead of neutrally representing reliable sources. This is especially a problem in science-related wikiprojects, which may become domineered by young, advocacy-minded post-docs or even undergrads with pet theories or would-be standards to advance. Worse yet (though infrequently), sometimes specialists from one field will effectively take over a wikiproject in an unrelated field and bend to more to the norms of the the field the domineer is more accustomed to; the article cleanup fallout from such debacles can take years to resolve.

One thing few people seem to have noticed is that Wikipedia (en.w, anyway) needs almost no new wikiprojects, while probably 60% of the ones it does have – defunct, moribund or barely limping along – should be folded upward as workgroups/taskforces into bigger, broader, more successful wikiprojects. Most projects that WP needs and which can sustain themselves have already long existed.

There is a limit to how far upward/general such consolidation can go before interest is spread too thin. Merging all sport projects into WP:WikiProject Sports would not work, for example; sports fans are almost entirely devoted to specific sports, not to the concept of sporting as a whole. Some projects are thus natural umbrella projects. It is important to sign on as participants in umbrella projects if you are participating in a more specific "child" project of it (e.g. basketball or cricket, under sports), as the umbrella project is, most of the time, the place for article peer review and other processes that need more input than that of the article's own editors.

 — SMcCandlish ¢ ≽ʌⱷ҅ʌ≼  23:31, 8 October 2014 (UTC)

Hello, SMcCandlish. I agree that Wikipedia is not for "social networking," i.e., frivolity. I refer to WikiProjects as "social spaces" in the most literal sense: they are where Wikipedians (plural!) can gather to collaborate on articles on a subject matter, so it is "social" insofar as Wikipedians are engaged in conversation with each other (about matters related to Wikipedia, and not wasting time!).
I appreciate your insight on what causes WikiProjects to fall apart, including a lack of critical mass and takeovers by particularly assertive editors who want to be In Charge. Part of the analysis we'll want to do is what a good WikiProject size is: too small and it falls into inactivity; too large and there is no coherent "project" so much as a federation of what should be smaller projects. ("Size" includes measurements of both number of humans and number of articles.) The inactivity part is indeed a problem; organizing a volunteer community is a job and some Wikipedians may either not know how to do it or have other priorities. I think some degree of this can be automated, for example by furnishing WikiProjects a list of Wikipedians who edit a lot in their subject area so that they can send invitations.
The other part is establishing norms—making explicit the expectations of conduct, including stuff like "be considerate of your fellow editors," "strive to include others," "try not to boss other people around," etc. This is harder than tweaking software but it's been done before. A good example is the emergence of the Biographies of Living Persons policy. Although the principle of being extra careful for articles about humans who are alive (and have jobs and families and such) was not necessarily a founding principle of Wikipedia, the community realized it was nonetheless important enough to craft a policy dedicated to it. But the policy is not the important thing; the important thing was how influential the discussion was in changing the hearts and minds of Wikipedia editors, and subsequently our approach to these articles as volunteers. As it relates to WikiProjects, if a new WikiProject is molded out of the principle "we need a safe and inclusive space for discussion and collaboration, and we will maintain our project in that manner," it makes people think more about the consequences of what they're writing, just as how the Seigenthaler incident made us think more about how we treat biographies of living persons.
Regarding folding smaller WikiProjects into larger ones, I don't disagree but I think it should be up to volunteers to do it as they see fit; I lack authority to tell a WikiProject, "you fail to meet minimum participation thresholds so I'm shutting you down." I also don't think there's necessarily anything wrong with a project of inherently ephemeral nature (such as one based on a television program), or even with projects that are naturally small in scope, but I suppose there will be differences of opinion. harej (talk) 23:12, 14 October 2014 (UTC)
I (rather belatedly) concur with those points, other than I think it's unhelpful to create wikiprojects for TV series, rather than taskforces of the TV wikiproject. The more narrowly focused a wikiproject it, the more it is apt to engage in en:WP:OWN behavior.  — SMcCandlish ¢ ≽ʌⱷ҅ʌ≼  08:11, 23 April 2015 (UTC)

MethodEdit

In my experience, wikiproject members have no idea what the "success" of their wikiproject(s) is, nor what caused it: I question the usefulness of surveys as a source. I instead suggest to focus on the social research (observational or however it's called) and I'd like the proposal to be written as a research projects, e.g. with hypotheses and methods to test them. Finally, as wages seem to be implied from quick skimming, I noticed the bios don't outline specific/professional experiences to justify them. --Nemo 09:05, 17 October 2014 (UTC)

The purpose of surveys is not so much to ask what the users themselves think, but to establish common patterns amongst the projects - things like numbers, project structure, methods the users use, what the users tend to do, when they tend to do it, etc etc - and see how they might relate. Only from there can we even begin to establish what might signify success. We might include open-ended questions in order to ask if there are any specific pain points people think might be worth addressing, but without following up on those with more thorough interviews and testing, you would be right to question the usefulness. We need context, and while the surveys establish some of the overall context of how projects in general work, they are but one piece of the puzzle. -— Isarra 16:41, 21 October 2014 (UTC)

Aggregated feedback from the committee for WikiProject XEdit

Scoring criteria (see the rubric for background) Score
1=weak alignment 10=strong alignment
(A) Impact potential
  • Does it fit with Wikimedia's strategic priorities?
  • Does it have potential for online impact?
  • Can it be sustained, scaled, or adapted elsewhere after the grant ends?
7.3
(B) Innovation and learning
  • Does it take an Innovative approach to solving a key problem?
  • Is the potential impact greater than the risks?
  • Can we measure success?
7.6
(C) Ability to execute
  • Can the scope be accomplished in 6 months?
  • How realistic/efficient is the budget?
  • Do the participants have the necessary skills/experience?
5.7
(D) Community engagement
  • Does it have a specific target community and plan to engage it often?
  • Does it have community support?
  • Does it support diversity?
7.4
Comments from the committee:
  • If done well, this project may have great impact on­ participation and motivation of editors. In the best case it will provide templates which can be used by anyone who wants to start a Wikiproject
  • Building on what is already in Wikipedia makes sense. Wikipedians are more likely to accept suggestions for improvement if the idea is working already somewhere else within the project.
  • The project is quite focused on what it will do and for whom or with whom
  • We appreciate the way the applicants have set themselves the goal of involving many users. Participants have substantial Wikipedia-experience so they are in a position to act within the projects and actually engage with users.
  • Notification was done on a broad scale. There are many endorsements, but also some critical voices. Generally speaking, this shows that the project is planning to tackle something which people do care about. It raises hopes for good participation (in numbers at least) in the survey, and also for general interest and willingness to interact with the project.
  • It could contribute to a climate where especially women will feel welcome. Apart from this aspect, it will serve to improve diversity of content by improving or reviving a variety of Wikiprojects that cater for a whole range of different topics.
  • It's not entirely clear why the group reached this particular result as solution to the problem; it's not yet supported by a clear study.
  • May be difficult to measure
  • We hope that it could be sustained and adapted
  • Expenses are high: $50/hour is a lot for part-time, not-for-profit work. Consider how to bring down budget, perhaps split investment into 2 phases.
  • Not totally confident that this research will yield useful results, but if it did the impact would be huge. More collaboration between editors could make a difference in both quality of content and retention of editors.

Thank you for submitting this proposal. The committee is now deliberating based on these scoring results, and WMF is proceeding with its due-diligence. You are welcome to continue making updates to your proposal pages during this period. Funding decisions will be announced by early December. — ΛΧΣ21 16:56, 13 November 2014 (UTC)

Round 2 2014 decisionEdit

 

Congratulations! Your proposal has been selected for an Individual Engagement Grant.

The committee has recommended this proposal and WMF has approved funding for the full amount of your request, $20075

Comments regarding this decision:
We agree that WikiProjects have room for improvements and your plan to focus research towards building a modular and improved prototype is worth trying. We appreciate the adjustments to scope based on feedback so far, and look forward to seeing you partner with a reasonably active WikiProject for realistic testing.

Next steps:

  1. You will be contacted to sign a grant agreement and setup a monthly check-in schedule.
  2. Review the information for grantees.
  3. Use the new buttons on your original proposal to create your project pages.
  4. Start work on your project!
Questions? Contact us.

--Siko (WMF) (talk) 18:25, 5 December 2014 (UTC)

RSS SuggestionEdit

Congratulations on approval. I think that you'd be developing tools that make WikiProjects more successful. I have some such tool/workflow ideas related to thinking out of the "web page" box — let's do more feeds.

  • Try to figure out how to make an RSS feed of page creations or edits related to a specific topic. This may be enumeration of category members recursively, or a "whose talk pages link to our wikiproject?" kind of pages. mw:Means for watching categories has some preliminary notes to this effect. It should also include existing manual scripts, bots, and hacks which do this (which is a shame, it should be something automated as a Tools Labs tool or inside of MediaWiki core), but it doesn't.
  • Try to figure out how to have an RSS feed of new changes or new page creations that is pretty-looking and properly readable in an RSS reader. Things like this exist, but only give RSS entries of raw markup, not HTML.

--Gryllida 23:48, 5 December 2014 (UTC)

For new creations, I am using en:User:AlexNewArtBot/PolandSearchResult tool. I can't say much about RSS as I have never found Wikipedia's built in RSS functionality, if it still works, to be of much use (sadly). --Piotrus (talk) 12:12, 14 January 2015 (UTC)

Page is live!Edit

Hello everyone! For those watching this talk page, we now have a live project page on English Wikipedia: w:Wikipedia:WikiProject X. We also have Facebook and Twitter profiles. harej (talk) 19:03, 14 January 2015 (UTC)

Renewal proposalEdit

In case you didn't catch it in my other announcements, this project is currently up for renewal at Grants:IEG/WikiProject X/Renewal. Please review and leave feedback on the proposal. harej (talk) 02:20, 3 November 2015 (UTC)

Project Grant proposal for second renewalEdit

Just a note that I have submitted a Project Grant proposal to pick up where this and the renewal left off, because it all turned out a bit bigger than anyone realised. But we can still totally complete it all because now we actually know where we stand! -— Isarra 21:41, 14 February 2018 (UTC)

Return to "IEG/WikiProject X" page.