Research:New editor welcome wishlist

This page documents a completed research project.



This sprint asks what features new editors might find most useful in welcome message templates.



I examined the new user experience narratives collected by the Wiki Guides project for comments on welcome messages and related new editor issues.

Results and discussion


On the importance of being welcomed

  • "I think the following factors were very important to my success as a new editor: [. . .] Being welcomed. The template itself is completely overwhelming and useless, but it brings you into contact with an experienced editor you can ask questions." — Yoenit
  • "At the same time, I have discovered in general conversation (in the real world) a great pool of people who have made some attempt at contributing to Wikipedia and given it up as a bad job. There exists a wide sense of disilluionment with Wikipedia within the wider community, sufficient to discourage hopeful new people from ever making their first attempt. If you're serious about welcoming new people (as distinct from lording it over the sub-humans who haven't clocked up 100,000+ edits), you need to approach the subject in a serious manner." — Kwah-LeBaire
  • "The closest thing I ever got to any kind of welcome was a WikiProject invitation nearly a year after I started actively editing, and no one (to this day) has ever offered any real guidance after the previously mentioned correction. So I basically groped my way along, figuring things out for myself. The few editors I have contacted and asked for help have indeed been very helpful, but there's definitely a feeling of general neglect, especially when I see a welcome on someone else's talk page. That said, I'm not here for attention by any means, but a welcome would have been nice. Sometimes it seems like users only get "welcomed" if they really screw something up. — Cjmclark
  • "My early edits caused fairly little contention; to my knowledge I was never bitten, but my talk page remained very quiet, so I wasn't really sure who to ask for help." — PeterSymonds
  • "Even then it took a few days for someone to notice I had joined, & a welcome message eventually appeared on my talk page. Hate it, laugh at it, I appreciated the gesture because I had tangible proof that I wasn't just "anybody" editting Wikipedia." — Llywrch
  • "In these times of automated responses, I'm not sure if people are keen on receiving yet another 'automated welcome email'. [. . .] I think what is really needed is some personal guidance in evaluating people's contribution" — Abhishek Singh

The wishlist


Pride in the project mission/vision

  • "We can probably all agree that the most important way to grow a community is for that community to maintain a posture of warm reception, communicate a sense of belonging and instill a sense of pride for 'the common goal' into every new individual who wishes to join it." — Abhishek Singh
  • "I was hooked. I had joined a World-wide phenomenon. As I wandered around the changing landscape of Wikipedia, my sense of the enormity and value of the place grew. I got a taste of what a free-flowing, ever-changing, stimulating project it was. And I wanted to be involved." — Buster7

Opportunities for mentoring

  • "It may never be too early to ask people what exactly they want from their Wikipedia experience, and tailor things to help them that way. Ask them what sort of editor they would want to be in a year's time, and give advice on developing interests and things like that." — Carcharoth
  • "Looking back, I think that if I hadn't gotten adopted, I would certainly had lost interest in this whole project. That is why I think that it is very important for us to get hold of the new users and guide them." — Bejinhan
  • "I am thankful for the help given by other editors that are helpful and gave me nice suggestions on the mistakes I made. I strongly believe that as long as a new user who is coupled with other more experienced and NICE senior editors, the new editor will greatly help to improve articles on Wikipedia, helping it maintain the top website to go to for information." — Lionratz

Offers of help

  • "It took a lot of time to build relationships with other editors, and even longer to figure out where to ask for help. I do recall being quite put off by some terse replies to some (admittedly dumb) questions at noticeboards (something I still observe on some noticeboards - they can feel more like the coffee room for a few vets rather than a resource)." — The Interior
  • "It probably helps that I had a fair sense of WP culture from friends as well as a lot of experience writing for different kinds of editor etc., so had some sense of what to look for. The odd hiccup trying to find bits of info about "how to", and a lot of help from editors who were to the point and supportive." — Laurence Cox

Introduction to Wikiprojects

  • "[T]hen I signed up to join the friendly editors at WikiProject Oregon and I began to realize how I could actually help an encyclopedia. I think inviting new editors into the warm doors of WikiProjects that, based on their edits, they might be interested in, is a great way to welcome them, because WikiProjects promote collaboration and shooting for a goal. I think that would be so much more comfortable for new editors, rather than editing random articles alone… shivering out in the cold." — Jsayre64
  • "The main thing that helped (and why I'm posting this nostalgiafest) is that somebody noticed me and invited me to join a wikiproject. I think wikiprojects are a damn useful and underappreciated part of WP, and newbies should join, or be invited to join, any project that covers their interests." — totnesmartin
  • "Wikipedia:WikiProject Military history/Academy. Is it far from perfect, but definitely a good starting point for a user who wants to contribute but doesn't really know how or which rules to follow." — Yoenit
  • "Another guy came along and offered some helpful information, then tried to recruit me to his pet project. I politely declined. I didn't want to join a cult, just put up some articles about subjects no one else had touched. — Kwah-LeBaire

Learning by example and experimentation

  • I've managed to gain a pretty decent understanding of how the different fields of editing in Wikipedia operate. A considerable amount of this comes from interacting with other users, but most of the time I've kept to myself, and learned through observing (e.g., watching how others edit, looking at editing formulas/formulas for templates, etc., and experimenting; when you have 3 personal sandboxes, you gotta use 'em!). — Wilhelmina Will
  • "My early experience was good. I saw that my contributions were cleaned up and formatted properly, and learned from those edits." — Daniel Case
  • "I also wasn't really aware where to make a sandbox, so I was using my talkpage for that." — Calliopejen1

Introduction to WikiLove

  • "Friendly behavior should be more actively promoted too with the use of concepts like "brownie" points, etc. Newcomers should be allowed to give brownie points to those who help them." — Abhishek Singh

Explanation of governance structure

  • "New editors and prospective editors should know loud and clear, that Wikipedia is composed of others just like themselves -- that there is no government that audits and approves their edits." — Anna Frodesiak

Direction toward tasks

  • "Probably the worst thing that happened to me was simply not knowing what needed doing." — Reaper Eternal
  • "My overall impression when I was a new user was that I wanted to help, but I didn't know what tasks I could do. [. . .] We do a better job of explaining the mechanics of editing than explaining how a newbie can be useful. I had no idea was needed to be done back then (and that was when when so many articles were even worse than they are now). I imagine that the problem of figuring out how to help is only getting worse as articles look better and better to newbies." — Calliopejen1
  • "I think I really had to learn how Wikipedia works by an amount of trial and error, rather than for example reading policies or guidelines, mainly because I didn't know where to look for what I wanted to know. My conclusion is that, maybe, a nice, obvious pointer to the most important policies and guidelines would have been of great help. — Toshio Yamaguchi
  • "Use of wizard[s] (like the current one for creation of new articles) etc can be recommended to new editors to avoid them from making the most common mistakes." — Abhishek Singh
  • "I also had difficulty with the wiki-markup formatting. I think a Wiki Guide would have been very useful to me." — e2eamon
  • "I am still utterly overwhelmed by the oddness and severity of wikimarkup and have to google everything to figure out how to do it." — Jane Peppler

The anti-wishlist


Overwhelming rules

  • "The mountains of rules showered on newbies DO NOT help. It has to be simple, easily digestible and friendly." — Kwah-LeBaire

Warning rather than explanation

  • "There would always be the odd case of a rotten apple trying to penetrate a community with mischievous intent. But the desire to protect the community from this odd case should not dictate the terms of handling every newcomer or else we risk repudiating the genius of collective wisdom that Wikipedia intends to promote. — Abhishek Singh
  • "I definitely did not enjoy the first several weeks after I created an account here on Wikipedia, in July of last year. I was annoyed and puzzled by image problem notices and I felt as if I were a burden on everyone else. — Jsayre64

Other notes


On timing

  • "I received no guidance from the more experienced editors, and the first message on my talk page was a welcome two months after I registered." — Pyfan

On terminology

  • "For avoiding the "discouragement", I think a more personal approach is necessary. For starters, use of offensive sounding terms like "declined" should not be used. If a reviewer does not like someone's article or feels that it does not follow the necessary guidelines, then the article should be marked as "Under Improvement" process or "Under Feedback" process to give an editor a sense of belonging and hope." — Abhishek Singh