Research:New user help requests

This page documents a completed research project.



New users don't always ask for help with Wikipedia technology or policy before leaping boldly into the editing fray. But when they do, what kinds of questions do they ask and where do they ask them? (RQ2.16)



We looked at the user talk pages and contribution histories of a random sample of new users. Users were divided into half-year cohorts between 2004 and the first half of 2011. We coded each talk page and contribution histories along the following dimensions:

  • Did the user ask for help?
  • Did they receive a response for their help request?
  • Where did they ask for help?: i.e. own talk page, other user's talk page, new contributors help page, help desk, village pump, article talk page, or other location?
  • What kind of help did they ask for?: i.e. article editing help, multimedia help, talk page help, editing policy help, behavior policy help, multimedia policy help, user page help, participation in community discussions, or other request type?

We are also gathering the help messages themselves and the responses they received (if any).

We plan to compare these findings with the types of subsequent contribution that the editor made. Do users who ask for help go on to be better Wikipedians? Are they more likely to stick around?

Results and discussion


As of 6/17/2011 we have coded a total of 425 new user talk pages + contribution histories from 2004, 2005, 2008, 2010 and 2011.

Summary of Findings

  • fewer than 10% (44 users) asked for help during their first 30 days
  • of those that did less than half (19 users) received a response from a real person during that period
  • the places they asked for help were all over the map, but the most common place was their own talk page or someone else's (see chart 1 below).
  • Some of the 'other' places they asked for help include: the Reference Desk (for both reference and traditional 'help' topics), article talk pages and edit summaries
  • more than half (25 users) of those who asked for help received some sort of welcome on their user talk page with links to help resources
  • very few of these users used the {{helpme}} template, even though many of them received Welcome templates that included 'Helpme' instructions*

*we observed this anecdotally: our codebook didn't capture uses of the helpme template directly

Charts & Graphs




Newbie Help Quotes


Hello, newbie here -- I must've missed it somewhere or I just didn't type in the right search term, but how do I add a date and time stamp to my comments without manually doing it? The tilde thing only adds the the username so...thanks!

I used this certain site for a research project, and we are expected to make a biliography, and part of that is to find out the author of the article (naturally) and I searched everywhere but I cant seem to find the exact author of the article, so If someone would be kind enough to help a poor soul find out if there is any data on the author of this thing?! Thanks in advance

I recently posted an article on Mihai_Nadin that was replaced with a copyright warning soon after. That guy was real friendly and replied to my questions quickly. Still, he remains unconvinced about the authenticity of my text and advised me to contact an admin. Is this posting the right way to do so?

I uploaded my image, but I cannot figure how to incorporate it in the page i want to? Please advise

I would like to add a logo to the Teachers Building Society entry, but find that I do not have permission to do so. Is there someone to whom I can email a logo so that it can be added to the entry?

Hi, and Good day, You deleted my article and concept Forward thinking due to a psychologists recommendation, about a philosophical concept, is it possible to get a copy emailed to me to be able to use in another Open Venue?

Trying to put in the external link, what am i doing wrong? Why is my link bad? Need help. trying to put in a link on Himuro manison What is wrong with the link or do I need to reprhase it?

Future work


In future sprints, we are interested in pursuing the following research questions:

  • who are helpful Wikipedians year-to-year? (those who seem to answer the most new user questions)
  • help requests are infrequent, so a random sample drawn from ALL new users is an inefficient way to find examples. But based on the typology of help spaces new users go to for help, and the types of questions they ask, it would be possible to grab a larger sample that had a higher density of new user help requests. For example, we could only sample from new users who had made edits to other users' talk pages, their own talk page, Wikipedia and Help namespaces, those who used the 'Help' template, and/or those who typed the word 'help' into an edit comment.