Wikimedia Fellowships/Project Ideas/The Wikipedia Adventure

The Wikipedia Adventure is an online guided journey, a learning tutorial, and an educational game designed to make an editor's first 100 edits a positive and encouraging experience. The game takes the user from the first rudiments of editing--registering an account, creating a userpage, basic markup--all the way through to more intermediate tasks such as adding images and references and asking for help at noticeboards.

There are 12 levels to the game centering around a hypothetical article Earth (This is actually modified from Simple English Wikipedia's actual article on Earth). Earth was selected as a focal point, because it has literally universal appeal and avoids the cultural favoritism involved in choosing a representative article that may only appeal to some readers (e.g. The Beatles or Mother Theresa).

Through a realistic but not 'live' emulated interface, the user gets to experience what happens at a real article. It begins with an invitation from another user to work on the Earth article and involves interactive tasks such as typo-fixing, identifying reliable sources, crafting writing from a neutral point of view, understanding core content policies, and even dealing with vandalism and unconstructive edits.

The game focuses on more than just the technical mechanics of editing, infusing the script with mock interactions with simulated 'real' editors. Some of them are friendly, some are less so--and the user has the experience of learning about how to communicate in a productive and effective manner. At the heart of the game is the lesson of cooperation and collaboration, that what makes Wikipedia work is the spirit of the people who write it and that anyone can be a part of it if they learn a few basics.

At the end of each lesson editors would be given the option to complete one or more real tasks on Wikipedia, so that their progress in the game is matched by their progress as real editors. The ambitious goal is that new editors would not feel out of place or ignorant as they confront the actual editing environment of Wikipedia but instead would be prepared and even enthusiastic to get started.

The design, script, and project goals of the game are fully fleshed out at EN:WP:TWA.

Rationale edit

Learning to edit Wikipedia is hard, frustrating, confusing, and overwhelming. The purpose of this game is to remove all of that and create a learning experience that 'curates' a person's first impressions and lessons of Wikipedia. So, rather than walk away from the site feeling like it is incomprehensible or worse--threatening, users will graduate from The Wikipedia Adventure ready to face the challenges and opportunities of the real site and community.

One of the Wikimedia Foundation's core goals has been new editor engagement and active editor retention. The Wikipedia Adventure targets these two goals by reducing the steepness of the learning curve to joining the community. If more new editors have a better first experience with Wikipedia's concepts and mechanics, more will go on to be active editors. If those editors are prepared to deal with some of the common pitfalls of the community, then they will be more likely to remain on as productive contributors to the community.

This Fellowship would have concrete goals and measurable targets. The focus of the Fellowship would be multi-fold, but all are discrete and achievable:

  • Build a platform that realistically emulates Wikipedia and can incorporate interactive elements (This is already underway via user:Dcoetzee, see his prototype here)
  • Code the first 6-12 levels, depending on time and difficulty
  • A/B test the game on a sample of new editors to determine if it increases activity or durability of new editors

Secondary but important goals include:

  • Localizing the script and game modules to work in non-English languages

As a result of this Fellowship, Wikipedia will have another tool in its arsenal to educate new users and improve their initial experience as members of the community. In addition to general new editors, the game may have applications in k-12 education, recruiting non-technical editors (especially women and other underrepresented demographics), and also older editors.

This game serves the many, but in a personalized way. As an online game, it scales easily and can be delivered to tens, hundreds, thousands, or hundreds of thousands of people. There is no limit to the game's potential exposure; if effective, it could be a standard element of welcoming new editors across all of our 280+ languages.

It's important that the game's development would continue beyond the term of the Fellowship. This would be facilitated in several ways. For one, the game's script and code are all already released under open source, 'free' licenses that permit use, adaptation, or even commercial applications. That would be essential to allowing others to build on the platform. Second, the platform itself would be designed to allow other users to build their own tutorials and modules. One of the strengths of Dcoetzee's involvement is his commitment to building not just a game but a game development platform which the community can leverage to create learning experiences however they see fit.

Demonstrating impact can be achieved through the established mechanism of A/B testing with new editors or even new groups of editors (such as through the Wikipedia Education project). There are many possible comparison points, from editors who are not welcomed at all, to editors who are exposed to Wikipedia:Tutorial or Wikipedia:About or Wikipedia:Introduction, to other welcome/engagement schemes. The measured benchmarks would be: do Wikipedia Adventure graduates go on to be more active, more successful Wikipedians; do Wikipedia Adventure graduates have a better perception of Wikipedia and experience fewer frustrations; do Wikipedia Adventure graduates remain with the community for longer than editors who are not exposed to it? A survey could also be integrated into the game to try and quantify some of the more qualitative components involved in being a part of the Wikipedia process.

Idea submitted by edit

Ocaasi (talk) 19:52, 24 July 2012 (UTC)[reply]

Prospective fellows edit

Would you like to be considered for a fellowship to work on this project?

If you'd like to take an active role in this project, either alone or in a team of fellows with complementary skills, please add your name below. Note that in order to be considered for a fellowship, you must also submit an application to the program.

  1. I'm Ocaasi, and I would love to be considered for a Fellowship to advance this project. I have been editing Wikipedia for 3 years and contributed over 20,000 edits. I have worked extensively with new users in the irc-help channel, improved draft at Articles for Creation on English Wikipedia, written help guides for new users (The Plain and Simple guide) and for COI editors (The Plain and Simple COI guide). I am an OTRS member, often advising people on the basic mechanics of Wikipedia use, policy, and procedure. I am also an active article writer in the areas of alternative medicine and Egyptian politics. I have written for the Signpost (see the series, Does Wikipedia pay?). And, I participated in my *first* ever, and fantastic Wikimania in 2012 in Washington D.C. You can read all about my Wikipedia experience at EN:User:Ocaasi/About. Ocaasi (talk) 19:52, 24 July 2012 (UTC)[reply]
  2. Your name here!

Endorsements edit

This section is for endorsements by Wikimedia community volunteers. Please note that this is not a debate, vote, or poll, but is rather a space for volunteers to describe in detail why they think a project idea is of value. If you have concerns or questions rather than an endorsement to make, please use the idea Talk page. Endorsements by volunteers willing to work in collaboration with a fellowship recipient on a project are highly encouraged.

  • Endorse -- I am anti-vandalism developer on en.wp (and creator of the STiki tool). Though I am not involved, en.wp has recently seen the growth of a "Counter Vandalism Academy" that uses educational lesson plans (combined with mentors) to integrate and educate new editors. Although that project is less interactive and more narrow in scope than the one proposed here -- it gives me strong belief that this initiative could be successful. With the need to compete with social networking and other "fun" applications for purposes of recruitment and retention (as reiterated many times at Wikimania 2012), I think a "game-like" introduction is a good step. I don't think we need to cram this down anyone's throat immediately (though some testing might permit it to rise to prominence within the project(s)), I think it sounds like a great tool to have on hand and one that might be particularly beneficial in classroom settings. Moreover, I'll provide my endorsement of the proposer, Ocassi, who I've found to be a capable and intelligent editor in our past experience. Thanks, West.andrew.g (talk) 18:46, 27 July 2012 (UTC)[reply]
  • Endorse - Wow...I kinda started playing it there and got really into it for a while. Should I not have done that? ^_^; I really like the way the system is set up and I already know this will help out with retaining new editors. I'll put some suggestions on the talk page. Silver seren (talk) 22:06, 27 July 2012 (UTC)[reply]
  • Endorse. I remember chatting in IRC with Chzz (and possibly some others) about this concept such a long time ago ... when the idea of an interactive "game" (rather than just a tutorial) was being mooted. I think it's a brilliant idea, and will pay dividends exponentially to investment. Pesky (talkstalk!) 06:55, 28 July 2012 (UTC)[reply]
  • Endorse - This is the best idea for new editor integration that I have seen. It will be especially useful in educational environments where new editors are not necessarily here by choice, may not have good language skills, and may not have sufficient support for learning the ropes. 16:42, 28 July 2012 (UTC)[reply]
  • Endorse - Great idea, I hope multilingual and multiproject support will be taken in consideration as soon as possible. -- CristianCantoro (talk) 13:24, 1 August 2012 (UTC)[reply]
  • Endorse -This is a very worthwhile and well-scoped proposal, and the data it yields would be useful for both developing the game itself and also for helping document design requirements for game-like elements in other new editor engagement initiatives and development projects. Jtmorgan (talk) 21:53, 10 August 2012 (UTC)[reply]
  • Endorse - excellent idea of course, though I worry about implementation - with the visual editor being live in around June-July next year, this game would either a) Need to be rewritten completely once the visual editor is created, or developed with the visual editor in mind. That said, this is the sort of support that the foundation can help provide, and Jake has the knowhow to get this done. So I offer you my full support. Good luck mate. Steven Zhang (talk) 07:24, 12 August 2012 (UTC)[reply]