Interviewee 1 from en-Wikipedia, USA
Interview Dec. 2009
Do you remember a specific event or moment that made you decide to first join?
No. The tab browsing offline got me interested. But I just started editing. Because whenever I saw that something wrong in an article, I felt compelled to correct it.
Please describe your progression of involvement: How long did you read before starting to edit (what subject?)? What inspired you to go beyond reading/editing and start writing (and beyond)?
I stumbled onto the fact that there was a lack of information on high schools in my state. So I made that my mission, and have created some 400 articles on the high schools. It was a lot of detective work, using accreditations, the state high school sports board, the state department of education, then the federal level. I worked alone, so I liked learning how to research and to meet the guidelines, without any personal interests to protect.
Like most of the people you’re trying to reach with Bookshelf, I did not merit a peer review for the kinds of things I was writing.
Do you contribute both in [native language] as well as English? Any other languages? What are your activities in each language? Which is the most frequent after [native language], and so on?
No. But I have seen the German Wikipedia and its strict guidelines. Many Germans contribute to English language rather than deal with their own stingent bureaucracy. The majority of the other language Wikipedias are looser in their approach I think, because they are not as developed with fewer users. So they’re not quite the sticklers on inclusion guidelines.
When native speakers contribute to English Wikipedia, I’ve noticed that they often establish links to equivalent articles in their own language. So this could be thought of as a new persona role – someone who cross pollinates by working on the same article in two languages.
How much time do you now typically spend contributing to Wikipedia each week. In what capacities?
Probably 20 hours a week, at least half is fighting vandalism and spam and being an admin. The rest is content creation and clean up.
I got involved in quelling the arguments about climate change. Profs mount elegant arguments on either side of a controversial question. Many admins don’t want to enter the passionate arguments, but let it float up to arbitration. There are long strident debates about subjects like abortion articles, where strong feelings run deep.
Have you ever recruited someone else to become a Wikipedian? If so, what typically convinces them to register and begin editing and writing?
I persuaded my wife after she watched me doing it for so long. She has a user name, but she hardly edits. But she will go into fixes she sees as necessary.
I think ground up recruiting is unsuccessful. But outreach to newbies is good, to say welcome aboard. The welcome template goes to the user page to say welcome. Mine is oriented toward vandalism, but softly. Sometimes I follow up with a personal note to users, urging them to direct their expertise into areas that don’t look like a conflict of interest (like writing about an employer).
When you talk to people in your country about becoming a Wikipedian, are there consistent reasons they resist converting from a reader to a contributor? Please elaborate. How do you personally address those reasons?
The big thing is fear of making a mistake. They think they don’t know about something, or don’t know enough – and perhaps they are introverted and don’t want to publish from a fear of exposure. But there are breakthroughs if we can get their attention with “do you know you can edit?” And “do you know you can edit easily?” We reassure them that there’s a preview button, and that any edit can be fixed and reverted.
What anecdotal stories can you tell me about the experience new Wikipedians have in your [native language] Wikipedia community? Are there typical impressions, common feedback of any kind, positive or negative?
Go to: WP:NEWT to see about newbie tracking, where experienced Wikipedians contributed articles as if they were newbies, who received negative comments even though they adhered to standards.
It’s hard to generalize about the new user experience because they run the gamut. There are vandals who pretend to be offended when they are reverted or blocked, which clouds the experience.
So it’s important to give newbies help with the option to embed HELP ME in their articles. That way they can get assistance to come to them, instead of being sent to a bewildering array of policy and guideline pages.
Adoption is another formal method that exists. I just see users who are making good contributions but who need a hand. It’s better to provide guidance about how to get help rather than send them to a variety of pages.
I think there’s too much of a bias against people who might have conflicts of interest. But people should be able to write about subjects they’re interested in, and as long they’re done correctly, it shouldn’t be a problem.
In your community, what are the typical roles available to Wikipedians when helping to write, edit, or generally improve an article? If your community is non-English-language, do you note any differences between your community’s roles and what you know about the English-language Wikipedia community?
When making new folks aware that there are many ways to contribute, we should guide them by asking them what their passion is, what are their skills. For instance, in the fourth bullet below, we really lack the skills of photography (especially touch up).
Another take on facilitators: Maybe a newbie can concentrate on getting a new project started, or help spread the word by finding a way to get local media to talk about Wikipedia.
For instance, the following list describes personae a newcomer will run across in the context of content creation (refer to http://outreach.wikimedia.org/wiki/Personae_on_Wikipedia):
• Author: Creates new articles, adds sections to existing articles, improves articles
• Copyeditor: Improves the article's language
• Subject matter expert: is involved in a WikiProject; watches article's edit history; does incremental review; reviews the article as part of a formal (internal) review process
• Photographer / mapmaker / table builder: Adds visual aids to the article
• Formatter: Formats articles (community term: "wikifying") according to the style conventions
• Maintainer: Takes care of the article's integrity (community term: "recent changes patrol")
• Consensus-keeper: ensures that editorial consensus is kept.
• Facilitator: Provides guidance on social norms that are conducive to constructive discussion. Moderates discussion on controversial topics to keep focus on neutral point of view, verfiability, etc.
• External reader: Participates in the content improvement by leaving notes on the talk page; doing minor edits (Most Wikipedians play several of these roles. E.g. someone can be a subject matter expert for an article's topic and at the same time maintain the article's integrity.)
In the same vein as the above question, are there any differences in how an article evolves in your non-English-language community compared to the English-language Wikipedia community? (Refer to http://outreach.wikimedia.org/wiki/Evolution_of_an_article_(Celilo_Falls))
1 Creation: a new article is born
2 Beginning of incremental improvement
3 Experimentation with collaborative editing software
4 Maintainance: "wikifying"
6 Protecting article integrity
7 Added to WikiProject
8 Editorial discussion on talk page begins
9 Substantial article improvement process begins
10 Second quality assessment
11 Good article process
12 A new development
13 Further incremental improvements
Of course, none of this happens in a linear manner, and no article emerges as a mature finished entry all at once, but with incremental improvements over time by many collaborators.
One other major guideline that may differ in your community compared to the English-language Wikipedia community is Notability
Notability seems to be much more controversial and therefore more open to debate than Verifiability, No Original Research, and Neutral Point of View. I understand, for instance, that the bar is much higher in Germany for what is a notable subject than is the case in the United States. Please comment for your community.
The way I see it as an administrator, guidelines are practical interpretations of mandated policies – perhaps shortcuts to policies. Wikipedians simply need to understand the core values of what we’re trying to do without giving it a lot of thought.
Let’s talk about standards for Community and Communication in your region, which involves how to communicate and how to reach consensus and manage conflict.
The core tenets of the wiki way, like Assume Good Faith and Please Don't Bite the Newcomers, have been with the community since the beginning. How are they holding up in your community?
Have there been any significant Content Disputes and Edit Wars in your region because of regional history or cultural norms? (Case Study for Poland: Gdańsk/Danzig - In the case of Gdańsk/Danzig, the particular problem of referring to places now in Poland, but which were in Germany before 1945, dogged the English-language Wikipedia almost from the outset.)
Arbitration folks have to handle a lot of this, and there are probably five such cases a year that need to be resolved in such detail as the above example. But keep in mind that such monumental challenges do not affect new users. There simply has to be an emphasis on communication and civility.