Interviewee 4 from en-Wikipedia, GB
Interview December 2009
Do you remember a specific event or moment that made you decide to first join?
No. Probably got a link from a participant in an interest group.
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)?
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?
How much time do you now typically spend contributing to Wikipedia each week. In what capacities?
Over the years my time investment has gone up and down, from many hours weekly to not touching it. I’m now involved in strategy for Wikipedia, dedicating 12 hours a week. Just FYI, Strategy is another Wiki – which invites people to send in proposals for what direction we should be heading in or for any changes they think should be made. I picked a theme and listed pertinent proposals, and then I’m writing recommendations about volunteer recognition to preserve motivation and decrease burn-out. Kind of a way to say thank you for good work. A barn star on steroids.
Have you ever recruited someone else to become a Wikipedian? If so, what typically convinces them to register and begin editing and writing?
I don’t think I have, other than a family member. But I talk about Wikipedia to people and hope to interest them, but I don’t push it.
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?
From my experience on the Strategy Wiki, I think we should move toward WYSIWYG editing. Coding when one clicks edit can be intimidating to new folks.
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?
I know that harsh reactions to newbies can be a problem. Huggle is a tool to flag edits, and the high volume of edits and lack of people following those edits leads to using this shorthand tool, which can be off-putting. But the adopt a user is very positive. So we have to get out of the mindset of keeping up with all the new edits, and investing more time in getting new folks up to a new standard and helping out more. I know the adoption program has a page on Wikipedia, but I haven’t used it.
I’d like to ask about what ensures quality articles in your [native language], and whether there are any regional differences for the Bookshelf project to keep in mind.
Regarding “Policies and Guidelines, There is a distinction between a policy, which is mandatory, and a guideline, which is advisory. Guidelines are more complex rules that help to keep Wikipedia's quality high. There are three core content policies (V, NOR, NPOV), which are supported by a host of associated guidelines. These guidelines include the concept of notability and various principles defining the boundaries of Wikipedia's coverage.
At the highest level, then, my question is: Are there any differences to note between the English-language Wikipedia community and the practices in the [native language] Wikipedia community? I understand that mandatory polices – such as the five pillars, verifiability, no original research, and neutral point of view – should not be different. But how about in terms of guidelines, or general culture? For instance, let’s walk through the following and you can verify whether they are consistent in your community compared to the English-language community:
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?
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.
THIS JUMPS OUT. DON’T KNOW HOW MANY ARE CAPABLE OF DOING THIS WITHOUT ACHIEVING A CERTAIN LEVEL OF EXPERIENCE. NO ONE WILL BE PRIMARILY BE A CONSENSUS KEEPER. HOWEVER, I THINK WE SHOULD HAVE A BUTTON ON THE WEBSITE THAT INVITES PEOPLE TO CLICK AND LEARN ABOUT HOW TO GET INVOLVED: A GATEWAY FOR DIFFERENT WAYS TO CONTRIBUTE.
• 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
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.
OUR UK NOTABILITY STANDARD IS EQUIVALENT TO THE OVERALL ENGLISH W STANDARD. I’VE NOTICED THAT SMALLER LANGUAGE COMMUNITIES ARE STILL BUILDING UP MASS AND THEREFORE ARE MORE TOLERANT OF NOTABILITY AND CITATION STANDARDS. BUT AS THE POPULATION GROWS IN THESE COMMUNITIES, THERE WILL BE ENOUGH OVERSIGHT TO START RAISING STANDARDS.
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?
From my experience on strategy, the consensus is that there is far too much arguing and threatening going on. So many male editors take a confrontational approach, which doesn’t appeal to women, and naturally they don’t want to participate.
The articles I tend to edit are not controversial, so they don’t attract followers who are passionate and strident. But I have actively sought out conflicts to bring resolution, and it’s not a simple matter.
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.)
I’ve come across this: an article called “Black People” which uses the word “blacks.” Which led to a discussion about whether the term is too disrespectful. I went to our manual of style to find the rule, and pointed out that it specifically prohibits using such a term. Nonetheless, that “authority” had no influence on the parties involved, and they continued to argue the matter.
Have you seen any notable incidence of Wikipedians in your community taking advantage of the corollary of fifth pillar, which can be interpreted as “If the rules prevent you from improving or maintaining Wikipedia, ignore them.”?
There was a mailing list I’m on with a case where an admin shut down a discussion on an article deletion, saying “I’m ignoring all rules and shutting this down.” I’ve personally not availed myself to this.
Would you say that the incidence of content disputes and editing wars between editors in [native language community] is any higher, lower, or about the same as you observe in your English-language activities? If so, why is that?
Difficult to say. But the Strategy Wiki feedback indicates a growing level of hostility and conflict. If I had a conclusion, it would be that much of the appearance of rudeness or incivility comes from a sense of having to do so much with too little time. So they don’t want to spend an hour justifying an edit when so much is going on. So they are terse and direct.