Friday, April 01, 2011

#Newbies are a social problem and require a social solution

The English #Wikipedia has two closely connected problems. Not enough newbies and too many newbies. The second problem is efficiently dealt with and several studies have confirmed the existence of the first.

The strategy of dealing with new articles, particularly new articles is one of scorched earth. This tactic is developed by dedicated, well meaning people whose objective is to maintain a high level of quality.

The lack of newbies who grow into valued editors in our projects is considered to be the most serious challenge we face. Studies are done, statistics compiled, meetings are convened, policy papers are written, IRC discussions with Sue are held, it must be serious.

Making villains out of the recent changes patrolers is one solution but that does present its own problem. Our conventional solutions offer no solace. Really, it is time for desperate measures as we face desperate times. Wikipedia as we know it could die.

Wikipedia needs to change in order to cope. To find out, we need to analyse the situation.
  • a well meaning newbie writes his first contribution
  • in order to cope with the flood of new contributions it gets deleted by a well meaning admin
Let us change the game by introducing a social dimension.
  • a person comes to Wikipedia, he has friends in Facebook, MySpace, Buzz whatever
  • this well meaning newbie writes his first contribution
  • a well meaning admin asks his friends to help him improve his act

All real people have friends, and when someone is attracted to Wikipedia, it is likely that some of his friends are already there. Real friends will help out when asked so why not ask them to help out.

As Wikipedia has a social problem, any technical attempt to a solution will have only a limited impact when it has no social dimension. When Wikipedia welcomes a newbie and knows its friends, we have a realistic alternative to the well meaning admins; they can kick the contribution to the "Russian incubator" where it can be nurtured in a friendly environment.

I bet my reputation that we need more social skills

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