This article looks at the idea of introducing improved social features to Wikimedia projects.
Social networking sites comprise some of the most popular websites (e.g., Twitter, Facebook). It is noted that the growth in editor numbers on the largest Wikimedia projects has stalled [to add:link to data]. Some argue that improved social features might help foster a sense of community.
There have been a number of proposals on this wiki for new social features.
Possible advocates for improved social features on Wikimedia (based on quotes below) include:
- Ward Cunningham - developer of the first wiki
- Sue Gardner - Executive Director of the WMF
- Naoko Komura - Program Manager, Wikipedia Usability Project, WMF
- Misiek Piskorski - HBS Professor
- Frank Schulenberg - Public Outreach Officer of the WMF
- José Felipe Ortega Soto - researcher from LibreSoft.
All interviews can be found at interviews.
"Wikipedia can be more social in order to become more inclusive. If people join a club to do hard work together, it’s more enjoyable. Amateur scholarships can potentially sustain encyclopedia for decades." - Ward Cunningham interview.
"Very interesting that there is no social networking on Wikipedia to encourage people to get and stay involved with the community.Possible option: some type of social network that enables you to hang out with other people." - Misiek Piskorski (HBS professor)
"The community of editors would need to be healthier, more vibrant, more fun. Today, people get burned out. They get tired of hostility and endless debates. [...] We need to find ways to foster a community that is rich and diverse and friendly and fun to be a part of. We also have a lot to learn from successful social networking sites. I know this is controversial." - Sue Gardner
She later adds "How can we make the Wikimedia projects more permeable, more porous, so that they are easily interoperable with other projects and tools such as the Encyclopedia of Life, identi.ca, Flickr, OpenID, and not walled off from everything else?"
"It’s difficult to find people with similar interests. Instituting some social networking components, like interest groups, “tracking” your friends, and the like could be huge steps forward." - from the interview with Frank Schulenberg, Public Outreach Officer.
Also from Schulenberg interview:
"Any ideas for improving Wikipedia?
Add social networking features and remove technical barriers for participation:
- Make it easier to get a new user account; setting up your user page and uploading a picture as part of the account creation process (giving Wikipedia a more human face)
- Fight the “everythingisdone” impression: Let new editors specify their areas of interest during account creation. Then create an "articles of your interest area that need help today" feature
- Connect new users to others who are in that subject area – ”People who are also interested in what I'm interested in." Hook people into parts of the community.
- Add features to keep track what your friends do – “Articles your friends improved in last X hours
- Add a rating feature with an option to keep track of which articles your friends rated. Could be a reason for you to come back.
- Add a feature to invite people to Wikipedia (like Facebook and other sites have)
- Improve the collaborative and social features of Wikipedia."
And from José Felipe Ortega Soto, "finally, I'd also like to point out the need for including explicit support of social network contacts, if not for all users, at least for Wikipedia admins. It would be great if the interface allows you to quickly find out who's writing in a certain article, possibly connected to other people you may know directly. Many tools for collaborative content creation are starting to care about this issue of social network support."
In IRC office hours User:Bodnotbod asked Naoko Komura of the WMF usability program, whether she dreaded any interface changes that would come along with improved social features. She said "not at all, it's on our wish list".
- Some degree of social networking functionality would allow users to form closer relationships with one another (e.g., "follow" one another)
- Allow users to self-report their interests; semantic capability could then recommend items of interest (i.e., Wikipedia recommends articles for users to edit based on past editing behavior) - as with Twine.
- Users can easily see others' interests, which are recommended to them by the site.
Concerns and criticism
Improving our platform
This proposal argues for 7 measures that improve Wikipedia's software platform by
- making it easier to register as a user,
- fighting the "everything-is-done" impression,
- removing technical barriers for participation,
- improving social interaction between registered users.
Social Interaction Features
For various new social features including the ability to join groups and "follow" "friends". Neighborhood watch features, experienced wiki-ers watch their neighbors and communicate that..
A more user-friendly user page with micro-blogging facility and "friending" functions.
an easy way to uploed a user-picture, a kind of form to ask for some knowledge about user (interests, where doyou live etc)
For private messaging, creating groups and other things.
Charge for extra user space
An idea to allow users to host "articles" on a fee basis, which could be biographies of themselves, family or anything a user is interested in which would not meet criteria for entry into the main article space.
Extend editors' identity creation
A machine assisted way of flagging relationships between users, plus more. [A better summary by someone who understands the proposal is desirable].
- Integration with social networking systems like twitter, facebook and orkut.
- Editing and modifying content by orkut or facebook users using their orkut or facebook accounts.
- A widget interface for wikipedia that integrates with orkuts appication interface.
- Page creation and content editing directly in twitter, orkut and facebook.
- Creating a dataware house with user statistics and search heuristics with the help of facebook and orkut.
To develop a form of community led user-rating system.
To introduce IRC functionality directly into Wikimedia projects which would allow article-based chatrooms amongst others.
To employ Facebook Connect on Wikimedia projects
Host a microblogging service
To introduce a Twitter-style service to Wikimedia projects.
Further ideas (please add to and edit)
Idea #1 Tabbed (or more configurable) Watchlist(s)
"Imagine having watchlists with way more functionality than we have today..." - Sue Gardner (interviews).
The idea of this is to improve communications whilst having a low overhead in new technology and user learning.
As we know a watchlist shows you changes to pages you are essentially "subscribed" to. What if we extend this model so that the number of things you can be subscribed to is increased?
Instead of simply subscribing to pages we could subscribe to users (effectively "watch users", though that terminology might be freaky for some) and watchlists could have the following tabs.
- Article - like we have now.
- Talk - a separate tab to view watched article discussions.
- User - users can follow other users ("friends"?) to see what activity they've been up to.
- Users could have a sort of "tweet" like facility: they type a message and this will be seen by anyone that "follows/subscribes to" them. It needn't be limited to 140 characters. A dynamic page of such a user's "tweets" would be kept for public viewing and could be looked at for abuse of the service.
- Project - view changes to project pages (e.g. Military History); this could include all users' contributions that are members of a WikiProject, new pages coming into the project (activated by placing a template or category on a page)
- Policy pages...
- Media (pics, vids etc)...
Instead of watching individual pages as now people could subscribe to, for example, all articles in a category with one click and be notified whenever a new page is added to the category.
Idea #2 Allow discussion not aimed at article improvement
At the moment we don't allow people to talk about their subjects unless it's to do with the article. Perhaps this denial stops people bonding as a community. If one were to join a WikiProject on Television Comedy, wouldn't it be OK to chew the fat with other members on the subject and chat about the latest sitcom on TV? Perhaps one would return to a Wikimedia project more often if one could have a chat every now and again.
- A user must be logged in and join a relevant Wikiproject to discuss the subject. This would cut out disruptive anonymous chatting, boost the power of Wikiprojects and hence boost the communities that they are comprised of.
Idea #3 Raise profile of Wikiprojects as a way of creating sub-communities so editors can "know" each other
- Could we try to get people to join w:Wikipedia:WIKIPROJECTs as a way "in" to Wikipedia, rather than feeling they are joining the site as a whole? Wikiprojects may be a good way to 'socialise' newcomers and hook them up with mentors. The project can look after them and help them out, welcome newcomers who edit 'their' articles. As Mitch Kapoor says in his interview, Wikipedia is "absurdly difficult to edit, but I think some people like that. This will kill it if editing does not become more democratic. Wikipedia needs onramps and training, otherwise there will be a tiny priesthood of people who can edit." Perhaps Wikiprojects could be the "on ramps".
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