Reflections on #wikimedia-strategy discussions

November 11th, 2009 by Laura Leave a reply »

I love wikis.  I love wikis in the way that people go “Lulz! You treat wikis like too much serious buziness!”  When there are conversations about wikis that I can participate in and watch, I like to do that. I can learn a lot about what makes other wikis successful, how that can be applied to our own wiki work on Fan History, see  if our experiences on Fan History can help other wikis be more successful.  With that in mind, I’ve been trying to attend some of the organized chats in #wikimedia-strategy, which are for trying to help create a long term strategic plan for the Foundation.  These are some of my thoughts having been involved with two of those.

One discussion involved how wikiNews had issues.  The project isn’t viewed as credible enough for use by Wikipedia users.  WikiNews finds it hard to get quality articles and attract a lot of good editors because the project’s rules were created almost fully formed; these guidelines can be confusing, intimidating in terms of attracting new contributors, aren’t always clear and involve a lot of tedious hierarchy for news to point where it seems pointless to try.  To get around those issues, a lot of people just put the news on Wikipedia… because Wikipedia gets a lot of praise for how well they cover issues such as that.  This situation makes the one on wikiNews even worse.  The news on Wikipedia in many cases has a limited shelf life, where old news related articles like Balloon Boy will get deleted.  From my perspective, this is clearly a problem that needs to be addressed.

Another discussion involved why people weren’t editing Wikipedia.  One of my arguments was because some people had problems with other contributors, who they felt were rude and actively discouraging new people from contributing.  I’ve heard this from several people, saw it mentioned on my LiveJournal friends list, and it is one of my own issues.  Some one in the chat challenged this as not true.  There was a side discussion involving that, which devolved.  My understanding though is that there has not been a study to determine why people are not contributing to Wikipedia.

There was another discussion about the need for a WYSIWYG editor to be included in Mediawiki.  The consensus amongst developers appears to be that you cannot do that  with Mediawiki.  The other problem is that Mediawiki cannot do real time editing.  (Though people are trying to create extensions plugging in Google Wave to allow for real time collaborative editing on MediaWiki.)  Some people thought that Mediawiki’s software had pushed as many limits as it could; was it now time to scrap the software and create new software that could meet changing needs like real time editing and a WYSIWYG editor?  Developers seemed inclined to lean this way.

A separate discussion involved the question of: Is real time editing something that Wikipedia projects really need?  For high volume articles and Wikinews where timeliness is important, the answer appeared to be yes.  The people in the chat who appeared to be most loudly advocating a position that it is needed for a wider variety of articles were power contributors.  They did acknowledge that for the vast majority of articles, there won’t ever be two people editing an article to make it an issue.

A question was raised on the role of the Foundation supporting wiki related conferences.  The Foundation plans to continue this as a form of outreach.   There is not consensus of if they should be doing more support for conferences or if they should be working with other organizations for fund those conferences.

One issue that was some what contentious was that some people felt that most of the suggestions on the strategy wiki were dumb, stupid and never going to happen.  At least one individual felt that these suggestions should be deleted.  The representative from the foundation suggested instead that volunteers should use the reader feedback section to discuss  why those things won’t happen.  This didn’t really make some people happy as they felt it made it difficult to have  a real plan with all that junk there.  I tried to point out that in terms of a strategic plan that different people have different things they want/need to get out of Wikipedia so some of the things they desire may be a matter of perspective and slamming people’s good faith efforts wasn’t the best way to get quality feedback.

Some other things were mentioned that I will try to blog about at a later date.

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