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Suggesting tasks for new Wikipedians

If you had just signed up to become a Wikipedia contributor, what kind of experience would you like to have? Would you know exactly where to get started, or would you prefer some suggestions?

For most of Wikipedia’s 12-year history, we have done very little to proactively introduce new participants to tasks that are interesting and easy. Right after account creation, for instance, we merely suggest that you check out your preferences. If you look around, you can find guides like Wikipedia:Tutorial. Most of this documentation is focused on the rules and mechanics of how to contribute, rather than suggesting real tasks to try immediately.

Naturally, the kind of people who have tended to thrive in this environment already know what they want to contribute, or are deeply motivated to go and find it. Unless you’ve spotted an error or a missing piece of information, there is little pointing you in the right direction. That lack of direction is a big part of why only about a quarter of all newly-registered accounts complete an edit.

This phenomenon is far from unique to the site, and in fact it would be surprising to hear of any site where 100% of signups become devoted content contributors. However, when considering the enormous workload we face, the sheer waste of human capital is staggering. In English Wikipedia alone, there are…

  • more than 200,000 “citation needed” tags
  • 3,000 articles that need basic copyediting
  • over 14,000 pages that need more wiki links

The list goes on, and these are just the items that have been explicitly added to the backlog. Wikipedia is in fact bursting at the seams with small problems that need fixing.

So how do we match the thousands of people who sign up every day, eager and willing to help, with tasks that are easy to do? That’s the question we’re attempting to solve with our work onboarding new Wikipedians, at the Wikimedia Foundation’s Editor Engagement Experiments team.

The new “Getting Started” interface

Onboarding, a term borrowed from HR jargon, is sometimes used in design and product development to describe the process of getting new users introduced to a site and how to use it. For our team, building such a process for Wikipedia was a natural extension of our work improving account creation.

Starting in mid-December, we launched a very minimal interface asking newly-registered English Wikipedians to “Get started with editing”. Our first attempt at this only asked users without an idea how to start to do one thing: try fixing one of a set of six randomly-chosen articles tagged for copyediting. With the help of SuggestBot (a software tool normally used to deliver article suggestions based on your past editing), we also filtered these articles by length, pageviews, and other factors to select pages that were more appropriate.

We ran one test of this interface against a control group of new users which received no “getting started” experience, and we also compared the activity of editors who accepted our call to action with those who decided to edit other pages after signing up.

The results so far

In our first round of anaysis, we did a simple cohort study of different types of users that emerged after exposure to the new interface. We started by comparing people who accepted the suggested task to those who chose to return to viewing the article they were on before signup.

Among the cohort that took up our call to action, we saw a statistically significant 6.2% increase in the proportion of accounts that made an edit to an article in 24 hours. (Note: we limited the “No thanks, take me back” cohort to those who returned to editable pages, e.g. excluding the Main Page, to ensure a fair comparison.) We also saw that people who chose the suggested task were 3% more successful at reaching their first edit milestone within a day, compared to those who didn’t click anything on the landing page.

We did our second round of analysis after running a more controlled A/B test, where only half of users were delivered a list of suggested articles to edit. There, we saw that users given the new interface were significantly more likely to try to edit (+4.3%), and more of them also completed their first edit to content (+1.8%) within a day of registration.

Where we’re going next

The results of these first experiments suggest to us that we’re focusing on a fertile area of new user experience work. Our end goal is to show significant increases in the proportion of new editors who reach five edits, since that’s how we measure active contributors to Wikipedia, and we haven’t done that yet. To improve on what we’ve gained so far, we’re working on several enhancements.

It starts with the landing page itself. Soon, we’re launching a new version of that interface, with two additional task types and a more compelling look. Along with this, we’re building a basic recommender system into the backend, so we can deliver a fresh set of articles to every new viewer and have greater control over the type of article we suggest.

We also want to help new editors figure out how to complete a task they’ve chosen. Earlier in the month, we launched guided tours, to help those who chose a task learn how to complete it step-by-step. (We’ll be publishing A/B test results about the effect of tours soon.)

Wikipedia is a large, complex project. It’s an understatement to say there are many things to do, for those with some spare time and the right motivation. On the Editor Engagement Experiments team, we strongly feel that with a little bit of help, we can do much more to nudge newcomers to learn the ropes and contribute meaningfully to Wikipedia at the same time.


Steven Walling, Associate Product Manager
Editor Engagement Experiments

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