Much has happened on the Wikimedia blog in the past six months. Here’s an update on our goals, accomplishments, lessons learned — and new features under development, as shown in this design mockup. Photo by Ralf Roletschek, licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0.
For the past six months, I have had the honor to manage and edit the Wikimedia blog with the Wikimedia Foundation’s (WMF) Communications team. During that time, we kept growing the blog as an important communications channel for the Wikimedia movement.
Here’s an update on our goals for the blog, what we achieved and learned in 2015, and the next steps for the blog, which the team is considering for the rest of the year.
The Wikimedia blog provides a unique service for our movement, by informing and connecting our communities through the stories we publish. These aim to:
- Inform people about Wikipedia, its sister sites, the WMF, and our movement.
- Connect our communities around a shared narrative, and amplify their voices.
- Convert casual visitors into supporters: readers, editors, donors.
What we achieved
To serve these goals, we published 150 blog posts in the first half of 2015 on a wide range of topics: community news, tech reports, research studies, and foundation announcements. About half of these posts were from or about community members, while the rest were written by foundation staff or affiliates. Many were translated in a variety of languages. Over ten stories were new content experiments.
Here were our top five stories for the first half of 2015:
- Wikimedia v. NSA – 69k views
- Civility, Wikipedia and Gamergate – 16k views
- Securing access to Wikimedia sites with HTTPS – 14k views
- Asking European Parliament for copyright reform – 9k views
- Who links to Wikipedia? – 8k views
Activity on the Wikimedia blog fluctuates based on the popularity of stories we publish, as shown in this graph of monthly views and visitors from August 2014 to June 2015. Traffic surged in March, due to the announcement of our NSA lawsuit; traffic in June was more typical, as highlighted in orange. This graph was automatically generated by WordPress, and is public domain.
Altogether, the Wikimedia blog received about 626,000 pageviews from January 1 to June 30, 2015—an average of 4,175 views per post. The first quarter of the year (January–March) was particularly active, with 356,000 pageviews, or twice as many views as the previous year’s first quarter. This was largely due to our NSA lawsuit announcement in March 2015, which recieved over 66,000 views in that month. Other months had less activity, and we ended the second quarter with about 98,000 monthly views and 61,000 unique visitors, which is about average for our blog traffic this year (see above graph).
For more blog metrics, take a look at these 2015 research slides.
What we learned
This year, our team ran a number of research studies to learn about the impact of the stories we publish on the blog and make more informed decisions about our content strategy.
To hear what our users think of the blog, we ran a survey in February–March 2015. A majority of survey participants told us that they find the Wikimedia blog useful, but many said they only visit it about once a month, relying on emails, social media, and web links to draw them in.
Participants preferred content quality over quantity, with an interest in more depth and relevance, and asked for more reports from community members translated in more languages. They wanted easier ways to find stories they are interested in and more visibility on popular sites where they are active, from wiki projects to social networks. For more details, read our full survey report.
We also ran a comparative study to evaluate the user experience on other blogs in related media, technology and nonprofit organizations. This helped us identify new trends and ideas for improving our site.
Based on this research, we have recommended three main areas of improvements for the blog in 2015:
- Better content: Focus on quality, experiment with new ideas.
- Better experience: Improve the blog’s discovery, visibility, and presentation.
- New tools: Provide email subscriptions, as well as tools for editing and translating blog posts.
These recommendations are outlined one at a time below, and described in these Wikimedia blog slides, with more details and illustrations for each goal.
The blog’s editorial team is experimenting with new content ideas to better serve our community. Here are featured images from three different stories cited below. Wikipedia Picks image by James E. Buttersworth, Public domain. Philae news image by Deutsches Zentrum für Luft und Raumfahrt, CC BY 3.0 Germany. World music photo by Dalbera, CC BY-SA 2.0.
In the past six months, we focused on content quality, rather than quantity—aiming for more depth and relevance, as suggested by many survey respondents. We covered topics we know are popular among blog readers, such as stories about our community, Wikipedia, and technology reports.
We also started experimenting with new formats to increase engagement and relevancy around content, and are now testing these three ideas:
This proposed blog series has two versions. The first invites Wikipedia community members to recommend articles, images, or other content that they find interesting and share their views on why they’re important or how they were created. The second is an in-depth interview with a Wikipedia editor on the articles they’ve written.
Here are our first examples:
- Disaster, trial by battle, and more
- These Texans are on a quest to improve Wikipedia’s coverage of their state’s revolution
In the news
This proposed series features top news stories of the week and shows how they are covered on Wikipedia and Wikimedia sites, informing our readers and surfacing those articles at the same time.
Here are some recent examples we’re now evaluating:
- News on Wikipedia: Charleston shooting, Pakistan heat wave, and more
- How Wikipedia covered Caitlyn Jenner
This proposed series features compelling images, videos or sounds from Wikimedia Commons, through daily social posts and special blog roundups on familiar themes and popular events.
Here are some of our first blog examples:
What do you think of these new content ideas? How could they be improved? Do you have other suggestions for new experiments? Your feedback is most welcome in the comments below. Learn more here.
This design mockup for the blog’s home page shows some of the proposed improvements to the blog’s user experience, such as a clearer navigation bar, updated typography and more prominent social media buttons. Blog design by Exygy and Wikimedia Foundation, CC-BY-SA 3.0. >Photo by Kabelleger, CC BY-SA 3.0.
A better experience
To improve the Wikimedia blog’s user experience, we are developing new features and upgrading our site in three main areas:
- Better discovery: Helping you find content you’re interested in.
- More visibility: Making the blog easier to follow and share on popular sites.
- Better presentation: Improved layout, typography, readability.
Yesterday, we released a first round of improvements towards these goals. The blog now has an improved layout, with a clearer navigation bar featuring our top categories, as well as updated typography to make text easier to read. Special thanks go to our colleague Kaity Hammerstein for creating this design, in collaboration with Heather Walls—and to our development partners at Exygy for implementing it and extending it forward.
Later this month, the team plans to release updated sidebars and more prominent social media buttons, to provide a more pleasant and productive experience. We welcome your comments on any of these first improvements. Learn more here.
Yesterday, we released our first new tool for the blog this year: you can now subscribe to daily or weekly email updates, to find out when new stories are posted on the Wikimedia blog.
To get started, simply type your email address at the top of any page on the blog (or quickly sign up on this page).
An example of the weekly mailing list email. Design by Exygy and Wikimedia Foundation, CC-BY-SA 3.0. Painting by James E. Buttersworth, public domain.
Daily email updates are sent at 12pm PT (19:00 UTC), and weekly updates are sent every Thursday at 12pm PT (19:00 UTC). You can change your email preferences at any time by clicking ‘Update your preferences’ at the bottom of any email.
Nearly half of survey respondents told us they needed a way to be notified when new content is published on our site, and email subscriptions was one of the most frequent requests.
We hope you too will find this service useful: it’s a great way to keep up with the latest Wikimedia news! Learn more in this blog announcement.
Going forward, the team is looking to raise awareness for the blog on Wikipedia and its sister projects, where our communities spend much of their time. Possible features could include an on-wiki newsletter delivered to your talk page; or links to the blog in sidebars and community portals; or a widget that could embed blog stories or lists on wiki pages.
And we started to discuss new tools to increase diversity on the blog, both in terms of content and participation. For example, new blog forms could help community members suggest or edit stories on the blog, as well as translate them into more languages, as described here.
What do you think of these ideas? Your feedback is welcome in the comments below.
Sharing the stories of our movement
For those of us who have managed this process on a daily basis, the Wikimedia blog is not just a publication—it works as a powerful community engagement tool. The stories we share on the blog bring together readers and contributors from around the world and helps share knowledge across diverse cultures. In my six months editing the blog, I collaborated with hundreds of community and team members, most of which said they enjoyed the experience of sharing their stories and discussing them with others.
This may be my most important insight from this assignment: creating quality content on channels like the Wikimedia blog has the potential to bring our communities closer to each other. By collaboratively editing and publishing each other’s stories, we learn to understand one another: this helps build empathy and trust between us — which is good for our whole movement.
Group photo of the Wikimedia Foundation’s communications team. Pictured from left to right: Jing Liong, Haoting Zhang, Heather Walls, Fabrice Florin, Katherine Maher, Andrew Sherman, Samantha Lien, Michael Guss, Dhvanil Patel and Juliet Barbara. (Remote workers Ed Erhart, Victor Grigas and Joe Sutherland are shown in a separate insert.) Group photo by Adam Roses Wight, CC BY-SA 3.0.
A wonderful team
Over the past few months, we assembled a world-class team to carry on this work and grow the blog into a global communications channel for the Wikimedia movement.
Going forward, the Wikimedia Foundation’s Juliet Barbara will manage the Wikimedia blog, in close collaboration with Ed Erhart, former editor-in-chief of the Wikipedia Signpost. They will work with many of our talented team members, including Victor Grigas, Heather Walls, Michael Guss, Samantha Lien, Joe Sutherland, Andrew Sherman, Jing Liong, Dhvanil Patel and Haoting Zhang (many of whom are working with us as summer interns), and former Communications team member Tilman Bayer. I helped recruit and mentor several of them and am really impressed with how quickly they have come together as a team: I am confident they will keep doing amazing work to take the blog to the next level.
As for me, the time has come to say goodbye, after three great years at the Wikimedia Foundation; this is my last post as a WMF employee. Starting today, I look forward to spending more time with my family, focusing on personal art projects and consulting part-time on other worthy causes. I also plan to remain involved as a community volunteer, to contribute some of my multimedia libraries to Wikimedia projects.
I would like to thank all the community and team members I have had the pleasure to work with over the years. It has been an honor to serve our movement together and to help our contributors share free knowledge with each other and the world.
I’m particularly grateful to Katherine Maher and our entire Communications team for being such wonderful collaborators. I really enjoyed working with you all to manage and edit the Wikimedia blog, helping grow our team and publish some great stories together.
Serving the Wikimedia movement for nearly four years has been an incredible experience for me, and I am grateful for all that I have learned from so many of you. I have high hopes for the free knowledge movement, and can’t wait to see it grow to new heights in coming years.
Movement Communications Manager