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Strategy consultations help us understand where we are and where we’re going. Photo by Martin Fisch, freely licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0.

Earlier this year, the Wikimedia Foundation led a consultation with the Wikimedia community of editors and readers, in order to inform our strategy[1] for the future. The goal of the consultation was to collect input on how we should respond to future trends that will affect the Wikimedia movement, and incorporate that insight into our emerging strategy. We are pleased to be able to make the complete results of this consultation available to all.

In this post, we’ll provide a brief overview of the consultation and findings. For more detail, please see the full results on Wikimedia Commons, or the metrics presentation at the July 2015 Metrics Meeting on Wikimedia Commons and YouTube.

Design

The consultation consisted of a 10-day global consultation across Wikimedia projects and languages, lasting from February 23 – March 6, 2015. We introduced the consultation by acknowledging that the world is going mobile and the next billion Internet users are coming online. We translated the questions into 15 languages to reflect the international nature of the Wikimedia movement.

The consultation used two open-ended prompts to elicit broad, qualitative feedback and insights:

  1. What major trends would you identify in addition to mobile and the next billion users?
  2. Based on the future trends that you think are important, what would thriving and healthy Wikimedia projects look like?

This is the second time the Wikimedia Foundation has undertaken a collaborative strategy-setting process. However, this consultation was designed as part of a more nimble process than the previous strategic planning process conducted in 2010, in order to allow the Foundation to respond to a quickly changing world.

Participation

Nearly 1,300 editors and readers offered their thoughts on these questions across 29 languages. We found 69% were anonymous users from 86 different countries, 24% were logged-in users with established records of participation on the Wikimedia projects, and 7% were new users (all of whom registered during the consultation itself). These latter two groups came from 30 different wikis. All of the comments offered were broken down into 2,468 comments on 28 general themes.

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Patterns of response during the 2015 Wikimedia strategy consultation. Graph by Wikimedia Staff, freely licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0.

1.   English (887) 9.   French (17) 17. Vietnamese (3) 25. Hindi (1)
2.   Spanish (63) 10. Italian (11) 18. Bengali (2) 26. Interlingua (1)
3.   German (45) 11. Portuguese (11) 19. Hebrew (2) 27. Norwegian (1)
4.   Russian (37) 12. Japanese (10) 20. Polish (2) 28. Slovak (1)
5.   Turkish (32) 13. Dutch (5) 21. Ukrainian (2) 29. Swedish (1)
6.   Farsi (30) 14. Indonesian (4) 22. Afrikaans (1)
7.   Chinese (18) 15. Czech (3) 23. Azerbaijani (1)
8.   Arabic (17) 16. Korean (3) 24. Finnish (1)

n = 1295 respondents
Translation languages highlighted

Findings

The report’s findings were multi-faceted, reflecting the many emerging trends and experiences identified by the international participants. We analyzed each of the 28 themes for key takeaways, with interesting perspectives emerging from both anonymous and logged-in users. These complete takeaways can be found in the consultations slides on Commons.

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2015 Wikimedia strategy consultation results, qualitative comment categories; n = 2,468 comments. Graph by Wikimedia Staff, freely licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0.

Anonymous and new users tended to focus on the look and feel of the site itself on varied devices. Their feedback focused on the site’s presence on mobile, use of multimedia, accuracy and reliability of the existing content, and integration with social media. The anonymous respondents primarily hailed from the United States, but also included significant contingents from India, Germany, the United Kingdom, and Iran. Seventeen countries had more than ten people answer.

Logged-in users commented on similar topics but from a different perspective. For example, mobile-related comments were typically confined to the feasibility of editing on mobile devices, which are usually much smaller than a desktop window. They additionally commented on citation quality—the use of stronger, more reliable sources—a bureaucratic climate on some wikis, and strategic threats to the projects, in addition to giving the foundation direct feedback. Sites with more than ten respondents included the English, German, and Spanish Wikipedias, along with the Wikimedia Commons. As the IPs of logged-in users are hidden, we have no geographical data for them.

The precise findings from this study are outlined in the complete slides. All themes are being taken into account and can inform our work moving forward. Here are some highlights:[2]

  • Mobile and app: Mobile-related comments reveal an opportunity to improve our existing mobile offerings for both editors and readers and raise awareness about our native apps. Participants (mostly anonymous users) urged us to “make an app,” when one is already available for iOS and Android devices. We also saw comments that stressed the importance of mobile editing, formatting for smaller (mobile) screen sizes, article summaries for different usage patterns, and the value of “going mobile.”[3]
  • Editing and collaboration: In this category, we find requests to make editing simpler, ideas for enhancing collaboration among editors, suggestions for editing tools, and proposals to build editor rating and qualification programs. This is one of the few categories in which logged-in comments, at 56%, outnumber comments from anonymous and new users. This category provides valuable insight for improvements in editor support including Wikipedia’s visual editor and future projects in the newly created Community tech team, as well as potential new editor support initiatives.
  • Rich content: Participants requested more rich content on Wikimedia sites, suggesting more video, audio, video, and images. Most (80%) of these comments were submitted by anonymous and new users. One United States-based participant commented: “is there any major website in the world with less video?”
  • Volunteer community: We saw a particular interest in improving “community climate” in this category, with a focus on interpersonal dynamics and culture. Participants identified a need to increase diversity (in particular, gender diversity), improve processes and workflows, and address bureaucracy-related challenges. This is another category in which logged-in comments, at 54%, outnumber comments provided by anonymous and new users.
  • Wikimedia Foundation feedback: This category focused on the relationship between the Wikimedia Foundation and the volunteer community and includes suggestions of how the Foundation might change its practices and priorities to align with the volunteer community. These comments are from mostly logged-in users (88%), most of them highly experienced users with an average edit count of more than 64,000 edits. Suggestions included providing better support to editors in a variety of ways and continuing to ask for feedback from core community members.
  • Content quality (accuracy): These comments emphasized the importance of content accuracy, trustworthiness, and reliability. Comments focused on citation quality, the use of expert editors, and even restricting editing (so that “not everyone can edit”). Most (73%) of comments in this category were from anonymous and new users, signaling an opportunity to communicate to readers about the accuracy and trustworthiness of the content within Wikipedia and sister projects.
  • Education and universities: These comments reflected both a concern about the perception of Wikipedia as a (non)credible source for academic inquiry, and also recognition of the growing opportunity for Wikimedia to extend its content, brand, and global presence into online education by developing courses, curricula, and partnering with other online educational resources. Most (76%) of the comments in this category came from anonymous and new users, whereas only 24% originated from logged-in users.  
  • Translation and languages: We saw a collective interest in this category from logged in, anonymous, and new users. Key suggestions included a focus increasing translation capabilities and tool, expanding into more languages, and developing the ability to easily translate across projects. These comments validate the need for the Content Translation tool, which is now available on 224 language versions of Wikipedia as a beta feature.

Thank you to everyone who participated in this consultation. The findings of the consultation will play a key role in our work moving forward, influencing how engineering teams develop forward-looking plans and validate proposed roadmaps and projects.

Terence Gilbey
Interim Chief Operating Officer
Wikimedia Foundation

[1] Unlike in past years, we are approaching strategy not as a set of goals or objectives, but rather as a direction that will guide the decisions for the organization.
[2] These examples do not mean that these themes are more important than others. They are simply highlights for this particular blog post. We are assessing all of the themes to incorporate this feedback at all levels of our work.
[3] We realize the mention of mobile in the consultation’s framing may have impacted the prominence of this theme in the comments.