2019:Research/All Talk? The effects of easier communication interfaces (than user talk pages) on collaborative production
|This is an Accepted submission for the Research space at Wikimania 2019.|
Abstract[edit | edit source]
Many newcomers to wikis find talk pages and user talk pages hard to understand and edit, reinforcing other barriers to participation. What would happen if that suddenly changed? Intuition and prior research suggest that making communication between participants in wikis and other "social computing" systems easier *should* increase interpersonal interactions as well as other kinds of participation, especially among newcomers. In this presentation, we describe a large scale test of these ideas that happened on when many Fandom/Wikia wikis adopted a feature called "message walls." Message walls resemble interfaces like the Facebook wall or discussion forums and were designed to replace "user talk" pages where wiki editors often communicate directly with one and other. Over the course of a few years, many Fandom/Wikia wikis switched suddenly from user talk pages to message walls, making it much simpler for users to interact with each other. Using data from 275 Fandom/Wikia wikis before and after they adopted message walls, we estimate the impact of the new feature on editor behavior. We find that message walls increased communication among all editors and newcomers, but decreased article contributions from new editors. Our results imply that design changes that make communication easier in a wiki may not translate to increased participation along other dimensions. These findings underscore the challenges of designing interface changes for communities looking to create more inclusive, welcoming environments for newcomers.
Authors[edit | edit source]
Sneha Narayan (Carleton College)
Nathan TeBlunthuis (University of Washington)
Wm Salt Hale (University of Washington)
Benjamin Mako Hill (University of Washington)
Aaron Shaw (Northwestern University)
Relevance to Wikimedia Community[edit | edit source]
This project is not about a Wikimedia project, but is about a feature change to MediaWiki with big implications for all Wikipedias and Wikimedia projects. User talk pages and talk pages are huge challenge for many new editors and one of the many ways that it can be hard for newcomers to figure out how to participate effectively. Fandom/Wikia's effort to design a radically simpler system for interpersonal communication reflects a widespread idea across the Wikimedia ecosystem and adjacent communities that easier communication will lead to more inclusive, active communities. The fact that we do not find this to be true should be of interest to anyone who cares about the growth, survival, and civility of these movements.
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