Tough for beginners on Wikipedia?

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Tough for beginners on Wikipedia?

Sidin Vadukut

Hi People,

I am working on a news story about the people behind the India-specific Wikipedia pages and how a bunch of really eclectic personalities spend tons of time to ensure pages are clean and useful. However one of them mentioned that it is slowly becoming more and more difficult for new writers to join in as contributions have become extremely complicated. Some of the simplest things lead to disputes and trivialities cause locks on certain articles.

I was wondering if you guys had an opinion on this? Is Wikipedia increasingly becoming more and more difficult for first-timers? I am talking about those who intend to specialize in certain topics and be active and regular. I work for the mint-Wall Street Journal in Mumbai. I was asked to mail this group by Angela Beesely.

Thanks and regards,
Sidin Sunny Vadukut.

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Re: Tough for beginners on Wikipedia?

Utkarshraj Atmaram-2


On 10 March 2008, Sidin Vadukut <sidin.vadukut at gmail.com> wrote:


> However one of them mentioned that it is slowly becoming more and

> more difficult for new writers to join in as contributions have

> become extremely complicated. Some of the simplest things lead to

> disputes and trivialities cause locks on certain articles.

>

> I was wondering if you guys had an opinion on this? Is Wikipedia

> increasingly becoming more and more difficult for first-timers? I am

> talking about those who intend to specialize in certain topics and

> be active and regular.


I am not sure what exactly do you mean by "contributions have become

extremely complicated". Are you referring to Wikipedia's now-somewhat

stringent standards for accepting articles? Or do you mean that the

wiki-syntax is too difficult? Or are you concerned that the cabals,

vandals and trolls are scaring away the new contributors?


As a society, Wikipedia is bound to grow more complex as it grows.


If the new contributors face a problem that they do not know how to

deal with (vandalism, another abusive user etc.), they can head over

to the new contributors' help page (the link to this page appears on

the help page):

<http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wikipedia:New_contributors'_help_page>.


Wikipedia's standards for accepting articles have evolved over the

years. Most Wikipedians will accept that the standards have become

more stringent, but these standards are necessary because in addition

to a lot of positive contributors, Wikipedia also attracts a number of

vandals, trolls and spammers. Very short articles created without

references, inappropriate pages, images uploaded without a license or

text copied from another website are bound to get deleted. Most

newly-created articles or newly-uploaded images are deleted because

they're either copyright violation (e.g. image of the user's favorite

actress copied from a film website) or because they're outside

Wikipedia's project scope (e.g. an article on an little-known school

band). New users can avoid such experiences by learning a few basics

of contributing to Wikipedia. On the article creation page, the users

are presented with a few instructions and a link to

<http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wikipedia:Your_first_article>. Creating

an article that'll not get deleted is as simple as following these

instructions.


The disputes (trivial or non-trivial) are a part of any large

collaborative project. This is not something specific to the new

users; controversial topics (e.g. Israel-Palestine) will always

attract disputes. The new users generally find themselves embroiled in

disputes, when they make controversial edits an article without going

through the talk page archives (where the issues might have been

discussed more than once in the past). An example is the article on

Muhammad -- many new users try to remove the images from the article,

without bothering to read the talk page, where the rationale for

including the image is explained in detail.


The vandals and trolls are a serious problem. Citizendium

<http://en.citizendium.org> is trying to deal with them (and other

issues like reliability) by disallowing anonymous editing. At

Wikipedia, we have an article validation proposal

<http://meta.wikimedia.org/wiki/Article_validation> in the works. It

can be tested at <http://test.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sandbox>


As for understanding the wiki syntax, and the Wikipedia policies and

guidelines, these are the minimum basics. The users who joined

Wikipedia three years ago also learned them.


Wikipedia is just like any other project open to public

participation. Before people start contributing, they need to learn a

few basics. The set of "basics" grow larger as the project grows larger.


Regards,

Utkarshraj

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/User:Utcursch


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Re: Tough for beginners on Wikipedia?

Gerard Meijssen-3
Hoi,
From my perspective, when you consider collaboration with an Indian perspective, there are two several ways to approach this. When you look at the magnificent work done on the localisation of MediaWiki, Telugu is the first language that has met the requirements of the Betawiki localisation for all four categories. Many other languages are also doing extremely well in the process of getting their localisation to a level where the readers and writers of their language can contribute to the language. The one language that is sadly doing not so well is Hindi.

So when you look at it from an INDIAN perspective, things are looking up. When you look at the English Wikipedia, there is a lot of writing that can be done about Indian subjects. There is bound to be an en,wikipedia project that deals with this.

When you look at the ease of use, some of the templates as used in the projects are so complicated that I would not even try to understand them. However, that does not mean that I cannot use them. Now these templates can be localised to a large extend and this will make it less complicated for people to use them in their language.

In conclusion, when you look at Wikipedia with an Indian perspective, things are not bad at all. It takes time to get accustomed to the way Wikipedia works but with the improved localisation that is becoming less complicated.

Thanks,
     GerardM

On Tue, Mar 11, 2008 at 7:02 AM, Utkarshraj Atmaram <[hidden email]> wrote:

On 10 March 2008, Sidin Vadukut <sidin.vadukut at gmail.com> wrote:


> However one of them mentioned that it is slowly becoming more and

> more difficult for new writers to join in as contributions have

> become extremely complicated. Some of the simplest things lead to

> disputes and trivialities cause locks on certain articles.

>

> I was wondering if you guys had an opinion on this? Is Wikipedia

> increasingly becoming more and more difficult for first-timers? I am

> talking about those who intend to specialize in certain topics and

> be active and regular.


I am not sure what exactly do you mean by "contributions have become

extremely complicated". Are you referring to Wikipedia's now-somewhat

stringent standards for accepting articles? Or do you mean that the

wiki-syntax is too difficult? Or are you concerned that the cabals,

vandals and trolls are scaring away the new contributors?


As a society, Wikipedia is bound to grow more complex as it grows.


If the new contributors face a problem that they do not know how to

deal with (vandalism, another abusive user etc.), they can head over

to the new contributors' help page (the link to this page appears on

the help page):

<http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wikipedia:New_contributors'_help_page>.


Wikipedia's standards for accepting articles have evolved over the

years. Most Wikipedians will accept that the standards have become

more stringent, but these standards are necessary because in addition

to a lot of positive contributors, Wikipedia also attracts a number of

vandals, trolls and spammers. Very short articles created without

references, inappropriate pages, images uploaded without a license or

text copied from another website are bound to get deleted. Most

newly-created articles or newly-uploaded images are deleted because

they're either copyright violation (e.g. image of the user's favorite

actress copied from a film website) or because they're outside

Wikipedia's project scope (e.g. an article on an little-known school

band). New users can avoid such experiences by learning a few basics

of contributing to Wikipedia. On the article creation page, the users

are presented with a few instructions and a link to

<http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wikipedia:Your_first_article>. Creating

an article that'll not get deleted is as simple as following these

instructions.


The disputes (trivial or non-trivial) are a part of any large

collaborative project. This is not something specific to the new

users; controversial topics (e.g. Israel-Palestine) will always

attract disputes. The new users generally find themselves embroiled in

disputes, when they make controversial edits an article without going

through the talk page archives (where the issues might have been

discussed more than once in the past). An example is the article on

Muhammad -- many new users try to remove the images from the article,

without bothering to read the talk page, where the rationale for

including the image is explained in detail.


The vandals and trolls are a serious problem. Citizendium

<http://en.citizendium.org> is trying to deal with them (and other

issues like reliability) by disallowing anonymous editing. At

Wikipedia, we have an article validation proposal

<http://meta.wikimedia.org/wiki/Article_validation> in the works. It

can be tested at <http://test.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sandbox>


As for understanding the wiki syntax, and the Wikipedia policies and

guidelines, these are the minimum basics. The users who joined

Wikipedia three years ago also learned them.


Wikipedia is just like any other project open to public

participation. Before people start contributing, they need to learn a

few basics. The set of "basics" grow larger as the project grows larger.


Regards,

Utkarshraj

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/User:Utcursch


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Re: Tough for beginners on Wikipedia?

Ravi shankar-12
In reply to this post by Sidin Vadukut
Leaving aside the wikiquette and formailities, the mediawiki software itself makes it tough for newcomers. Even one Post-Doc friend of mine could not figure out the simplest wiki syntax! People are more comfortable with WYSWYG editors. I had been watching wikipedia for last 3 years. MediaWiki has hardly shown any improvement in usability and interface. It's time more developers put in more effort in improving ease of using media wiki. Other free software around the same time frame have improved dramatically.

Thanks

Ravi


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Re: Tough for beginners on Wikipedia?

Shiju Alex
My experience is exactly opposite. I know so many school students (not post-doc) who are contributing to wikipedia in a very big way. I have given demo to some school children and they have grasped the syntaxes very easily.
 
It is not the education, but the willingness to contribute and share knowledge matters in Wikipedia type of projects.
 
Personally I feel Media wiki use simple wiki syntaxes (I am not talking about the comples templates) and anyone who has genuine interest can easily learn it.
 
 
Shiju Alex


 
On 3/11/08, Ravi shankar <[hidden email]> wrote:
Leaving aside the wikiquette and formailities, the mediawiki software itself makes it tough for newcomers. Even one Post-Doc friend of mine could not figure out the simplest wiki syntax! People are more comfortable with WYSWYG editors. I had been watching wikipedia for last 3 years. MediaWiki has hardly shown any improvement in usability and interface. It's time more developers put in more effort in improving ease of using media wiki. Other free software around the same time frame have improved dramatically.

Thanks

Ravi


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Re: Tough for beginners on Wikipedia?

Anirudh S. Bhati
The transition to a WYSIWYG editor might even cause a great influx in vandalism and other unproductive edits.  While apparent vandalism can be dealt with quickly, however, the increase in the amount of subtle vandalism would be palpable.

A not-so-easy wiki syntax acts as an deterrent against generally non-productive editors, who by far outnumber the productive ones.  However, an advanced user of the internet who is concerned about the quality and the authenticity of the content would make an effort towards trying to understand the syntax in order to contribute to it.  It's not rocket-science, for god's sake. ;-)

On Tue, Mar 11, 2008 at 11:12 PM, Shiju Alex <[hidden email]> wrote:
My experience is exactly opposite. I know so many school students (not post-doc) who are contributing to wikipedia in a very big way. I have given demo to some school children and they have grasped the syntaxes very easily.
 
It is not the education, but the willingness to contribute and share knowledge matters in Wikipedia type of projects.
 
Personally I feel Media wiki use simple wiki syntaxes (I am not talking about the comples templates) and anyone who has genuine interest can easily learn it.
 
 
Shiju Alex


 
On 3/11/08, Ravi shankar <[hidden email]> wrote:
Leaving aside the wikiquette and formailities, the mediawiki software itself makes it tough for newcomers. Even one Post-Doc friend of mine could not figure out the simplest wiki syntax! People are more comfortable with WYSWYG editors. I had been watching wikipedia for last 3 years. MediaWiki has hardly shown any improvement in usability and interface. It's time more developers put in more effort in improving ease of using media wiki. Other free software around the same time frame have improved dramatically.

Thanks

Ravi


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Re: Tough for beginners on Wikipedia?

Gerard Meijssen-3
In reply to this post by Ravi shankar-12
Hoi,
Given the limited group of people working on the development of mediawiki, the biggest effort has so far been in maintaining the quality and the scalability of the software. As the funding has been really limited, you will find that much of the work on usability has been in the functionality of the templates, the way files like soundfiles and movies are supported and also in the way languages are supported in the localisations.

I absolutely agree that more work on the user interface is welcome. It is however not trivial because the differences between the many languages are substantial. Given the ever increasing number of languages that we support with a Wikipedia, it is realistic to expect languages that have requirements that are typically not considered (a top down orientation for instance...)

MediaWiki is exceptional in that it already supports so many languages. There are languages that cannot be handled correctly at this moment in time; Neapolitan for instance includes '' in a sentence, something the parser understands as a need for italic...

Thanks,
     GerardM

On Tue, Mar 11, 2008 at 6:34 PM, Ravi shankar <[hidden email]> wrote:
Leaving aside the wikiquette and formailities, the mediawiki software itself makes it tough for newcomers. Even one Post-Doc friend of mine could not figure out the simplest wiki syntax! People are more comfortable with WYSWYG editors. I had been watching wikipedia for last 3 years. MediaWiki has hardly shown any improvement in usability and interface. It's time more developers put in more effort in improving ease of using media wiki. Other free software around the same time frame have improved dramatically.

Thanks

Ravi


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Re: Tough for beginners on Wikipedia?

Ravi shankar-12
In reply to this post by Anirudh S. Bhati
i know kids and geeks with the right attitude to contribute will anyway learn them. but even for them it doesn't harm to make things easy.

i am aware and to an extent accept the thinking that the difficult wiki syntax helps to limit the vandals..

but besides geeks and students who have lot of time to contribute, we have an elderly computer illiterate population which is not comfortable even with basic tasks in computer. but i have seen many of them willing to contribute with their rich experience and knowledge in traditional areas like literature, religion etc. It's important we balance the user interface to aid all instead of intentionally favouring computer literates.

don't feel like stressing this aspect much..

Ravi


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Re: Tough for beginners on Wikipedia?

guru brahma
In reply to this post by Sidin Vadukut
Hi,
 
I guess your query is about India-related pages in the English Wikipedia. I do subscribe to the view that it is becoming increasingly tough for newcomers to contribute. This toughness can be looked at in two dimensions - syntax-related and collaboration-related.
I will first deal with the syntax-related issues: While on the face of it, there has not been much of a change in terms of the basic syntax and in fact, increased ease in finding syntax, the difficulty has been due to the increased expectations of community on what is acceptable as syntax. For instance, previously if someone had to use a webpage as a reference, all that they needed to do was to link the URL; today, for an article to be accepted, such URLs need to be referenced in a prescribed manner, using in-line citations etc. - this puts off new users unneccesarily. Originally, Wikipedia was known more for its (breadth & depth of) content than its form (writing style, flow, referencing etc.). Of late, the form has become more important - this is not surprising because, as time goes on, the growth in the amount of knowledge that is yet to be added keeps decreasing and the need to reorganise existing knowledge to make it appear more reliable and valid becomes more paramount - however, the unintented consequence is that it becomes difficult for new contributors. On a slightly different note, it also becomes difficult for old-timers who come back after a long break to contribute to Wikipedia.
Coming to the collaboration-related issues, one can always find a core group of people who actively contribute to Wikipedia - the membership of this group itself may be changing but a core group is always present. While there may be no common characteristics among the people who become the core group of editors, one common characteristic is that all these people have contributed for a long time on Wikipedia (over 6 months). They find that different sets of new users keep making similar sort of mistakes and in a view to reduce such errors, make the process more streamlined - for example, deletion without discussion etc. if it goes unchallenged. This makes it difficult for a new user who may find herself inadvertently at the wrong end of such a policy - once bitten, twice shy and that new user is put off, so to say.
Thus, I believe that on both these dimensions, it has become tougher for newcomers to contribute - hopefully, this price could be outweighed by the benefits in the long run.
 
Regards,
Gurubrahma.
 

Sidin Vadukut <[hidden email]> wrote:
Hi People,
I am working on a news story about the people behind the India-specific Wikipedia pages and how a bunch of really eclectic personalities spend tons of time to ensure pages are clean and useful. However one of them mentioned that it is slowly becoming more and more difficult for new writers to join in as contributions have become extremely complicated. Some of the simplest things lead to disputes and trivialities cause locks on certain articles.
I was wondering if you guys had an opinion on this? Is Wikipedia increasingly becoming more and more difficult for first-timers? I am talking about those who intend to specialize in certain topics and be active and regular. I work for the mint-Wall Street Journal in Mumbai. I was asked to mail this group by Angela Beesely.
Thanks and regards,
Sidin Sunny Vadukut.
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