Topic on Talk:Growth/Discussing potential Growth ideas/2023

Discussion on "In-context questions or chat (1)"

MMiller (WMF) (talkcontribs)
Arthur Crbz (talkcontribs)

Support It can be very difficult for new users to get support. Some help pages such as on the French Wikipedia are really good (link to the newcomer forum is on top, search form, organized menu). But on the other side, some help pages can be very frustrating for new comers. Commons main help page for instance should be considered as a worst case (too much information, not organized, not focused on new users). Plus if they ask a question on a discussion page, it can be not seen and so not answered. So creating a tool which will allow users to get direct support is really a good idea !

I didn't notice the feedback form on the visuel editor but it's quite powerful because very easy to use and uses Flow (so user is notified when he gets an answer). We could easily imagine a form which will post directly on the newcomers forum (on the French Wikipedia, this forum is very active with numerous contributors).

I don't know if a 1-to-1 chat can be useful for medium size wikis as it may require available 24/7...

Looking forward to discuss this project with you!

Trizek (WMF) (talkcontribs)

@Arthur Crbz, thank you for your feedback. Overall, just a quick note: this is not a vote. For now, we are asking for thoughts and reactions on these ideas from as many communities as possible:

  • Could you imagine these ideas working in your wikis?
  • Do you know of similar things having been tried before?
  • What other ideas do you think would work well to retain new editors?
Leaderboard (talkcontribs)


Makes no sense. At best, a link for help on the editing toolbar, but virtually every wiki has a link to that on the left sidebar. There is the potential for the system to be flooded with queries which can be easily answered with minimal effort.

(project: English Wikibooks, the message delivery went to the wrong part of the site)

Trizek (WMF) (talkcontribs)

(Sorry for the bad target.)

Stryn (talkcontribs)

Sounds like a great idea. I would prefer article talk pages for any questions. I think in many wikis wikiprojects are not active, so better to use article talk pages, and for technical, non-article related questions use village pump / help desk. I think currently many new users don't know that they can discuss about subject on talk page.

Sadads (talkcontribs)

I wonder if you could work in some type of tooling for giving folks more generic documentation about the things that they ask for based on keywords would be helpful. For example, if folks ask about sourcing, providing a nutshell and link to further documentation about that verifiability or reliable sources would be super useful, for example. I don't think increasing the volume of questions at help forums, will neccessarily get folks in a quick enough window of time, to answers, before they forget about the question: you could have power editors spend all day asking quesitons, with very few positive outcomes as a response of those questions.

Timeshifter (talkcontribs)

Chat is a brilliant idea. Put it in the left sidebar column at the very top. New editors need rapid feedback. People are familiar with chat from many other sites.

We would need a running list of unanswered questions showing up somewhere that anybody could answer. The original poster will have the right to send their thread back to the unanswered page, or to a page "requesting more answers".

Replies would show up in the left sidebar of any page that the questioner has open. Just like Facebook chat follows you around when someone replies.

Bencemac (talkcontribs)

I think a chat (IRC?) inside Wikipedia is a great idea and would be very useful, especially for languages where the IRC activity is very low (or they died out). I would love to test it in the future.

Kyykaarme (talkcontribs)

I like the idea of helping new users to ask questions easily. It should not annoy experienced users though, so maybe it could be an opt-out feature if possible or otherwise not get in the way for those who don't need it. If it would be possible to make multiple options, there could be an option to post the question to the article's talk page or to a general discussion page that the community can choose/create for this purpose.

I don't know how the chat would work so I don't know what to think about it. Would the chat discussion remain visible to everyone so others can learn from the answers and also see that the advice was correct? I don't like the idea of a private chat between two users, everything should be public for many reasons.

Kerry Raymond (talkcontribs)

I like the chat solution up to a point, but I have to admit that the problem "They have to leave the page to go to the Help Desk, IRC, or some other talk page." is misdiagnosed. New users don't know there is a Help desk, are probably not in the 0.0001% of the planet who happen to use IRC, or what another appropriate page might be. They *may* find out about some of those things from a welcome message (but welcome messages seem somewhat random as to who writes them and what information they provide and whether you get one at all). And even if you get given a link to (say) the Teahouse, when you get there, you need to be able to source edit to even ask your question and it is not obvious how you will receive a reply. So bad luck for the VE users. The important thing to understand about new users is that they don't how how to do the things we take for granted nor use vocabulary that is Wikipedia jargon.

One thing with the chat. I like the idea that the window would stay open as they move to other articles, so an answer could come later. However, let's say I am doing an early edit and I've added some content and I'm trying to figure how to cite it and can't work it out. OK, I see the friendly "Click here to get help via chat" button and click it, write my message, and then what? Should there half-done edit be saved? (Risk is that it be deleted if there is no source) Should they move away leaving the edit session incomplete as they await a reply? (Risk is that they will end up in an edit conflict). Or should they just abandon the work already done while they await a reply. (Risk is they won't come back). Also as someone who does training, I have learned that some users do not know about browser tabs and spend their life in a single browser window (which makes writing Wikipedia fairly challenging for them as they cannot have a webpage source open at the same time as the Wikipedia article), so these people will either save or abandon as moving to another browser tab isn't an option they know about. Like I say above, new users are NOT like us so we need to build tools that work for them rather than work for us.

Timeshifter (talkcontribs)

The chat window might act as temporary storage if they log in. "Log in to chat" and "Send email to get help" should be at the top of every page, or sidebar. No need to sign in to get help by email.

علاء (talkcontribs)

It sounds good. We are facing this problem in arwiki, that most of new users want to ask questions like (how to do...? or what this error mean...? etc) and as @Stryn mentioned that many new users don't know that they can discuss about subject on talk page, in addition I think most of new users didn't know that they can communicate with other users.

I notice this problem every day, for example I found many new users wrote questions in wrong pages, also now I'm helping in offline event (via Facebook) to write articles about nutrition, almost all participants are new users, and they are highly motivated, but when they faced any problem in Wikipedia like (can't to add templates, or abusefilters stop them, fairuser image...etc), so they send all questions directly in the Facebook chat group and I helped them as fast as I can (either by told them how to do that, or do it by myself), but here I talked about a group of new users related to certain event, so I don't think we can apply this thing in all new users.

Also, unfortunately I'm the only one who online in arwiki IRC channel, so I faced every week two or three new users enter arwiki IRC and asked questions about problem they faced, then I decided that I should encouraged other experienced users to enter and stay on arwiki channel, but no one interested due to weak technical documentation of IRC and who to have a m:Cloak ..etc.

I think if we can develop the IRC channels, make very well technical documentation, provide experienced users who can help if there's any technical problem, recommend apps/programs for IRC (the old IRC interface not good and repellent for users).

The IRC channels well be very helpful, so after develop it, we can put link at the page header (beside talk/Preferences ..etc), or make a prominent small banner. (I don't know if it a good idea, but I think why not to make one IRC channel for all new users, because any experienced user in Wikipedia can almost answer any question, so one IRC channel and asked experienced users from different languages to stay in it. For example, if a user from dewiki asked me how to add interwikilink for his/her article, or who to add template ..etc, although I do not understand the German language but as experienced user I can help him, because it's almost the same in all wikis).

umm I wrote a lot, so I should stop now

Timeshifter (talkcontribs)

At Republic Wireless help they have a quick question system that works very well, and very fast. You do not have to log in. At the bottom of that help page click on "Message Now".

"Member Advice. Have a quick question? Message an expert member (another customer with proven expertise) in real time for answers you can trust! Response time: typically under 3 minutes, may vary overnight."

No need to log in. That is the best part. Instant gratification, or near instant. A popup form asks for your question and email address. Send it. The popup box stays up and it says "We're notifying our top experts. If you leave, we’ll notify you as soon as you get an answer." So if the page stays up you get a message there. And you get an email answer too. I got an email in a few minutes. Relevant part said:

wvfisher is typing an answer right now for your question "This is a test of the form.". Feel free to visit your conversation with wvfisher at any time by opening the link below. wvfisher said: "thanks..."
View Answer

The "View Answer" link takes one back to the page, and reopens the popup form with the question and answer. When someone does show up, they stick around and ask if you have further questions.

Pine (talkcontribs)

As much as I'd like to have live help via chat, there are three significant challenges that I foresee.

First, if we make chat more widely available, there will likely be more spamming, forum shopping of requests that go against policies, and hostility those channels, so moderation of these channels will be important.

Second, I don't know that the existing population of volunteers who provide help with editing and who moderate IRC channels have adequate capacity to handle a flood of new requests for individualized help, so I suggest that the availability of chat be increased gradually and in proportion to the demonstrated willingness of knowledgeable volunteers to support and moderate the chat communications.

Third, I am concerned that we are in a zero-sum game with knowledgeable volunteers in the sense that there are already too few of us and if we get pulled into help newbies then we are not doing other potentially valuable activities. If WMF wants to move forward with live online chat help, then I would encourage WMF and the affiliates to consider spending grant money on live online support staff, which I strongly believe should be employed by the affiliates rather than by WMF.

I wish that I could be more supportive of this proposal, but the human resource considerations are important and I think that they would need to be addressed as a part of the otherwise good idea to offer more easily accessible live chat support.

Jetam2 (talkcontribs)

This is a valueble idea. The only pitfall (and a big one) is getting the experienced editors to participate. As it is we are spread too thin trying to get all the bases covered. I could do the support when I am online but at the expense of other projects. I dare say that many times the chatbox would be empty of support staff. The IRC mentioned above worked mostly as a space for already experienced users to talk rather than for newbies. I have not used it for quite some time since it requires another log-in, more multitasking etc. Another possible venue is Facebook but I would discourage its use since it is, for me, mostly a time-waster and another multitasking tool. So an interface on actual Wikipedia does seem like the best solution save for the staffing requirements.

Bencemac (talkcontribs)

Integrating an IRC 'client' would be a possible way.

Timeshifter (talkcontribs)

I think people are making this way too complicated. If I see a lit button in the sidebar I know there are unanswered questions in the chat roll of unanswered questions.

In my preferences I have the box checked to have that lit button in my sidebar. Problem solved.

MMiller (WMF) (talkcontribs)

Thank you all for weighing in on this "In-context questions or chat" idea. Our team discussed all the feedback, and I've summarized here what we heard on this page and in other venues. The team is now figuring out whether to pursue this idea, and we'll be back to discuss more if we decide to work on it (please sign up for our newsletter to get updates on our plans).

The biggest takeaway for our team from this conversation is that whatever sort of help we build, whether it's chat or lessons or something else, it needs to be prominent and easy for new editors to find while they edit. We'll keep that in mind. Also, @Bencemac's idea of integrating an IRC client to try this out in a minimal is definitely interesting.

One question I have for the group is about what kinds of activity you see in IRC channels around helping new editors. Do they ask good questions? Get good answers? Have trouble using IRC? Pinging @علاء, @Bencemac, @Jetam2, and anyone else who has spent time in IRC.

Bencemac (talkcontribs)

I have good experiences with English channels even thought I am not a new editor, which means if I ask help, my problem is always more complicated than the others. There are always active editors (+administrators) and they are helpful as well. My only fear is that some languages do not have the enough IRC community for this, although an integrated client probably could encourage old editors to join as well.

Leaderboard (talkcontribs)

Barely any activity on IRC (as of now). The number of conversations on IRC can be counted with the fingers of a hand.

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