Topic on Help talk:Growth/Tools/Help panel

Please try to not repeat ArticleFeedback

Thiemo Kreuz (WMDE) (talkcontribs)

Today I came across the "Get help with editing" button on the beta cluster. It reminds me very much of the Article feedback project that started in 2010. The placement of the button, the form that opens, the call to action – all this is very close especially to version 5 of the ArticleFeedback prototypes which also gave visitors a form to post something.

I was very closely involved in the ArticleFeedback project in 2013 (as a volunteer). I even tried to convince the German community to keep it. We did in-depth research and number crunching in addition to what the Wikimedia staff did. What we found was not enough to convince anybody: The vast majority of the posts (something like 80%) was not actionable. The same time the number of incoming posts (the prominent placement of the button made it very easy to submit anything) was so high, the small group of users trying to be helpful and act on the posts could not keep up.

We tried to improve the call to action, but it didn't change anything. It was like visitors don't read the call to action, or don't care. They found an input field, possibly confused it with social media, and posted whatever they had in mind that moment: Questions that are already answered in the article, for example. Many just expressed what they liked, or more often did not liked. The most demotivating posts demanded changes to be made.

Keep in mind: Both the failed "post feedback" feature as well as the "ask a question" feature we are talking about now rely entirely on the motivation of a small group of volunteers. If I would need to summarize what keeps a volunteer motivated, I would say: Either if something is fun, or if it creates value the user can see and enjoy.

I'm wondering if the team currently working on the "help desk" project is aware of the pretty large collection of ArticleFeedback documents, and was able to incorporate the main learnings from back then? Personally, I wish you all the best. But from experience I know it's very hard, if not impossible to make something that's more like running a support hotline a fun thing to do, or at least something that feels like it creates value.

There was also a very similar Teahouse project in 2014, lead by Wikimedia Deutschland. It also implemented a button that was visible on every page, opened a small form, and let visitors create new sections on a regular wiki talk page. It failed for essentially the same reasons.

MMiller (WMF) (talkcontribs)

Hi @Thiemo Kreuz (WMDE) -- thank you for trying out the feature and taking the time to write these thoughts. We did learn from the Article Feedback tool (and other similar features) when we were designing the help panel about a year ago, and some of our notes are here. I've also talked to some people who worked on WMDE's Teahouse extension. A couple of things that we thought would be different about the help panel are:

  • Whereas the Article Feedback tool was offered to all readers of articles, the help panel is offered only to people who are in an editor. This seems to reduce the users of the feature to those people who have some intention to edit, and therefore most of the questions that we get through the help panel tend to more relevant and actionable. Many questions are irrelevant or confusing, but we feel like the ratio is sustainable.
  • Whereas the Teahouse extension posted questions to a new page dedicated to that purpose, the help panel is posting to existing help desk pages. This means that the experienced users who were already watching those pages could continue to support the help panel through the same workflows they were already using.

The feature has been deployed for about a year, and so far, we haven't found any problems that have overwhelmed communities. They seem to be able to manage the incoming number of questions (in fact, the Czech community excels at answering within about 15 minutes). While we have not found statistical evidence that the help panel increases retention, we have seen many positive stories.

Going forward, we will be repurposing the help panel to provide guidance while newcomers do suggested edits. We would be interested in any of your reactions to this or any ideas you have going forward.

Thiemo Kreuz (WMDE) (talkcontribs)

Uh, I somehow missed that the project is already a little older. Thanks a lot for the detailed response! The fact it's only shown while editing is indeed an essential difference I missed.

The "guidance" ideas look great. I will leave a little more feedback at Talk:Growth/Personalized first day/Newcomer tasks.

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