Wikimedia Apps/Team/Android/Machine Assisted Article Descriptions

Experiment background

The Android team is teaming up with Research and EPFL to improve article descriptions, also known as short descriptions and occasionally referred to as beams.

Currently Android app users can create and edit article descriptions via suggested edits. Article descriptions go to Wikidata with the exception of article descriptions for English Wikipedia. The Android team has received feedback that new users produce low-quality article descriptions (T279702). In 2022, the team placed a temporary restriction on Suggested Edits for users that had less than 3 edits for English Wikipedia users (T304621) with the intent on finding methods of improving the quality of article descriptions by new users.

EPFL and Research reached out to the Android team with a model called Descartes that can generate descriptions performing on par with human editors. Descartes takes the information on a Wikipedia article page and provides a short description of the article while adhering to the guidance of what makes an article description helpful. During initial evaluation of the model, it was preferred more than 50% of the time over human generated article descriptions. Additionally, Descartes held a 91.3% accuracy rate in testing. Despite these very promising results, the team wanted to do our due diligence by conducting an ABC test to ensure the suggestions will improve the quality of article descriptions when suggested to new editors, without introducing or increasing existing bias. We created an API which is hosted on Toolforge and will integrate the model into our existing interface in order to conduct our experiment. We will patrol edits made through the experiment in partnership with volunteers to not burden patrollers.

Product requirements

  • Users being able to provide feedback on individual suggestions should they detect issues
  • Accommodate two machine generated suggestions to test which beam is more accurate
  • Onboard users to Machine Generated suggestions
  • Reminder popups of checking for bias when clicking a suggestion on a biography
  • Only experienced users will see suggestions for biographies
  • Ability for users to write in their own response and edit a suggestion
  • Incorporate icon that identifies the product uses machine learning
  • Multilingual compatibility with mBART25

Objective and indicators

As a first step in the implementation of this project, the Android team will develop a MVP with the purpose of:

  1. Determine if suggestions made through the Descartes model increases the quality of article description additions and edits made using the Wikipedia Android app. To understand how the suggested article description changes user behavior, we will evaluate:
    • If introduction of suggestions alters the stickiness of the task type across editing tenure
    • Variability in task completion time relative to quality of edits
    • How often users modify suggestions before hitting publish
    • The optimal design and user workflow to encourage accuracy and task retention
    • What, if any, additional measures need to be in place to discourage bad or bias suggestions
  2. Determine if the algorithm holds up when exposed to more users:
    • Does the accuracy and preference rate change when exposed to more users
    • Does the accuracy and preference rate of using the suggestion vary greatly across languages
    • Is the algorithm introducing bias (e.g. misgendering) or not accurately representing critical nuance for Biographies of Living Persons
    • How does the accuracy rate and performance change when showing more than one suggestion

Should the 30 day experiment show promising results based on the indicators above, the team will introduce the feature to all users and remove our 3 edit requirement for suggested edits. We will also take steps to expand the number of languages to mBART 50 and migrate the API from toolforge to a more permanent home.

Volunteer Graders

The team will partner with volunteers to patrol edits made during the time of the experiment and assign a grade to the edit.

This will serve as one input for determining if the quality of edits increase when using machine generated article descriptions. Volunteer graders can sign up below or reach out to ARamadan-WMF.

The commitment for serving as a volunteer grader is up to one hour a week for four weeks.

Decision to be made

This A/B test will help us make the following decision:

  • Expand the feature to all users
  • Use suggestion as a means to train new users and remove 3 edit minimum gate
  • Migrate model to more permanent API
  • Show 1 or 2 beams
  • Expand to mBART 50

ABC Logic Explanation

  • Experiment will include only logged in users, in order to stabilize distribution.

The only users that will see the suggestions are those in mBART25

  • Of those in mBART25 half will see suggestions (B: Treatment) and half will not see suggestions (Control)
  • Of those in mBART25 only users that have more than 50 edits can see suggestions for Biographies of Living Persons, and if the users are in the non-BLP group, they will remain in it, even if they cross 50 edits during the experiment.

Additionally, we care about how the answers to our experiment will differ by language wiki and user experience (<50 New vs. 50+ Experienced).

Decision to be made

  • If the accuracy rate for edits that came from the suggestion is less than those manually written, we will not keep the feature in the app. The accuracy rate will be determined based on manual patrolling.
  • If the accuracy rate for edits that came from the suggestion is less than 80%, we will not keep the feature in the app. The accuracy rate will be determined based on manual patrolling.
  • If the time spent to complete the task using the suggestion is double the average rate as those that do not see suggestions we will need to compare it to reports to see if there are performance issues
  • If time spent to complete the task using the suggestion is less than the average without a negative impact to accuracy rate, we will consider it a positive indicator to expand the feature to more users
  • If users that see the suggestion modify the suggestions more often than submitting it without modification, we will evaluate its accuracy rate compared to users that did not see the suggestions and determine if the suggestion is a good starting point for users and how it differs by user experience
  • If users that see the suggestion modify the suggestions more often than submitting them without modification, we will look for trends in the modification and offer a recommendation to EPFL to update the model
  • If beam one is chosen more than 25% of the time than beam two while having an equal or higher accuracy rate, we will only show beam one in the future
  • If users that see treatment return to the task multiple times (1,2,7,14 days) at a rate 15% or more than the control group without a negative impact to accuracy, we will take steps to expand the feature
  • If our risks are triggered we will implement our contingency plan
  • If users that see the treatment do not select a suggestion more than 50% of the time after viewing the suggestions, we will not expand the feature

In aggregate, there should be at least 1500 people with a stretch goal of **2,000 people** and 4,000 edits included in the A/B test across the following mBART25 wikis: English, Russian, Vietnamese, Japanese, German, Romanian, French, Finnish, Korean, Spanish, Chinese (sim), Italian, Dutch, Arabic, Turkish, Hindi, Czech, Lithuanian, Latvian, Kazakh, Estonian, Nepali, Sinhala, Gujarati, and Burmese.

Risk management

Any time Machine Learning is used, we introduce a greater deal of risks than what is already involved in software development. For that reason, we are tracking and managing risks associated with this project alongside our Security and Legal team.

Risk Cause Level Response Response Action Trigger Contingency Plan
Algorithm Defames Living People Algorithm pulls controversial aspects of a living person and includes it in description. Low Mitigate We will monitor the output of what gets published and see what is reported to make adjustments to the learning model. In testing we haven't seen a case of this, quite the opposite, we see cases of the algorithm whitewashing history. As an extra precaution, we will only allow experienced editors to edit biographies of living people. Defamation detected during patrolling Remove suggestions on BLPs completely
Overwhelm patrollers New feature increases interest in task type and algorithm doesn't increase quality of edits Med Mitigate We will have a dedicated team of people that will patrol the edits from this feature to not overwhelm volunteer patrollers, and give advanced notice to Wikidata and English Community. Staff unable to keep up with patrolling demands Restrict the number of tasks with suggestions in a day
Proposes NSFW Content There is NSFW content in the article that is suggested for the description Low Mitigate The algorithm pulls primarily from the first paragraph. We have a reporting mechanism and will be patrolling edits. If 2% or more users report a problem We will hardcode block words based on the abuse filter
Users abandon task due to performance issues The model is on a temporary host and showing more than one option can take a while for generation Med Mitigate Load answers in the background before users click the button to show suggestions. 4/10 users express performance issues during usability testing Show one option or make other changes to UI
Misgendering or ethnic hallucinations Algorithm incorrectly genders people or provides incorrect ethnciity Med Mitigate During the experiment this is something we will deliberately look for in patrolling and monitor reports If reported more than 2% of time We will pause the feature and hard code reminders and decrease suggestion to one suggestion

How to follow along

We have created T316375 as our Phabricator Epic to track this work. We encourage your collaboration there or on our Talk Page.

There will also be periodic updates to this page as we make progress. You can also test the model at


August 2023

We’ve officially received grades for all languages and are now finalizing analysis. We will share the outcomes in next month’s update as well as our recommendations for next steps based on the experiment.

July 2023: Early Insights from 32 Days of Data Analysis: Grading Scores and Editing Patterns

We can not complete our data analysis until all entries have been graded so that we have an accurate grading score. However we do have early insights we can share. These insights are based on 32 days of data:

  • 3968 Articles with Machine Edits were exposed to 375 editors.
    • Note: Exposed does not mean selected.
  • 2125 Machine edits were published by 256 editors
  • Editors with 50+ edits completed three times the amount of edits per unique compared to editors with less than 50 edits

May 2023: Experiment Deactivated & Volunteers Evaluate Article Short Descriptions

The experiment has officially been deactivated and we are now in a period of edits being graded.

Volunteers across several language Wikis have begun to evaluate both human generated and machine assisted article short descriptions.

We express our sincere gratitude and appreciation to all the volunteers, and have added a dedicated section to honor their efforts on the project page. Thank you for your support!

We are still welcoming support from the following language Wikipedias for grading: Arabic, English, French, German, Italian, Japanese, Russian, Spanish, and Turkish languages.

If you are interested in joining us for this incredible project, please reach out to Amal Ramadan. We look forward to collaborating with passionate individuals like you!

April 2023: FAQ Page and Model Card

We released our experiment in the 25 mBART languages this month and it will run until mid-May. Prior to release we added a model card to our FAQ page to provide transparency into how the model works.

This is the onboarding process:

January 2023: Updated Designs

After determining that the suggestions could be embedded in the existing article descriptions task the Android team made updates to our design.

If a user reports a suggestion, they will see the same dialog as we proposed in our August 2022 update as the what will be seen if someone clicks Not Sure.

This new design does mean we will allow users to publish their edits, as they would be able to without the machine generated suggestions. However, our team will patrol the edits that are made through this experiment to ensure we do not overwhelm volunteer patrollers. Additionally, new users will not receive suggestions for Biographies of Living Persons.

November 2022: API Development

The Research team put the model on toolforge and tested the performance of the API. Initial insights found that it took 5-10 seconds to generate suggestions, which also varied depending on how many suggestions were being shown. Performance improved as the number of suggestions generated decreased. Ways of addressing this problem was by preloading some suggestions, restricting the number of suggestions shown when integrated into article descriptions, and altering user flows to ensure suggestions can be generated in the background.

August 2022: Initial Design Concepts and Guardrails for Bias

User story for Discovery

When I am using the Wikipedia Android app, am logged in, and discover a tooltip about a new edit feature, I want to be educated about the task, so I can consider trying it out. Open Question: When should this tooltip be seen in relation to other tooltips?

User story for education

When I want to try out the article descriptions feature, I want to be educated about the task, so my expectations are set correctly.

User story for adding descriptions

When I use the article descriptions feature, I want to see articles without a description, I want to be presented with two suitable descriptions and an option to add a description of my own, so I can select or add a description for multiple articles in a row.

Guardrails for bias and harm

The team generated possible guardrails for bias and harm:

  • Harm: problematic text recommendations
    • Guardrail: blocklist of words never to use
    • Guardrail: check for stereotypes – e.g., gendered language + occupations
  • Harm: poor quality of recommendations
    • Guardrail: minimum amount of information in article
    • Guardrail: verify performance by knowledge gap
  • Harm: recommendations only for some types of articles
    • Guardrail: monitor edit distribution by topic

Gratitude and Appreciation for the Dedicated Volunteers of the Article Description Grading Project

We want to take a moment to express our deepest gratitude and heartfelt appreciation to each and every dedicated volunteer who has selflessly offered their time and unwavering support to the article description grading project. As the Apps Team at the Wikimedia Foundation, we are truly humbled by your invaluable contribution.

Your unwavering commitment to diligently patrol edits made during the experiment and wholeheartedly assign grades to them has played an irreplaceable role in helping us understand the impact of machine-generated article descriptions on the quality of edits. Your exceptional vigilance and unwavering dedication are the cornerstones of our collective efforts.

Your active participation in this project goes far beyond mere involvement; it represents a genuine and profound commitment to advancing the Wikimedia mission. Through your tireless efforts, our platforms continue to evolve and improve, creating an enhanced and enriching user experience for millions around the globe.

The boundless enthusiasm and unyielding passion you bring to the table truly inspire us. Together, we are forging a path toward a future where knowledge and accessibility know no bounds within the realm of our Wikipedia Android App.

Once again, we want to express our sincerest thanks for your extraordinary support and unwavering dedication. Your invaluable contributions are the lifeblood of this project and the broader Wikipedia community.

Our dedicated volunteers' usernames
VatBatCat Umasoyee
Bernilein111 Moha Elkotsh
Harouna674 Anupamdutta73
Barke11 Shayi ngolu
Terio legal Mndetatsin
Beheme CptViraj

And countless users who preferred to remain anonymous.