I looked at 30-30 recently registered users' talkpage from April on the Croatian, Serbian, Russian and English Wikipedias – of course, this means that neither sample was very representative as the size of the Wikipedias differ and in certain cases it takes days, while in others only minutes until 30 new users register. Therefore, it is important to take the numbers with a grain of salt, while the overall trends should be about right.
|Colourful welcome message on the Russian Wikipedia. There is also a more text heavy black and white version.|
The three smaller Wikipedias (and the previously examined Hungarian one) had in common the practice to place a welcome template message on the users' pages following their first edits, even if they didn't have any other comment (praise or correction) to offer (about 28-29 people in the samples received some form of welcome template).The welcome messages are sometimes (6-30% of cases) followed by warnings that are somewhat specific to a given Wikipedia.
|Serbian welcome message, with a warm invitation at the end that looks personal.|
What was interesting was the common warning (4 times in the sample) on the Croatian Wikipedia that the user write in Croatian (given the similarity of the Serbocroatian languages, I cannot judge whether the warning was justified, but it can't be a positive experience if you are told that you are not speaking the right language or the language right), and that 4 out of the 30 people were indefinitely blocked for unproductive editing (without the ability to see deleted edits I cannot judge these blocks, but their harshness and the lack of warning in cases was striking).
|A typical English Wikipedia talk page with a welcome and a number of deletion notices.|
When I turned to the English Wikipedia the image was slightly different. The talk pages suddenly look like minefields dotted with danger signs. Only 55% of the users received a welcome message preceding a notice that their article was deleted or their contribution reverted (about 85% of the sample received some kind of warning).
Given the high proportion of users faced with the warning sign messages as the first feedback they get from Wikipedia, it might be worthwhile to consider making them more user friendly. One good step would be to make them easier to understand by simply rewriting them in Plain English (the grammar could be simplified, insider jargon like "tag", "under criteria A7", "userfy" should be removed, etc.).
An interesting follow-up study would be to see what effect do welcome messages or the lack of them have on new users' behaviour.