Saturday, May 7, 2011

Tone of talk page discussions

The Community Department at the Wikimedia Foundation has been running a number of small scale studies on the English Wikipedia in preparation for a more in-depth study during the summer.
English Wikipedia. (CC By-Sa: Steven Walling)

One of the things they have looked into was the tone of messages left on new editors' talk pages. Their findings show that the ratio of messages with a negative tone and sometimes scary imagery (red stop signs usually) has been on the increase, while messages of praise has shown a stark decline around 2007.

To see if the situation is similar on the Hungarian Wikipedia I tried to look at the user discussion pages on the Hungarian Wikipedia. Without diving into copies of the database that contain every single historical edit, I concentrated on edits in April-May 2011.

First I looked at the 100 most recent edits on user talk pages, which has included experienced editors – indeed, a lot of the discussion was between experienced editors. I tried to partition the edits based on tone into positive, negative and neutral, but (except for negative) it is usually quite difficult and the line between positive and neutral is a matter of subjective judgement (as a rule of thumb, anything that included a thank you or the default welcome template went into the positive bucket).

After doing this, I realized that I should have concentrated on messages left for new editors, so I looked at the talk pages of 30 people who have registered in April on the Hungarian Wikipedia.

The results weren't too exciting as there wasn't much interaction happening with new users. The majority received only the standard welcome message on their talk page; only two of the pages showed extensive discussion (indicating that the user has become quite active already).

A good sign is that the Hungarian Wikipedia doesn't really use scary images in templates, except in the cases of copyright violations and the Wikipedia puzzle piece in warnings about articles that are too short and that will therefore be deleted.

Thus, the situation seems to be better on the Hungarian Wikipedia than on the English Wikipedia. Unfortunately, this means that other explanations are needed to find out why is the retention and "conversion rate" of new editors on the Hungarian Wikipedia very low.

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