Something in the light of our recent discussions :) A good read!

---------- Forwarded message ----------
From: Matthew Roth <>
Date: Fri, Mar 9, 2012 at 12:05 AM
Subject: [Wmfcc-l] The kind, gentle approach to retaining new editors
To: Communications Committee <>

Hi all,
You might remember Susan Hewitt from her
the top of Wikipedia during the last fundraiser.
Susan has become something of a den mother for WikiProject:Gastropods,
where she is the unofficial welcoming committee. At a lightening talk
recently in New York City, she argued that WikiProjects can be an important
tool for editor retention and development. Here's a new blog post about her
and WP:Gastropods.

The kind, gentle approach to retaining new
Posted by MatthewRoth <> on
March 8th, 2012

Susan Hewitt of WikiProject:Gastropods

At the Wikimedia Foundation, we’re developing a number of tools to improve
editor retention, from a dramatically simpler editing
improved article feedback
what if keeping new editors and helping them become productive long-term
contributors were simpler than all that?

Susan Hewitt <> believes
fostering a little wiki love and a sense of camaraderie will go a long way
toward increasing new-editor retention. She is the informal den mother to
one of the 2,000
WikiProjects<> on
English Wikipedia organized by editors who share an affinity for a
particular subject area and want to see the quality of those articles

“[Wikipedia] is a very big place,” said Hewitt, who lives in New York City.
“You start editing, it’s like you walked in off the street — it’s as big
and echoey asGrand
It’s like an enormous hospital or an enormous high school, where you don’t
know what’s going on, and you don’t know where you’re supposed to go, and
you’re disoriented by it.”

According to Hewitt, technological tools are vital to improving the editing
experience and she expressed gratitude to MediaWiki developers, paid and
volunteer, who consistently improve the editing experience. But the
question of human interactions remains even after the code is deployed. We
should approach each other on Wikipedia, she said, “with this attitude
which is kind, considerate, warm, appreciative, thankful and gentle. It’s
just like everyday life. This is a really amazing project, there’s a lot of
people working on it, and in a sort of vague way they know you’ve got to
try to be polite.”

She has developed a system for welcoming new editors to the project and she
has become adept at marshaling their strengths for improving Wikipedia. She
uses AlexNewArtBot <> to
monitor new articles related to
one of the largest taxonomic classes on the planet and better known as
snails and slugs. When she sees an unfamiliar new editor, she drops by
their talk page with a colorful
words of encouragement. She invites editors to participate in the
WikiProject using an array of pictures and barnstars, like a deep water sea
snail in the genus *Guildfordia<>
* or the luminous*Janolus fuscus<>

Her methods are paying off.

“To me, the moment Susan came to me and invited me to the project was
crucial, essential,” said Daniel
a biologist living in São Paulo, Brazil. “If I hadn’t been welcomed and
helped when I joined in, perhaps I wouldn’t be editing at Wikipedia

Hewitt and Cavallari have never met in person, and maybe never will. They
are thousands of miles apart, but they share a mutual respect for the
project and they improve it constantly. Cavallari noted that he has had a
much different experience editing on his native Portuguese language
Wikipedia, where some editors have not been as kind to him.

A photo of Chromodoris willani, by Alex Jenner, Wikimedia Commons

Another member of Hewitt’s circle of wiki love is Alexander
an astrophysicist living in Tokyo, Japan. Just like Cavallari, Jenner has
never met Hewitt in person, but he is grateful she welcomed him. Given his
interest in scuba diving and underwater photography, Hewitt encouraged him
to contribute his photos to Commons.

“Susan, she was doing other areas of Gastropods and she said ‘Nobody’s
doing nudibranchs <>, so we’re happy
to have somebody doing it.’” Jenner noted. “I guess I got a buzz when I was
the first person to add a high definition photo of a species that didn’t
exist [on Wikipedia]. It was like, ‘I did that photo.’”

Jenner said he had a much different experience on another WikiProject,
where there is no welcoming committee and there are often heated arguments.
If he had joined the other project before Gastropods, he said, “I doubt I
would have edited nearly as much. That early phase before one becomes
accustomed to the ways of Wikipedia is very important.”

“Susan most certainly made a difference in my case,” he added.

*(To get involved with
feel free to contact Susan Hewitt on her talk
page<> or
reach out to any of the members of the project. For more information, read this
the Wikipedia Signpost WikiProject


Matthew Roth
Global Communications Manager
Wikimedia Foundation
+1.415.839.6885 ext 6635

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Noopur Raval
Arts and Aesthetics
Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi
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