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Help panel: measure demand for live chat
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Various data points, anecdotes, and conversations make us think that a live chat feature for newcomers would allow them to get help quickly (proof-of-concept in T223807). Such a feature has a huge number of open implementation, policy, and moderation questions. Before we work on live chat, we want to get a sense for how much demand there is for it. We also need to be sure that some experienced users would be ready to reply to questions. We want to think about what simple change we can make to the existing help panel to judge whether users would interact with live chat. Ideas include:

  • Change the wording on the panel's call to action from "Get help with editing" to something like "Get help now" or "Ask for help now". If more people click the call-to-action, this might show the desire for speedier help.
  • Add a button for live chat that brings users to existing IRC channels.
  • [other ideas here]

Event Timeline

I vote against sending newbies to IRC channel in Czech Wikipedia. The channel doesn't have many active users, and it's pretty inactive.

Add a button for live chat that brings users to existing IRC channels.

If you consider sending people to the desert (IRC), will that button explicitly and clearly tell people beforehand that they'll often won't meet anyone for ages? I'm concerned that "live chat" creates "Here you'll immediately meet people and get help" expectations. And "Nobody replied in the last two minutes so I close this window but if I find out how to reopen the window tomorrow someone will surely have replied and the reply will magically show up in this window" expectations based on modern messenger application experience, though that's not how IRC works.

Also, what would that button do exactly? Open a (potentially not installed) IRC client on someone's machine? Open a third-party website (outside of WMF privacy policy which would require warning the user?) which offers IRC web chat without IRC nickname registration, while we cross fingers that Freenode IRC admins don't block any unregistered IRC users from joining IRC channels due to spammer attacks?

What I probably want to say is: IRC is not the most friendly technology for people who are not already tech-savvy. :) Riot might improve that a bit though.

"Get help now" or "Ask for help now".

One concern with this wording is that it still doesn't reveal to the user that they'll be able to chat with others in real time. Speaking personally I would be more likely to interact with a call-to-action that told me I was going to be able to chat with new and experienced editors; "Get help now" or "Ask for help now" could mean a forum, a form to submit, a help page, etc

Re: sending to IRC, if the intention is to see if more people click on a call-to-action with certain wording, then I would consider sending them to a page which outlines the various chat forums which exist rather than putting them into IRC which as others have noted, can be empty or not user friendly.

Thoughts from user Faysal.

He asked about using Live chat to answer newcomers. @MMiller_WMF asked me to bring to him some challenges in terms of implementing this tool and these are his thoughts:
Quoting Faysal:

  • To patrol live chat as far as possible, the tool sends a copy of the chat to a specific email address for patrolling task and the the message contains as subject the mentor name and newcomer name (and a timestamp). The email/log will work as an archive for these chats and we can search for harassment or attacks on this archive from both talkers.
  • We will try to talk widely about this tool in the community. We will start a general discussion in the village pump. About "enough people available", we can use an option like a Online option in preferences. If there are no Online mentors, the live chat option will not appear to newcomers.

End of quoting

I hope you will find these thoughts helpful.

It might be worth checking how hard it would be to integrate this with an existing chat system (such as Matrix, which can be used through very nice REST APIs) so users can use a chat box on the homepage but mentors and/or chat admins can use an IRC-like (but less sucky) interface, have a backchannel for discussing questions, have things like notifications or anti-abuse tools without us having to spend extra time building those etc.

Also, would be interesting to look into chatbots. There are plenty of bots which can be answer common help questions with NLP and pre-defined decision trees; not sure if there's anything opensource, though.

This task might be getting away from the title (measure the demand not how it would be done exactly) but I guess it is tied into the implementation details to some extent.

My opinion is that we view "live chat" as putting the existing talk page system into the help panel and using some tricks to live update its contents and make posting comments simple. We could probably build off the work that is being done in the Talk Pages project.

I would not rush on it until we have a clear view.

My main concern is to create a system that would please newcomers but that would also be a burden for experienced users and hence a disappointment for newcomers who would have no one to reply to their questions.

Measurement should also be donc from the mentorship side, without hiding what it would cost.

It is a frequent request from users as part of the mentorship module.

@Trizek-WMF -- I think we heard this from a specific wiki. Which was it?

@Trizek-WMF -- I think we heard this from a specific wiki. Which was it?

Maybe Arabic Wikipedia? I don't think they were the first and only ones to mention it, since we also had this request at the CEE meeting and during the last Wikimedia Clinic.

The idea also just came up at the German-language Wikipedia AdminCon, both in the context of supporting newcomers as well as for live communication between admins.

Moving out of current sprint. This needs further discussion and potentially breaking out into different tasks per @kostajh's earlier comment about the task being about "measuring demand" for a live chat feature vs the task description and comments referring to potential ways of implementing such a feature.

Removing task assignee due to inactivity, as this open task has been assigned for more than two years (see emails sent to assignee on May26 and Jun17, and T270544). Please assign this task to yourself again if you still realistically [plan to] work on this task - it would be very welcome!

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