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Structured tasks: Positive reinforcements design research
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A primary objective of the WMF Product team (esp. Growth and Android), is growing the contributor population, concentrating on small-to-medium Wikipedias.
Thus far the focus has been on providing a variety of smaller and more structured tasks to attract new users to start editing, but there has been less experimentation or data available onwiki as to whether different types of positive feedback (thanks, awards, etc) are able to sustain editor contributions, increasing retention for those users who took the first step in making an edit.


Review the various mechanisms that have been employed to encourage people to contribute content to both on and off-wiki products, and assess their relevance and potential impact—if applied—to the retention of newcomers editing on Wikipedia.

  • Identify and assess the efficacy of different types of positive reinforcement mechanisms used to encourage sustained user contributions in software.
  • Provide recommendations for what mechanisms could be used in the context of editor activation and retention for on wiki products.

Hypotheses | Questions

Bestowing users with rewards and recognition that appeal/match to their motivation(s) for editing will encourage sustained contribution.

  • Showing users the potential impact of their contributions can instigate their participation.
    • What motivates someone to start editing?
    • Do specific messages appeal to specific groups more than others?
  • Providing positive reinforcement about their involvement will encourage users to continue contributing to Wikipedia.
    • How might the motivating factors to start editing work for sustaining users interests in continuing to contribute?
  • Users are more likely to continue contributing when recognition and rewards are personalised and come from a real person.
    • Are messages of thanks or recognition from real people more effective in motivating contribution over automated sources?
    • What types of positive feedback or recognition are more likely to encourage sustained contributions?
  1. Identify and evaluable different types of positive reinforcement mechanisms used on: (a) Wiki projects (Barnstars, Wikilove, Thanks, etc. and (b) Relevant offwiki products (e.g., Duolingo, Google Contributions, Fitbit, etc)
  2. Literature review of research papers on the subject of positive reinforcement mechanisms to extract any actionable advice (this is effective, that is not, etc.)
  3. Provide recommendations on ways to apply the knowledge gleaned from approach 1 and 2 in the form of prioritised taxonomy of positive reinforcement mechanisms
  4. Create initial design explorations for how these ideas could be tested as features to sustain editor retention in Android and Growth products.

Note there is a recognized constraint that much of the review will be based on predominantly English-language sites and projects.

Event Timeline

RHo created this task.Jun 30 2020, 12:36 PM
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RHo updated the task description. (Show Details)Jun 30 2020, 5:40 PM
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RHo updated the task description. (Show Details)Jul 7 2020, 12:17 PM