How to incentivize LW wiki edits?

post by lukeprog · 2012-12-05T04:39:36.394Z · LW · GW · Legacy · 53 comments

How can we incentivize more productive activity on the LW wiki? There are many articles that could be created or expanded.

Are there previous discussions on this?

One suggestion: We could add a "good explanation!" button at the bottom of each article, and every time it is clicked, the user account responsible for the plurality of words in the current draft of the article gets 10 karma points. This requires that LW and LW-wiki accounts be synced, first.

How can this suggestion be improved?

What other suggestions do people have?


Comments sorted by top scores.

comment by Manfred · 2012-12-05T05:06:24.322Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Make it easier, or automatic, for people with a LW account to have a LW-wiki account.

comment by [deleted] · 2012-12-05T14:17:09.637Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Automatic would be best. It could help with the spam issue too - only allow wiki editing to users with positive karma.

comment by beoShaffer · 2012-12-05T05:36:09.770Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I believe this would be enough to spur considerable editing by itself. I have tried to edit the wiki on several occasions, but my college was IP blocked and I decided that the additional effort needed to create an account anyway wasn't worth it for a trivial edit.

comment by Emile · 2012-12-05T15:39:24.067Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Yep. People have wanted this for ages (I think it's brought up at each mention of the wiki), though I udnerstand there are probably technical reasons for which it's complicated (the wiki and reddit codebases probably handle auth in pretty different ways).

Anyway, this would be a prerequisite to luke's proposal on karma - it would be much simpler AND useful.

comment by lincolnquirk · 2012-12-05T06:20:56.561Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Seconded. I actually DID get an account at one point, but it was a lot of work and I almost bailed, and I could easily imagine many others not getting as far.

comment by Morendil · 2012-12-05T06:17:20.222Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Start by implementing the anti-spam measures that have been in the pipeline for oh-so-long, and which would finally make the Wiki sidebar relevant, instead of creating an ugh field around even visiting the Wiki - as I suspect is currently the case.

Next, rather than implement complex reward features such as the one proposed above, just try to catch posts and comments that contain Wiki-suitable material and point that out to their authors. Also, lead by example.

comment by Vladimir_Nesov · 2012-12-05T16:06:14.846Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

As a related attention-focusing change, remove user registration notifications from (the default form of) the "Recent changes" page.

comment by [deleted] · 2012-12-05T17:09:07.778Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I suspect that this is hard coded actually, as each wiki account has a userpage (User:[username]), which is itself wiki-editable.

comment by Vladimir_Nesov · 2012-12-05T18:00:29.680Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

If so, not a particularly serious issue, as MediaWiki is GPL2ed (not sure what is the relevance of your remark that each wiki account has a userpage; userpages are not created automatically on registration, at least in the LW wiki configuration).

comment by [deleted] · 2012-12-05T18:45:23.385Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I meant that if a userpage was automatically created (I was under the impression that they were, based on this user list and my experience on Wikipedia - feel free to correct me), then it would count as a recent "change" and show up in the recent changes list.

comment by gwern · 2012-12-05T19:13:44.825Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I don't think they are. I rarely have to delete user pages because most spammers never create a user page. The items in the sidebar with my name seem to refer to me blocking the user accounts.

comment by Vladimir_Nesov · 2012-12-05T18:53:13.411Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

feel free to correct me

(I already did, in the comment you've replied to...)

comment by Paul Crowley (ciphergoth) · 2012-12-05T10:16:31.507Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Start by implementing the anti-spam measures that have been in the pipeline for oh-so-long, and which would finally make the Wiki sidebar relevant, instead of creating an ugh field around even visiting the Wiki - as I suspect is currently the case.

Totally this. It's hard for me to take the wiki seriously when spam is such a problem.

Other ideas: make a regular post highighting recent good edits to the wiki, and thanking the authors.

comment by Viliam_Bur · 2012-12-05T11:31:32.772Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

make a regular post highighting recent good edits to the wiki, and thanking the authors.

...and at the end of that post suggest the next topics that should be created or improved.

comment by DaFranker · 2012-12-05T18:00:18.183Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

This! Regular posts with a breakdown of good recent progress and desired articles sounds like a wonderful thing. I love the current occasional posts that do this on other topics.

comment by MichaelAnissimov · 2012-12-07T23:24:28.060Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I strongly second this suggestion. If the spam posts can be eliminated, then people who make edits can be more prominently recognized on the "recent changes" page, instead of it filling up with spam.

comment by lsparrish · 2012-12-06T01:08:09.386Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I agree that spam is making it less appealing to participate in the wiki community.

comment by Kindly · 2012-12-05T15:17:29.052Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Explain what the point of the wiki is. Right now it seems like a bunch of links to LW posts with short descriptions, which is neither worthwhile nor interesting to edit.

comment by DaFranker · 2012-12-05T17:48:17.830Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

In programming, there's this thing called language reference (manuals or sites or whatever). You use them to look up the details of a concept that isn't clear in memory, or that you haven't seen before, and you also use it to point other people at the specific technical details of a functionality.

I say this because that's essentially the usage I make of the LW wiki at present. They condense topic-specific or concept-specific information and then give branching paths to primary sources of information with more details and explanations, most of the time.

ETA: Also, when possible and the article is of decent quality, I prefer to link to the Wiki rather than the blog posts linked in that wiki article. The summary is usually sufficient to jog the memory of people familiar with the LW concepts, people not familiar with the concept but interested will click the links and read the blog posts on their own anyway, and people not familiar but not interested will read only the summary, but wouldn't have read the blog posts if linked directly to them.

comment by TimS · 2012-12-05T18:09:15.119Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

This is a plausible purpose of the wiki. Announcement that this was the actual purpose might be helpful in getting more folks involved.

comment by DaFranker · 2012-12-05T18:23:18.670Z · LW(p) · GW(p)


It doesn't seem to be quite the exact intended (and especially not stated) purpose at present.

comment by wgd · 2012-12-06T18:36:48.141Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

My understanding is that it was once meant to be almost tvtropes-like with a sort of back-and forth linking between pages about concepts on the wiki and posts which refer to those concepts on the main site (in the same way that tvtropes gains a lot of its addictiveness from the back-and-forth between pages for tropes and pages for shows/books/etc).

comment by [deleted] · 2012-12-07T13:51:04.611Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I use it as a kind of glossary, linking to it when I want to use LW-specific jargon which may be unfamiliar to newcomers.

comment by Kindly · 2012-12-07T15:48:42.784Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

There is that, but it's also possible to link directly to the LW post (or comment) that defines the jargon. Is there any real reason to use the wiki instead?

comment by [deleted] · 2012-12-07T18:25:54.337Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Wiki entries are shorter.

comment by RomeoStevens · 2012-12-05T09:00:35.862Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

A monthly wiki open thread to remind everyone that it exists?

comment by lincolnquirk · 2012-12-05T06:52:09.235Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

The purpose of the LW wiki is being confused with the purpose of LW, and I fear this is hurting wiki adoption.

When I tell people what LW is, I tell them "it's a community that grew up around some very good blog posts". The blog posts espouse a specific worldview which is shared among the community.

But the LW wiki is supposed to be (as I understand it) a place where people explain and combine academic work in certain fields.

The people who you want to be doing academic work are probably mostly not part of the community, and lots of community members don't have the expertise or interest to do the academic work.

I'm not sure LW can "be both". It seems like one identity or another will always dominate. The LW wiki needs its own identity, and its own community norms, and it probably shouldn't import them from LW community, because you'll turn off a substantial number of the types of people you need in order to make a wiki successful.

So, the suggestion is to separate the LW wiki identity from the LW community. Probably not calling the wiki Less Wrong at all.

comment by Vladimir_Nesov · 2012-12-05T16:00:12.748Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

But the LW wiki is supposed to be (as I understand it) a place where people explain and combine academic work in certain fields.

The original purpose of the wiki was to describe the state of discussion or consensus on the blog. SingInst's recent edits (this year) might have shifted that a bit by adding some less LW-specific content to the wiki.

From the wiki's User Guide (linked from the sidebar on all pages):

The default workflow for putting content on this wiki is as follows:

  • Idea for posting -> write post on the blog
  • Notice something generally accepted on LW without a wiki page -> write wiki page
comment by [deleted] · 2012-12-05T15:27:18.147Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Agree strongly with this. Just because the wiki model is publicly editable does not mean that everyone should make significant contributions. (See Wikipedia on being bold and "minor edits".) Expertise is still a requirement (arguably even more so than with most posts in Main), especially with scholarly or advanced topics such as some of the ones linked in the OP at first glance.

comment by John_Maxwell (John_Maxwell_IV) · 2012-12-06T00:49:54.632Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

What kind of traffic is the wiki getting? Are we sure this is a good goal?

comment by [deleted] · 2012-12-06T06:30:59.042Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

A major problem is that the wiki isn't very usable (not just to edit, but to USE). It's hard to find what you are looking for (especially if you don't know the exact phrase you need), and to navigate in general. Big problem: The search bar is hidden. You have to scroll down the sidebar to see it. The search bar should be either top right or front and center.

If it's not usable, then no one is going to use it. If no one uses it, then no one wants to work on it. Why work on something that no one's going to read?

Some ideas:

  1. Make a detailed list of things that need worked on. Post a link to this list somewhere VERY VISIBLE on the front page. Right now there are three links of articles that need help, but I went to one, and didn't really know what would've been needed to better-ify it.

  2. (My favorite idea) Make a monthly wiki thread on Discussion where you can ask for what specifically you want done. People can talk about it. Ask questions if they want. Get karma for it. It feels more visible, versus just going in and editing wiki stuff on your own, sans discussion. The wiki isn't active enough that the discussion pages for each article can support ongoing conversation, IMO. I clicked on two pages, and neither had anything at all in their discussion pages.

  3. Set it up as a project on the volunteer network.

  4. Run a one-month-ish competition for who has done the most (useful) work on the wiki. There are prizes that are cheap for you guys to give away, but worthwhile to others. (i.e. Sing Summit tix. Name a HPMOR character. One on one Skype conversation. etc) The most difficult part would be having someone judge the editors (which would be easier if you allowed multiple ties). The good part of this is it might jump start people into getting habituated to doing wiki work.

  5. From the comments here, it seems like people aren't even in agreement about what the wiki is FOR. It probably needs a mission statement or something.

  6. Post regular (weekly?) links to wiki articles on the LW discussion page. This will lead to: a) Getting people ONTO the wiki in general. (People will want to edit it more, if other people are on it more.) b) Discussion and improvement on that particular page.

tl;dr- It needs to be easier to use the wiki as a user. The wiki needs more traffic, to make editing it more worthwhile. It needs to be easier to find out what needs to be edited, hopefully with specifics of what needs work in the article. It needs to be clearer what the final product should be like.

comment by [deleted] · 2012-12-06T14:46:35.167Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Nitpick on Point 2: On Wikipedia, the Talk (Discussion) pages are used for discussing changes to the content, not the content itself. It seems to be the same way here.

comment by [deleted] · 2012-12-06T18:42:49.605Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I think I just wasn't clear enough, because that is actually what I meant for point 2: We have a monthly Discussion post on LW where people talk about editing the wiki. (i.e. -Should there be a section on the history of this concept here? What work needs to be done to page A? etc)

However this is different than Point 6 which IS more like what you think point 2 was like (we make a weekly discussion post on a specific article, as something to read and discuss.)

comment by [deleted] · 2012-12-06T19:47:21.796Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Ah, yeah. I misunderstood "ongoing conversation". I don't like having wiki-editing discussion split off the wiki at all, but otherwise I like the idea. If there was a monthly Discussion post with a "featured article" - not in the Wikipedia featured-on-the-front-page sense, but a single article to collaborate on, that would likely help focus the community effort.

comment by [deleted] · 2012-12-06T21:04:53.460Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I don't like having wiki-editing discussion split off the wiki at all, but otherwise I like the idea.

Thank you! I would agree with you IF there were already ongoing conversations on the wiki articles, but this doesn't seem to be the case. Even the main page only has three discussion comments on it. I don't feel like I could ask a question or write a comment on the (empty) wiki discussion page for an article and have it read by more than one or two people (the wiki mods who read everything). OTOH, if I posted a question on a wiki thread in LW Discussion, I feel like a significant amount of people would read it, and I would get feedback.

Would it solve your concern if, at the end of the month, when the next wiki thread is open, all the conversations are copy and pasted to the relevant wiki discussion page? That way, if someone in the future comes with the same question, they can check the wiki article's discussion page to see what has been said already.

(Note: I realize that this conversation is hampered by the fact that there is the LW Discussion forum, and the wiki articles' discussion pages, and that you have to constantly be clarifying which one you meant, which gets a little wordy. Sorry :P )

comment by [deleted] · 2012-12-06T21:50:56.195Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I guess I should say why I'm concerned with the idea... Precedents should be set sooner rather than later. If the wiki does eventually get more traffic, it's much easier to follow comments when they're organized by topic than by time period, if at all. Maybe some sort of bootstrap method would work, though.

The former Wikipedia editor in me doesn't like the copy-paste solution, as it bypasses the wiki edit tracking system and the comment thread system here. (If you thought retributive downvoting was bad, this can potentially be much worse if someone has a grudge and is clever about it.)

All this talk is making me want to create a wiki account; I will do so tonight when I get home.

Edit: fixed link markup

comment by lincolnquirk · 2012-12-05T06:30:02.882Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Make the wiki the front-and-center place where LW's content resides.

Today, most of the interesting content is in the Sequences, which are interlinked to each other (to some degree), but which do not link to the wiki. You could move the Sequences to the wiki. This would get people onto it. Part of why the Sequences are considered to be poorly organized is that the organization efforts can't touch the actual Sequences. Moving them to the wiki would change this. I expect the Sequences to improve with more eyes.

(Potential drawback: people don't expect blog posts to appear in wiki format, and could easily be confused about what Less Wrong was.)

comment by Paul Crowley (ciphergoth) · 2012-12-06T14:17:56.752Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I approve of your boldness, but I don't think this is a good idea. The Sequences are written as essays and have comments. Wikis aren't the right place for that sort of content.

comment by Vaniver · 2012-12-05T17:49:08.072Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

It's really not clear what the purpose of the wiki is. When you search LessWrong for "Politics is the Mind-Killer", the first result is this blog post and the second result is this wiki article. The primary thing the second has is a bunch of links- but the blog posts have navigation links too. If there's a clearer purpose, then people will be much more willing to post stuff to it, because they'll know whether or not it's appropriate. I only add stuff I write to the wiki if someone asks me to or it's obvious it fits (like adding my book reviews to this list).

Make the wiki no longer think links to LessWrong are external links. When I realized that this page hadn't been updated in six months, I decided to adopt it. I quickly learned that every update requires convincing the system that, no, I'm not a spammer, and my desire to continue maintaining that page is rapidly fading. (I'm currently only updating it monthly, when it probably should be updated at least every two weeks.) I know MinibearRex has been through four or five wiki accounts because of various hassles associated with links and the Sequences Rerun.

comment by MinibearRex · 2012-12-06T01:58:12.339Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Every now and then, the Wiki seems to decide that my IP address is spamming the Wiki, and autoblock it. Sometimes it goes away in a day or so, and sometimes it doesn't. In the event that it doesn't, making a new username seems to resolve the issue, for some reason. I'm currently on account number 4, named "Wellthisisaninconvenience". Which is different from my previous account, "Thisisinconvenient".

comment by lincolnquirk · 2012-12-05T06:41:52.753Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Payment oriented:

  • Pay after they write, for particularly valuable improvements, rather than commissioning improvements.
  • Pay based on community agreement (upvote changes)
  • Pay based on lottery (triggering intermittent rewards)
comment by DaFranker · 2012-12-05T17:54:54.430Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Funding for SigInst, LW and CFAR are dismally low, even by the standards of regular small nonprofits, and even more catastrophically so with respect to the proportional value and importance of their work.

You'd have to explain and demonstrate in detail how a specific monetary reward strategy is beneficial as a whole before anyone would agree to implement them.

I don't see any strategy that contains any equilibrium where the content and quality of the wiki is substantially improved in a manner sufficient to outweigh the opportunity cost the required amount of money would incur on other projects.

comment by Giles · 2012-12-09T21:01:27.410Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Appoint a chief editor. Chief's most important job would be to maintain a list of what most urgently needs adding or expanding in the wiki, and posting a monthly Discussion post reminding people about these. (Maybe choosing a different theme each month and listing a few requested edits in that category, together with a link to the wiki page that contains the full list).

When people make these changes, they can add a comment and chief editor (or some other high status figure) will respond with heaps of praise.

People will naturally bring up any other topics they'd like to see on the wiki or general comments about the wiki. Chief editor should take account of these and where relevant bring them up with the relevant people (e.g. the programmers).

comment by Kindly · 2012-12-06T15:07:09.136Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I suspect that adding code to the wiki for calculating who's "most responsible" for a good article, so that articles can be voted on for karma (or anything else of this nature that's been suggested) is really tricky. This practically ensures it would never get done, especially since it first requires the account synchronization, which is nontrivial in itself (but worth doing in any case).

I think that the same can be done manually, either by having an actual vote for "Wiki Editor of the Month" or just by announcing completed wiki tasks in a monthly thread and waiting patiently to receive lots of karma votes. Or both, or another similar idea.

comment by Emile · 2012-12-05T15:43:39.845Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Have a monthly "wiki open thread", where people can:

  • Mention what they've worked on the wiki recently
  • Mention other wiki issues (hings they find confusing, need fixing, etc.)

That way, blam, extra attention AND karma incentive without any need for new technology.

It could even beocme a thread for general "community public goods" things, like helping the site's code, moderator work, etc.

comment by Dr_Manhattan · 2012-12-05T15:34:38.592Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

integrate karma points

comment by JoshuaZ · 2012-12-05T15:35:46.971Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

How would one have karma be used to apply to wiki edits?

comment by Dr_Manhattan · 2012-12-05T15:44:30.563Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

wiki pages would have votes that would be split into karma points based on some sort of contribution measure

comment by tetsuo55 · 2012-12-05T11:54:09.698Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I think the rules surrounding the wiki pages should be made more clear and strict. I suggest we use the same rules as wikipedia but with some twists, the main difference being that posts on lesswrong itself count as valid links to reference/quote from in wiki articles. Also we might want to consider now allowing downvoted posts to be used.

Other than that we might want to use a queuing system where a page maintainer reviews changes made and gives karma for accepted changes. At some point you might also consider removing karma for bad changes.

This maintainer thing does not have to mean we don't instantly see the change. The review can be done after the fact or they can be queued and not be made visible until reviewed.

comment by [deleted] · 2012-12-05T14:19:30.582Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I don't think this helps. The problem isn't that the wiki is clogged with low-quality content (unless you count spam), the problem is that content doesn't make its way to the wiki. Making it harder to add real content is a step in the wrong direction.

comment by [deleted] · 2012-12-05T16:27:56.078Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Randomly select people and order them to improve a specific wiki article. Give then +30 if they do, -30 if they refuse. Such a message is cheap, so it can work on spam economics.

This requires a single someone with authority who's job it is to imropve the LW community. This would fit into the general pattern of this person having such a job and having the power to deputize people.

I need to write a post on this general idea...

Edit: Also what manfred said. The general idea is to make it require less agency to improve LW. Either by having someone supply that agency as a service (my idea) or making the actual job require less (manfred's idea)

comment by DaFranker · 2012-12-05T17:43:55.945Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Randomly select people and order them to improve a specific wiki article.

Terrible idea. Due to the fact that people who possess the conjunction of the properties (Good at explaining + Understands LW material + Good at reduction) (No, the last two don't imply eachother, IME) are rather rare, there is a very high chance that randomly selecting authors will introduce lots of noise, a good proportion of which might be hidden and very difficult to detect. There's also the chance of introducing accidental anti-epistemology directly into the wiki that gets raised by an order of magnitude or two if this strategy is implemented.

comment by Alicorn · 2012-12-05T16:40:11.451Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Such a message is cheap

Not in social capital. Anyone telling me this (or anyone I believed to be responsible for telling me this) would torpedo theirs with me instantly.