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A vision for w:c:central

Najevi December 9, 2009 User blog:Najevi

The new Wikia-wide search is absolutely awesome. Many thanks!

  • There's a good chance I haven't fully explored it's capabilities yet and therefore some of these suggestions may already be enabled thanks to this new feature.

My personal bias is to use w:c:central as a body of knowledge however I can also appreciate that it has appeal for some users as a sort of cyber-supermarket - i.e. where one can browse up and down the aisles to get a feel for the variety of communities that have been created at Wikia.

Assumptions Edit

  • central = w:c:central
  • blue box pages = pages like Sailing, Recipes, Code, etc.
  • tidy up = staff and/or users liberally using {{delete}} and then waiting maybe 15-30 days (for any discussion/objection) before pages are actually deleted
  • Wikia-wide search = w:c:central:Special:Search
  • Wiki-wide search = w:c:<domain>:Special:Search

Key ideas (in no particular order) Edit

  1. w:c:central and w:c:help could safely merge and become the one wiki that represents the global body of knowledge
  2. Special:Contact (i.e. highly responsive email based 1:1 support) needs a counterpart that is wiki page based but is just as highly responsive
  3. Special:Contact support Q&A dialog that may benefit other users ought to be tagged as such and put within reach of w:c:central:Special:Search
  4. blue box pages - why not empower users who create (or have created) a wiki to add a blue box at an appropriate page for them self
  5. w:c:central pages ought to serve as a repository for WikiPage widget definitions (a.k.a. Source pages) that can be used from any Wikia community
  6. gadgets defined at any Wikia community ought to be visible at w:c:central:Special:Gadgets (or similar repository) i.e. source pages remain at whatever Wikia community but a documentation page that demonstrates/illustrates that gadget in action ought to be browse-able/search-able at w:c:central
  7. The comment blocks (but probably not the actual code) of user developed JavaScript and CSS from any community ought to be within reach of a w:c:central:Special:Search
  8. w:c:central:user_blog pages ought to be able to be deleted by the user who creates the blog (i.e. no sysop assistance required)
  9. w:c:help:help_talk (or if merged, then w:c:central:help_talk) pages ought to be on the watch list for relevant Wikia staff so that user's clarifying questions, support requests and contributions made there ought to be treated with the same level of diligence as requests initiated via Special:Contact
  10. Wikia's policy for user contributions to w:c:help:help (e.g. via w:c:help:draft) pages needs to be developed and published at w:c:help:project:policy
  11. w:c:central:forum posts ought to be subject to the use of {{delete}} by regular users and then Wikia staff charged with purging only if and when appropriate
  12. A user ought to be able specify the preferred page they arrive at when central.wikia.com (or indeed <domain>.wikia.com) is entered in to the browser address box

Body of knowledge principles Edit

I believe this means each of us helping others while we help our self. In other words even though an individual's primary/immediate goal is to find a solution to some problem (s)he faces that goal should be achieved while also contributing to the community's search-able body of knowledge.

  1. I am extremely satisfied when a search leads me to a solution. (whether directly or indirectly is not so important)
    • This is evidence of a proactive community. i.e. lots of users contributing to the "body of knowledge"
  2. I am satisfied when a public request for help (forum/talk page/mailing list/IRC etc.) leads to various advice that ultimately leads to a solution.
    • This is evidence of an interdependent community. i.e. responsive, cooperative, synergistic, empowered
  3. I am only moderately satisfied when that request must be taken into a 1:1 email dialog with a central support group.
    • This is evidence of a dependent community. i.e disenfranchised, unweaned, not empowered, not yet able to help one another

Do not misunderstand this as minimizing the value of a central support group ... au contraire ... that central team become the "sowers" of knowledge charged with turning 1:1 assistance into a re-usable contribution to the body of knowledge. Of course privacy must be respected for some support requests but the end goal should be that fewer and fewer support requests are even necessary because each Wikia user has been given the tools (empowered) to help them self.

Permit 1on1 support dialog to be made public Edit

A legitimate (indeed encouraged) response from Wikia central support to any 1:1 support request should be a link to the public forum post and/or help page that has previously answered the same generic problem. If there is no such page then either:

  • Wikia support ought to ask the user who initiated the request
  • the user who initiated the request ought to ask Wikia support

if the other party has any objection to the Q&A dialog being made publicly search-able at w:c:central.

So long as there is mutual agreement then this should be made to happen.

Alternatives to merging w:c::help with w:c:central Edit

There were probably good reasons for these two being kept separate. That's cool. In lieu of a merge suppose that w:c:<domain>:help_talk:Pagename always redirects the user to w:c:help:help_talk:Pagename. I don't know how many users mistakenly edit w:c:<domain>:help_talk:Pagename to ask their clarifying questions but I am sure there are some who do overlook the instructions to the contrary and do just that. This should be made technically impossible via an appropriate redirect.


Blue box pages and w:c:central:Special:Search can coexist Edit

I don't see why these two should be considered mutually exclusive. If wiki founders/adopters are empowered to place their wiki at the (one) most suitable blue box page then those pages can become a powerful tool that might lead to reduced duplication of effort.

  • I can understand why it has become untenable for a Wikia staff member to keep those pages current and that is why I am advocating empowering the community of founders/adopters (a.k.a. bureaucrats) to perform this task.
  • Maybe a necessary incentive is that your wiki community does not get targeted by the Wikia-wide search unless you have
    1. arranged a suitable home for it on one of the blue box pages at w:c:central
    2. created a Guided tour for your wiki (see #Reinvigorate the Wikia tour concept below)

My personal preference may be for the search method but I am sure there are users who prefer the less surgical precision approach that is browsing or meandering through broader categories and that is really what these blue box pages represent.

Also consider the number of hits returned for any given Wikia-wide search ... it's huge! So why not have a process in the background count the number of hits at each community and then provide a list of links to the blue box pages where the top 10 or 20 most "relevant" wikis reside at w:c:central? In this way the browse-oriented user can visit the blue box page and see that wiki alongside it's "siblings". Those siblings might make a up a wiki family of languages for the same subject or migh represent a duplication of effort or perhaps varying perspectives on the same subject.

Now if a Wikia staff member really wanted to get serious about this then they would bite the SMW (Semantic MediaWiki) bullet and figure out how to allow the users who found/adopt a wiki to annotate that wiki with semantic data such that these 50,000 or whatever pages become Concept pages (which is really just a form of dynamic category). With semantic annotations on 50,000 or however many wiki communities there are the focus at w:c:central can be on a form based semantic query page that allows users to view a gazillion different dynamic categories of wiki community. At that point you can say farewell to the 50,000 pages because the same or better data is now query-enabled via a user-friendly GUI to a semantic inline query.

Empowering wiki founders and wiki adopters to annotate each wiki and thereby cause that wiki to show up at w:c:central at an appropriate blue box page (or Concept: page) ought to be explored. I suspect this could very nicely be be coupled with the Wikia tour concept (see below).


Reinvigorate the Wikia tour concept Edit

I was surprised to discover how few communities have taken advantage of this useful technique for providing an overview of a community wiki. I was not even aware of the feature's existence for at least 15 months after first adopting a Wikia community.

What I imagine is that in addition to the list at the above link, a link to the guided tour for each wiki should be accessible from the blue box page (or concept list).

In fact to encourage these tours to be comprehensive and well designed maybe any w:c:central:Special:Search hits to the pages transcluded into a w:c:<domain>:Project:Wikia tour should be given "Featured link" status much like Google search results have featured/sponsored search results fro premium subscribers.


SMW is a your friend Edit

Perhaps I am an SMV evangelist but there can be no denying that the usefulness of the forums (or blogs or whatever) would be dramatically enhanced if individual users were empowered to use semantic annotations within forum posts, help_talk pages and maybe even blogs - especially if those continue to be used for Wikia announcements.

  • I will be the first to admit that this is not a simple subject. Therefore an interactive dialog is really the best way to proceed. Sufficient to say that annotating is a little bit like "categorizing" but without the need to create a gazillion static categories in the process.
  1. A Semantic Forms feature known as partial forms would lend itself beautifully to providing a user-friendly UI to this annotation/categorizing/tagging process. This would ensure that already existing labels (so called properties) get reused. This avoids the age-old problem of typos and/or redundant labeling.
  2. The 5-star voting system for wiki articles in general (but forum posts and help pages specifically) ought to be be reviewed alongside the assessment of how SMW can help w:c:central to become a more efficient body of knowledge. See also User blog:Najevi/A way to measure the popularity of the "subject" of an article

If you have even the slightest inkling as to what the semantic web has to offer in our future then you'll certainly want Wikia to be on the bleeding edge of that movement. Supporting the complete Semantic Bundle of extensions would be a healthy next step beyond those steps already taken.


My landing zone Edit

Now that MyHome has opened pandora's box to the possibility of alternate redirection away from Main_Page whenever <domain>.wikia.com is entered at the browser address input box, this rather begs the question: Why not provide more than two choices? Indeed why not provide a user_blog page at each wiki (or a global one at w:c:central:user_blog: where a user can specify their preferred "landing zone" Wikia-wide and if they wish to override their global default then they create a similar named w:c:<domain>:user_blog: page at specific wiki communities.

Here at central.wikia.com fair candidates (in no particular order) for a landing zone are: (see also User blog:Najevi/My wish list for the Wikia "My Home" feature

  1. Main_Page
  2. Special:MyHome
  3. Special:RecentChanges
  4. Special:MyPage
  5. Special:Mytalk
  6. Special:WidgetDashboard (see also User_blog:Najevi/A_WidgetDashboard_approach_to_a_truly_custom_MyHome_page this is way cool!)
  7. Forum:Index
  8. Blog:Wikia_Staff_Blog
  9. Special:RecentChanges


Summary Edit

A dozen or so ideas were presented for ways to make w:c:central serve as both a highly-search/query-enabled body of knowledge as well as a warm and friendly browsers paradise for meandering the communities created at Wikia. There is no need for an either-or relationship between the two. The community of users is mixed and so should the style of presenting the information be mixed so as to suit those different styles of "research".

Wikia ought to be positioning itself as a leader in the growth of the semantic web. One way of doing that is to globally enable the complete Semantic Bundle of extensions and to advocate their use in ways that extend or complement the existing search facility. Never underestimate (and certainly do not hog-tie) the innovative talent that is available within your community of regular contributors.

A decreasing volume (normalized to the population of course) of Special:Contact usage should be one of the metrics of Wikia's success.

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