Teahouse was launched on Wikipedia one year ago, with the hope that building a warm and friendly community space for new editors to connect with experienced Wikipedians might help decrease Wikipedia’s gender gap. The goal was to measure the impact of a many-to-many support system targeted at newbies. Would inviting newcomers to participate in a welcoming, social learning experience encourage more of them to continue on their journey from making that first edit to their 1000th?
One year later, the data shows that Teahouse indeed has a positive impact on the new editor experience for English Wikipedia, and demonstrates some promise as a gender gap strategy. New editors who visit the Teahouse make nearly 3 times the number of edits to Wikipedia articles than a control group with similar early editing patterns. They edit twice as many articles. They have twice the number of talk page discussions with their fellow editors, and they return to edit Wikipedia every week for nearly twice as long.
But Teahouse is about people and experience as much as numbers, and so to celebrate Teahouse’s first birthday, we spoke with Teahouse hosts and guests to learn about what the project has meant for them and what it might signal for the years still to come.
Gtwfan52 is a Teahouse host who first started editing Wikipedia on the day the Teahouse launched. He was invited to visit the space by Rosiestep, a long-time Wikipedian and one of the first hosts who brought hundreds of new editors to participate in the project’s early days. Gtwfan52 remembers coming for help with the Goshen College article. “I asked for an honest critique. I got a great one. They offered constructive criticism and specific instruction on how to do some things I had no idea how to do. This was followed up by some copyediting from Teahouse hosts once I put the addition in the article, and finally, by a very encouraging “atta boy” from Sarah [Stierch] at the Teahouse.”
Sarah Stierch’s gender gap fellowship at the Wikimedia Foundation sparked the Teahouse project in collaboration with Teahouse team members Heather Walls, Jonathan Morgan and Siko Bouterse. Sarah also served as Teahouse’s first host and maitre d’. Gtwfan52 reflects that “without Teahouse and especially the kind words from Sarah, I probably would be long gone.” Today, he has made over 11,000 edits to Wikipedia and gives back to the project by hosting. “Teahouse is always friendly, and completely adopts my Dad’s favorite saying, ‘The only stupid question is the one you don’t ask.’”
Gtwfan52 now has his eye on the next generation of hosts-to-be. Among them is Anne Delong, a librarian and computer programmer who started editing just Wikipedia 2 months ago. She told us, “I am used to material that is logical and arranged according to a preset plan. Wikipedia is more like a village where the roads have grown in random directions because that’s where the first people happened to walk. The Teahouse helped me get past that until I could see the underlying infrastructure and the people that are gradually article by article pulling it toward a cohesive whole.” What does Anne wish for Teahouse’s birthday? “I hope that the Teahouse hosts keep up the good work, and attract more super-friendly people to help out. What goes around comes around!”
Over the past year, about 2000 questions have been asked and answered, 669 editors have introduced themselves, 1670 guests have been served and 867 experienced Wikipedians have participated in the project. 137 Wikipedians have served as hosts at some point during the year.
Participants say the lively atmosphere of the space has been a key to its success. Host TheOriginalSoni said, “while most projects and groups had only one or two dedicated editors working endlessly to make things work, the Teahouse always had a steady stream of a bunch of cool and helpful editors who keep lurking around. Even when one of these editors is not here, there is always someone else to fill in.” Guest BeatrizBibi commented, “I’m glad to read words from real people, I always thought Wiki was about writing and reading alone.”
Last month was the most active month on the Teahouse so far: 46 active hosts answered 263 questions in the Teahouse, and 11 new hosts joined the project. Go Phightins! said, “I love it when a couple of hosts team up to answer a tough question and the proverbial light bulb goes off in the inquirer’s head.” Guest-turned-host Doctree agreed, “Yep, that happened to me. Thanks to Teahouse hosts, I began to really understand Wikipedia.”
What motivates these Wikipedians to give back to each other in the Teahouse, when there are so many other ways to spend their time? Gwickwire shared, “Teahouse enables me to empower other editors.” Yunshui reflected, “Helping new editors to build articles that meet the requisite guidelines and will improve Wikipedia is probably the most useful thing I can do here, and the Teahouse provides a tool to enable me to do just that.”
As Teahouse enters its second year, it continues to evolve. Ocaasi and Anyashy recently launched a new experiment with Teahouse badges, micro-awards to recognize hosts and guests for their participation. 11 different badges acknowledge contributions like asking a great question or giving a clear and helpful answer, and in total 250 badges have been given out so far.
To celebrate Teahouse’s first birthday, we’re giving out tasty cupcake badges, so, please drop by the Teahouse for a cup of wiki-tea and a birthday badge. In the words of Doctree: “The Teahouse is a model of civility and collaboration, an example of how Wikipedia should function. Keep up the good work…Wishing all a great Teahouse birthday. May there be many more.”
Jake Ocaasi, Wikipedia editor
Siko Bouterse, Head of Individual Engagement Grants