Community configuration: giving communities a way to grow

The Growth team’s objective is to work on software changes that help retain new contributors in Wikimedia projects. Over the last year, we have deployed our features to all Wikipedias. To help the features fit the many Wikipedias, we created a way for communities to control how users experience our features.  Today, we’re excited to share it.

The Homepage, new users’ basecamp at Wikipedias. Find yours at Special:Homepage.
Screenshot of French Wikipedia, interface displayed in English language.

Over the past four years, the Growth team has developed a new  onboarding experience.  Growth features make newcomers’ first steps at Wikipedias easier. As newcomers start editing Wikipedia, they need to learn how the wikis and the community works. They spend time on tasks important to their community. They also make connections with other community members.

This means that the Growth features features depend on community inputs:

Altogether, these features require input from communities so that they work appropriately. They must select some specific pages and templates so that the features can work. The Growth team provides some default elements, but every community is unique. For instance, not all Wikipedias use the same set of help pages. The same applies to templates and lists of mentors.

As we deployed to each Wikipedia, we contacted community members to work with us on the configuration. Some community members suggested the right templates or the right pages. But as communities continue their work with newcomers, they learn over time what works well and what doesn’t. What if a community discovers that one help page should be replaced by another? Or if a template is missing for a given suggested edit?

Usually, to change something on a Mediawiki feature, you have to make a request to engineers. Then an engineer makes the configuration change. For Growth features, communities have had to create a Phabricator task. Then the Growth team makes a change to the code. We were doing it as fast as we could. Yet, the number of requests was increasing week after week. And we were deploying our features to more and more wikis.

It is important to make it easier for communities to customize the features to their needs. So we decided to allow communities to make the changes by themselves.

Enter Community Configuration

Special:EditGrowthConfig at Vietnamese Wikipedia, with interface displayed in English language.

We rely on our communities to know what is best for newcomers. This is why we made it possible for communities to configure the Growth features locally, on wiki. This process is a first on Wikimedia wikis, at this scale. 

Special:EditGrowthConfig is available at all wikis where the Growth features are deployed. Administrators and interface administrators can use this special page. It provides various forms and inputs to edit two JSON pages hosted locally in a easy way. 

For suggested edits, administrators can change the templates used to select the pages newcomers can edit. They can also provide the most appropriate help page for each task.

They can also change the Help panel used by newcomers who browse or edit any wiki page. The help pages can be changed, and define where the Help panel is actually displayed. 

Mentoring configuration is also available at Special:EditGrowthConfig. There, administrators can turn the mentoring features on or off. It requires a list of mentors created following a precise syntax. For mentors who host workshops but don’t wish to be randomly assigned to newcomers, it is possible to add a second list for them.

We encourage communities to discuss before making the changes, as the changes are immediately applied to the wiki. 

We are happy to observe that 30 communities have already used this special page to edit the configuration of the Growth features locally. So, as we add more functions to their features, we also add their configuration to the Community configuration page.

Now that you have the power to control how you welcome newcomers to your wiki, we encourage you to check out Special:EditGrowthConfig. Let us know about the changes you made!