Among my mentees in German Wikipedia there is one new user who tops them all. Capable to write, an expert on his field, computer skills… he managed to learn editing mainly by the help pages, and what he presented as his first article was better than many old articles with many edits, even Featured Articles. I only had to give him some minor clues about the concept of Wikipedia and mention some type errors.
We can only be happy about such new users. But will he persue, will he write new articles, will he become interested in working about more subjects than just his field of expertise? I am afraid not.
He wrote me in a mail that he likes Wikipedia very much but that he finds creating and writing articles “terribly unintuitive”. Always when he, after a couple of weeks, comes back to edit he has to think again how this and that was done. How to upload photos, and so on.
Without knowing the ages old discussions in Wikimedia, he wished to have a kind of iWeb with pull down menues and WYSIWYG. “Then you could concentrate more on the content, instead of the question which bracket or special character you must use there and where this is hidden in your computer.” (Some important brackets are less prominent on a German keyboard than on an English one.)
Another thing he mentioned referred to the conceptualization of Wikipedia. We talk about articles, but what is an article? To normal people, it is a certain type of text. In Wikipedia, it is that too, but also much more: An internet page. A technical unit. Something that can belong to a category, be “empty” or “moved”.
If even this new user, my prodigy mentee, finds it so difficult to contribute, how much truth is still to find in our slogan that “Wikipedia is the encyclopedia everyone can edit”? Our task is to reduce the amount of things new users must learn.