This is a summary of a talk that I gave at the first session of Not Your Usual Trends.
Wikipedia Mobile is about the intersection of 3 different user needs:
1. Access to free, neutral encyclopedic information 2. The ability to contribute in simple ways on a mobile device and 3. The ability to illustrate Wikipedia articles using media, specifically photos.
These 3 goals are accomplished by a 3 part mobile strategy which has its roots in wikipedia’s mission ’Imagine a world in which every single human being can freely share in the sum of all knowledge. That’s our commitment.’
Wikipedia Zero: Access is being addressed by the Wikipedia Zero Project where Wikipedia partners with network operators in developing nations such as Uganda & Tunisia where mobile the first and only form of access to the internet. It is key that people in these areas can read wikipedia without paying for a data plan. The 3 billion page views on Mobile are across 285 languages and many countries. Zero also sets an important precedent for the design work we do for devices. We must design & gracefully degrade so a user on any type of device can have a reliable experience with our limited development resources.
Mobile Web: We are consciously walking away from native apps. the 3 billion page views on mobile sit across 285 languages and 330 countries. Native apps don’t cut it for us even though they allow for sexier interfaces and transitions and browser independence. And we are well inclined to believe that mobile web technologies will improve in the coming years.
Features for reading and making simple contributions to Wikipedia such as adding a photo for a nearby article or watching (watch equals follow) an article are being built for the mobile web.
Wikimedia Commons or Photos: The only native app we commit to is a native app for taking photos. Photos help Wikipedia article come to life. People who move around with smartphones act as vital agents to illustrate article with educational photos which they take themselves. More importantly they belong to a free to reuse-remix content corpus. (CC-BY-SA 3.0)
Mobile is simply a channel. Ultimately any edits or photo uploads irrespective of channel are being curated by a community and quality of contributions is eminently important.
The Open Web: Wikipedia has a long term commitment to the open web.Just as an example: any app store that requires Wikipedia to set age filters saying that only users above 18 years of age can contribute photos, goes against our core values. Conforming to the rules of proprietary services that re-license our content for any short term gain of increased editors is a luxury and hurts the free knowledge mission.
While simplification of the interface is critical, the need of the day is to educate users on devices about making quality contributions. Garbage edits from any channel frustrate the existing editor community who in turn develop a negative view of new users. Simultaneously new users get frustrated because their first few attempts are reverted or deleted.
So, the real interaction design challenge is a balance: simplification of the interface along with enablement. This means empowering new editors with concepts around how to edit and avoid Copyright Violation with photos and media. In the absence of education, visual enhancements will be a superficial visual catchup to the web 2.0 world but it would equate to being beautiful yet having lost the gold parts of our identity.