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A very large number of tags on Stack Overflow don't have tag wikis at all. How can users be motivated with enough rep to write and edit them more often?

Rationale:

A great deal of users asking questions like: "Where can I find some references for X or Y?" or "How to do this most basic thing in Z?" could be simply shown the appropriate tag wiki. (Yeah, I know. It would've been better if they looked there in the first place, but many new users don't know that they exist).

I described my idea in a separate answer.

But, some of you will probably think of an even better or easier way to promote this behavior. So, let's hear it.

EDIT: OK, thanks to everyone for their participation in this discussion. We have some really great answers here, and it was next to impossible to choose the right one, partly because they are all good, and partly because of the tendency of a not to have just one answer. So, I picked the two answers which seem to be supported by the largest number of users to accept and grant bounty, respectively. I hope some of these ideas will be used soon.

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+1, good question. I think the basic problem is that Tag Wikis are not part of the natural usage flow for most users - neither for question askers, nor for answerers. It's like a nearby neighbourhood you never happen to drive through because there is no reason to (no shops, no venues to go to, not even thoroughfares taking you to other places...). I'm not sure whether badges or rep incentives would really solve that problem on a long-term basis though - maybe it's the usage flow that needs to change somehow, although I don't know how. –  Pëkka Dec 26 '10 at 13:19
    
@Pekka: Yes, but that is yet another question I didn't want to open here. They are also quite hidden. If there were more of tag wikis, it might even be useful to suggest brand new users looking there first. But, since most tags don't have wikis, that advice would be utterly useless now. –  Goran Jovic Dec 26 '10 at 13:23
    
fair point. –  Pëkka Dec 26 '10 at 13:24
    
@Pekka: And yes, I agree. Tag wikis are very static compared to the usual: "question, answer and a bunch of comments" flow. But, they might be useful to the most basic questions like described above –  Goran Jovic Dec 26 '10 at 13:25
    
@Pekka: Basically, now we have a chicken-and-egg problem. Users with high rep don't write wikis because no one reads them. And users who are new (to the topic of that tag) usually don't read them because they are not written (or written but a little "hidden"). And offering some motivation for writing them might tilt the balance! –  Goran Jovic Dec 26 '10 at 13:28
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7 Answers 7

up vote 17 down vote accepted

I was going to post this as its own , but since you asked the question, I propose killing two birds with one stone here:

Show the first line of the tag wiki in the auto-complete tooltip for tag entry.

That increases the visibility to normal users, which is especially important for users who are bad at tagging (i.e. almost all of them). The increased visibility would almost assuredly motivate those who are interested in having good tags (such as myself) to maintain the tag wikis, and keep them concise.

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I like this one not just because it solves mistagging, but also because it makes users aware that tag wikis exist. –  Goran Jovic Dec 27 '10 at 11:46
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I don't think anything will solve mistagging. I think this proposal would address and perhaps prevent some mistagging, tough, so +1. –  MPelletier Jan 4 '11 at 15:22
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This answer is taken from this feature request I posted earlier.

I think requiring 100 upvotes in one particular tag to contribute to these pages is too high.

Firstly, trust the populace and put faith in self-moderation. You don't have to provide credentials to edit some detail about the decline of the Byzantine empire on Wikipedia. As always, Wiki-content quality is assured not by the reputation of the content provider but by amount of page views. If the page is called a wiki it should behave like one. Anyone, even users who are new to the site, should feel welcome and trusted to read these pages and give of their knowledge.

Secondly, the success of Wikipedia and wikis in general, derives from the fact that expert knowledge about a given topic provides only a small percent of the work necessary to make an informative page about a topic. The success of the tag wiki system is dependent on a veritable army of people who relentlessly fix grammar, review the text for clarity, re-organize content and provide new links. In fact, the people who are qualified and probably the most motivated to make these necessary changes, to give these pages traction, are the non-experts who come to those pages to learn from them!

(A similar request - now status complete.)

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Yes, but even Wikipedia has some articles which are protected and can't be edited by just anyone. The analogy with Wikipedia would be that here just about anyone may ask and answer, then users with more rep can comment and so on. Any tag has at least 20 potential wiki writers, and more popular ones have users with bronze tag badges as well. Only tags that have less then that are very rarely used ones. –  Goran Jovic Dec 26 '10 at 14:03
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But, to summarize. Your answer is basically: "Increase the number of potential tag wiki writers". –  Goran Jovic Dec 26 '10 at 14:04
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I am working on a system to better handle low rep contributions –  waffles Dec 27 '10 at 0:28
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Just let the mods protect tags that are frequently molested, works fine for questions, so why wouldn't it work for tag wiki's? –  Ivo Flipse Jan 8 '11 at 14:48
    
I agree with Ami - I'd like to edit tag wikis (I tried...), but the barrier to entry is to high for me right now –  Kris C Jan 8 '11 at 16:12
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A small idea: On the user page, put a list (or link to one) of unwritten tag wikis that the user qualifies for as a potential writer.

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This one is good. Looking at all your tag badges is easy, but there just isn't a way to see all tags where you are in top 20. –  Goran Jovic Jan 4 '11 at 13:40
    
Besides, there is a wide margin between the two. I'm the top J answerer user on SO, but I'm far from getting that badge... –  MPelletier Jan 4 '11 at 14:48
    
You're suffering from the fact that there's only a few questions asked in that tag. On the other hand, perhaps the lack of questions asked is indicative that there's no need yet for a tag wiki; the Questions just aren't Frequently Asked yet. :-) –  Donal Fellows Jan 4 '11 at 20:27
    
@DonalFellows: I'm only suffering from lost of experience in a language I loathe and my desire to save others from some of the troubles I've had. The regular J community is often too highbrow to provide concise answers to beginners. They're a bunch of really smart people, but all discussions there spin out of control about optimizations and "special code." SO is a better place for beginner/intermediate J programmers. Trust me when I say I DON'T want a J badge. –  MPelletier Jan 4 '11 at 20:58
    
@DonalFellows: I've considered creating a sock puppet account just so that it could outrank me... then came to a sad realization. –  MPelletier Jan 4 '11 at 20:59
    
@MPelletier: That does tend to chime a bit with my experience with the J community (elsewhere) but I wasn't – and still aren't – interested in flaming anyone over it. I just prefer to use my smartness for coming up with solutions that are obviously correct, rather than battling with something made for very smart people. Ho hum. –  Donal Fellows Jan 4 '11 at 21:45
    
@DonalFellows: I know what you mean. Some places can be a bit... forbidding to newcomers, let's leave it at that. –  MPelletier Jan 4 '11 at 22:39
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excerpts now appear on the on-hover . This is a great reason to at least write those s!

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Awesome! Yes it is, but not just that. It also has info link at the bottom which leads to full tag wiki. It definitely increased their visibility. –  Goran Jovic Jan 8 '11 at 13:40
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My own idea was a badge awarded for N created/edited tag wikis. It could be called Encyclopædian (name taken from: Additional Badge Ideas). It definitely promotes the good behavior, and if it works well might result in a whole network of the material useful to, say, anyone who is just starting to learn a new programming language, framework, etc.

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Just had another idea as I was posting a question. On the "Ask a Question" page, along with the "Related Questions" section, why not pull up the tag wiki pages for the selected tags and/or tags matching the question title? That would give them a lot more exposure, and at a point where they're most likely to be relevant to the user.

And as users see that the wiki pages are getting increased attention, it should provide more incentive to create useful wiki pages.

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+1: Oh, that's a good idea. Show it at the point where it is most likely to be useful to the people likely to have their problem addressed by them. –  Donal Fellows Jan 4 '11 at 20:31
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Perhaps the bar for editing privileges should correspond to the amount of activity in a tag? New tags have little activity, and are most in need of editors, so let anyone with a few hundred rep populate them. As activity in a tag increases, they need revising rather than wholesale rewrites, so the bar can be somewhat higher. Established tags like Java and C# only need the occasional update, and are more tempting targets for spam, so they can have the highest editing rep requirements.

Also, eliminate the top 20 answerers/100 score requirement for young tags so people can get the tag wiki started.

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It seems that it already is as you described, or at least to some extent. java tag requires 2000 rep, but a less popular compojure requires only 1500. –  Goran Jovic Jan 4 '11 at 18:46
    
@goran - yeah it's slightly lower, but for new tags I think it only needs to be high enough to keep spammers from signing up and adding their links right away. The top 20 answerer/100 score requirement also seriously limits the pool of contributors for young tags, which I had forgotten to mention. –  Brad Mace Jan 4 '11 at 19:39
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Yes, as it is it's only protecting very popular tags from vandalism. However, for very young tags top 20 is actually very easy. If there are only 5 answers for the tag, whatever you write you'll be in top 20, right. –  Goran Jovic Jan 4 '11 at 20:23
    
This point has been addressed now with the introduction of suggested edits for tag wikis. –  Brad Mace Aug 22 '11 at 19:50
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