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I'm an admin on a meaningfully popular wiki that's been around a long time - We've a steady inflow of users and content, as well as a small, but loyal, core admin/userbase. Our wiki subject requires good dialogue between editors, especially due to subjective content.

While core users are used to talk pages and others' timezones, a consistent issue we have is poor communication both between new users, and new users and our core userbase.

New users do not always understand how to talk to other users on our wiki, they may reach out to inactive users, leave messages where they're missed, or get turned off by having to wait some days for a response from a particular user.

We maintained a chatroom for a while, which was accessible to users, but we don't have resources to moderate it effectively, so it had to be dropped. New users aren't staying as they can't find the help nor community they're looking for, and old users feel useless because they don't know how to reach out and help.

I feel we're held back by the mediawiki format that isn't designed for active discussion, but for timeless and more objective editing and creation of articles.

Are there any good methods of enabling engagement between inexperienced users and willing core members, that won't require 24/7 attendance by admins? Or any other actions to alleviate this issue?

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    Are you able to modify the software you're using, or do you need a "people-only" solution (people, process, etc, but not technical)? – Monica Cellio Aug 27 '15 at 17:45
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    We can use extra mediawiki extensions, do simple code changes or other simple web enhancements (such as the embedded IRC widget we had), but migrating our entire wiki to another platform isn't a viable option. – user1412 Aug 27 '15 at 19:22
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As a wiki, you naturally lack basic tools for short-term communication (live chats, shoutbox, etc.). Your main purpose is to provide information to various topics, therefore, you have discussions boards which are not suited for short-term communication as well. Growing a community without fast ways of communication can be troublesome but is manageable.

Usually - at least it's a common practice among forums and boards - users receive a registration email which confirms the creation of the account. It's the first contact you as site administration have with new users. Some sites extend it by sending a second or even third email in which the roots of the platform are outlined and explained.

I guess adding further detail to your registration email is the least technical and most sociable solution. By adding more details, I don't mean a whole paragraph but more like a link or link collection which redirect to internal resources. These internal resources, located in your wiki (simply the help page), explain everything necessary to your users. You can also send a second email. An example for a more detailed registration email:

Hello, [Name],

this is a registration email to confirm the creation of your account.

We're happy to welcome you in our community and hope that you will have a great time as we have contributing to the community. If you have any further questions, please look up our help page or send us an email to help@wiki.com.

Regards,

Your Wiki-Team

As you may have noticed, a lot of things work via email since the lack of the short-term communications methods. This isn't a problem, at all. Yes, users have to get used to it but eventually they'll get used both to the email and the discussions page.

Different details in a registration email:

Hello, [Name],

this is a registration email to confirm the creation of your account.

We're happy to welcome you in our community and hope that you will have a great time as we have contributing to the community. If you have any further questions, don't hesitate to contact Mike. Mike is a long-time user who is eager to help you out if you come across any problems. You can contact him through his user profile or directly through email.

Regards,

Your Wiki-Team

I bet this seems really strange. Yes, it is. I guess you don't have the resources to provide an extra employee whose task is to provide support. You could ask your community who would like to help out the newcomers and add them to the registration email. Perhaps, you are able to cycle through them so that every email includes another core user.

Another way to integrate new users more deeply into your community to create bounds between core and new users is to ask them if they mind introducing themselves. Maybe, you have a page dedicated to users introductions. The perfect opportunity to meet and greet the community. On this way, you can connect both users groups and get to know who is this user.

One good thing may be a little hint on the user interface.

Please notice that we are an international wiki. It may happen that somebody hasn't yet replied to you because he's still sleeping.

Email is your solution in most of the cases. You said that you once had an IRC chat. When your community grows, you can try to revive it by searching for voluntary moderators. Just enough to keep the daily life relatively clean.

Talk to your new users as fast as possible and make clear how they can get help quickly if they're struggling. Communicate the roots of your platform to them as clearly as possible to make sure that your an actual wiki which is built upon real information.

  • We do indeed send welcome messages to all new users, so I'll try providing an additional link to help, and to a good point of contact - I reckon this could genuinely help, thank you. – user1412 Sep 1 '15 at 9:08

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