Open Help: Peter Coombe Wikipedia: Too much documentation

I did a bad job of writing up notes for the other demos, but this one is very relevant to WordPress.


  • accumulated lots of cruft over time
  • Too long (Wikipedia:Citing source is 8145 words)
  • Widely varying in complexity
  • duplication: 5 pages about to do tables
  • poor navigation

Different entry points

  • search
  • links in site sidebar
  • warnings and welcome messages
  • page and talk page templates

Different target audiences

  • readers
  • new and wannabe editors
  • experienced editors

The old Help:Content got 10,000 hits per day.

Help pages

Resistence to change

  • Movement politics, resistance to top-down
  • editors find it hard to identify with users
  • ownership of pages
  • sunk costs

How to approach it:

  1. improve existing wikipedia:help project
  2. did a lot of research beforehand, reports and presentations on the problems. Did usability testing with real users
  3. worked around existing pages where needed

New help pages:

What next?

  • still a lot to do
  • better guidelines for writing help pages, based on what they’ve learned
  • make the software easier to use – getting a WYSIWYG editor


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