Wikipedia will launch a “Love” button next week that will let users send their messages of appreciation to other users through virtual cats, beer and more.
The experimental feature, called WikiLove, is scheduled to make its debut on the English version of Wikipedia on June 29. The goal of the product, according to a blog post by the Wikimedia Foundation, is to encourage more users to edit and engage with more articles by providing positive reinforcement.
“The drive for quality and reliability has led to the development of sophisticated automation mechanisms that aid in socializing new users to Wikipedia’s norms, policies and conventions,” the company explained in its announcement. “The act of expressing appreciation for other users, by contrast, is a largely manual effort. Whether it’s welcoming new users, inviting users to participate in specific topics or discussions, recognizing effort using barnstars and trophies, or just sending a whimsical note, expressing appreciation is not an activity that is facilitated by the software — in spite of its known importance for people’s likelihood to want to edit.”
The WikiLove feature is relatively straightforward and simple. Starting next week, a heart icon will appear next to the watchlist star icon on user pages. Clicking it will bring up the WikiLove menu, where users can send their appreciation to someone by sending them a virtual gift and a quick note. Barnstars (think of them like Foursquare badges), Beer and Kittens are the primary WikiLove gifts a user can send, but users also have the option to create their own.
Once a user sends someone a little WikiLove, an update appears on his or her user talk page, where messages and photos of “A beer for you!” or “A kitten for you!” could potentially flood it.
The addition of this simple feature makes a lot of sense. Wikipedia is currently dominated by a very small group of editors, and its future depends on getting more people to participate in the article creation and editing process. Wikipedia’s research has concluded that there has been an increase in warnings and criticism and a decrease in praise over the years, a troubling trend to say the least.
While the feature won’t be launching for another week, you can try it out on the Wikimedia prototype site if you want to play around with WikiLove a couple days early.