Sarna 2014 Survey Results

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Hi everyone!

I want to thank everyone that took the Sarna 2014 Survey.  We had 941 responses, which has given us a ton of great feedback!  Besides the survey questions, there were several hundred written suggestions, ideas, bugs and thoughts on how to improve the site.

I’ve spent the last day pouring over the results, and have tried to boil everyone’s responses down to some key takeaways.  Over the new few months I’ll be addressing your biggest concerns and best suggestions.

You can check out the survey results here.

Here are some of the more interesting results:

Demographics

Sarna is:

  • 98.4% male
  • 1.6% female

Age-wise:

  • 87.58% are between 18 and 44 years
  • The largest group is 25 to 34 years (43%)

Sarna Interaction

What people do on Sarna:

  • 97% read/edit the wiki
  • 20% read the news

Only 13% have edited a wiki page.  But it’s so easy!

53% have never read the news.  Check it out!  Our writers have been covering a lot of great BattleTech and community news.

Experience

94% think the overall experience is Good/Great.

78% think the site is Fast/Very Fast.  Only 2.5% think Slow/Very Slow.

82% think the site’s design is Good/Great.  1% think it’s Poor/Terrible.

82% think it’s Easy/Very Easy to find information on Sarna, only 1.5% think it’s Difficult/Very Difficult.

76% are indifferent to the ads (and 15% use an ad-blocker).

Areas to Improve

Here are some of the key areas people think Sarna can improve, with the most popular requests first:

  • Mobile search box should be moved to the top of the page.
    • Fixed a month ago!
  • Better search: Search doesn’t find similar words or misspellings. Search order isn’t the smartest. Basically, people often use Google to search the site.
    • I will switch the site to use Sphinx Search which is a lot smarter than the built-in MediaWiki search.
  • Faster search: Searching for terms that aren’t article names is slow.
    • I will switch the site to use Sphinx Search which is a lot faster than the built-in MediaWiki search.
  • Mobile design and layout needs improvement.
    • The mobile site was removed earlier this year in favor of a “responsive design”, which should look good on all layouts (desktop, tablet and phone).
    • It’s still a work-in-progress, and I will be working on improving it further this year.
  • Wiki grammar / spelling could be improved on many pages.
    • I will make it easy for visitors to suggest pages that need grammar or spelling fixes.
    • Sarna is a wiki! Please help out by making edits as well! You can do this without even logging in.
  • More pictures on the wiki.
    • Sarna is a wiki! Feel free to submit as many pictures as you want (within policy guidelines!
  • General site performance could be improved.
    • I’m always looking to improve the site’s performance and will be making some additional changes to make it faster for everyone.
  • The Downloads section could be updated, better organized and improved.
    • This is a constant work-in-progress, and would love it if anyone would be willing to help. Please contact me if you’re interested.
  • Reorganize and simplify the left bar.
    • We’ll take a look at making it easier to navigate.
  • A fan-fiction section.
  • Planetary maps could be improved
    • This is being handled as part of the Project: Planets effort, and they could use your help!
  • Offline wiki download
    • I looked into this a few years back and couldn’t find anything then. I was hoping to be able to “build” the site into a mobile/offline app.

All in all, great suggestions! I hope to work on many of these over the coming months.

Thanks for all of your input and ideas. Please leave any additional ones here. It was great hearing an overwhelming amount of positive feedback on how much you like and use the site. Glad to be of service!

And thanks to everyone who’s ever helped out on Sarna — wiki admins, editors, file contributors, forum participants, news writers and readers. It’s a great community!

38 thoughts on “Sarna 2014 Survey Results

  1. BrokenMnemonic

    Just to respond to a couple of the points raised:

    – More pictures are great – but to make sure we stay within Fair Use guidelines, pictures have to serve a purpose. Frabby’s the expert, but my understanding is that having pictures for the sake of having pictures is likely something that could get us into trouble on the copyright front, whereas pictures used for review or critique purposes is much more likely to fall under fair use criteria.

    – improving the Planets maps was something I had on my radar to do as a part of the Planets Project, replacing the current maps with colored maps drawn from the 2750 or 2765 era-maps, recoloured and cropped as needed, or the later era maps for worlds that existed before/after the Star League era but not during. That’s been on hold for a little while because opinions have been divided on the new format for the planet article structure and I’ve been a bit reluctant to push forward without either more opinions or some direction from Rev. It may also be faster to generate new maps using some sort of mapping software and the excellent coordinates work done by VoltAmpere and Bad_Syntax, but I’m not sure what precisely would be involved…

    Reply
  2. Frabby

    “Sarna is a wiki! Feel free to submit as many pictures as you want!”
    Umm… Nic… ;-)
    BrokenMnemonic beat me to it, but we do have a Policy:Images on the wiki that was put in place specifically because of problems we had in the past.

    Reply
    1. Nic Post author

      Yes, agreed — I was more speaking to the fact that a lot of the suggestions were “you should add more content” or “you should fix spelling mistakes” or “you should add pictures to this or that”. I was trying to encourage people to do these edits themselves :)

      Updated the article to point to the policy guidelines.

      Reply
  3. BrokenMnemonic

    I’m delighted that people evidently like the content we have on the wiki and that the vast majority of the 950ish responders want more content, but it does make me wish we had a few more editors adding content. The influx of people over the last few months working on editing is a great addition and really helps the wiki look more polished and professional, but there’s a shockingly small number of people actually adding new content, and CGL keep pushing out new materiel…

    Reply
  4. skiltao

    I wish the survey had included a “what is your native language” question.

    Would the downloads section be easier to organize if its front end were setup as a wiki page? (I doubt that would improve the backend, but it might make the front end easier to maintain.)

    You mention a way for visitors to suggest pages that need grammar or spelling fixes. Could a similar system be setup to request specific images or content? Normal visitors might be more inclined to add content if they know someone else is specifically looking for it.

    I’m surprised there weren’t more comments about how the content is organized. (I really wish pages were organized by source, rather than by canonical timeline.)

    Reply
    1. Nic Post author

      Good call, I plan on doing this yearly and next year I’ll ask for native language.

      A “wiki” for the downloads section is a good idea, at least as far as editing each file’s comments/notes.

      Would the “request specific images or content” be on a per-page basis?

      As far as comments about how the content was organized… well, there were several. But the ideas were all over the place (from it’s great to it’s horrible), and even a lot of the ideas for how to “improve” wiki organization were contradicting other’s ideas.

      Which types of pages were you wishing were organized by source?

      Reply
  5. skiltao

    I think image requests could be on a per-page basis, and some content could also be on a per-page basis. But “per-page” doesn’t work for pages which don’t exist yet. Plus the requests would have to be collected somewhere central so normal users are more likely to see them.

    I’m not surprised the ideas about content contradicted each other. The main thing is to figure out what issue each “solution” is trying to fix. My issue is that I use Sarna’s citations to point me towards useful books, but the citations are often wrong. Take the Firestarter for instance: the second half of the first paragraph should not be attributed to TR:3025, and some of the variants (the FS9-B, FS9-C and FS9-P) attribute *fluff info* to the MUL.

    I think organizing pages by source would make it harder for contributors to mess up the citations. I wish most pages were done this way–mechs, planets, regiments… the only category I can think of that wouldn’t work in this format are the year pages.

    Reply
    1. skiltao

      I mean for the content within each page to be organized by source. Using the Firestarter as an example again, I’d rather see the “Description,” “Weapons and Equipment” and “Variants” headers removed, and headers like “TR:3025” and “Field Manual: Whatever” used instead.

      Reply
      1. Nic Post author

        Hm. While I see your point that it would help with ensuring references and attribution are correct, I don’t think most people coming to the site want to wade through each book to find the bits they’re interested in. I think organizing content in that manner would be confusing.

        Reply
        1. skiltao

          I also think it would help users see when content is wrong and needs to be corrected, and when content is missing that they can contribute. It doesn’t have to be confusing or involve “wading”–that depends on how it’s executed.

          I’m not saying it’s the perfect or only solution. It would solve my issue with Sarna, but I don’t know what issues others have, or how you want to prioritize them.

          Reply
          1. BrokenMnemonic

            The cited problem with the Firestarter article is very much an issue of poor referencing. It happens a lot when someone puts up an uncited description of a ‘Mech variant, and then someone else later puts in a cited BV value. I agree that poor referencing is a huge and frustrating issue, but I’d rather that it’s tackled by educating editors rather than altering the structure of the pages, to be honest.

  6. skiltao

    I don’t think you can rely on casual visitors to be “educated” editors. If the idea is to coax casual visitors into making more contributions, then I think Sarna should try to minimize how much “education” is needed.

    I agree that altering the structure of the pages is a rather big thing to propose. And again, I don’t know if other people use Sarna the same way I do. (I guess that’s another question for future surveys. “How do you use Sarna’s content? Learning new historical fluff; comparing unit variants; verifying info heard elsewhere; identifying useful books/sources; etc”)

    (Another thought for future surveys: if there is an issue or discussion which has stalled amongst Sarna’s regular editors, it could be translated into a vote-able question and included in the survey.)

    Reply
    1. BrokenMnemonic

      I think ultimately we have to try and rely on casual visitors to be educated editors – because if we don’t, then basically what we’re discussing is how the half-dozen of us who are regularly adding content should be working. There’s always going to be a certain amount of inertia over how Sarna works because the core editing team – by which I mean those who are on editing consistently – is vanishingly small. I think that if we can’t educate casual editors then things are likely to remain much as they are, because there simply isn’t the manpower to make bulk, sweeping changes to Sarna.

      Reply
      1. skiltao

        I imagine you could get someone like Bad_Syntax to write a script which revises the content for you, but that type of reorganization would doubtlessly cause new referencing issues on its own.

        Maybe there are ways to make “educated” behavior easier. Is it possible to change the “edit page” page so that it *requires* a source and page reference? (Or, hahah, somehow get the captcha to include spelling errors from within the site so that anyone who wants to make an edit has to fix a random spelling error.)

        Reply
        1. Trifler

          I think a major problem with that idea is that the source material is not available online for free, so you’d be requiring people to have purchased the source material before they could edit a page. At that point I think you could expect the number of visitors making edits to drop to pretty much zero.

          Reply
          1. skiltao

            Purchasing content is not the only way to be aware of content: having access to secondary sources; borrowing primary sources from other fans; picking up facts from conversation; and of course quite a lot of content *has* been available for free online, in both legal and non-legal forms.

            I find it hard to believe that anybody who would add accurate information would not also be able to at least guess which book their information comes from.

            How many visitors are making edits, anyway? Is it not pretty much zero currently?

          2. BobTheZombie

            I find it hard to believe that anybody who would add accurate information would not also be able to at least guess which book their information comes from.

            Most people just honestly don’t think about it. Other times people may be short on time or just not know off the top of their head. Either way the editors can check it.

            How many visitors are making edits, anyway? Is it not pretty much zero currently?

            I just checked, and there have been at least 25 different anonymous users in the last 30 days. That is almost as many active, registered users as we have in that same timespan. They do help, regardless of what they do, as the vast majority catch errors and add good content. This is why we have people (like me) who patrol the recent edits to make sure that nothing slips past (or at least try to, that is). It isn’t perfect, and I really need to be archiving all the unconfirmed anonymous edits so that we can check them.

          3. Trifler

            Apart from borrowing sources from other fans, none of those things help if you’re going to require that they list reference sources in order to edit anything.

            I can’t see anything good from such a requirement.

  7. BobTheZombie

    Building off of what Skiltao said, I think there should be periodic surveys set up so that readers can help us decide how to solve problems as they come up. We could put these in the news section, but it kinda seems like it doesn’t fit the best there. I’d be willing to set those up if we want.

    Reply
    1. Trifler

      Knowledge in their head. Perhaps having read source material but not having access to it to look it up and reference it. Very easily being willing to edit the wiki but not to the extent that the person wants to dig through source material to find the page and paragraph and add a source reference.

      Reply
      1. skiltao

        In other words, your person would have a reasonable guess as to the source, but not the page number. That sounds fine to me.
        What concerns me is how people who don’t know the facts well enough to identify the source often also don’t know the facts well enough to edit them accurately. Not to mention that “knowledge in their head” (even when correct) is often not sufficiently up to date with the current revised or upgraded iteration of canon.

        Reply
        1. Trifler

          Well, I was replying to the conversation above where you and BrokenMnemonic were discussing getting more casual visitors to edit. My concern, therefore, was that you were talking about adding a script that would prevent anyone from editing without adding a reference tag. It’s my belief that such a requirement would be conducive towards the stated goal of the discussion. I was replying based on that context. If you have decided since then that casual edits are no longer relevant, then that’s another matter entirely.

          Reply
          1. skiltao

            I don’t mean to stray from that original context. The comment feature doesn’t work the way I expect it to, and I’ve been starting new threads by mistake.

            My thinking is that faulty content with a citation–even an imprecise citation–is easier for casual visitors to identify, reference and fix. I still think book titles should be required. I’m less sure of page numbers, but I guess “how often do you make edits with/without having the source (or detailed notes and citations) at hand?” is another question for the next poll.

            I agree that certain kinds of edits–spelling and formatting changes, for instance–wouldn’t need citations, but it’s also trivially easy to copy the section’s existing citation. (I suppose such a script could also have an explicit “copy existing citation” option to save the user that small effort.)

          2. Trifler

            “My thinking is that faulty content with a citation–even an imprecise citation–is easier for casual visitors to identify, reference and fix. I still think book titles should be required. ”

            I understand what you’re trying to accomplish, but I think most people, myself included, would simply decide it’s not worth the effort and end up not contributing at all. I have experienced the extreme frustration of not being allowed to make an edit simply because I didn’t have a reference. It is not a good feeling, especially when you’re certain your information is accurate.

            If all of the Technical Readouts, compendiums, and manuals were available on Sarna in their entirety (and therefore easily searchable using a search engine) then it wouldn’t be too bad, but that isn’t the case, nor is it something that could be done.

            BobTheZombie made a good comment above.

            It seems to me that the place where references would be most beneficial would be with game rules. What would you think about something like making references more of a big deal for things like game rules, and not such a big deal for other things (descriptions, lore, flavor text, etc.)?

          3. BobTheZombie

            Agreed. Some wikis force you to jump through all sorts of hoops just to make one edit, which really hurts the likelihood of anonymous editing. I agree that things like specific stats and rules should definitely have more attention given to them and be more thoroughly cited. I would do stuff with that, but alas the only canon sources I have are a handful of novels; I still try to help out where I can though.

          4. skiltao

            Personally, I would just tell anyone who derides Sarna for not having a reference to go to hell, rather than listening to them. If they have a reference they want to add, they should feel free to do so, but making it mandatory for their sake is giving them free lunch. That’s my opinion.

            Can a wiki be “good” without also being reliable? I mean, I’ve talked to people who “know in their head” that multi-regiment assaults were unheard of in the 3rd Succession War, that Catalyst reacquired rights to the unseen in 2009, and whatever other misinformation you can imagine. When I see it on the wiki, yes, I can correct it. But I’m not familiar with /every/ BattleTech product ever printed, and newer sources tend to change things–so without citations, how am I supposed to tell the difference between a legitimate change and content that needs to be fixed? This is extremely frustrating too. I usually decide that fixing it isn’t worth my time.

            I don’t think it’s fair (or feasible) to expect patrolling editors to keep up with uncited edits. But if that’s the course that’s chosen, then what can be done to help those patrols keep up?

            I still think it would be good to add a “citations” field to the edit form, even it’s optional.

            It seems to me that the place where references would be most beneficial would be with game rules. What would you think about something like making references more of a big deal for things like game rules, and not such a big deal for other things (descriptions, lore, flavor text, etc.)?

            I usually only see specific stats in the ‘Mech infoboxes (which focus on a single variant, which isn’t a useful focus anyway), and I can’t remember ever looking at a page devoted to game rules. There’s probably one with construction tables, but that’s the /last/ page anyone would need citations for.

            I think more people are interested in learning the lore than in learning obsolete iterations of the game rules. I think it is easier for a casual person to identify, acquire and search a relevant rulebook than it is for that person to identify, acquire and search a relevant lore book.

          5. BobTheZombie

            I don’t think it’s fair (or feasible) to expect patrolling editors to keep up with uncited edits. But if that’s the course that’s chosen, then what can be done to help those patrols keep up?

            I will immediately begin copying down all the questionable contributions of anonymous users during my patrols. This way, we can prevent anything getting by while we decide what to do.

          6. Trifler

            I still think it would be good to add a “citations” field to the edit form, even it’s optional.

            I see no problems with an optional field, as long as editors don’t start getting pushy about using it as time goes on.

            I think more people are interested in learning the lore than in learning obsolete iterations of the game rules.

            I wouldn’t waste time with obsolete iterations of game rules. What matters is the current iteration.

            As for lore, I really don’t see the big deal, but to each his own. Lore is of very little interest to me. Focus on game rules (current iteration only) and lore then. The point was to place higher emphasis on references in one or two key areas rather than across the board.

          7. skiltao

            Have the optional field automatically add “citation needed” if left blank. I don’t think editors would feel any need to be pushy, then.

          8. Trifler

            Ugh… That’s just making the wiki pushy in place of the editors. Maybe a “Please add a citation if you have one handy.” Otherwise no message at all.

          9. skiltao

            Or, to put it another way: if a contributor can’t source the information themselves, why shouldn’t they want to flag it for other editors to source?

          10. Trifler

            Have the optional field automatically add “citation needed” if left blank.

            I see now that I misread your earlier comment. I thought you meant that the field would say “citation needed” while the person was editing. I see now that you meant it would add “citation needed” to the article after the person finished editing. (In other words, it would work like Wikipedia, and I really hate how they do things.)

            Do you think [citation needed] shouldn’t appear on the wiki, ever?

            I think that what I’m trying to say, is that I don’t think that [citation needed] should be added to every edit someone makes where they don’t add a citation themselves. As in, nothing should be done always. However, I am not trying to say the inverse, that something should never be done.

            IMO the best way would be if the user had an optional checkbox (just like the checkbox for minor edit, etc.) for flagging the edit. Then have a search function that lists all edits with that flag. No text would be added to the article itself. However, this may not be something that can be done, depending on the wiki software. If this is not possible, then maybe provide a means for contributors to add a tag themselves that adds a [Citation?] text.

            As I said though, there could be more strict guidelines for very specific areas, such as current rules, and, since you said it’s especially important to you, lore.

            Certainly it would make sense to add a Citation icon to the toolbar (where it has icons for Bold, Italic, Signature, etc.) when editing. A lot of people don’t know the tag format for making a citation and that would eliminate that problem.

            Anyway, those are some ideas.

  8. Frabby

    I think you are missing the point to a degree.
    A good wiki, imho, is not only about offering information but about backing them up. Citing references is not only good style, it is absolutely vital for Sarna to be a credible and useful tool. I’ve often seen derogatory comments about Sarna on other forums not because the content was patently false, but because it didn’t cite references.
    Personally, I want more people to edit and add content, but not at the cost of quality.

    (And yes, I’ve been massively guilty of not providing references myself in my first two or so years as an editor here. But I’ve become downright obsessive with citations since, precisely because it hurts when Sarna is derided for offering fancy information that nobody seems to be able to verify.)

    Reply
    1. Trifler

      A wiki is not, by definition, an encyclopedia. A wiki can be formal, casual, or anything in between, and still be “good”. There are vast numbers of very good casual wikis, and I don’t think they should be knocked in any way for it. There are also wikis that have a portion of the page devoted to formal, patrolled and verified information, with a separate section of the same page provided for more casual information (suggestions and tactics for usage, for example).

      Personally, I would just tell anyone who derides Sarna for not having a reference to go to hell, rather than listening to them. If they have a reference they want to add, they should feel free to do so, but making it mandatory for their sake is giving them free lunch. That’s my opinion.

      Reply

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