For a few months now, we've been floating around the idea of changing from standard user talk pages to Wikia's new Message Wall system. It is being used on many other wikis and seems to be working for them. For those who aren't familiar with the message wall, it allows you to make blog-like comments on other users' walls. It does not affect article talk pages or forums, only user talk pages.

Why Message Wall?

  • It makes conversations easier to follow for everyone. What usually happens now is User A will comment User B's talk page and User B will respond on User A's talk page. Anyone trying to follow the conversation has to flip back and forth. The message wall fixes this by keeping those conversations in one place for others (admins, etc.) to follow and still notify you when a response is posted.
  • No more unsigned talk messages. Since the messages use blog comment-style posts, your identity and a timestamp is automatically added to your message. This will also help fight the outbreak of wiki signatures that have gone from easily identifying who wrote the message to confusing quotes that need to be decoded. You will still be allowed to sign comments, but it won't be mandatory.
  • Easier for new users. New users can easily ask questions of other users without being confronted with the wiki editor or worried about changing something they shouldn't on a talk page.
  • Messages can be managed easily. You can easily remove messages from your own wall with a couple of clicks instead of needing to edit your talk page. Also, other users cannot edit messages on your wall (except their own). There is also a mini-editor that makes it easier to format your message. You can also use source mode and use any wikitext you wish.
  • New messages are at the top of your wall. Instead of scrolling all the way down to the bottom of the page, new conversations show up at the top of your wall making it easier to get to the new information.
  • Automatic archives. Instead of users manually archiving old messages in a myriad of different ways, message wall will automatically archive conversations. This will eliminate super-long talk pages like mine.
  • Conversations have permanent links. While this may not be useful for many of you, it will be very useful for admins. It will allow us to keep track of conversations that are important by bookmarking those conversations and it won't change if someone archives their talk page.

What else will change?

  • Tri-State Gazette — It is not possible to deliver our twice monthly newsletter via message wall at this time, so we're going to be moving it to a blog and alert everyone via Community Message notification instead of individual talk pages. In theory, this should expand our readership and encourage more interaction via blog comments.
  • User talk pages — Your current talk pages will not be lost. They'll just be locked and archived for future reference. Again, Message Wall does not affect any page other than your user talk page, which hasn't been the best solution for awhile now.

This is just another step we'd like to take in order to make it easier for our young user-base to interact with our wiki. I'd also like to say that switching to message wall doesn't mean we're turning into a social network. User talk pages should still only be used to discuss wiki business and not become chat rooms.

If we make the switch, we'd like to do so in about a month. So what do you think? Do you use message wall on other wikis? What issues do you have with our making the switch?

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