This diary entry started as comment on Yuanls's recent Commonia diary entry, but I decided to give it its own diary spot, to see what kind of comments it attracts. I think the conversation on that diary entry is very productive and valuable, but I wanted to approach the issues raised there in a slightly different way.
The point of entry for this discussion is: how can we better support new users in a way that leads to higher-quality mapping and less inadvertent vandalism? Just this morning, I had to send admin messages to two new users who clearly did not understand where it is OK to start mapping.
Anyway, I think the thing we need to remember is that not all new users are the same. Some have a vision clear in their minds, and the blank spaces in Commonia are what they need - a place to try to realize their vision. With time, they can learn the tools and do a great job creating a new place out of whole cloth, while a place like Gobrassanya feels restrictive. Other new mappers, however, clearly prefer or need a more detailed framework.
When I arrived at OGF, the blue territories existed but there was no waiting period for a new territory. Thus my first mapping was in my first territory. If forced to, I would have contribued first not to Gobrassanya but in trying to build a completely new town in a "blank" place such as Commonia.
I have frequently thought that returning to a "no waiting period" system might actually work out better. The reason the waiting period was adopted was because it was a lot of work for for admin to assign territories to users who by and large would map a few motorways-to-nowhere and then promptly disappear. But... if we could develop an automated system for assigning free territories... OK, I'm just daydreaming. But I'd like to encourage thinking "out of the box" about what I think of as the "newbie problem."
Just a question for speculation: what if there were no blue territories, and we made them all purple, but with different degrees of management? Gobrassanya is blue, but it has several de facto "managers" including indyroads, isleño, and more recently wangi and Bstn have played excellent roles there. Likewise I have taken that role, to some degree, with Rhododactylia and Drull. Yuanls and Udi have stepped to the plate with Commonia.
What if we changed the "manner of entry" for OGF to one which explicitly required users to seek permission to draw their first bits? For example, imagine an alternate "sign up" path where you choose a territory BEFORE you get a user id and begin mapping. Could this work without being too much of an admin burden? I'm not sure this would be a popular idea, but again, if we could broaden the responsiblity for granting those first permissions to a wider group of users, not just the so-called admins...
Again, it's all speculation and brainstorming. Thoughts? Let's focus on ideas or suggestions for improving the new user experience and lessening the impact of "badly informed" and "uncommitted mappers" (both in blue territories and in badly-mapped claimed and unclaimed territories).