Link within [[Template:Extension|Extension]] to allow developers to solicit donations
What would your definition of "some other website" be? Would PayPal be sufficient? Or are we thinking of a more in-depth donation page?
WMF should handle donations, and it should dole out funding to coordinate extension maintenance. If I want to toss $10 into the fund from time to time, I don't have to worry about whether it's going to help keep my favorite extensions maintained, if WMF makes that a priority.
MediaWiki has an ecosystem of extensions that WMF does not use - but every member of an ecosystem is vital to the health of the entire ecosystem. WMF needs to take the lead, and can solicit donations on behalf of extension authors, who WMF can reward for keeping their extensions up-to-date and bug-free.
If such a program turns out to be successful, WMF may want to consider having a staff member dedicated to coordinating maintenance of extensions. This WikiProject is a step in the right direction, and makes me feel confident that the WMF is interested in dealing with this issue.
Much of that "ecosystem of extensions that WMF does not use" are merely fragments of code kludged together because the operator of an individual wiki needed something to perform a particular task on that one site. Unless we're dealing with commercial for-profit entities (for instance, wikitravel) authors usually have been willing to divulge the source code for any extensions being added onto MediaWiki on the off-chance they will be useful to someone else.
Sadly, much of that code is not actively maintained as often the authors aren't still around. This wouldn't be such an issue were it not for changes to core MediaWiki code which affect extensions ($wgMessageCache going away in MW 1.18+, for instance, broke extensions which had used it to add localisable strings in some now-obsolete manner).
I'm not sure if soliciting donations is going to help - unless the idea is to use them to pay someone else to take abandonware extensions, determine which are useful, bring them up to MediaWiki 1.18-1.20 standards and check them into SVN. Even then, to determine what of this mess of two thousand extensions is worthwhile would be no small task - many are either obsolete or simply duplicative of other extensions already in version control.
I don't agree with the idea of having paid WMF staff members take responsibility for a huge base of extensions which WMF has no intention of ever deploying on its wikis. That would lead to donated funds being used to subsidise non-WMF efforts such as Wikia and other for-profit wiki-farms, something which is outside its 501(c)3 charitable mandate.
"I'm not sure if soliciting donations is going to help - unless the idea is to use them to pay someone else to take abandonware extensions, determine which are useful, bring them up to MediaWiki 1.18-1.20 standards and check them into SVN. Even then, to determine what of this mess of two thousand extensions is worthwhile would be no small task - many are either obsolete or simply duplicative of other extensions already in version control."
- All correct. The easiest way to figure out which extensions are worth the trouble is by allowing people to donate for their maintenance. The problem appears huge until you give control back to the WMF's stakeholders, and let them decide what is worth maintaining. Obviously, the WMF can pick a few too.
"I don't agree with the idea of having paid WMF staff members take responsibility for a huge base of extensions which WMF has no intention of ever deploying on its wikis. That would lead to donated funds being used to subsidise non-WMF efforts such as Wikia and other for-profit wiki-farms, something which is outside its 501(c)3 charitable mandate."
- That is a valid concern, but I don't think it inevitably leads to that conclusion. Firstly, MediaWiki is a WMF effort, including MediaWiki extensions. Secondly, for-profit users of MediaWiki are among the most generous supporters of WMF, MediaWiki, and extensions. Many of them recognize the long term benefits of supporting the WMF, even when there's no immediate benefit for them in the short term by doing that.
I tend to agree that Wikimedia doling out money to random extension developers is not a good idea. There are many extensions that are not even remotely useful to Wikimedia websites, many that are not very well executed (just look at extensions with security issue templates). Now if some sort of third party (or heck even a "chapter" like organization interested in supported wiki-related activities) wanted to manage such a fund, I think that might work better, but this sort of thing is out of the scope of the wmf (imho)
Hmm, what if instead of money, there were some other sort of recognition? Prestige can be worth more than money, anyway. The "chapter" idea is interesting. We could call it the WMF "Order of Extensionhoodliness". Other than thinking up important-sounding titles for ourselves, what would such an order or chapter do?
- "..but this sort of thing is out of the scope of the wmf (imho)"
I can understand and certainly respect that perspective, but I also think there's been valid points about the value third-party extension developers bring to WMF. It's true that not every extension developer is a gem, but neither is every enWP admin (and editors..well....) or recipient of volunteer (participation, etc.) grants. Maybe we should do a study so we can cite a stat here, but I suspect a reasonable percentage are lured because of third-party projects. I suspect that will only increase as companies like Microsoft begin to further implement MediaWiki as a package offered in their cloud server solutions.
Plus, you could argue, that the above about poor maintenance and lack of quality could in part be resolved by things like grants. Money is a great incentive to encourage folks to step up their game and bring more to the table. :)
Generally, WMF now has grants to support a number of initiatives. I think asking for one that supports something developer specific isn't unreasonable - and this seems like a good place that wouldn't overwhelm the core dev team.
All of that said, I'm still on the fence about what would be a wise way to approach this...
- Allowing links to some approved or generally accepted list of "known" payment processors (PayPal, Google Checkout, etc.) that could remove WMF from liability and provide some sense of quality control that we're not sending you to Anonymous's gate..
- Increased effort on MW.org to WMF fundraise and then 1-2 developer specific grants (or just the grants and no fundraising..)
- Supported effort to solicit corporate sponsors for developer funds (chapter? another c3 sounds like a lot of work..)
- Just play dumb to the whole thing and consider a buyer be warned essay should they start popping up?
- Wikipage that coordinates donor/developer connections
- Really quality (and regularly scheduled) "contests" with prizes like gift cards, MacBooks, etc. (sponsored?)
- Turn into a popularity/vanity contest?
- Do something crazy like write up a developers' bill of rights and just attempt to, as a devo community, decree they get links if they so need them :)
- As if we could get the devo community to agree on what to name a wikipage to house a bill of rights..let alone the content.. ;)