Wikimedia engineering report/2012/December/summary
- This content is prepared for inclusion in the December 2012 Wikimedia Foundation report. It is a shorter and simpler version of the full Wikimedia engineering report for December 2012 that does not assume specialized technical knowledge.
Major news in December include:
- The launch of an alpha, opt-in version of the VisualEditor to the English Wikipedia, a project more complex than it appears;
- A research study on the use of the Article Feedback feature;
- New metrics for the MediaWiki community;
- The start of the Outreach Program for Women;
- Continued work to improve the workflow and interface for translators.
In December, the VisualEditor team enabled on the English Wikipedia an alpha version of the VisualEditor, the upcoming rich-text interface which will make it easier to edit wiki pages. Experienced editors can now test it and provide feedback on issues and priorities. The team's work focused on ensuring that it worked properly, on providing a dedicated tool to report problems with editing, and on addressing the reports and ideas from editors after deployment.
This successful release was also a major milestone for Parsoid (the parsing program that translates plain wikitext into HTML annotated for easy editing, and vice-versa). Parsoid needs to handle the full range of arbitrary and complex existing wiki content, including templates, tables and extensions; it did so very well, as witnessed by the lack of mistakes introduced by Parsoid in the wikitext. This was in large part due to the team's efforts on automated conversion testing and the completion of a strategy to only convert the parts of the page what were edited ("selective serialization").
This month, the Editor engagement team (E2) continued to develop new features of the Notifications project (called "Echo"), and enabled a first experimental release on mediawiki.org. They worked on feature requirements, the user experience and developed interface and behind-the-scenes components. More features will be developed in January that are planned to be enabled on the English Wikipedia in early 2013. Help is welcome to test these features to provide feedback and find bugs.
A research study on the use of the Article Feedback tool on the English Wikipedia confirmed that many readers use this quality assessment feature, and a sizable number of them go on to register and become editors. Based on that research and other suggestions, new features were started to reduce the editor workload through better filters and simpler moderation tools. The activation of Article Feedback on all articles of the English Wikipedia is planned for March 2013. Some wikis like the German Wikipedia have started to evaluate this tool as well, while others like the French Wikipedia are discussing it.
No significant development activity happened on Page Curation (an interface for experienced contributors to review and improve newly created pages) following its release on the English Wikipedia, but its localization and adaptation for possible use on other wikis and in other languages is currently under consideration.
In December, the Editor engagement experiments team (E3) launched a new test aimed at Onboarding new Wikipedians; it offers an optimized task list immediately after sign up, inviting those without an idea of how to get started to choose an article and try their hand at editing. Development continued on the new account creation experience and a Guided Tours feature that which will be launched in January 2013.
To support these and future experiments, the EventLogging tool underwent heavy development, including the launch of a dedicated space on meta-wiki for defining the data collected in a public, collaborative manner. Development of a user metrics interface for programs also begun in order to standardize user metrics, and provide infrastructure and access to them.
Last, the E3 team collaborated with the Fundraising team to reach out to donors and readers as part of the annual fundraising campaign, via email and a "Thank You" banner which ran at the end of the year.
The Mobile development and design team worked on finalizing contributory and other experimental editor-focused features on the Beta site (uploads, editing, and watchlist functionality) in order to clear the way for mobile uploads by March 2013. They also worked to improve the reader and potential editor experience by introducing features geared toward educating and engaging users, such as a human-readable last-modified indicator for articles and watchlists, and thumbnail images to illustrate the watchlist view. Because of the huge interest generated in the Beta testing site, an Alpha site was created to house very early work on contributory features without disrupting the reading experience of the 100,000+ Beta users.
Work continued on GeoData, a tool to store and retrieve GPS coordinates in Wikimedia databases, and it was deployed to all Wikipedia and Wikivoyage sites; it is expected to become officially operational shortly. This tool is a cornerstone of the discovery feature for the mobile site, allowing users to read about places around them.
Orange Congo joined the list of mobile carriers who enable free mobile access to Wikipedia via the Wikipedia Zero program. The Wikipedia Zero team resolved operational issues and continued to work on more partnerships. Two other initiatives to bring Wikipedia to mobile devices, the Wikipedia S40 J2ME app and the USSD service, are now ready to launch pending contractual negotiations with carriers.
Last, the Mobile quality assurance team started to work on an upcoming community testing event for Mobile features, and support for the MobileFrontend extension in the Beta cluster testing environment.
Other news 
- Community metrics are now generated every month to provide insights into the activity and health of the MediaWiki contributor community.
- Six interns joined the technical community as part of the Outreach Program for Women. They will work full-time between January and March 2013 on projects ranging from coding to documentation to bug triage.