Pending Changes enwiki trial/Roadmap


This is the release planning page for the Pending Changes feature. Please direct comments to the discussion page.

The page has three sections:

  • Current Situation – an explanation of the current situation and larger strategy
  • November 2010 Release – a minor update to Pending Changes that addresses some of the known issues with the software
  • Future Releases – an overview of the long-term planning for Pending Changes

For more background information on the Pending Changes feature and rollout, visit Wikipedia:Pending_changes and read Jimbo weighs in on the Pending changes poll.

Current Situation[edit]

The Wikimedia Foundation continues to support the development of "Pending Changes", a feature that is currently only used in the English Wikipedia. Pending Changes has been an important experiment in developing software solutions to assist patrolling of selected pages. However, open questions remain as to under what circumstances the existing Pending Changes system or improved versions thereof provide an overall net benefit relative to other page protection levels (no page protection, semi-protection, full protection). We've attempted to support the Wikipedia community in obtaining and analyzing metrics (see w:Wikipedia:Pending changes/Metrics ) which would help with a data-driven analysis.

The September straw poll suggests that approximately a two-thirds majority of participants on the English Wikipedia is in favor of continued use of Pending Changes in some form. We want to support continued experimental use of this feature while the community is finalizing its decision on whether to leave the feature enabled. To do so, we must allocate an appropriate level of resources to support ongoing development. This page reflects our current release planning.

The Wikimedia Foundation operates with a small staff, and in the same timeframe of this development we also have several other major development and operations initiatives underway, all of which are on clearly defined timelines, in some cases with related contractual obligations. You can read more about our ongoing engineering projects in our November engineering update.

The resource investment in Pending Changes must be justified by its use and impact. At this point, we view Pending Changes as a still-experimental feature, and we'll support reaching a firm conclusion on its scope of use and ideal use scenarios. If, for example, it becomes used on every single biography in Wikipedia, this would justify an increased resource investment. If, on the other hand, the community doesn't support its continued use, we will dramatically scale down our resource investment.

With that said, the below timeline reflects our planning under the assumption of cautious continued use as the English Wikipedia community continues to explore the value and impact of this feature.

November 2010 Release[edit]

This was a minor release that addresses some of the known issues with Pending Changes. We focused on quick-to-implement features and fixes that had the most obvious and immediate benefits, rolling those changes out November 23, 2010. See the main project page for the latest update on the schedule.

Features of this release:

Design complications[edit]

In creating the November 2010 release, we quickly realized that even making the most seemingly simple changes were way more complicated than they should be, due to the nature of the codebase, and how we're using it. In particular, we have the same code running the Pending Changes trial on that is running the Flagged Revisions feature on a couple dozen projects. The difference between "Pending Changes" and "Flagged Revisions" is more than just a name; they represent very different configurations and community expectations of how the feature works.

In light of this, assuming that the English Wikipedia community wants to move forward with Pending Changes, we plan to fork the codebase for Pending Changes from Flagged Revisions, so that we are at liberty to evolve Pending Changes to meet the requirements of the English Wikipedia community, without causing problems for the wikis using the Flagged Revisions configuration. That would be the first step toward developing a coherent and serious plan to address the usability of the feature and how it ties into our larger quality and openness goals.

Short-term work[edit]

These features will not make it into the release as originally planned, but are on our near-term roadmap to complete:

  • Incremental resolution of issues surrounding "review conflicts" (Bugzilla:25295)
    • This was something that needed more design work to address properly than we had this cycle. We will keep this on the list.
  • Minor tweaks
    • Linking to Special:PendingChangesForReview (which was called SpecialOldReviewedPages) from sidebar (Bugzilla:25298)
    • Giving the Pending Changes special pages more intuitive names (Bugzilla:25300).
      • This was partially addressed, but it was complicated by the fact that we haven't forked the codebase yet (see "Design complications")
  • Other design work (Bugzilla:25301)
    • We'll continue to work with the community to clarify some feature requests and add more improvements

Future Releases[edit]

We want to make sure that we treat Pending Changes as part of a larger suite of tools that helps us achieve the following goals:

  • Vandalism prevention and more efficient patrolling
  • Higher article quality
  • Keeping Wikipedia editable by the largest possible audience

So the question that faces the English Wikipedia is this: Will the site continue to have Pending Changes enabled?

If yes, then the Wikimedia Foundation will treat it the same way it treats all other features of Wikipedia, and will be able to continue development as we have described above.

If the consensus is no, it will be handed over wholesale to community developers. Foundation work on the extension will cease for now if this is the case.

What the Foundation cannot do is continue to use the limited time and resources of technical staff on development of MediaWiki features that are not likely to be used by the projects. Disabling Pending Changes on the English Wikipedia while continuing to devote Foundation staff resources to the project is not an option.

We know this is a big, difficult question to answer. We have only really begun to discover what Pending Changes is good for and what needs to be done to improve it. Like most consensus-driven governance, making a decision about the feature has been a messy process with lots of imperfections. While we cannot change what has happened so far in the discussion of Pending Changes, we can try to attain a clear and genuine consensus going forward.

With that in mind, we've enlisted Steven Walling from the Community Department to work on our behalf to make sure there is better alignment between the Foundation and volunteer wikimedians, so that together we can design a process that runs as smoothly as possible.

Features under consideration[edit]

The community made dozens of feature requests for Pending Changes. When planning the November release, we chose quick-to-implement features and fixes that had the most obvious and immediate benefits.

We haven't forgotten the other requests. Some of the requests may be relatively simple, and we might be able to get to soon. Most of the others either required significant development, significant study, or may be of dubious impact or value. We've captured those requests as best as we could here: Pending Changes enwiki trial/Feature ideas.

We feel that ...the current feature set is perhaps not optimal for what the motivations expressed. Several design decisions will be revisited. It's not so much that these design decisions were bad, but that we're in a position to do things better.

With a separate codebase for Pending Changes, we'll be at liberty to make more radical changes to the user interface than if we need to support Pending Changes and Flagged Revs with the same codebase. If the English Wikipedia community decides to use this feature much more broadly, we will use this liberty.