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Update about on-going work on Notifications, especially cross-wiki notifications

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Quiddity (WMF) (talkcontribs)

Hi, this is an update on the work we in the Collaboration team are doing. Our focus is on cross-wiki notifications and other back-end improvements to that system. Our long-term goals are to make various improvements to the Notification system.

Notifications are at the core of many different on-wiki activities. Making notifications easy to find and use can help those processes. We are focusing our immediate plans on supporting cross-wiki notifications. These will help editors stay informed about the changes they care about on every Wikimedia project on which they work. This is especially important for the editors who work on more than one wiki. Examples include if you upload to Commons, curate on Wikidata, or edit in two or more languages.

The team has spent the last few weeks researching the existing and proposed features. This has included examining existing tools such as Crosswatch. We've been considering the problems of:

  • technical performance (scaling the requests across 800+ wikis),
  • user preferences (both existing and desired),
  • user interface design possibilities (how it should work),
  • how to release an initial, user-testable version for feedback and improvement, and
  • how to measure the impact of the project (reducing the time it takes to process a notification).

We are also doing user research via 1-on-1 interviews. In these we ask active editors about their current notification usage and pain-points. Using a prototype we are evolving, we get feedback on directions to take the design.

Details and further reading

You can read more about the technical details at: Requests for comment/Cross-wiki notifications.

Some of the new backend improvements to Echo: phab:T107823 ("Rewrite EchoNotificationFormatter") and linked tasks.

User preference options are:

User interface design possibilities cover several questions. For example, how should cross-wiki notifications look within the pop-up? How and when should we add enhancements to the Special:Notifications page to filter things? We are drafting and discussing these in:

  • phab:T114357 (Clarifications to the currently confusing "primary/secondary" link, and proposed future enhancements)
  • phab:T114356 (Bundled notifications)
  • phab:T115264 (Controlling notification 'volume' based on the type or location)
  • phab:T115845 (Clearer use of the notification badges (colored number in personal toolbar))
  • phab:T115316 (Better organisation of the Special:Notifications page)

Note: Most of these are not part of the cross-wiki notifications feature. We won't for sure roll all these out together with the main change.

We started user research at phab:T114086 and it continues at phab:T116741 . (Note: You can sign-up as a volunteer at https://wikimedia.org/research .)

A user-testable release is still just in planning. We decided on a Beta Feature on each wiki as the most scalable and least confusing of all the do-able options. Read our plans in phab:T114237 ("Present cross-wiki notifications as a beta feature to users"). This will help users to try the feature anytime, disabling it if it interferes with their work in some context, and easily suggest how the tool could be improved.

There is no system for users having or setting cross-wiki preferences. Waiting to building this would take a long time. For now, we plan to let you enable the Beta Feature at each wiki on which you want to test it. This will let you have a small-scale Beta Feature that you can all try out. We will be able to discover bugs, edge-cases, iterate more, and get even more feedback. Later, when we know what features you need, we can build such a cross-wiki preferences system (including the task linked above).

Whilst you wait, we would love to hear your feedback on the above. What comments, what design ideas, and what technical concerns do you have? Please tell us on the linked tasks if you can.

I'll send further updates, when the planned Beta Feature is about to be ready.

On behalf of the Collaboration team, thank you to everyone who has given your help already.

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