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Wikimedia Engineering/Report/2013/January/summary

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This content is prepared for inclusion in the January 2013 Wikimedia Foundation report. It is a shorter and simpler version of the full Wikimedia engineering report for January 2013 that does not assume specialized technical knowledge.

Major news in January include:


In January, the VisualEditor team worked primarily on reviewing and cleaning up the code that was enabled on the English Wikipedia in December. They spent time with their colleagues in the Parsoid team planning the next phase of development, which aims to make the VisualEditor the default editor for all Wikipedias from July 2013. The alpha version on mediawiki.org and the English Wikipedia was updated twice, fixing a number of bugs reported by the community and making some adjustments based on feedback.

The Parsoid team (who are creating the parsing program that translates plain wikitext into HTML annotated for easy editing, and vice-versa) also cleaned up their code and fixed bugs. Parsoid's features were overhauled to be more robust and extend support for wikis in various configurations (including in languages other than English). The team also discussed the longer-term strategy in the Parsoid roadmap, in which they decided to focus their efforts on performance improvements and HTML storage, instead of the performance-oriented C++ version of Parsoid.

Editor engagement[edit]

This month, the Editor engagement team stepped up development on the Notifications project Echo, and updated the first experimental release on mediawiki.org. The user experience for core features was improved (such as the badge, fly-out, all-notifications page and email notifications) and development started on new features, like preferences. The team completed work on HTML emails and started development of a more robust job queue. A first release on the English Wikipedia is expected by the end of March; in the meantime, users can try the current version on mediawiki.org.

Flow, a feed-like interface to enable users to better interact with their projects, entered the product design phase in early January. It has several "modules", one of which is a design for a structured user-to-user communication system. User research began in order to learn how user-to-user talk pages are handled, and how to improve them. Engineering discussions started about potential back-end and performance difficulties, the possible use of Wikidata's ContentHandler, and the evaluation of Wikia's MessageWall. A consultation with the community is planned for early February, with experienced and newer users alike.

Regarding Article Feedback v5 (a quality assessment feature), its code was cleaned up in January, and new features (simpler moderation tools and better filters) were developed. An internal feedback evaluation study suggests that about 39% of the feedback collected can be used to improve articles. Discussions happened on the English and French Wikipedia regarding the future use of the tool, and the German pilot program is expected to continue until May.

The Editor Engagement Experiments team ("E3") launched guided tours on the English Wikipedia, a feature allowing contributors to build tours to guide newer users. Guided tours are planned as a permanent addition to Wikipedia, with each tour implementation considered to be experimental. While building guided tours, the team also tested the Getting Started landing page and task list, measuring the effect it had on driving new contributions. Analysis showed that the onboarding experience is leading to small but statistically significant increases in new English Wikipedians attempting to edit, as well as saving their first edit. In addition to measuring the effects of the guided tour associated with this project, immediate plans are to redesign the landing page and add additional task types, to entice more new contributors. Work also continued on refining the reliability and precision of the data collected from the EventLogging extension. In particular, it was migrated to a dedicated database, and the team began collecting data to measure, for example, account creations on desktop and mobile.


After its soft launch in December, GeoData was officially announced this month; this functionality, which attaches geo-coordinates to articles, will be particularly useful for the mobile "Nearby" feature (enabled on an experimental version of the site), to help contributors identify articles in need of photos not far from their location.

This month, the mobile web team also finished work on the watchlist feature, and focused their efforts on photo uploads by first adding basic uploading functionality: uploading images to Commons under a single Creative Commons license. A workflow was put in place to allow users to add a thumbnail of an image they just uploaded to the appropriate article on their local Wikipedia or sister project. These features are currently live on the Beta mobile site and are set to be released to the full mobile site in February.

Uploading photos was also the focus of the newly created "Apps team", who started to develop iOS and Android versions of an app to upload photos to Commons. The two basic apps can already upload, share and show the user's contributions.

In January, the Wikimedia Foundation was awarded a grant in the Knight News Challenge for our work in expanding Wikimedia mobile projects. Part of this grant will be used for Wikipedia Zero and the SMS/USSD projects to improve access to knowledge in the developing world. In addition, we've partnered with VimpelCom to provide Wikipedia Zero access to at least 100 million additional customers this year.

On other mobile platforms, we've begun to explore ways to reduce the memory and processor requirements of our J2ME app, to increase the number of phones that can use this application; we are also finishing work on capturing the metrics from the SMS server to learn usage numbers and determine how many sessions are completed.