Wikimedia Engineering/Report/2013/March/summary

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


(Accessible introduction to what the Visual Editor is)

In March, part of the team worked on infrastructure for the major new features that they'll be adding in the coming months. We aim for VisualEditor to be the default way all users edit our sites by July 2013, so it needs to let everyone edit the majority of content without needing to use the usual "wikitext" editor. This will mean adding support for references, (at least) basic templates, categories and images, each of which is a very large piece of work. This month the team primarily worked on draft designs and initial code to ensure users can edit categories and templates.

The Visual Editor team undertook its first ever "Quarterly Review", whose slides detail these designs, the work done to date and expectations for the near future. The alpha version of VisualEditor on and the English Wikipedia was updated twice, adding better input and selection support, fixing a number of bugs, and restructuring the back-end so that the new features will be simpler to create.

The Parsoid team (who are creating the parsing program that translates plain wikitext into HTML annotated for easy editing, and vice-versa) continued writing specifications, fixing bugs, and improving how Parsoid deals with different human languages, newlines and whitespace, and transclusion. And late in March, C. Scott Ananian joined us as a contractor. Welcome!

Editor engagement[edit]

In March, the editor engagement features team worked on three projects: Notifications, Article Feedback and Flow.

For Notifications (formerly called 'Echo'), we developed a range of new features, including: the 'thanks' and 'user rights' notifications, as well as HTML email notifications. We also started to collect our first metrics and prepared a socialization plan for our upcoming release on the English Wikipedia later this month. You are welcome to test our work-in-progress here on

For Article Feedback, we deployed a new version of the tool on the and, for evaluation by their communities. Final features include 'discuss on talk page' and 'auto-archive'. The tool was temporarily turned off on the English Wikipedia, where we expect to re-deploy it on an opt-in basis as soon as practical, as described on this talk page.

Design work continued on Flow, the upcoming user-to-user discussion system. We continued creating a 'Portal' that will engage discussion about Flow at three locations (, meta, and the English Wikipedia), and performing research.

The Editor Engagement Experiments team largely placed other projects – such as guided tours, EventLogging, and others – on hold to focus on two key initiatives: the "Getting Started" process for onboarding new Wikipedians, and on making the redesign of account creation and login a permanent, internationalized part of MediaWiki core.

For the Getting Started project, the team launched a new version on English Wikipedia, which included a new landing page with additional types of tasks suggested for brand new editors to try. The list of tasks is now generated by a basic recommender system built by Ori Livneh, which gathers, filters, and delivered a fresh list of tasks automatically for every editor. This new backend paves the way for releasing the "getting started" feature on other projects, after we've completed data analysis and testing to understand which kinds of tasks are ideal for first time editors. Additionally, Matt Flaschen collaborated with the Editor Engagement Features team to build notifications to welcome new editors and invite them to contribute via the Getting Started.

For the account creation and login work, S Page, Munaf Assaf, and the rest of the team rebuilt our design to work with MediaWiki core, and solicited reviews from outside the team. We currently plan to launch both interface redesigns on an opt-in basis in April, to have editors test the localization and other functional aspects of the forms via a URL parameter, before we enable them as default.


We have a stable version of the mobile-optimized website, which everyone on a smartphone uses by default, and we have a beta version that logged-in Wikimedia users can opt to use to see features we're still building. When functionality is polished enough, we promote it from the beta site to the stable site. In March, we added the ability to easily upload a lead image to articles that lack one in the stable version of the mobile site. We also helped users by giving them a temporary fix to an issue we discovered that made logging in hard or impossible for some users of newer mobile web browsers; that problem had prevented a number of users from being able to upload photos via the mobile site. We are now well on our way to reach our goal of 1000 unique uploaders/month by the end of June 2013. Check out the mobile app dashboard to see mobile contributions via the website and via apps.

Also: we've added thumbnails of lead images from articles in the mobile watchlist view, as well as a "last modified" timestamp on articles in the stable version of the mobile site. We are currently focusing on some performance enhancements for the mobile site. In April we will graduate the "uploads dashboard" feature from beta to stable, will further refine our photo upload features, and will let beta site users see and use a feature to identify articles on subjects near your current location.

The Mobile team that makes dedicated Wikimedia mobile apps have created an initial version of the Commons photo uploader app for Android; it is available for download in Google Play. The iOS version is still in beta, but should be available in the Apple app store next month.

In March, Wikipedia Zero (explanation) added new telecom partners (such as Axiata Group Berhad), fixed some technical problems, and helped teach new staff how we do things. We also won an SXSW Interactive "Activism" award for Wikipedia Zero.

Max Semenik, Arthur Richards and Faidon Liambotis held an OpenStreetMaps mini-hackathon at Open Source Days 2013 in Copenhagen. During the event, they agreed on an implementation strategy for a future WMF mapping cluster. The cluster would serve OSM "tiles" and thus help integrate OSM functionality better into Wikimedia sites, and help with our mobile apps which already make use of OSM data.

Other useful engineering news[edit]