Wikimedia Engineering/Report/2012/November/summary

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This content is prepared for inclusion in the November 2012 Wikimedia Foundation report. It is a shorter and simpler version of the full Wikimedia engineering report for November 2012 that does not assume specialized technical knowledge.


In November, the VisualEditor team, who is working on the upcoming rich-text interface aiming to make it easier to edit wiki pages, finished restructuring the code behind the scenes. This "refactoring" was aimed at making the code more modular, and easier to change and extend, even for developers who are not familiar with the entirety of the VisualEditor's code.

They also continued to work on Parsoid, the parsing program that translates plain wikitext into HTML annotated for easy editing, and vice-versa. In preparation for the upcoming deployment on the English Wikipedia, the team concentrated on the preservation of existing content. They continued to tweak the parser and to compare the articles' original wikitext to the one obtained after a "round-trip" (the operation consisting of converting wikitext to annotated HTML, and back to wikitext) on random selections of test articles. Currently, 79.4% of test articles (up from 75% last month) are converted without any differences at all, 18% (stable) show only minor differences, and the remaining 2.6% (down from 7%) have differences that still need fixing.

Editor engagement[edit]

Version 5 of Article feedback, a quality assessment tool also aiming to engage readers and encourage them to contribute, is still being tested on 10% of articles on the English Wikipedia. A few additional features and improvements were developed in November. A few other features were designed, mostly related to moderation and reducing the editor workload; they will be developed next month, once the code reorganization to improve database performance is completed. The team also analyzed new research data to track how moderators use the feedback page, and measure how many readers who post feedback become editors or registered users. Next month, Wikipedians will be invited to evaluate the usefulness of feedback posts and the effectiveness of the new moderation tools. Once these tasks are done, this tool is expected to be expanded to all articles on the English Wikipedia in early 2013.

Page Curation (an interface for experienced contributors to review and improve newly created pages) is now in maintenance mode, following its release on the English Wikipedia in September. Its impact has been tracked with a metrics dashboard, which confirms that it is being used actively, with over 27,000 pages reviewed since launch.

The MicroDesign team (focusing on small design issues) continued to work behind the scenes in November, notably on a tool called "Agora" that aims to make it easier to build and deploy future improvements. Several templates on the English-language Wikipedia have been redesigned to reduce interface clutter, with some changes already implemented.

In November, the Editor engagement experiments team (E3) deployed the third and final A/B test of the new account creation page, including client-side validation (automated checks when the user enters content in a text field). Results from basic data analysis of all three tests were published on Meta, and the project will now move to the productization stage. The post-edit confirmation message was put in maintenance mode after being deployed to a further seven Wikipedias, including French and Portuguese. On the analytics side, E3 transitioned permanently to EventLogging, a tool to help measure the success of future experiments, and collaborated with the mobile team to track activity on Wikipedia's mobile beta. The team also deployed a small design improvement to the personal tools menu in MediaWiki core.

Last, key features of the Notifications project (code-named 'Echo') were designed and developed in November, leading to a first experimental deployment in early 2013. This new notification system is designed to replace and augment existing notification systems on Wikimedia sites, as well as provide significantly more control to both users and developers as to how their notifications are handled, read, and deleted. A first prototype is available for testing.


In November, the Mobile team added the ability to log in to the site. Many experimental features were made available in beta, such as editing articles, reformatted tables, random article support, simpler layout for cleanup templates, and watchlists.

Infrastructure work continued on programs to bring Wikipedia to more devices (Wikipedia Zero, access over SMS or USSD and the J2ME app), notably during the Bangalore DevCamp, where volunteer developers got involved.

The Mobile quality assurance team started to set up automated mobile browser-based tests and mobile browser regression tests.

Other news[edit]

  • A new video player was enabled on Wikipedia and its sister sites, coming with the promise of bringing free educational videos to more people, on more devices, in more languages. The player is the same HTML5 player used in the Kaltura open-source video platform. It brings many new features, like advanced support for closed captions and other timed text, support for the royalty-free WebM video format, and server-side transcoding, i.e. the ability to convert from one video format to another, in order to deliver the appropriate video stream to the user depending on their bandwidth and the size of the player.
  • Two calls were sent in November. One was for interns as part of the Outreach Program for Women, organized by the GNOME Foundation. Applications are now closed. The other call was to recruit volunteers to lead or advise engineers on select activities; applications are still welcome.