Wikimedia Engineering/Report/2012/September/summary

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TriangleArrow-Left.svg Summary of the Wikimedia engineering September 2012 report Summary for October 2012TriangleArrow-Right.svg
This content is prepared for inclusion in the September 2012 Wikimedia Foundation report. It is a shorter and simpler version of the full Wikimedia engineering report for September 2012 for less technically savvy readers.


In September, the VisualEditor team continued its focus on re-engineering the code of VisualEditor so that it is more modular and easier to extend. This involves creating and documenting a number of formal APIs at each point in the architecture, that means a developer does not have to understand the entire code base to be able to add new features. The early version of the VisualEditor on was updated twice, fixing a number of bugs and building out better support for language and key concepts like categories, language links and other "magic words".

Critical to the VisualEditor is Parsoid, a parsing program that translates plain wikitext into HTML annotated for easy editing, and vice-versa. The Parsoid team spent September improving their prototype in JavaScript to get it ready for a release in December, and improving the (faster) C++ version of Parsoid for longer-term deployment. The original plan to finish the C++ version before the December release looks very risky with the limited resources available, so the current plan is to rely on the JavaScript prototype for now.

The Parsoid team's focus on the prototype was supporting templates, the Cite extension, support for category links and "magic words". On the C++ version, the code that splits up strings of characters in wikitext can now support very simple content, and the team defined basic interfaces for asynchronous and parallel processing to improve performance and thus increase responsiveness for users.

Editor engagement[edit]

This month, the Features team deployed more new features for Article Feedback, a quality assessment tool currently being tested on 10% of articles on the English Wikipedia. Improvements include iPad support, special abuse filters to automatically disallow swear words and common vandalism, as well as automated filtering to reduce the workload for editors and administrators. The team is now in the process of re-factoring the code, making it more scalable, prototyping a mobile web interface, as well as collecting more data to track how many readers who post feedback end up becoming editors as a result. A full release to 100% of English Wikipedia is expected in coming weeks, with other wiki projects starting later this year.

The team also deployed the first version of Page Curation on the English Wikipedia, a feature that aims to help Wikipedia patrollers review new pages faster and easier, as well as provide better feedback to page creators. It includes two tools: the New Pages Feed (a dynamic list of new pages for review by community patrollers) and the Curation Toolbar (an optional panel on article pages). The Curation Toolbar provides a variety of tools that let users get page info, mark a page as reviewed, tag it, mark it for deletion, send WikiLove to page creators, or jump to the next page on the list.

The first project of the Micro Design Improvements team, which consisted in simplifying the "edit" window, has now been deployed on the English-language Wikipedia. The current priority is to fully productize these changes and fix associated bugs before moving forward.

Last, the Editor engagement experiments team (E3) announced the results of the first iteration of the post-edit feedback experiment, and worked on productization of the most successful confirmation message in a new MediaWiki extension, as well as through collaboration with the VisualEditor team. In addition, the team deployed the second iteration of experimental post-edit feedback, which lets new editors know when they reach important editing milestones early in their participation on Wikipedia. E3 also continued readying work on account creation user experience, and the new analytics infrastructure to support feature experimentation.


The mobile team continued to work on new feature for the mobile view, like a new navigation menu, currently a beta feature. Preliminary support for sharper images on high-density displays (such as the iPhone 4/4S/5 and many Android phones) is being worked on; this will apply also to the desktop view on suitable tablets (iPad 3, Nexus 7, Kindle HD) and laptops (Retina MacBook Pro, Windows laptops with desktop zoom at 150% or 200%).

A new version of the Wiki Loves Monuments App was released, that allows users to use it in combination with a separate camera. Over 3,000 pictures have now been uploaded from mobile devices. In collaboration with the Product team, the Mobile team will next analyze data from the competition, to better understand how to proceed with a dedicated Commons upload tool. The team has received positive feedback about the app, which has been a big hit with new Commons users from early data analysis.

Regarding mobile access in less-developed countries, the Wikipedia Zero program (an initiative to enable free mobile access to Wikipedia) continued to expand, with several additional mobile carriers now in the testing phase. The mobile team is also putting the final touches to the Wikipedia S40 J2ME app, a mobile application for the Java Platform, still used by many phones in the Global South. Users without a smartphone and a data plan won't be left out: access to Wikipedia over SMS or USSD (e.g. WAP) is being worked in collaboration with the Praekelt Foundation. This tool uses the open-source software vumi.

Last, a new EPUB export feature was enabled on the English Wikipedia. It can be used to collate a personal collection of Wikipedia articles and generate free e-books that can be read on a broad range of devices, like mobile phones, tablets and e-ink-based e-book readers.

Other news[edit]

  • Development was disrupted around September 7th due to a serious breakage of Wikimedia's Gerrit repositories, the platform used by developers to share code and collaboratively review each other's contributions. All repositories were subsequent repaired, and the cause of the issue was investigated to avoid future problems of this type.
  • Students who worked on MediaWiki-related projects as part of Google Summer of Code 2012 (GSoC) reached their final milestone. Projects include a feature to easily translate annotated SVG files, a tool to manage conferences in MediaWiki, and improvements to the Incubator platform.