After a long hiatus, the Signpost is resuming its series of interviews with Wikimedia Foundation sister projects. The aim is to help Wikipedia editors understand these projects, with the hopes that more will be interested in participating. The last edition featured Wikibooks, in May 2008. This week we have invited Lar to talk about the Meta-Wiki (more commonly known as Meta).
Note: We're still looking for interviewees for various projects. Please head over to the sign up page for more details. We're especially keen on doing interviews on several small, yet significant sister projects such as Toolserver, MediaWiki, and Wikimania.
What is the history of Meta and how did it evolve?
Before there were many MediaWiki based wikis, when the English Wikipedia was the one and only project, the WMF didn't exist as such, and even namespaces hadn't been invented yet, early contributors recognized the need for a place to talk about meta issues and topics, that is, issues about issues, issues about the wiki itself, or the software, rather than about articles. Meta was set up to foster this sort of discussion. A very early version of the main page shows this clearly. Over time things got added, and in some cases removed (for example, language translation coordination was at one point coordinated on Meta but now has its own set of wikis, for another example, MediaWiki software development is no longer coordinated on Meta either.) and Meta continues to grow and evolve.
What is the purpose of Meta?
You can read Meta's about page for the "official view" but it's a place for cross wiki coordination of things like WMF wide policy discussions, interlanguage issues, creation of new wikis (new types, new language codes, and new instances of a type for a language), global administrative issues, coordination of WMF board and Steward elections, and so forth. A primary reason for coming to Meta for many users is to ask for something to be done (ask for a global block, a rename or promotion on a wiki that doesn't have crats, etc) or to report an issue that affects other wikis that needs resolving.
How is Meta different from other projects?
It's meta. That's a snap answer, but it's primarily not about content of any sort. Instead it is a wiki about wikis. It has local files and pages and a need for admins, 'crats, oversighters and the rest, but those are there primarily to support the coordination mission, not as content in their own right.
Do you feel that Meta is your "home project"?
Not really, although I like it a lot. I suspect few other users do either. However, as a steward it's probably more of "a" home for me than for most users.
Read Goings-on to learn more about other projects. Participate in local discussions. Pitch in to help reorganize and archive things... many processes that have clerks at en:wp rely on interested folk to take care of the "paperwork" at meta.
Does the project have any plans to promote itself or recruit more members?
Not that I know of... promotion may miss the point a bit. Meta probably has plenty of Admins, 'crats and CUs.
What are some difficulties that Meta faced?
Activity goes in waves, and since it's not necessarily the home project for many folk, sometimes tasks go undone for a long time and sometimes there isn't enough work for the number of volunteers. Also, it's important to keep a wider perspective there, and not to be too "en:wp focused"... most folk you will meet are not from en:wp and don't care "how en:wp does it", they've worked out their own ways.
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