June Engineering Report: Virginia datacenter, parser, user profiles etc.
The Wikimedia Foundation's Engineering Report for June was published last week on the Wikimedia Techblog and on the MediaWiki wiki, giving an overview of all Foundation-sponsored technical operations in the last month. Apart from various topics reported previously in the Signpost, it highlights work on the new "eqiad" datacenter at Equinix in Ashburn, Virginia (network setup at the site has been completed and connectivity with the old datacenter in Tampa was established, various services are expected to start getting served from eqiad this month); the first results from this year's Google Summer of Code; and "major progress on our code review backlog".
At the Berlin Hackathon in May (see previous Signpost coverage), a roadmap had been laid out for a reform of the MediaWiki parser, with the purpose of enabling visual editing. In June, Brion Vibber continued to work on the parser plan, while Trevor Parscal and Neil Kandalgaonkar worked on the "Visual editor 0.1".
User profile (avatar and self-description of interests) displayed in a version history, as envisaged for "StructuredProfile"
Also at the Hackathon, WMF User Interface Designer Brandon Harris had outlined plans to make the "identity" of contributors more visible, which is hoped to strengthen communities by connecting users with tasks and collaborators corresponding to their interests (while assuaging fears that this would "turn Wikipedia into Facebook"). The June report notes that Harris has now started to work on StructuredProfile, a "feature [which] aims to make it easier for new editors to fill out their profile pages with meaningful information about their background and interests, and surface select profile information to experienced editors within lists such as recent changes [and] watchlists". Currently, the profile is envisaged to contain details such as the user's real name should they wish to provide it; interests; languages; associations, such as WikiProject membership, being an admin or being a WMF staff member; a user avatar and a 140 character statement about the user's motivation to participate.
Chad Horohoe started work on a project called "academic publications authentication proxy", "whose goal is to allow selected Wikimedians to access third-party academic publishing sites to help with content verifiability". At the same time, however, WMF work on LiquidThreads 3.0 "was mostly on hold in June due to limited resources". A June 23 outage that lasted about 45 minutes and appears to mainly have affected logged-in users was linked to a failure of the server that hosts CentralAuth, the system that handles logging in.
The report notes the large number of jobs currently open in engineering (12 according to a summary by Erik Möller last week, who asked readers of Wikitech-l for help in reaching out to potential candidates).
Amid a flurry of media coverage (see this week's "In the news"), the new WikiLove extension (created by Kaldari and other WMF developers) was deployed to the English Wikipedia as scheduled on June 30 (see previous Signpost coverage). The extension was turned on for all logged-in users except those who marked "Exclude me from feature experiments" in their preferences. The deployment went smoothly, although some users of Internet Explorer reported problems using the "make your own" feature. This was traced to an API bug which will be fixed later this week (wikitech-l mailing list). Support for older skins such as Classic and Cologne Blue will also be deployed later this week.
Based on the first day of WikiLove usage, the Wikimedia Foundation posted an analysis page, showing some very preliminary usage trends. More extensive analysis is expected in the weeks to come. In addition to logging usage data, the Foundation is also collecting WikiLove stories to examine how the extension is being used by the community. Editors are encouraged to add interesting or exceptional stories to the page to facilitate discussion on WikiLove's impact.
The order in which the ResourceLoader loads various modules has been modified. The main modules (startup, jQuery, mw.config.set()) are now loaded in the <head> again. Programmers can choose to have their own modules loaded in the <head> too, or at the end of the <body>. In the discussion, concern had been voiced that the execution of some modules which modify the appearance of the page significantly was sometimes delayed too much, in some cases causing users to click on the wrong links (bug #27488, revision #85616, which went live in #91089).