One of MediaWiki's (and by implication Wikimedia's) longest standing issues - how wikitext can be made more friendly to new and inexperienced users, resurfaced this week. A WYSIWYG (What You See Is What You Get) solution would allow for editors to use a word processor-like interface to view articles during editing as they would appear after saving, before converting them into the relevant wikitext (see previous Signpost coverage from last August). David Gerard, writing on both the Foundation-l and Wikitech-l mailing lists, suggests that this could raise participation by a significant amount, but the problems were vast:
Starting from a clear field makes it ridiculously easy... Wikia wrote a good WYSIWYG [editor] that works really nicely on new wikis...[but] we can't start from a clear field - we have an existing body of wikitext. So, specification of the problem:
We need good WYSIWYG...
It needs two-way fidelity with almost all existing wikitext.
We can't throw away existing wikitext, much as we'd love to.
It's going to cost money in programming the WYSIWYG.
It's going to cost money in rationalising existing wikitext so that the most unfeasible formations can be shunted off to legacy for chewing on.
It's going to cost money in usability testing and so on.
It's going to cost money for all sorts of things I haven't even thought of yet.
Responses to David Gerard's post raised even more possible issues, among them the lack of a defined syntax for wikitext and Wikimedians' reliance on (often idiosyncratic) templates. George William Herbert added "'We can't do away with wikitext' [has] always been the intermediate conclusion (in between 'My god, we need to do something about this problem' and 'This is hopeless, we give up again')".
In celebrating the new year, Magnus Manske - one of the original MediaWiki developers - also demonstrated his first attempt at an in-browser solution of the issues, entitled "WYSIWTF" (wikitech-l mailing list).
Not all fixes may have gone live to WMF sites at the time of writing; some may not be scheduled to go live for many weeks.
A new feature has been written to allow users of up-to-date browsers to access thumbnails of their image uploads prior to transfer (wikitech-l mailing list). The feature would allow users to check they are uploading the right file, and whether or not they are about to overwrite a file that is identical but inferior, or completely different.
Austin McChord, CEO of a firm specialising in data backup and storage, offered to host a copy of the WMF's backups (colloquially known as "dumps") (wikitech-l mailing list).
Wikimedia Engineering Program Manager Tomasz Finc blogged about a new version of the Open Web Analytics software, the development of which the WMF had been guiding so as to be able to use it on Wikimedia sites, initially for the fundraiser.