Historically, the links for editing individual sections of a page have been aligned to the right hand side of the page, distancing them from the sections to which they refer. At the same time, having left-aligned edit links next to each header has been an available gadget on the English Wikipedia. In 2009, the Wikimedia Usability Initiative suggested making the left-aligned variant the default for all users, but although Wikia switched over and reported an increase in section editing the change was never implemented on WMF wikis.
In renewed efforts to increase the number of editors on Wikimedia projects, on 9 March the Foundation's usability and engineering departments began a joint week-long study of the editing impact of any switch to left-aligned edit links. To achieve this, they began to collect anonymous click data from readers, some of whom will be temporarily switched to the left-aligned style. If successful, this test could prove to be the first of many such experiments (Wikimedia Techblog). Developer on the project Trevor Parscal added that the current tests would be strictly quantitative and would be "followed up with additional research that will better assess the more subtle effects of such a change... these are experiments... just guidance as we explore ways to improve the usefulness of the site."
In response to privacy concerns, the blog post also added that "if any editor would like to abstain from participating in this and other experiments in the future, they can select the 'Exclude me from feature experiments' option in their user preferences."
Further bug fixes highlighted
After numerous bugs were found in the wake of the deployment of MediaWiki 1.17 almost a month ago, developer Robert Lanphier chose to highlight some of the issues that had recently been resolved (Wikimedia Techblog).
We're still in the middle of cleaning up some lingering issues from the 1.17 deployment, and despite our best efforts, you may see a little bit of quirkiness in the site. One problem with the site since the deployment was a problem with our job queue, which meant that emails that were supposed to be sent from the site weren’t. This backlog was removed last night, and a lot of pent-up email was sent. Additionally, there were some HTML cache invalidations that caused parts of the site to get overloaded for a few minutes [causing intermittent slowness and/or unavailability], and yesterday [8 March], we started the deployment of the category sorting improvements. We deployed some modifications to the database today. This resulted in a few hiccups on the site that we've since mostly recovered from.
When the category sorting changes come into effect, they should enable non-English wikis to have their categories sorted in a more logical order, rather than have letters with diacritics sorted after Z.
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. Users interested in the "tarball" release of MW1.17 should follow bug #26676.
Okawix, a new piece of software designed to allow users to read Wikipedia articles offline on their mobile devices, has entered its beta testing phase and would like to get more testers on board (Wikiwix blog).
Calls were put out for potential Google Summer of Code applicants to put their names forward. Students could work either on MediaWiki or Semantic MediaWiki; the programme, which runs from April to September, attracts funding of 5000 USD per student (wikitech-l mailing list).
The ability to export articles in an openZim format was integrated into the "Collection" extension (wikitech-l mailing list). The integration forms part of the Foundation's efforts to make Wikimedia wikis more available in offline formats.
After long discussion surrounding bug #24313, the preference for uniformly marking all one's edits as minor by default has been removed from the English Wikipedia. The removal was designed to discourage its use. As a result of bug #27403, however, users may temporarily find themselves "locked in" to their old preference even if it was set to true. A process of notification is underway.
Registration for the Berlin Hackathon is now open. The annual meetup will feature "more hacking and less talking" this year (wikitech-l mailing list).
Blocking usernames including spaces should now work correctly (bug #28017).
Gerard Meijssen blogged about bug #19412, which refers to PHP's failure to interpret dates in languages other than English.