Wikimania technology roundup; brief news
Wikimania draws to a close (technology supplement)
Trevor and Inez are working on the visual editor components... [and] Neil's also putting together the
infrastructure we'll need to do multi-user [simultaneous] editing.
|— Brion Vibber speaking at Wikimania
One of the presentations at Wikimania 2011's pre-conference Hackathon
As Wikimania 2011 wound down (it officially ended on 7 August; see this week's article on Wikimania, as well as coverage in "News and Notes", for details about the conference), a number of Wikimedia and MediaWiki developers published materials related to the conference, including slides, photos and videos. For example, notes for the pre-conference Hackathon were compiled in real time using the live collaboration software EtherPad before being transferred to Wikimedia wikis. These include notes for a workshop session where "two thirds of the participants had actually done some work" despite beginning with very varied skill levels, according to a blog posting by attendee Gerard Meijsen.
During Wikimania proper, realtime collaborations were also frequent. They included the questions and answers of Wikimania's own "Ask The Developers" session. The notes show that during the session German Wikimedian and developer Daniel Kinzler outlined "Wikimedia Germany's plans to develop a central repository for factual data" while Lead Software Architect Brion Vibber referred to the ongoing project to make "[server] configuration... editable from the wiki [concerned]". Efforts to make right-to-left editing work better were also mentioned in the session, according to the notes made by a number of attendees. Brandon Harris answered questions regarding default styling by pointing people to the MediaWiki style guide which, like Wikipedia's own Manual of Style, gives instruction on how to keep contributions from many different editors consistent.
Several presenters at Wikimania have posted their slides online for public dissemination. For example, Brion Vibber's slides for his Parser 2.0 project are a useful primer on the tricky subject of WYSIWYG editing, whilst also introducing his project that "combines the best" of previous attempts and promises better mobile editing support. It is scheduled for a mid-2012 public release, with opt-in functionality available later this year. This is in contrast to the much smaller Collaborative Watchlist project, whose slides show an initiative to build small efficiencies into existing systems rather than redesign them completely. Andrew West's slides (PDF) from his talk about combating vandalism form a useful introduction to ongoing initiatives at improving artificial intelligence to prevent linkspam. Meanwhile, a few bloggers have highlighted their thoughts about their stay at Haifa: the Wikimedia Deutschland blog, for example, commented on a talk about the Article Feedback Tool (quoting the fact that it is currently receiving 10 million valuations a month, compared to "only" 3.6 million edits to the wiki).
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.
- Wikimedia Commons has been experiencing a number of problems relating to uploads which are currently being looked into (for example, bug #30201, #30086). Some of these, however, have effectively been fixed, including an incorrectly configured server that prevented API uploads, which are used by external tools such as Commonist.
- Improvements were rolled out to Wikimedia's Squid servers, which handle the caching of requests and hence the display of most pages to logged-out editors. An invitation to switch to elements of the new mobile infrastructure is expected next week (more software deployments).
- The Wikimedia Toolserver experienced further problems this week, continuing its trouble from last week. With Cassia now effectively out of action, its functions have been transferred to backup server Hyacinth whilst the problem is looked into (toolserver-l mailing list).
- With the resolution of bug #18634, it is now possible for bots to more easily determine the fallback language to use in edit summaries for a given wiki. For example, if a translation is not available in Alemannisch, the correct fallback should be German rather than a global fallback such as English.
- Roan Kattouw worked on problems related to the switch of a test wiki to protocol relative URLs (see previous Signpost coverage). With all but one bug fixed, the number of wikis using the
https-friendly URLs has increased to three (test, wikimania2005 and Wikimedia's own internal wiki). The week commencing 15 August has been suggested as the date for a fuller rollout (wikitech-l mailing list). In unrelated news, there was a question about incidental redirection to
http of some Toolserver addresses (toolserver-l).
- All users whose user agent strings identify them as mobile users will be automatically redirected to the mobile site as of next week, potentially breaking some unofficial Wikipedia apps (Wikimedia Foundation blog).
- Simple pre-commit hooks have been introduced for developers, preventing them from, for example, not using a commit summary (the equivalent of an on-wiki edit summary) and submitting overtly broken code (wikitech-l mailing list).
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