Contracting for the Foundation
Oliver Keyes, who edits as Ironholds on the English Wikipedia, was interviewed this week about becoming a contractor for the Wikimedia Foundation.
What do you think your work with the Foundation is going to entail?
- I'm a short-term contractor; basically, the WMF have worked out that they need to take editors, like you and me, into account when making decisions on what features to introduce, how to introduce them, what those features should have in them, so on, so forth. My job is to help them engage with the editors, setting up discussion groups on various tools, interviewing individual editors to discover what they want out of MediaWiki, and so on.
Are there specific shortcomings in terms of feature releases that might have prompted the Foundation to seek a community representative?
- I can't really answer that, to be honest; you'd have to ask the full-time staffers. I don't want to put words in the Foundation's collective mouth.
There's obviously been some negative reactions to things like WikiLove and the Article Feedback Tool (and that's before you even get anywhere near the can of worms that is the Image Filter). Is there a communication gap between the Foundation and editors/projects?
- The Article Feedback Tool is a good example – it certainly got poor feedback, and for quite justified reasons. That's actually one of the things I'm going to be helping the staffers with; designing a new version, which takes into account the concerns editors had with the old version. I'll be working on quite a few things, admittedly. WikiLove isn't something I'd choose to use as an example, in that both the tech and the underlying rationale are sound – it wasn't communicated to the community very well, though.
- The Image Filter, again, isn't a particularly good example to use. The designers were aware of the shortcomings, and never intended for it to be distributed any wider than the Board of Trustees, much less used as a stand-in for the "deployed" image filter. It was strictly a mockup. Overall, though, there probably was a communications gap, yeah. I say "was" because the Foundation is doing its best to fix that. They've hired Till as a movement comms guy – his job is exclusively to communicate with the movement – the Community Department has Maggie, the tech department is working with me. Overall, they're doing their best. Communications gaps work both ways, though, and I'd ask all users to get talking to me if they feel there's something tech should be doing (or are doing!) that they want to be involved in.
Are there specific projects or initiatives that are high on your agenda?
- Two at the moment. As mentioned above, the Article Feedback Tool is getting redesigned from the ground up; I'm about to start getting people together and pointing them in the direction of the devs. I'll avoid giving away any specifics at the moment, because things might change fairly quickly (I have a meeting with the designers this week, so if someone pokes me in the coming weekend I might have something useful to tell you).
- The second, and the one slightly further along, is the new New Page Patrol interface (the "Zoom" interface). The Foundation are about to launch a survey (thanks to the invaluable assistance of User:Kudpung) to get some more info on what users want, and then I'll be talking to people individually to add some depth to what the WMF know.
- There's probably going to be a lot more projects later on; these are just the two on my desk at the moment. In general, I'll be moving around to whichever bit of the Tech department needs my help.
Anything planned for projects that don't end in "pedia"?
- Hopefully! As said, I'm a short-term contractor, and an editor first and foremost. I'm not completely knowledgeable about the Foundation's long-term tech plans, although I hope there's stuff for other projects on the agenda. In the short-term, I think that the 'pedias are the biggest "draw" and the flagship project; the priority is on improving them and keeping them from capsizing. Once that's done, I'm sure there'll be a lot more focus on the other projects.
Thanks for talking to the Signpost.
Oliver, along with another new hire Fabrice, will be participating in an IRC office hours session (in #wikimedia-office) on Thursday 27 October at 19:00 UTC to discuss the future of the Article Feedback Tool.
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