In an effort to increase its mobile presence, the Wikimedia Foundation has reached out to mobile carriers, who it hopes will see value in allowing free access to a "lite" version of the encyclopedia (Wikimedia blog, paidContent article).
The lite version will contain all of Wikipedia's textual content, but no images or other media, reducing the cost to a mobile carrier of supplying the service to users. In return, mobile carriers will hope to "lure in" potential web users with tasters such as Wikipedia. The WMF is following in the footsteps of Facebook, who unveiled a similar plan eighteen months ago. In addition to Wikipedia Zero, the WMF is also taking the opportunity to push for inclusion of "links to Wikipedia in [carrier's] WAP portals and basic browser bookmarks [and] use Wikipedia logos and other branding material in their own marketing efforts" paidContent reported. WMF Senior Manager Amit Kapoor added that the WMF was also "exploring ways to develop feature phone access to Wikipedia through SMS and USSD".
The efforts are forming part of a wider programme of delivering Wikimedia wikis to the developing world, where the mobile-to-desktop browsing ratio is far greater than in developed nations. Even in countries where that ratio is relatively low at the moment, readers are increasingly switching their Internet usage to mobile devices. Whilst in the West smartphones are generally the primary mobile access point for the Internet, the WMF's actions show it is also reaching out to users of older phones, as is common in the developing world.
Originally outlined as a top priority in the five year strategic plan published in 2010, more recently the focus on mobile browsing has prompted the launch of a new mobile site in September (see previous Signpost coverage) and the creation of an Android app set to debut shortly. Users of the new mobile site will be able to "Opt in" to receive beta features as soon as they are available, it was also reported this week on the Wikimedia blog.
New Orleans hackathon explored
Chad Horohoe teaching developers unit testing
Volunteer Development Coordinator Sumana Harihareswara published a writeup of the New Orleans hackathon (which was held in the American city on 14–16 October) this week on the Wikimedia blog (which was also summarised in a wikitech-l post). The two day event, aimed enticing more and more productive volunteer MediaWiki developing as well as allowing developers with different backgrounds to meet in person, included talks from a number of longtime MediaWiki developers such as Chad Horohoe (pictured) and Brion Vibber.
Reporting "broad progress", Harihareswara described the event as specifically helping to further work on "the SwiftMedia extension, Wikimedia Labs, continuous integration, ArchiveLinks, user scripts, Max's API Query Sandbox, Puppetization, Git migration, and more". She also reported how a "volunteer came in on Friday night knowing nothing about developing for MediaWiki, and by the end of the weekend had a working development environment on her laptop and had some ideas about how to contribute".
Future hackathons are scheduled for the Indian city of Mumbai (18–20 November; full details are available) and the British seaside resort of Brighton (19–20 November; full details). The former has been designed to coincide with WikiConference India 2011, and the timing and the proximity of its venue should allow potential contributors to attend both.
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 chart showing the self-reported flow of visitors between Google and Wikipedia for selected countries. It illustrates that 30–50% of visitors specifically look for Wikipedia in Google results, whilst 40–60% chance upon the encyclopedia because it is listed as the first result (data from editor survey).
Google and Wikipedia: chicken or egg? The latest contribution to the long running debate over whether Google drives more or fewer visitors to Wikipedia than Wikipedia drives to Google was published this week on the Wikimedia blog. Survey data, collated for a number of countries, showed that 30–50% of visitors (depending on country) specifically look for Wikipedia in Google results, whilst 40–60% visit it by virtue of the fact that it is the top site listed. The difference has been linked with brand awareness: Japan and the United States were more likely to look for Wikipedia, whilst India and Russia tended to only visit as a result of it being the first result. See also this week's "Recent research" report on "High search engine rankings of Wikipedia articles found to be justified by quality".
Feedback dashboard unveiled: Special:FeedbackDashboard has been unveiled as a new way to monitor the early experiences of new editors. It picks out contributions from the MoodBar extension, allowing praise to be noted and any problems new users have encountered to be addressed in a similar way to Mozilla's instant "Firefox made me happy because..." feedback system (Wikimedia blog).
Visual Editor updates: the notes from a meeting of the teams working on a next generation parser backend and a new "visual editor" WYSIWYG frontend held on 26 October described progress on both fronts (wikitext-l mailing list). The work could generate a call for testers as early as December although the new functionality is unlikely to be widespread for anything but page creation well into 2012.
Software security engineer opening: An opening was created on October 29 for the position of Software Security Engineer. The position is for "a smart, experienced PHP/MySQL software developer with software security experience... [who would] enjoy the technical challenges associated with managing databases with millions of records." The position requires a B.S. or M.S. or equivalent experience, and 5 years of working experience.
Discussion over commit access: The question of who should have commit access to the MediaWiki repository was asked once again this week on the wikitech-l mailing list. Lead Software Architect Brion Vibber explained that the WMF, who manage access, had been left in a "no man's land" by the proposed move to Git, which will make it "a *lot* easier to fully participate in the development ecosystem without having to get an account manually approved and created".
Work on re-imagined article feedback tool gains momentum: As also reported in this week's "News and notes", the Wikimedia Foundation hosted IRC office hours this week specifically for questions on the article feedback tool. The tool, which was introduced in September 2010 and fully rolled out in July 2011, is in its fifth iteration. In a message to the foundation-l mailing list, Deputy Director Erik Moeller clarified that "the idea is to experiment with some alternative approaches in parallel with the existing deployment, not to scrap the existing deployment and start over immediately". A log of the office hours can be found here.
Data analysis results published: The results of a data analysis competition looking at editor retention were published this week (Wikimedia blog). As the Foundation's Diederik van Liere and Howie Fung explained, "what the four winning models have in common is that past activity and how often an editor is reverted are the strongest predictors for future editing behaviour". Unfortunately, errors in the dataset used by the model that came first have since significantly impaired its ongoing usefulness.