Potential shown for mobile and tablets when reading Wikipedia
Readers are using smartphones more than ever to browse content.
As detailed in previous Signpost coverage (1, 2), a great deal of emphasis has been placed on the development of an improved mobile platform for Wikimedia wikis. On 16 November, the Foundation's Mani Pande and Ayush Khanna presented a round up of recently conducted research into this field and to tie it into the Foundation's development strategy.
The results of the recent survey question "On which devices have you ever read Wikipedia?"
For example, the report noted that statistics generated recently demonstrate clearly that readers are no longer sticking to conventional desktop and laptop computers. Instead, they are already viewing an entire range of devices; smartphones are used by 21% of the 4000 globally distributed readers surveyed recently, tablets by 7% and gaming devices by 4%. Statistics also showed that over half of Wikipedia readers from Brazil, India and Mexico intended to buy a smartphone within the next year, emphasising the possibility of growth in this area. Additional research showed that Wikipedia-related apps (rather than simply browsing the site in a mobile web browser) had been tried by 41% of smartphone-owning users. The most popular app identified in the survey was the WMF's own official iPhone app. 37% of readers who had browsed content sites on a mobile device considered Wikipedia to have offered a superior experience.
These statistics, drawn from the 2011 Reader Survey (see Signpost coverage) will no doubt influence future resource allocation with regard to mobile projects, as will a second survey aimed specifically at mobile readers, the results of which are yet to be published. Development time is currently being focused on finishing an official Google Android app as well as improving the generic mobile site, including through the addition of the edit functionality it currently lacks.
The lunge for improved mobile support mobile will of course be tempered by the fact that desktops remain the most widely used device for reading Wikipedia, with over three-quarters of all readers having read Wikipedia articles from a desktop. Nonetheless, there is significant concern that developing countries will soon see whole generations that browse the web on mobile devices but have never touched a desktop; including them in the Wikimedia project could be key to fulfilling Wikimedia's long term mission for these countries.
Wikipedia instant search
An engineering student at India's BITS-Pilani KK Birla Goa campus has recently created "WikiLive", a minimalistic search tool offering instant search results of Wikipedia, MediaNama reports. Similar to Google Instant, the website also offers a preview of the actual article, all in real time. Unfortunately, the website's features are currently limited to the English Wikipedia. The launch of Google Instant in September last year had already prompted the creation of several such tools for Wikipedia (see Signpost coverage) – of the four examples listed back then, two are still online: The Instant Wiki and WikInstant.com.
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.
An example screenshot from the BugTender mobile phone app
Mobile bug editing facility: Brion Vibber blogged about his efforts over the Thanksgiving weekend to create a functioning mobile version of a Bugzilla installation such as Wikimedia's. He describes his initial effort, dubbed "BugTender", as providing developers "with a mobile-friendly interface to browse (and later, comment on & triage) [their] bugs".
Server outage: Wikimedia sites suffered from an outage of about 30 minutes on Sunday November 27 around 11:00 pm UTC. It was initially thought to be caused by faulty hardware on a database server, but Performance Engineer Asher Feldman later explained that the outage was probably due to a reddit thread (see "In the news"). The thread, an "Ask me anything" discussion started by Wikimedia staff member Brandon Harris (currently featured on fundraising banners), linked to the "Special:FundraiserStatistics" page on the Wikimedia Foundation website, but the page "wasn't suitable for high volume public consumption" because it ran a "very expensive [database] query". The statistics page has been temporarily disabled.
1.19 code revision targets in place: Rob Lanphier this week published what look like will become the accepted code revision targets for the MediaWiki 1.19 release cycle (wikitech-l mailing list). Based on performance during the 1.18 release cycle, the numbers generated (including four hundred revisions dealt with in the first week and all revisions handled by the end of January) reflect the fact that reviewing will start quickly and end more slowly as only more complex changes are left to be reviewed. The projections also account for a code review lull over the Christmas break.
Bugzilla vandalised; future new contributors constrained: In the last week, vandals have repeatedly targeted the Wikimedia bugzilla installation by impersonating staff and then using the "mass change" feature of the software to alter dozens of bugs within a handful of minutes. In the past, vandalism had been rare – there is very little incentive to vandalise the site, which is viewed almost solely by Wikimedia developers – and had operated a fairly generous permissions package for new users. Unfortunately, it is now likely that those advanced permissions will be denied in future to new users by default (wikitech-l mailing list).