Efforts were stepped up this week to sow a feeling of trust between the major parties with an interest in the future of the Toolserver. The tool- and bot-hosting server – more accurately servers – are currently operated by German chapter, Wikimedia Deutschland (WMDE), with assistance from the Wikimedia Foundation and numerous volunteers, including long-time system administrator Daniel Baur (more commonly known by his pseudonym DaB). However, those parties have more recently failed to see eye-to-eye on the trajectory for the Toolserver, which is scheduled to be replaced by Wikimedia Labs in late 2013 (see Signpost coverage: 1, 2), with increasing concern about the tone of discussions.
At the crux of the disagreement is a single question: whether Wikimedia Labs can ever viably supplant the Toolserver. The Foundation is certainly throwing its weight behind the transition, but it is people like DaB – not to mention hundreds of Toolserver volunteer developers – that will need to be convinced if content is to be properly migrated, given the substantial switching costs individual developers must bear. The switching process will be further complicated if those developers share the concerns of DaB about the long-term prospects for Labs. It is not an easy situation to manage, especially given the tight timetable.
Two positive steps forward were taken this week. In a meeting on Thursday, WMDE community liaison Denis Barthel and DaB agreed that the WMF plan should be taken in good faith as a viable proposal for transition, and deserves the investment of time and energy. Though DaB later shared his ongoing doubts on the Toolserver-l mailing list, he offered his support for users wishing to transition, though he said he could not advise on setting up tools on Wikimedia Labs; for that, developers would have to rely on WMF help.
24 hours later more news reached the ears of Toolserver developers: it was announced that that WMF help would be co-ordinated by WMF engineering community manager Sumana Harihareswara. Harihareswara is one of the Foundation's most recognisable faces, regularly attending developer meetups both in person and online. As a senior WMF employee, her appointment to the role is likely to help resolve a feeling that the feelings of individual Toolserver developers – who may not appreciate the powerful range of environmental options available on Labs – were being ignored by WMF senior management. This move can only help ease tensions between the parties.
Wikimedia Germany, for its part, remains essentially stuck in the middle, committed both to keeping the Toolserver going in some circumstances and shutting it down in others. It can be little wonder the organisation is seeking to "normalize the relationship between the Toolserver, WMDE and the Wikimedia Foundation". Fortunately for the chapter, that middle ground may have just become a slightly nicer place to be.
Not all fixes may have gone live to WMF sites at the time of writing; some may not be scheduled to go live for several weeks.
Wikidata phase 1 launch data set: Barring unforeseen events, the Wikidata client will be launched to the Hungarian Wikipedia – its first production wiki – on January 14 (Wikidata Project Chat). Although the announcement reflects the first time a date has officially been set for a client deployment, the Signpost understands that the project is essentially behind its ambitious schedule by a matter of weeks (the result of delays in getting code review), though developers may be able to catch up some of that lost ground before the end of March, when it is scheduled to be wound down. The client will interface with the Wikidata.org repository, pulling interwiki links directly in addition to reading them from the page's wikitext. The Hebrew Wikipedia is considered a likely second deployment target, so as to enable testing of the client within a right-to-left framework. Phase 2, already in development, allows for the centralisation of data items for use in infoboxes and other displays.