Amsterdam hackathon: continuity, change, and stroopwafels
Developers gather in Dutch capital to talk tech
Developers pack out the start of hackathon, which was held in the café area of an Amsterdam hostel.
Developers could help themselves to packets of stroopwafels
, a Dutch speciality that has acquired something of a cult status
at Wikimedia events. Smoothies, brownies and other snacks were also available.
Second only to the technical track of Wikimania in terms of numbers, the Berlin Hackathon (2009–2012) provided those with an interest in the software that underpins Wikimedia wikis and supports its editors a place to gather, exchange ideas and learn new skills. This year the focus moved to Amsterdam, where Dutch chapter Wikimedia Nederland organised their first multi-day developer event (May 24-26). Other chapters supported the event by helping with participants’ travel and accommodation costs, as did the Wikimedia Foundation for its staff as well as some volunteer participants.
Though it is difficult to pin down a central theme for a conference with 140 attendees, the choice of workshops suggest consolidation: Wikidata, Lua (slides), and Wikimedia Labs (slides) are hardly new projects and were all demo'ed at last year's hackathon. Nevertheless, there was plenty to talk about, with upbeat developers leaving sessions excited at the progress the Foundation has made with each. In particular, the negativity that had previously surrounded the Wikimedia Labs project (see previous Signpost coverage) seemed peculiarly absent, the result no doubt of the dramatic improvements in the functionality and ease of use associated with the Tool Labs project.
Also on show was a first prototype of the Visual Editor's reference, image and category modules, all of which it will need if it is to be deployed on schedule in the first week of July, as well as a myriad of pet projects among the 100 or so volunteer developers attending. All workshops were recorded and will be soon be available on Commons.
Critics will point to the high cost of hosting international events, the decision not to prioritise the grant-supported invitation of Wikimedia outsiders, and the decision to implement WMF policy on having staff sleep in better accommodation than grant-funded attendees, who stayed in six-person rooms at the venue itself (a youth hostel). Perhaps because of the lack of outreach, the gender and ethnic composition of Hackathon attendees will also concern those who see such imbalances as corrosive. Nevertheless, it is clear that whatever the price-tag, those that did attend left happy.
The Signpost understands that external sponsorship worth €2,295 (US$2975) was pledged by Google in support of the event.
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. The author is indebted to Tech News, a Foundation-assisted attempt to create weekly tech briefings.
- Commons improves multilingual support: The Translate extension and Universal Language Selector were enabled on Wikimedia Commons on May 20. Commons users can now easily switch between different input and interfaces languages, and translate pages locally with a friendly interface.
- MediaWiki 1.21 released: The first stable release of MediaWiki 1.21 for sites outside Wikimedia was published on May 25 (wikitech-l mailing list). The release, the first since November, includes dozens of changes, all of which have previously come into effect on Wikimedia wikis. They include support for high density displays, one-click patrolling and various changes to skins. The release is primarily of interest to those running external wikis, many of which do not have the capacity to keep up with Wikimedia wikis' bi-weekly deployment schedule.
- Bye-bye HTML4: MediaWiki will stop supporting XHTML 1.0 and HTML 4, between them the dominant standards for over a decade. HTML5 will now be the markup language built into all pages created by the software. The change is not expected to affect end-users, since Wikimedia wikis do not yet rely on any major features of HTML5 which do not fail gracefully in older browsers. The move ends a nine-month period during which MediaWiki officially supported the older standard, but did not use it on Wikimedia wikis themselves.
- System architecture RFCs endorsed: During a Amsterdam Hackathon (see above), developers agreed on guidelines that seek to put RFCs at the heart of current practice when it comes to big architecture changes – that is to say, changes which greatly affect the underlying processes without being visible to the user. Previously, despite playing a significant role on major WMF wikis and at bodies such as the IETF, RFCs had remained sidelined in the decision-making process (also wikitech-l: 1 2).
- Bugfixes coming soon: A number of changes made in the last week will be coming soon to a Wikimedia wiki near you:
- There is now a category to list pages with invalid music code (gerrit changeset #63268).
- The Wikimedia Commons Android app will come out of the beta phase on its next release (design-l mailing list).
- Account creation by manual log-in will now be recorded in the account creation log (bug #42434).
- Links to file description pages will again be accessible directly from within videos (bug #43747).
- The software behind recent changes patrolling was re-written; the change fixes issues related to patrolling new pages, among other things (changeset #41196).
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