News and notes
Media Viewer controversy spreads to German Wikipedia
Erik Möller (Eloquence) at Wikimania 2014
Wikimedia Foundation staff members have now been granted superpowers that would allow them to override community consensus. The new protection level came as a response to attempts of German Wikipedia administrators to implement a community consensus on the new Media Viewer. "Superprotect" is a level above full protection, and prevents edits by administrators.
A community Meinungsbild, or Request for Comment, resulted in agreement that the new Media Viewer should be deactivated for now, until such time as existing problems had been fixed, but that logged-in users should have the ability to switch it on in their preferences. But when an administrator on the German Wikipedia attempted to turn off the Media Viewer, the Wikimedia Foundation turned it back on, using the new superprotect user right to lock in the WMF's version. In turn, Wikimedia Foundation Deputy Director Erik Möller was blocked for a month on the German Wikipedia for ignoring the RfC outcome.
Developments surrounding the Media Viewer have been reported in the German press at "'Superprotect': Wikimedia behält das letzte Wort bei Wikipedia" (Super Protect: Wikimedia has the last word at Wikipedia), "Superschutz: Wikimedia-Stiftung zwingt deutschen Nutzern Mediaviewer auf" (Superprotection: Wikimedia Foundation forcing Media Viewer on German users), and "Wikipedia: Superprotect-Streit spitzt sich zu" (Wikipedia: Superprotect dispute escalates).
The German Wikipedia community responded by starting a "user survey", as the Foundation had already said it would ignore an RfC/Meinungsbild; it is scheduled to run until 21 August. In the first 72 hours of the survey, over 500 users voted for the main proposal to remove superprotect from the German Wikipedia.
||[W]e've clarified in a number of venues that use of the MediaWiki: namespace to disable site features is unacceptable. If such a conflict arises, we're prepared to revoke permissions if required.
|— Erik Möller
The four proposals, which are all passing by wide margins, are:
- 1. The Foundation is requested to remove superprotection with immediate effect from all pages in the German Wikipedia that currently have it applied.
- 2. The Wikimedia Foundation is requested to immediately remove the superprotect right from the staff user group.
- 3. The Wikimedia Foundation is requested to revert the software change(s) that introduced the superprotect group right at their earliest convenience (e.g. during the next software update).
- 4. The Wikimedia Foundation is requested to ensure that in future, new group rights that enable the holders to shut out elected group rights holders (i.e. administrators, bureaucrats, checkusers, oversighters and stewards) will only be given to user groups whose members have also been elected by the local (or, where appropriate, international) community.
The Media Viewer technical group stated publicly on the German Wikipedia—before the RfC even started—that they would not implement a rollback, so the actions of the WMF should not have come as a surprise.
An individual with knowledge of the situation told the Signpost that there have been a significant number of valid complaints about the Media Viewer, but the technical group has committed to tackling them by September. Furthermore, the WMF has implemented a separate system for all their tests ("Beta features"), where the technical department can experiment with new projects and asks for community feedback. Logged-in users will see it next to the preferences section. While the beta was introduced right after the VisualEditor was removed as the default from the English Wikipedia, it was disabled for the last nine months on the German Wikipedia—a consideration in the recent WMF actions on that site.
A request for comment at Commons has already resulted in the Media Viewer being disabled for logged-in viewers as the default.
A similar situation on the English Wikipedia resulted in the Arbitration Committee agreeing to open the Media Viewer RfC case. The ArbCom case has been inactive since the superprotect announcement. Interestingly, the evidence page has several links to usability tests done on the Media Viewer before it was released, including three videos (between 10–20 minutes each) to learn more about the understanding of reader experience the team developed before deploying the software: User 1, User 2, User 3.
Oddly, none of the users was ever able to click on the link to the file description page—something one would expect to need in order to use an image to write a Wikipedia article.
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