Wikipedia talk:Wikipedia Signpost

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search
The Signpost
WT:POST
Feedback

The Signpost feedback

Please use this page for general or technical issues, praise, queries, or complaints.

  • For suggestions of a topic to cover, see Suggestions.
  • For article-specific comments, please add them to that article's talk page.
  • For proposals for a feature, see the Newsroom.


Red links[edit]

I don't know if it's wanted, but titles are red in Wikipedia:Wikipedia_Signpost/2016-11-26/Blog --Framawiki (talk) 10:46, 26 November 2016 (UTC)

Not any more, after a purge. This sometimes happens when new pages are created, and pages linking to them do not immediately notice. A purge fixes it by forcing it to update.--JohnBlackburnewordsdeeds 11:05, 26 November 2016 (UTC)
It has been my experience that if I add a red link and create a redirect (or a stub if there is guaranteed notability), going back to the page where I put the link will result in a different shade of red appearing.— Vchimpanzee • talk • contributions • 18:40, 20 December 2016 (UTC)
"Different shade" because you have visited the target, so it has a different style than a non-visited one? DMacks (talk) 16:54, 22 December 2016 (UTC)

Has it really been a month?[edit]

It's fine with me if it's monthly, but please do something.— Vchimpanzee • talk • contributions • 18:38, 20 December 2016 (UTC)

Vchimpanzee Yes...trying to get our edition out tomorrow. Nice to know we're missed...but my apologies for the delay. -Pete Forsyth (talk) 01:22, 21 December 2016 (UTC)
@Vchimpanzee: I'm sure they could use more hands, if you have the time and interest in helping out with the news. ;-) Ed [talk] [majestic titan] 01:24, 21 December 2016 (UTC)
I just don't feel qualified, and lately I don't have the time either.— Vchimpanzee • talk • contributions • 15:11, 22 December 2016 (UTC)
@The ed17: Is there a wp:todo list for the Signpost somewhere? Ottawahitech (talk) 17:03, 30 December 2016 (UTC)please ping me

Consider CSS changes for better narrow viewport (e.g. mobile device in portrait mode) display[edit]

I know that we are missing really good tools for responsive design in article layout, but I think there are probably some tweaks that could be made to the Signpost's markup that would help make viewing on a small screen a nicer reading experience. I'm hopeful that RfC: Allow styling in templates will eventually provide easier solutions for CSS that includes @media variations, but until then it may be worth giving up some of the precise layout control used for large viewport devices in favor of layout that degrades more gracefully for small viewports. --BDavis (WMF) (talk) 16:44, 22 December 2016 (UTC)

Pong ball in flight.svg BDavis (WMF): I was the one that implemented the current design. I found it effectively impossible, given the limited CSS allowed on MediaWiki sites, to implement a design that scaled well both to very large and very small displays. The current design is optimized for ~11-15 inch displays, scales well to displays bigger than that, and scales poorly to smaller ones. Something had to give. I'm still not convinced anyone reads the Signpost in mobile at all. I've heard colloquially that a few do. Do you have better data on this? ResMar 03:28, 23 December 2016 (UTC)
Pong ball in flight.svg Resident Mario: I do not have data, but I would hypothesize that you are correct that the readership of The Signpost on devices the size of a typical phone is very low. This may be due in part to the fact that it is completely unreadable. On my iPhone the current main signpost page is rendered as 3 columns with the outer columns having a width of 2 characters and the middle column having a width of 7 characters. The article layout gives a width of 3 characters to the headlines and 12-15 characters to the article body. I think what is needed most is a flex box grid of some kind for the layout rather than the current inline styles. I'm very aware that the editing tools to make this easy are badly missing in MediaWiki in general. The only way to accomplish it that I know of personally is by getting css with @media selectors added to the site css like was done for the .mw-tpl-portal-* styles on Wikitech. Just fixing Common.css is also not enough due to the Mobile Frontend extension. It ignores Common.css and instead introduces Mobile.css which is bottom loaded and thus causes a FOUC before the mobile specific CSS is applied. --BDavis (WMF) (talk) 15:36, 23 December 2016 (UTC)
Pong ball in flight.svg BDavis (WMF): Polluting global stylesheets with local page specific CSS is exactly the sort of thing that the site as a whole needs to avoid, though. ResMar 22:24, 23 December 2016 (UTC)
@Resident Mario: Thank you for your design work. Would it be practical to have two different layouts created, one for small displays and one for tablet-and-larger ones? If not, would it be practical to generate something like a "book" or "single page" edition that is at least usable on small screens? I'm sure there would have to be compromises, such as eliminating or thumb-nailing large images (the user could click on them to view the files description page, and from there, the image, if he wanted to). davidwr/(talk)/(contribs) 17:49, 23 December 2016 (UTC)
Pong ball in flight.svg Davidwr: It doesn't appear to be possible to appease both types of displays in one page, but if you split Signpost stories into two separate pages, making one work for small displays would be trivial. That's not a bad idea, given the unlikelihood of more advanced CSS controls coming to Wikipedia. On that end however there's a separate problem: the Signpost is getting by right now doing publication using a not actively maintained bot script, and there's little prospect of the necessary bot changes being made unless a new script is written from scratch by a new maintainer. ResMar 22:24, 23 December 2016 (UTC)

Very glad to see this under discussion. I'm not too knowledgeable about CSS, but this is one of several interrelated issues that are high on my priority list to find a way to improve in 2017. One note, actually the current production model involves an almost entirely manual process that usually takes a couple hours and yields mistakes and oversights. The script is, as I understand it, far too broken to use (and my understanding is that the main culprit is the evolution of MediaWiki over time). We're also trying to figure out stuff like getting listed on Google News, improving SEO, updating the way attribution is handled in stories, making sure we have a good RSS feed, etc. The discussions are a bit scattered as yet, but I'm hoping to get more organized about it, and ideally to get some good help in a new production manager(s), as I believe our current production manager has too many RL obligations at the moment.

A data point -- it's true that few people are accessing the SP via mobile, but not an insignificant number. And it could well be that people have learned that mobile SP reading is annoying, and avoid it for that reason...in which case, a low number would not be a good reason to ignore the problem! Yesterday, 536 people accessed the main page via desktop, while 26 accessed it via mobile app or browser. Our most widely read piece was Year In Review; 604 read it via Desktop, 37 via mobile. -Pete Forsyth (talk) 22:58, 23 December 2016 (UTC)

Suggestion -- could the columns issue be partially addressed the same way as the {{reflist}} template handles it? e.g., {{reflist|colwidth=30em}} This seems to limit column width on my Android phone to a pretty reasonable width. -Pete Forsyth (talk) 23:10, 25 December 2016 (UTC)
Reflist uses a custom class which was inserted into the global CSS. The gist of this is that every single time a page on Wikipedia is loaded, one of the "bits and pieces" that has to get loaded is a set of reflist-specific instructions, even on pages which don't have any references whatsoever. For an ultra high-volume template like reflist, this cost is negligible, but it would be very hard to justify carving a Signpost-specific clause in the globals (side note: the global is already full of junk that WMF personnel hacked in to get That One Specific Page working back in the bad old days). Besides, it wouldn't help, at least not the way the Signpost content is currently written.
If the Signpost wishes to stay "on premises" on Wikipedia itself—and it does, and ought to—this issue is totally intractable. The Signpost is already facing serious structural issues that are far more serious than the question of mobile viewership. ResMar 23:38, 25 December 2016 (UTC)
Thanks Resident Mario; very helpful context. My question was slightly different; maybe the answer is a simple "no, that won't work," but let me clarify to be sure. (My understanding of how CSS works is admittedly hazy.) Is it possible to piggyback on the CSS class that's already used for {{reflist}} -- that is, without introducing new CSS? -Pete Forsyth (talk) 00:46, 26 December 2016 (UTC)
Awfully derivative, but a clever idea...it might be possible. I'll try to experiment with it later. ResMar 01:07, 26 December 2016 (UTC)
@Resident Mario: Where can I learn more about the bot issues you all are facing? I might be able to help :) As for redesigning The Signpost, I agree with BDavis that the flexbox model is probably our best bet. It would be tricky, but I think it would be possible to get what we want without the use of media queries MusikAnimal talk 01:52, 26 December 2016 (UTC)
@MusikAnimal: There was once a bot/script that automated this obscenely long process. :-) Having that again would save Pete a lot of time. Ed [talk] [majestic titan] 02:25, 26 December 2016 (UTC)
Pong ball in flight.svg MusikAnimal: Re: bot code. The publishing bot was written by Jarry1250 in ~2013, when he was a highly active editor in charge of the Technology report. It's written in PHP using the Peachy framework, which I believe he had a hand in writing. The web interface is here; the code for it is available on GitHub. I would at this point say "Jarry has since moved on to other things", which I do believe was true at one time (hey, I'm technically retired, right? Sure!), but he seems quite to the contrary to be quite active. So I suppose that with regards to fixing the bot, the next line of action ought to be this one: @Jarry1250: ResMar 02:34, 26 December 2016 (UTC)
PS: @The ed17: Been a while since I've needed this one—(edit conflict) ;). ResMar 02:34, 26 December 2016 (UTC)
Re: flexbox. It's been a while since I've written heavy Wikipedia styling code, but I'm pretty sure style="display:flex" isn't allowed, right? Tough place to build a flexbox out of...what do you think of this reflist trick? It's devious, which means it might work. ResMar 02:34, 26 December 2016 (UTC)
Hi Res! Yup, pretty active again (for now). Last I knew my interface still worked. I thought the point was that Wikipedia:Bots/Requests for approval/KharBot had replaced it, and maybe made some other changes at the same time? - Jarry1250 [Vacation needed] 20:09, 26 December 2016 (UTC)
Pong ball in flight.svg Jarry1250: Well this is awkward! @Kharkiv07:, but it does appear that he hasn't edited in three months. Unfortunately the source code is not publicly available—the BRFA states "Source code available: No... willing to provide if issues arise". @Peteforsyth:, have you contacted Kharkiv07 recently? Obviously the ideal would be for him to come back on and fix the bot up. If not, we really need for him to at least release the source code to the bot, so that others can patch it up (I'm very surprised that BRFA doesn't require stronger justification for not open sourcing your code!).
Edit: actually, reading the BRFA again, is the problem that the bot is broken, or is it that the only user with access to it and the know-how to use is not around to run it? ResMar 20:37, 26 December 2016 (UTC)

────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────Yes, Resident Mario, I discussed these issues with Kharkiv07 several months ago. Three significant pieces from our discussion:

  • The bot is substantially broken, mainly due to updates to the MediaWiki software
  • Recommended to rewrite the bot from scratch, but before doing that, best to have a thorough understanding of various possible changes to the Signpost.
  • They are not likely to have the bandwidth to do that work themselves, but are probably available to advise.

I'll start a separate thread below to outline what those changes could/should be. -Pete Forsyth (talk) 22:51, 26 December 2016 (UTC)

Thanks Peteforsyth. I'd be happy to make any changes to the main publishing scripts (i.e. both those changes that prompted Kharkiv's fork, plus any new ones). - Jarry1250 [Vacation needed] 23:08, 26 December 2016 (UTC)

I have fixed the three column layout, as well as another bug with the series sidebar messing up styling in some cases in articles.. Most of all however.. article layout is a mess... People seem to throw around div's like they are newlines and someone broke the entire idea behind the templates at some point. —TheDJ (talkcontribs) 12:20, 27 December 2016 (UTC)

Whenever you have </div> repeating, then that should be inside a template. Having loose div's inside an article should be a RARE exception. —TheDJ (talkcontribs) 12:30, 27 December 2016 (UTC)

Right some questions:

  • There is a framing of 50px on the left and the right of the main content. This is the primary reason that much of the content is unreadable on mobile, since that is 1/4 of the screen already. So do we need it ?
The framing acts as a gutter to the text content. It was meant to be a small optimization targeted at large displays, and I believe that it was the most controversial change in the format on the editorial board at the time that I introduced it. It's nonessential. ResMar 17:16, 27 December 2016 (UTC)
@Resident Mario: Right, I figured something like that. But it's completely different from the indentation of the header and the footer, is that also intentional ? —TheDJ (talkcontribs) 20:07, 27 December 2016 (UTC)
I think so. The gap was stylistic. Again, though, maybe not worth the overhead. ResMar 21:48, 27 December 2016 (UTC)
    • Perhaps we can use viewport relative sizes for the margin/paddings ?
  • There is a maximum width of 46em, but it is not clear to me if that intentionally excludes the sidebar or not.
This intentionally excludes the sidebar. The page was designed around two columns of content in mind: the story text on the left, and visual/interactive supporting content on the right. If you haven't already, I suggest taking a look at Wikipedia:Wikipedia_Signpost/Newsroom/Style to see the design principles, or at the original reference I had in mind when I was working on this. ResMar 17:16, 27 December 2016 (UTC)
  • All content of the sidebar is right aligned, meaning that on very wide pages, the sidebar is far removed from the content. I'm guessing that wasn't intentional ?
I wasn't aware of alternative methods of achieving this. The idea was that on smaller screens (IPad, not IPhone) the content would mesh, which would preserve readability. ResMar 17:16, 27 December 2016 (UTC)
I might be able to do something that keeps the sidebar closer on large screens. —TheDJ (talkcontribs) 20:07, 27 December 2016 (UTC)
  • Is it intentional that the content block is left aligned, or should it be center aligned ?
I believe I experimented with center alignment, but it didn't work out so great. I don't recall why, but if you can make it work, sure, it can be used. ResMar 17:16, 27 December 2016 (UTC)
That would actually be a lot easier probably :) —TheDJ (talkcontribs) 20:07, 27 December 2016 (UTC)
  • @Resident Mario: another question. There is a different indentation for the 'content' blocks and the 'in brief' blocks. Is that intentional ? —TheDJ (talkcontribs) 20:07, 27 December 2016 (UTC)
I believe not. I'm not sure, but I think someone updated the top margin at some point. ResMar 21:48, 27 December 2016 (UTC)

I've also made a new preload template, that doesn't use raw divs and a new preload template to experiment with some more friendly mobile settingsTheDJ (talkcontribs) 14:16, 27 December 2016 (UTC)

    • OK, I think i'll make forks of some of the templates and do the following:
      1. Use viewport relative margins and make them a bit smaller, to avoid wasting too much space on mobile, without having to use media queries.
      2. I'll make all blocks 'full width', and 'self contained' aka balanced, so that divs, won't span the entire page anymore. unbalanced divs (begin and end templates) are really annoying in combination with VE and parsoid
      3. I'll define consistent indentation
      4. I'll see if I can improve the sidebar a bit.
    • That should help a lot. —TheDJ (talkcontribs) 20:07, 27 December 2016 (UTC)
Ok great, I'll leave you to it then! ResMar 21:48, 27 December 2016 (UTC)
Resident Mario and TheDJ, delighted to see you forging ahead with this. It sounds like you both have a much better handle on how it does / should fit together than I do, so I'll just stay out of the way; but it would be good to check in once you're done, so I can get a sense of what changes you made, why, and how we can best honor them in our day-to-day practices. And I can use that as an opportunity to go through the excellent Style Guide linked above, and make sure it's fully up-to-date and concise. Please reach out if needed for any reason. -Pete Forsyth (talk) 22:11, 27 December 2016 (UTC)
Hi Resident Mario and Peteforsyth, can I get your opinion on Wikipedia:Wikipedia Signpost/Templates/Story-preload/NAN3 and Wikipedia:Wikipedia Signpost/Templates/Story-preload/NAN3. It's not finished, but it should give a good idea about the general layout, and should work for both mobile and desktop. —TheDJ (talkcontribs) 15:47, 28 December 2016 (UTC)
Thank you TheDJ, they look good to me -- but, I don't have a very clear idea of what aspects I should be paying closest attention to, what represents a change, etc. They certainly look good on the surface. One detail, on the mobile version when viewed on my 4.5" Android screen, the "small" image is about the same size -- actually, I think a bit larger -- than the "large" image. I don't know that it's a problem, there may be no need to offer two different size options for small screens. But that's the only thing I notice.
Are you finished with the main Signpost page reformatting? Both the desktop and mobile versions do look quite a lot better on my mobile device now, thank you. Any further changes planned there? -Pete Forsyth (talk) 23:10, 28 December 2016 (UTC)
TheDJ, I hope you don't mind, I moved a couple pieces from the main page into templates -- getting a couple of raw DIV tags off the page (per your earlier suggestion), and getting rid of a stray DIV tag as well. Please take a look, and let me know if I've messed something up, or adjust as you see fit. Special:Diff/756880458/757133956 -Pete Forsyth (talk) 00:55, 29 December 2016 (UTC)
One more question on this, TheDJ and Resident Mario: Might you be able to incorporate the "blurbs" (that is, the descriptive text about each section), and perhaps even cover image(s), into the Signpost archives? See this archive of Aug. 18 edition and the front page during the Aug. 18 edition -- the "blurb" text only ever lives on the main front page, and goes away when the next edition is published. This does not seem ideal to me. -Pete Forsyth (talk) 19:57, 29 December 2016 (UTC)
This would require a change in publishing and bot procedures. The page in question is transcluded from Wikipedia:Wikipedia_Signpost/2016-08-18, which is generated at runtime by the bot (or by the publisher, if the manual procedure s followed) and is also used in other parts of the interface. Considering how rarely archive front pages are accessed directly, the additional complexity this would introduce isn't worthwhile. ResMar 17:14, 30 December 2016 (UTC)

Updates to Signpost practices[edit]

Here's a list of possible changes to the Signpost process. Let's first (say, by January 1) make sure we have a complete list; let's discuss the pros and cons of each in a separate section below; and then we can make a determination of which we'll actually move ahead with after that. Please feel free to add items to this list -- I'm sure I will, as I remember things I've forgotten.

  • Change all Signpost page names from Wikipedia:Wikipedia_Signpost... to Wikipedia:Signpost... This has been on the "to-do" list for a very long time; if we're going to redo the bot, that should make it substantially easier. I'd imagine careful use of AWB would make this pretty doable.
  • Establish a separate website that mirrors Signpost content in a highly readable (desktop, mobile...) format. See notes here: Wikipedia talk:Wikipedia Signpost/Mirroring
  • Email addresses for team members at custom domain
  • And/or: At minimum, set up an RSS feed that points to Signpost content in its existing home. Perhaps using mw:Extension:FeaturedFeeds. (Relevant notes also at Wikipedia talk:Wikipedia Signpost/Mirroring.)
  • Make sure our front page, archive pages, and article pages show up reasonably well on both mobile and desktop. This is under discussion in the section above; if it's not possible to make the number of columns adjust dynamically, I (Pete) would suggest we simply go to a one-column format across the board. (Front page, archive pages.) It would look slightly less pretty on desktop, but vastly better on mobile.
  • Do we want to have separate pages for every story? For instance, "News and notes" as it stands might have anywhere from 0-4 stories, plus "Brief notes." A more thorough (and Google-friendly) redesign might include moving each to its own page and URL. (This would be a throwback to the early days, when page titles might look more like: Wikipedia:Wikipedia Signpost/2005-12-26/Wiki tools and Wikipedia:Wikipedia Signpost/2005-12-26/Semi-protection.)
  • Attribution -- let's make attribution more prominent, as a small incentive to our contributors.
  • Currently, each page gets a "blurb" that shows up in one and only one place: WP:Wikipedia Signpost. It doesn't show up in the article itself, and it doesn't show up on the Archive page. Should we (a) incorporate it into the archive pages? Or should we eliminate it?
  • Are there worthwhile ways to automate or further facilitate social media posting?
  • While I don't think we will be moving off of English Wikipedia any time soon, it would be good to keep the possibility of moving everything to Meta in mind through any recoding/redesigning project.
  • other ideas?

-Pete Forsyth (talk) 02:42, 27 December 2016 (UTC)

  • Plus another idea: consider becoming a User Group. --Rosiestep (talk) 21:56, 27 December 2016 (UTC)

Any thoughts (detailed ones in a section below, please) or additions? The ed17 tony1 Arborrhythms tedder Tbayer (WMF) Gamaliel Jayen466 Rosiestep Evad37 Kaldari Michael Snow Ragesoss Go Phightins!

Re-pinging, as I didn't get it. Tony1 Arborrhythms Tedder HaeB Gamaliel Jayen466 Rosiestep Evad37 Kaldari Michael Snow Ragesoss Go Phightins! Ed [talk] [majestic titan] 20:34, 27 December 2016 (UTC)
Whoops, I wasn't on that list... LOL! Montanabw(talk) 23:28, 28 December 2016 (UTC)

Discussion[edit]

  • While I don't have any particular objections to any of the above (although I am not certain how advantageous some of them are, particularly splitting up pages that are already pretty short (e.g., Brief notes/News and notes), I think the most effective way to improve readership and reach would be to recruit more writers and publish on a reliable and regular basis. I mean...sure, go for it to make things more "Google-friendly", but it would only succeed in bringing readers once if they find a Signpost that's a month old. Risker (talk) 04:04, 27 December 2016 (UTC)
  • Most of the above would be worth doing, but I am not seeing the benefit of Email addresses for team members at custom domain. However, a "group" email-list address like en-signpost-team@wikimedia.org might be helpful. davidwr/(talk)/(contribs) 05:31, 27 December 2016 (UTC)
  • Given the scope of the changes that Pete is suggesting, as well as the critical juncture at which the Signpost now finds itself generally, I think that this is a good point in time at which to stop and ruminate, at some length, on what the Signpost is, was, and will be.
Risker brings up the elephant in the room, above, making a well-founded point (and one that I'd alluded to just before): that the chief issue facing the Signpost at the moment is a structural lack of writers. The editing members of the editorial board (AKA the people that feel they have an obligation to produce something at the end of the day) right now consists of, ask far as I can tell, of Pete and Tony. This situation fluctuates: things were worse two summers ago, when essentially all the content was being written by Ed, and they were a heck of a lot better a year or so ago, when the board had five or six active members.
The Signpost always prided itself on publishing weekly...until it didn't. The situation now is tenuous as always: if either Tony or Pete were to go, the Signpost might simply cease to exist. The descent from the weekly schedule and into publish-time uncertainty is a symptom of this fact, and so extensive changes to the way the Signpost operates, the technical forces for which now seem aligned, need to be evaluated against two key metrics:
  1. Things that will attract more net contributions.
  2. Things that will allow the Signpost to function with less overhead.
I ran a first-ever analysis of the Signpost's actual (as opposed to perceived) traffic pattern almost a year ago now, the results of which you can read here. While it would be interesting to run an update, I am all too sure that my original conclusion still hold, chief among which was a substantiated impression that this focus on "weekliness" (as expressed by e.g. Risker above) is totally misleading.
I have a college, and my college has a newspaper. I was an avid reader of the school broadsheet back in high school, but neither I nor seemingly anyone else really follows college news. The trouble is that the paper publishes too often: there are too many young journalism students who need CV material, and too much money circulating around, for them to stick to the most interesting stories and publish in a monthly format, like my high school paper did.
I admit, "The Signpost is weekly!" is something that I admit I also once loved to brag about. After looking at the numbers, however, I realized that maintaining such a schedule encourages "shortcuts", flavor-of-the-week stories, and other such brief coverage of associated trivia that people don't actually want to read. It burns out editors who get tired of the commitment (as I inevitably did), and I believe that, just as in the case of the school newspaper, it burns out readers who may be interested in tuning into the "best" stories, but don't want to have to muck through weaker stuff to get to them.
I think the Signpost ought to be a sleeker, more magazine-like, monthly publication. Instead of going wide but shallow, we should go narrow but deep. Yes this week's...month's...Signpost took a long time to arrive, but on the whole, the content was excellent. I like this new way of doing things. I think this is the future of the Signpost. We should keep doing things this way, and thinking along these lines.
All this is premised, of course, on having a strong, reliable infrastructure for sending out new issue notifications. This infrastructure is wanting, but, it appears, is a temporary hurdle. Not only is the bot hopefully going to get fixed, but there's also the prospect of the long-awaited Newsletter extension finally arriving and further streamlining the notification strategy. I'm particularly excited about this bit of code because if it's easy to use, and if we do a bit of lobbying to get people aware of its existence, the Signpost could easily double or triple its subscription base through sheer ease-of-use (this is another conversation we need to have).
This is my opinion on what, strategically, needs to be done. I'll have some specific comments on Pete's points and hopefully some of my own ideas in a bit. ResMar 07:11, 27 December 2016 (UTC)
Just to be clear, ResMar, I think it would be advantageous to have a regular publishing cycle, but it doesn't have to be weekly. I think the recruitment of more contributors is the more essential issue. When one reads back on the archives, there are some pretty significant swings in the editorial voice which is moderated more when there are a large number of contributors and less when there are only one or two. In other words, you need more contributors to be a source of information, not just opinion. Risker 16:52, 27 December 2016 (UTC)
Pong ball in flight.svg Risker: The trouble is that the Signpost has been writing From The Board pieces for years and years pleading for more contributors. More editors is obviously a good thing, but how are you going to get them? Outside of the Signpost receiving funding of some kind, I only see the staffing issue getting worse—certainly not going away. The format needs to follow the need. ResMar 17:23, 27 December 2016 (UTC)
How does the Kurier do it? Does it get funding? Does it have a larger editorial staff? (I'm of the impression that it doesn't get funding, at least directly, but that it does have a lot more contributors. I could be wrong.) Has there been any recent communication between the two projects? I'm not entirely sure what you mean by "the format needs to follow the need". Risker (talk) 17:49, 27 December 2016 (UTC)
There has not been much communication, no, primarily due to the language barrier. What I mean by the format following the need is that rather than thinking about the Signpost format as a constant we should make a conscious effort to shift the format to one more accessible to outside contributions. ResMar 17:58, 27 December 2016 (UTC)
If anything, the Kurier is more opinionated. There's no structure, just people chiming in with their opinions on a topic whenever they so desire. (not a critique, just a descriptor) Ed [talk] [majestic titan] 19:06, 27 December 2016 (UTC)
A format like that one could make for an interesting auxiliary to the Signpost. It's something I might sketch out. ResMar 20:08, 27 December 2016 (UTC)

────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────Thank you all for the in-depth thoughts and reflections. Resident Mario, it's especially valuable to know your thinking in more detail, with the data and experience you bring. As far as I'm concerned, formally moving to monthly publication is something we've considered and discussed, but we don't intend to make a definite decision right away. I'm not opposed to it, but if we move to monthly publication, I want it to result from a clear assessment of what we want to be (rooted in what our audience wants us to be), rather than what we feel capable of. I don't think the fortnightly schedule we've been aiming for (and missing) recently is out of reach; but it's possible that monthly is better anyway. (Of course, if we are successful in recruitment efforts, a monthly cycle could lead to truly enormous editions -- and that's one thing I'd like to keep in mind as we continue to mull this over.) Regardless -- it's nice to see the idea spelled out and endorsed here, outside our current echo chamber.

I see some possible thematic overlap between something Kurier-like and our suggestions page.

As for recruitment, it is our undisputed top priority, but it doesn't surprise me to learn that is rather invisible. We want to be cautious about running the kind of solicitations ResMar refers to above, which -- to the degree they are not effective -- can detract from and clutter our core function. We don't want to make a major push until we have confidence we can help new contributors feel welcome and productive quickly, if we are successful in drawing them in. Until we have some things in place, you will probably not see a broad push -- but we are reaching out to individuals from time to time, and trying to accommodate what does come our way as best we can.

Please keep the ideas and input coming. It's very gratifying to be reminded how much various people in the community care about this stuff -- it's both flattering and, frankly, a bit intimidating, as a reminder of the responsibility that comes with stewarding this publication. -Pete Forsyth (talk) 22:57, 27 December 2016 (UTC)

A specific suggestion -- it's great to learn from your blog, Resident Mario, which tools you created and why. I have been thinking it would be good to do some sort of "tools audit" -- an accounting of what tech tools exist, and have existed, in the Signpost world, who made them, what worked out and what was abandoned, etc. Maybe we can just start a wiki page in our namespace as a sort of directory. I can give it a try...it may be telling just how little I've been able to suss out! -Pete Forsyth (talk) 23:00, 27 December 2016 (UTC)
There's four that I'm aware of: Jarry's non-working bot, and three automatic import scripts that I wrote and hosted on Labs that went down because of unstable hosting. I will try to see if I can't spin them up again later. ResMar 23:18, 27 December 2016 (UTC)
Hi. Is my bot working? No-one's ever given me a bug report for it.
On the particular point of mirroring, which is probably the one I feel most strongly about, I don't really see the value. We used to have a blogspot(?) blog version, but no-one ever read it as far as I could tell. I think the on-wikiness is part of the charm really -- the Signpost is written by insiders, not outsides (with/without axes to grind).
In terms of number of writers, twas ever thus. I think it does work better when you can target individuals rather than the usual From the editor stuff (despite being guilty of that myself).
By the way, I did a traffic analysis in 2011 Res. Yours would therefore be the second-ever :) Not to be petty or anything... - Jarry1250 [Vacation needed] 23:34, 27 December 2016 (UTC)
Jarry1250, I don't know whether or not your bot is working -- I don't know how to run it -- but my guess is that it is not, as Kharkiv07 seemed to believe that changes to MediaWiki had substantially altered what is possible to accomplish with a bot. (But, perhaps your bot uses substantially different hooks than theirs, so...I just don't know.)
Thanks for the link to your traffic analysis!
On mirroring and separate sites -- it's important, but not mission-critical, and it seems unlikely to me that it would impact, or be held back by, any of the stuff under discussion here. So we needn't delve into it too much if it's not grabbing people's interest here. The main thing driving it is a wish to more clearly establish the Signpost's legitimacy and discoverability, which could in turn impact three significant things: it could help get our content listed in places like Google News (good for when we break new stories whose interest extends beyond Wikipedia, and/or stories whose interest might not be readily apparent, e.g. easy access to the Tech Report series might happen to interest open source journalist if they could find it). It could add to the incentive for people to write for the Signpost. And to a smaller degree, it could add to the cachet of being covered in the Signpost. I don't want to expend a great deal of energy on it, especially week-to-week; my belief is that with a little upfront work, a process can be set up that requires very little maintenance, but opens up a few doors for us in the long run.
For WP:Wikipedia Signpost/Signpost tools, I'm thinking it might include a few more things than bots and import scripts. Specifically, templates, and the code (does it live in templates?) that generates things like the MassMessage text and the text for Wikimedia-Announce. I'd also like to note external technologies -- such as Slack, which is where we're doing most of our coordination these days, and Google Docs, which we use pretty heavily too. I've been thinking about using Trello as well, to keep track of the various goings-on. -Pete Forsyth (talk) 00:00, 28 December 2016 (UTC)
I take your point about discoverability – but I wonder if there's a way of achieving the same end on-wiki. Which reminds me: have we thought about whether the move to off-wiki drafting (and off-wiki chat – you mention Slack) has contributed the loss of contributors? - Jarry1250 [Vacation needed] 02:17, 28 December 2016 (UTC)
Sure, and again, I'm interested in learning what's possible with FeaturedFeeds, which as I understand it would mean creating an RSS feed for the on-wiki home of our our content. Jarry1250, help me understand your level of interest -- your offer to rebuild the bot is very generous and valuable, and my first instinct here is to avoid pulling you in directions that would be less interesting to you, and potentially a distraction. But if you are interested in exploring in greater detail, let me know.
As for online- vs. offline composition, yes, we've thought and talked a great deal about related issues. The specific one you raise, I'm not sure how to assess; as Resident Mario said above, there have been periods of low engagement for a long time, and I'm not sure when offline composition became more prevalent, so I don't have enough data to assess. But a few closely related points: (1) MediaWiki software lacks any facility for contextual commenting, which is a major deficiency for an edited publication. We've had good luck in a few cases layering Hypothes.is on top of on-wiki drafts for this purpose, so it's not a total dealbreaker. But for the needs of the Signpost, MediaWiki is a platform that simply doesn't meet our needs for many complex or challenging stories. (2) While we do see a little bit of collaboration on those items drafted on-wiki, it's rarely more than two or three people, who are known to have an interest in the piece ahead of time. I don't recall seeing any substantial, serendipitous editing, so I don't see much reason to think its absence is damaging to our collaborative practices. (3) For some stories on sensitive topics, an early draft might reflect a misunderstanding on the part of the writer. Sorting through it can be a delicate process. While we all value iteration and "making mistakes in public" to some degree, in some cases it poses a substantial obstacle to getting the work of writing and editing articles done.
Your question is a good one, though; I'm inclined to think about it in a slightly more general way. How can we make our processes accessible and sensible to new contributors, who for the most part will have experience collaborating on wiki, and some comfort with that mode of engagement? I think we do reasonably well at that, but I see many opportunities for improvement. Describing how we do approach that and how we want to improve it going forward might get us pretty deep in the weeds, so I'll leave it at that for now. -Pete Forsyth (talk) 20:44, 28 December 2016 (UTC)
  • My two cents here is pretty short:
  1. I am ADAMANTLY opposed to publishing staff email addresses. Huge privacy issues and spam magnet to boot. People can use the "email this editor" feature.
  2. We definitely have a shortage of feature writers, that said, we could standardize and formalize a few more regular features so that they are easier to write an a good place for new contributors to get a toehold.
  • And in all of these years, not one regular news writer has been female. We all lose out from that. Tony (talk) 09:54, 29 December 2016 (UTC)
  • This discussion is becoming unreadably long, so allow me to chunk off parts of it. I would like to point out something that Peteforsyth and Jarry1250 should be aware of: the development of the upcoming newsletter extension. This will substantially ease all of these processes, as it will remove all of the user notification processes out of the bot workload and replace them with a simpler, easier system with more convenience and reach. Once it arrives, this will net the Signpost a substantial boost. A publication bot written or touched up today should be aware of these upcoming changes. ResMar 23:42, 31 December 2016 (UTC)
Mockup of what the Newsletter preference pane might look like once complete. UPDATE - it turns out this mockup is outdated, there are NO PLANS to handle user talk page delivery.
  • Resident Mario, thanks, I've now delved into that enough that I think I understand its intended use and its status pretty well. I believe that it will make it easier for (English language) Wikipedians to add or remove themselves as subscribers; and perhaps it will also offer them echo and/or email delivery options in addition to a user talk notification option. It will also be pretty straightforward to migrate our existing subscription base over there.
    It won't be designed to address the publication steps that create all our pages. It won't do anything for our subscribers on Meta Wiki (unless we mirror our front page on Meta Wiki). And, we can't rely on it being completed on any particular schedule, since it's merely an aspiration being built incrementally by volunteers.
    Certainly a valuable initiative to be aware of, and your advice to make sure the bot is designed to transition smoothly to it in the future is well taken. Have I missed or misunderstood anything? -Pete Forsyth (talk) 06:54, 4 January 2017 (UTC)
    Also, for future reference -- I'd recommend the MediaWiki page as the best intro to the extension: 'mw:Extension:Newsletter -Pete Forsyth (talk) 06:57, 4 January 2017 (UTC)
Yes, this would not be of any help for building Signpost output, only for publishing it. I believe that it will simplify the meta (well, out-of-enwiki) process, because it can take advantage of cross-wiki notifications, which are now enabled by default (as I understand it). That means that the Signpost will no longer need to maintain a separate mailing page for off-wiki notifications, which erases an additional step from the publishing process. As for whether or not it's completed: I'm reasonably confident that it will be released by mid-2016. You're right that deadlines do slip, and we can't rely on it, but it's something to keep in mind for the future nevertheless.
Further discussion about tweaking the bot, and everything else that comes with it, is on hold (?) until DJ finishes his CSS upgrades. ResMar 00:00, 5 January 2017 (UTC)

WikiProject report[edit]

Hi - I've noticed the WikiProject report hasn't been updated in a few months. Will this be a continuing feature of the Signpost? If so, I'm interested in helping out as a contributing writer/interviewer. I tried to comment on the talk page of that desk but was redirected here... Funcrunch (talk) 21:25, 31 December 2016 (UTC)

Also I'm aware of the staffing shortages and other challenges; I've read the above section etc. I'm just looking for where I can help out without over-committing myself. Funcrunch (talk) 21:27, 31 December 2016 (UTC)
Many thanks for the offer, Funcrunch, and sorry for the slow reply! We could indeed use some help on WikiProject Report, and in other areas. (And, as a somewhat circular answer, it will be a continuing feature if and only if there's somebody to write it...but we very much want it to be!) I will be in touch shortly by email. If you have any ideas of which WikiProjects you're most interested in covering, let's discuss. -Pete Forsyth (talk) 18:20, 3 January 2017 (UTC)

Overview: How will the Newsletter Extension impact the Signpost's future?[edit]

So, thanks to the discussion above and (and, especially, guidance from Resident Mario -- thanks!), I went off and read a bunch about the forthcoming Newsletter Extension, tested its current pre-release version a bit, and have asked a bunch of questions. I want to report back on my current thinking on how it will affect the Signpost, and see what others think. The extension is being actively worked on right now, and a release (as a MediaWiki extension) is imminent -- perhaps in a few weeks. (I'm not sure what the plan is for gaining buy-in and deploying it on English Wikipedia, but sooner or later that will happen.)

When it becomes available on English Wikipedia, things will get very messy for us, until such time as a decisive majority of our subscribers are happy with the web and email notification options, and we are willing to abandon talk page notification altogether. (Or more ideally, until something that reproduces the various benefits of talk page notification gets built into a future version of the extension; this is my hope, but I've had difficulty getting anybody to engage with that concept so far.)

The Newsletter Extension presents a fundamentally new framework for newsletter subscription and delivery (and impacts no other aspects of managing a newsletter). Here are the significant differences I see, from the current setup:

  • Subscription list is visible/editable only to admins and publishers. (Users may add/remove themselves.)
  • It provides delivery via Echo notifications, and/or by email. (I'm unsure how the email formatting will work.)
  • It does not permit delivery to user talk pages in any form. There is no plan to include this functionality.
  • No facility (?) for web notification of users of other wikis.
  • Detailed pros & cons enumerated here: mw:Topic:Tit9gtsmop8qd2d8

So, I'd imagine what we have coming is like this:

  1. Current phase
  2. Blended "testing phase" (we register the Signpost for use with the extension, and continue maintaining the wiki-based system) (very messy!)
  3. The end goal (after enough stakeholders are satisfied with the new software that we can abandon the wiki-based system) (very good)

The only thing that's clear to me thus far is that both transitions -- that is, the beginning and the end of the blended testing phase -- will be pretty delicate, and we should be thoughtful about how we approach each of them. It's hard for me to guess at any of the dates:

  • when a testable version of the extension will be available on enwp
  • when we should implement it (but that's almost certainly after smaller and simpler newsletters have given it a pretty thorough workout)
  • when we should stop publishing to user talk pages

...but I think the scale will be months or quarters, not weeks. I therefore don't think this particularly impacts bot efforts; we will need a bot that's capable of publishing to user talk pages for a long time, and I believe any needed hooks into the Newsletter extension will be pretty minimal.

Thoughts? -Pete Forsyth (talk) 06:21, 13 January 2017 (UTC)

Discussion (newsletter extension)[edit]

  • Will the Watchlist and {{Signpost-subscription}} template still work? These are the only ways I follow The Signpost, and I have not missed an issue in years. I do not want email or talkpage traffic because they create persistent clutter unless I actively delete them. ~ Ningauble (talk) 17:22, 17 January 2017 (UTC)
    • Ningauble, I'd hesitate to make strong, specific commitments about the long term; the purpose of this note and poll are to learn more about what our readers want, so we can accommodate as best we can. I erred in not listing the template among the options in the poll; it was an oversight, and there's no plan to stop using it. I can't imagine any reason we'd do so. -Pete Forsyth (talk) 18:22, 17 January 2017 (UTC)
      • Thanks. I assume watchlisting Wikipedia:Wikipedia_Signpost/Issue will also continue to work. ~ Ningauble (talk) 19:01, 17 January 2017 (UTC)
        • Yes, Ningauble -- I'm sorry, these points have clear answers, and I should be more candid. I do have a hard time imagining any circumstance that would require us to break the template, or the watchlist subscription. Even if we were to shift 100% to the Newsletter Extension and turn off user talk page notifications, the template and the "issue" page you identify would still work. -Pete Forsyth (talk) 07:27, 18 January 2017 (UTC)

Newsletter extension poll[edit]

We will be running this poll in the next edition of the Signpost. Reproducing the questions here for future reference. (I'll post the results here as well.)

Signpost subscription & notification poll

How should we deliver the Signpost? Signpost subscription poll; please submit answers by January 31, 2017

  1. Your Wikimedia username (optional)
  2. Your home wiki
    • English Wikipedia
    • Other:
  3. Are you currently a Signpost subscriber?
    • Yes
    • No
  4. How do you usually find a new edition of the Signpost?
    • My own user talk page
    • Somebody else's user talk page
    • Watchlist, not a user talk page (e.g., Signpost main page)
    • Social media
    • Other:
  5. How did you first learn about the Signpost?
    • Another Wikipedian's user talk page
    • Elsewhere on Wikipedia
    • Another Wikimedia site
    • Social media (Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn…)
    • Other:
  6. How important is it to see our story titles as links on your talkpage? (Table of Contents)
    • Very important
    • Somewhat convenient
    • I don't care
    • Unimportant; I just click through to the main page
  7. What's your preferred way to receive the Signpost?
    • User talkpage delivery with story titles laid out (as currently offered)
    • Delivery of the Table of Contents, with links, via email
    • Delivery of a single link to the new edition, via email
    • Single notification via "Echo" (the menu next to your username at the top of the screen)
  8. Our subscriber list has always been publicly visible. Should this continue?
    • Yes, keep it public.
    • I don't care one way or the other.
    • No, it should not be publicly visible.