The on-wiki version of this newsletter can be found here:
When Wikipedia launched, it had from the very beginning a great and yet
easily understandable goal: to be an encyclopedia that anyone can edit.
Since almost everyone knew roughly what an encyclopedia was, it was quite
easy for Wikipedia to begin. Over the years, the idea was refined and has
considerably evolved, but this initial spark allowed Wikipedia to grow and
flourish. It allowed people to start working on the many different parts of
Wikipedia without having to first have a centralized discussion about the
scope and goal of Wikipedia.
Wikifunctions does not enjoy the same advantage. Wikifunctions’ mission
“to collaboratively create and maintain a library of code functions”, and
for many potential contributors and users of Wikifunctions that will
require further explanation. What is a library of functions? Indeed, what
is a function? How is a function useful to me? We previously wrote an essay
on the motivations for functions
why they are important. But we expect that this essay is not sufficient to
really bring out the message.
We are planning to write text, to appear on the site in possibly hundreds
of languages, which will explain what functions are, how they can be used,
and why they are useful. We are also considering using other media to
spread the message and popularize the concept of a function. Maybe a video?
A story? A comic? A lecture? An interactive experience, embedding functions
from Wikifunctions? An animation? An infographic? A song?
Do we want a YouTuber to explain what a function is? Do we want an
advertisement-style video exemplifying what one can do with functions,
shown on the front page? Do we want a comic with a socratic dialog about
functions? A short story where the heroes overcome challenges with the help
of functions? A celebrity talking (pro bono) about the usefulness of
functions? A teaching workshop about a few specific functions and how to
use them? All of these?
We would do this because we want to make the concepts behind Wikifunctions
more enticing and easier to understand, thus ultimately making it more
likely that Wikifunctions succeeds. We want people to have answers to
questions such as “What is a function?” and “Why are functions useful to
me?” and to popularize the concept of functions. This in turn will allow
Wikifunctions more space to grow, since answers to these questions will
remain relevant indefinitely and not be tied to the state of the project in
its early days.
In addition to the options mentioned above, we are also expecting to create
initial tutorials specifically on how to use Wikifunctions. These would be
on-wiki, and of course easily editable by the Wikifunctions community to
reflect their consensus on how to use the system. Tutorials, and possibly
much of the material mentioned above, will be widely linked from the
interface within Wikifunctions, in order to help people coming to the pages
to learn what the project is all about.
We would like to hear your thoughts, ideas, suggestions—and see your
contributions. If you want to sketch out, draft, or even start working on
some of this material, we would be delighted. How would you describe the
site to someone?
There is no need for all this material to be available before Wikifunctions
launches, but it would probably be best if the core tutorial is available
at launch. Whereas we are not planning to make a big announcement about
launching, it is likely that the first new member of the Wikimedia family
of projects in a decade might lead to a few announcements and publications,
so having a solid tutorial in place is a good idea.
Next week we will be at our first team off-site. We are very much looking
forward to it! This also means that we are not planning to have a weekly
update next week.