Once upon a time there was 20% time, which had various problems and we
thus ended and turned into LevelUp. The point is to increase our
capacity to do engineering, broadly defined. LevelUp has had various
problems and so I have some ideas about what to do next, but I want to
open a bit of discussion first to make sure I'm getting the problems
right. I'll wind up this discussion late on Tuesday the 16th, I hope,
and get the new programs in motion by the end of that week.
a. People in our technical community (volunteers, WMF, WMDE, and others)
want to be more effective but aren't consistently getting what they
need. Sometimes that's code/design review, sometimes that's looking
over someone's shoulder to learn by example, sometimes it's tutoring,
sometimes it's a project guided to completion, sometimes it's simply
learning what resources, guidelines, and tools are available, and
sometimes it's HOWTOs, reference guides, inventories, and directories.
We get glimpses of this when I ask what people want to learn; see 
and the 2013 Jan-March LevelUp signups. Different people learn in
different ways so there is no one-size-fits-all solution.
b. Code review backlog. Per (a) this is keeping tech contributors from
learning -- it's also important that it keeps improvements from reaching
users. And it's just dispiriting; the number of unresolved commits in
mediawiki/* has gone from ~360 to ~815 in the last 6 months, and
most of the "can we deploy this?" queues haven't moved in a few
c. Some people say they want to mentor or be mentored but then do not
perform teaching or learning activities unless a meta-mentor prods them
several times a month, or do not set reasonable goals. The plan for
LevelUp was that people's managers would check on progress. Thus
LevelUp in the most recent round did not lead to most participants
meeting their goals. OPW and to a lesser extent GSoC and UCOSP seem to
work partly because there's a pre-qualification process including
goal-setting, partly because the student and mentor strongly commit to
carving out time, and partly because my team does strong hands-on
d. Some WMF engineering contributors want to help increase our
community's capacity via individual mentoring or learning. Some want to
just review code and design. Some want to create and lead teaching
sessions. Some feel as though they haven't been allotted the time to do
any of this kind of work.
e. Related to (a) and (d), we have frustrating bottlenecks in our
capacity for some key engineering activities, *especially* user
experience design, community liaising, performance, front-end
(especially JS) coding and review, ResourceLoader, and operations work.
These affect everyone but hit volunteers disproportionately.
f. I have to rename LevelUp because of the name conflict with some
company. I can come up with a suitable name for whatever the next thing
is, don't worry, no bikeshedding necessary here, but I just wanted to
Do these seem like the right problems to address in trying to build our
community's capacity for technical contributions? Was there anything
you liked about 20% time or LevelUp that you want to retain? I am
especially interested in what you have to say if you rarely speak up on
this list, and it is okay to email me off-list.
 "I feel that solving a problem is more interesting than finding a
name for the solution. I realize that I stand in the minority of the
open source community on this." -Kevin Maples
Engineering Community Manager
P.S. We do have twelve non-WMF core maintainers of MediaWiki right now,
compared to nearly none a year ago at this time. And per
scheduling some volunteer-written extensions for deployment in the next
few months. And I think OPW went pretty well in helping new folks
achieve stuff. We do have some successes. But we can do better.
P.P.S. Sorry for the length. /me offers a stroopwafel of penance