[Foundation-l] Moving towards a more usable MediaWiki

Gerard Meijssen gerard.meijssen at gmail.com
Tue Dec 2 11:51:03 UTC 2008

Over the last weeks I have been rather active in promoting improved
usability for the MediaWiki software. What really got me going was learning
from a Wikimania presentation that a UNICEF usability study done in Tanzania
showed that 100% of the test subjects were unable to create a new article.
UNICEF has created extensions to improve on this, extensions that make a
difference. The fact that our usability is poor does not only hurt what some
call "minority languages". A professor in Austria I know, a veteran user of
software, was also hard pressed to collaborate on a wiki.

Our usability hurts all our projects. It hurts our smaller projects because
they do not have enough content and contributors. It hurts our big projects
because it excludes large demographies from contributing leading to bias and
hurting the NPOV of many articles. When we want to reach out, there is no
easier way then by making our software usable.

The CreatePage extension provides a first obvious step on the road towards a
more usable MediaWiki. Implementing only this one extension is a start. When
we have taken this direction towards more usability, many more issues will
arise. The CreatePage extension is best used in combination with a change in
the skin. The CreatePage extension allows for a user to select templates for
specific types of new articles. There are ways in which you can make editing
easier .....

What I propose is that those projects who are interested in improving their
usability ask the WMF to work with them on this. Given that usable software
should be understood, and given that this is somewhat experimental in nature
as well, it makes sense that project should localise the extensions first
before they qualify for an implementation. NB the CreatePage extension has
only eight messages.

What I propose is to have many and frequent updates. We should learn from
our experience and consequently move forward carefully but deliberately. It
is not acceptable that so many of our projects are failing. The UNICEF
studies explain why this is, the studies show how to improve on this. We
just have to apply the lessons learned. We just have to show that we can
apply the lessons learnt.

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