[Foundation-l] LiquidThreads almost ready for deployment

Andrew Garrett agarrett at wikimedia.org
Wed Dec 16 21:03:42 UTC 2009

Hi all,

With the Foundation's support, I've spent the last few months churning 
away at LiquidThreads [1], a new discussion system that is proposed for 
use on Wikimedia projects.

Essentially, it's an attempt to marry the radical openness of the wiki 
paradigm with the usability and practicality of a forum-like system. As 
the name implies, LiquidThreads is designed to allow any user to easily 
refactor discussions while maintaining edit history, to edit other 
users' comments, and to collaborate on a summary of an ongoing 
discussion. LiquidThreads also brings many standard communication 
features lacking from wiki discussion pages, such as watching and 
protecting individual discussion threads, RSS feeds of comments in a 
discussion or on a discussion page. In the world of online 
communication, its approach is entirely unique.

LiquidThreads has been in alpha testing on Wikimedia Labs [2] for 
several months, and, more recently, it's been used in a production 
context on the strategy wiki, where it has been quite well-received. 
It's been easy to run these smaller trials, as the extension allows the 
activation and deactivation of LiquidThreads discussions on individual 
pages with a simple parser function.

While there are still some issues remaining before wider trials, I 
believe I can resolve most of them quite quickly (within a few weeks 
when my vacation finishes at the end of next month), and I'd like to get 
the ball rolling in proposing small-scale trials on some of the larger 
wikis, so that a full discussion can be had, and so that adjustments can 
be made on the basis of ongoing feedback. I'd especially like to see 
LiquidThreads used on some of the higher-traffic discussion pages on 
English Wikipedia (such as the technical village pump), and progressive 
rollout on some of our mid to large sized wikis.

So, I'd like to encourage you to have a play with LiquidThreads, either 
on the strategy wiki or on the test site (which generally runs a newer 
version). Tell me what you like about it, and (far more importantly) 
what improvements you think it needs before we can expand our trials to 
wider parts of the Wikimedia Universe, and perhaps move towards a full 
rollout of this very exciting technology.

I should give the following caveats about LiquidThreads as it stands. 
These are all issues that I intend to address before any trial expansion 
* Presently the system is somewhat vulnerable to abuse. I intend to make 
changes to the way signatures work, and improve tracking and listing of 
thread actions by specific users.
* While LiquidThreads allows for thread summaries and discussion 
headers, the system does not currently have support for 
collaboratively-edited posts which are unsigned or signed by a group of 
people. These are a key piece of any decision-making framework, and I 
intend to make adjustments to make this possible.
* There is no support for embedding LiquidThreads discussion pages on 
other pages.
* There are plenty of minor interface issues which I intend to clean up.

Feedback is best directed to the dedicated Feedback page [3], or, 
alternatively, to bugzilla [4] (although before filing a bug, you should 
check the list of existing LiquidThreads bugs [5]).

[1] http://www.mediawiki.org/wiki/Extension:LiquidThreads
[2] http://liquidthreads.labs.wikimedia.org
[3] http://liquidthreads.labs.wikimedia.org/wiki/Feedback

Andrew Garrett
agarrett at wikimedia.org

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