[Foundation-l] Why is the software out of reach of the community?

Andrew Whitworth wknight8111 at gmail.com
Fri Jan 9 22:32:06 UTC 2009

On Fri, Jan 9, 2009 at 5:00 PM, Brian <Brian.Mingus at colorado.edu> wrote:
> Why are so few community-developed mediawiki extensions used by the
> Foundation?

It's an issue of scale. Do you have any idea how big the foundation
projects are? Inefficient code could cripple our donation-supported
infrastructure. It's not that people don't want to use the newest and
coolest toys, it's that in order to keep the sites running at all the
foundation really needs to aim for a functional level of minimalism.

> Why do developers have such priviledged access to the source code, and the
> community such little input?

In my experience, this is the way that most open source projects
operate. You can download and play with the source code to your
heart's content, but typically only a handful of "committers" have
access to modify the code. Average joe user like you and me can submit
patches if we see fit. Through patches we could build trust among the
developers and eventually become committers. I would be very
interested to hear about other successful open source projects that
didn't use any kinds of safeguards like this.

> Why must the community 'vote' on extensions such as Semantic MediaWiki, and
> yet the developers can implement any feature they like, any way they like
> it?

well, the core software does improve and grow through normal
development effort. We wouldn't want a situation where improvements
could not be implemented without community approval. Foundation
projects run on MediaWiki software, and updates to the software are
reflected in the projects. It's not like they're installing things as
big and pervasive as Semantic MediaWiki without community approval.

> Why does the Foundation need 1 million for usability when amazing tools
> continue to be ignored and untested?

And who says that money isn't going to be used to test existing tools?
Without money, our developers are all volunteers, and they will do the
testing they want to do when they have time to do it. Let me ask, are
you doing any testing of potentially useful MediaWiki extensions

> Why has the Foundation gone ahead and approved the hire of several employees
> for usability design, when the community has had almost zero input into what
> that design should be?

Whatever the design turns out to be, I'm sure we're going to need
developers to implement it. Plus, there are tons of existing usability
requests at bugzilla, and not enough development hands to even
implement the things the community has already asked for. Plus, there
are all those cool pre-existing community-developed extensions that
need to be tested by developers.

> Why is this tool not being tested on Wikipedia, right now?
> http://wiki.ontoprise.com/ontoprisewiki/index.php/Image:Advanced_ontology_browser.gif

Why would it be, has the community requested it? Again, it's economy
of scale: Wikipedia is too huge to serve as a beta test for all sorts
of random extensions. A smaller website like Wikibooks would be a much
better place to do extension testing, and in fact has been used in the
past as a beta test site for new extensions. You can't load just any
software onto Wikipedia and expect the servers to handle it well.
Wikipedia is simply too huge for that kind of avant garde management.

--Andrew Whitworth

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