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

Brian Brian.Mingus at colorado.edu
Thu Jan 15 19:19:42 UTC 2009


What more would you like me to do, specifically? I have attended the
conferences, I am aware of the MediaWiki development process and I am
pointing towards high-quality code that meets every possible standard the
community could reasonably ask. The most important of those standards is
that the design was very well thought out and presented to the community
over a period of years. At the same time many features which have come to be
known as mainstays of Wikipedia have been snuck into the source code with
far less effort.

In this discussion I have expressed feelings I have had for years, and now
that there is money on the table, I believe it is time we got to the heart
of the issue. I am pointing to the MediaWiki development process being
broken as a core part of that issue.

I reject many of the excuses that have been presented. For example:

   - Developers didn't have the time

When one considers the period of years that we are talking about this
certainly appears to be false.

   - Users were already doing this, so we just made it easier for them

This is patently false - that particular advanced users are doing something
*does not imply consensus.* Before ParserFunctions were implemented
consensus should have been checked. Specifically, I believe a design should
have been presented at Wikimania so that everyone had a chance to evaluate
them. My experience has been that the community looks down on templates.
That these templates were hurting the servers is a great opportunity to ask
the community what the best solution is. Was the best solution to ingrain
templates into Wikipedia by making them even easier to use, or to remove
them altogether in favor of some alternate technology? That discussion was
simply not had. And ParserFunctions is just one such example.

   - Show us the code - why don't you just fix the problem?

I do not consider writing code to be an impediment to design and process
discussions. Furthermore, it would be suggested that I implement the code as
an extension so that it might be ignored by the core developers along with
every other extension. Lastly, the code has already been written. If it is
not production-ready it is at the very least an excellent demo. This is also
related to the 'Developers didn't have the time' issue. I fully believe that
the core developers could reimplement various extensions in a scalable
manner in relatively short order - they are, after all, crack php coders.
The real problem is that they do not have the incentive. They have been
given the keys and the community has not been given a voice. When a
community member writes code to help MediaWiki, its put into the archives of
extensions and quickly made obsolete by changes to core MediaWiki code.

On Thu, Jan 15, 2009 at 11:40 AM, Chad <innocentkiller at gmail.com> wrote:

> 2009/1/15 Brian <Brian.Mingus at colorado.edu>
> > Access to svn does not imply access to MediaWiki. Changes to MediaWiki
> have
> > been almost entirely up to core developer discretion, and as I have
> > demonstrated, 'consensus' has largely implied that they, and only they,
> > thought the changes made Wikipedia better. The ideas are rarely presented
> > to
> > the community in a formal, well-designed demo format (as SMW has been,
> time
> > and time again), and they are not evaluated for their usability. When a
> > usability issue arises third party tools are not properly considered.
> > Rather, they reinvent the wheel in an inferior manner.
> >
> Maybe I'm the only one thinking this...but if you see problems,
> why don't you try to get involved fixing them? Saying "we have
> problems, and you guys won't listen to us" isn't helpful, it's just
> complaining. If you have such an enlightened opinion as to the
> state of usability within MediaWiki, why not get involved and
> share said wisdom?
> As many people have said earlier in this thread: the developers
> create no barriers to helping with the software. Us getting involved
> with all of the various wiki communities every time a change is
> proposed would be counter-productive--I for one don't want to
> get into an enwiki debate over the placement of a button on
> the preferences page. Just as you don't expect Commons to come
> and ask every wiki if they think an image should be deleted, don't
> expect the developers to come and ask the community for their
> blessing every time something needs changing.
> -Chad
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