[Foundation-l] Heads up: Usability test recruiting underway

Erik Moeller erik at wikimedia.org
Tue Mar 10 18:52:50 UTC 2009

2009/3/10 Michael Bimmler <mbimmler at gmail.com>:
> I think it would be a nice example of transparency to publish (ie.
> upload on meta or somewhere) this and similar documents, as long as
> this does not threaten the obtaining of future grants.

I've been thinking about this as well. There is a strong tradition of
confidentiality in these processes but I really would like to get some
approved grant applications out there for discussion and review. I
plan to raise the issue with some of our funders, especially where we
have long-standing relationships, to feel it out a bit.

I am comfortable sharing some guiding principles which we include in
every tech grant application (begin quote):

* “Release early, release often.” This key concept, which is common to
both open source development and agile software development
methodologies, simply means that changes are made iteratively, openly,
and transparently, encouraging continuing review by peers, volunteer
developers and user groups.  Designs and tests are revisited and
revised as iterative milestones are accomplished.
* Openness to outside collaboration. All development will happen in
the Wikimedia Foundation's public code repository. Progress reports
will be published in blogs, and outside contributions will be
explicitly encouraged.
* Building on the work of others. An environmental scan will identify
existing open source solutions which can be refined and built upon to
meet defined requirements. As above, external contributors will be
invited to collaborate.
* Building on the knowledge of others. When possible, we will try to
hire developers with existing MediaWiki development experience. But,
to the extent that this is not possible, we will facilitate
face-to-face workshops with paid and volunteer developers to share and
document knowledge about the MediaWiki architecture.
* Readiness for internationalization. Code contributions, whether from
volunteer developers or paid developers, will be made in line with
Wikimedia's internationalization architecture to allow user interface
messages to be localized into all languages.
* Consultation of stakeholders. While our goal is to encourage and
broaden participation in Wikipedia, we will strive to do so in
consultation with the existing community of contributors, in order to
help foster their understanding and acceptance of changes to the user

(end quote)

As you can see, internationalization is one of our core principles
which we consider to be non-negotiable. (And Gerard will rightly point
out that we can do a better job supporting i18n initiatives like
BetaWiki.)  That said, in this particular case, the funder's interest
is specifically to increase the number of contributors to the English
Wikipedia, and that places some limitations on what we can use the
grant funds for. We are committed to sharing recommendations,
usability videos, methodologies, etc. - Naoko will post more on this
as the process plays out.

While there are definitely strong cultural components to usability,
many of the core issues we're going to try to resolve are shared
across all languages. For example, complex pages accumulate syntax
creep everywhere, not just in the English Wikipedia. Roughly speaking,
I think 80% of the work we're going to do is going to be generally
useful, and 20% is going to be specific to the English Wikipedia.
Hopefully we can contribute to processes both in communities and
chapters to think more systematically about addressing usability
issues that are specific to a certain language or culture.
Erik Möller
Deputy Director, Wikimedia Foundation

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