A note on the Wikipedia Usability Initiative

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New workspace

I hope you all had started the year 2009 with a positive note. I have a lot to be hopeful for 2009, but the most exciting thing for me is to launch the long-waited the Wikipedia Usability Initiative. This initiative became reality by the grant from the late Frank Stanton (the president of CBS between 1946 and 1971) through the Stanton Foundation.

The purpose of this initiative is to reduce the barriers for new users in editing Wikipedia and boost the participation in editing Wikipedia. I am currently focusing on bringing in talented minds.  On the space front, we had outgrown our current space in the South of Market area of San Francisco, and we were in search of space specifically for this project. I am happy to announce that Wikia has agreed to sublease two of their conference rooms to the Wikimedia Foundation for the project duration (Jan’09-Mar’10). Daniel collected a dozen bids for the space in SOMA, and Wikia matched the best offer. Wikia is only two blocks away from the office of the Wikimedia Foundation, so having a satellite office so close by works great for us.
Wikia has been doing intensive work on the usability front and making the code available to public, so I look forward to collaborating with the Wikia technical and product teams to exchange ideas and learn from their work. The Wikpedia Usability Initiative page where we can exchange ideas and share the status is up. I look forward to your ideas there.
May the force be with us,
Naoko Komura
Program Manager<

Archive notice: This is an archived post from blog.wikimedia.org, which operated under different editorial and content guidelines than Diff.

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I’m very excited about the usability initiative, and I agree that we have some things we could learn from Wikia in that area. But as a devoted Wikimedian, I’d like to say that I find the idea of the Foundation working that closely with Wikia, literally and figuratively, discomforting. We already have enough people confused about the difference between the two organizations, and to be honest, this feels like nepotism.

More detail, please, on the note that “Wikia matched the best offer”. Were the other ten higher bidder also given the opportunity to match the best offer? Why was Wikia chosen on a “second and final offer” basis, rather than the good-faith firm that submitted the lowest offer?
I have to agree with Steven Walling, above. Considering that the last official arrangement between Wikia and Wikipedia was appointing Wikia employee Ryan “Essjay” Jordan to the Arbitration Committee, I would have thought the WMF would be hyper-sensitive to working in concert yet again with their neighbor down the street.

On the space front, the bid from the Wikia’s space was matched to the equivalent office space in SOMA. Leasing office space from the walking distance location has a great advantage for the project team and the WMF. As the project team will meet with the WMF’s tech team regularly and administrative resource such as HR and Finance are shared, keeping the satellite office at walking distance helps save time from going back and forth. On the tech collaboration front, we are not treating Wikia’s development work as the solution. Their work is one of the modified MediaWiki we are… Read more »

Thanks for the further explanation Naoko. It puts a large part of my concern to rest. Easing the logistics of a new project is most certainly a top priority, and it’s good to know that Wikia will be one part of a comprehensive look at usability by the project.

Hello and good day,
it is amazing what wikipedia makes possible. It is not only a big archive with many informations, it grew up to a very big community, which includes many members!
I appreciate what Mr. Naoko Komura recommends to the readers of his short text!
Thank you very much!

Interesting point about how the next billion peolpe who come online are really going to change the global culture as online access will be so much more prevalent. Great interview! Thanks Jimmy!