October 2010 WMF Engineering Update

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Below is another overview update from Wikimedia Foundation Engineering, pulled together by Alolita, Danese, Erik, Guillaume, Mark, Tomasz, Zak, and myself. This edition of the update was drafted on mediawiki.org, where you can find the complete history of everyone who contributed. We believe we’ve gotten better at characterizing our work, but there are almost certainly gaps (especially when it comes to ongoing activities versus projects that have clear begin and end dates).
As before, each area has a program manager, who is responsible for coordinating the activity in that area. More detailed updates will come from those people as they are available.
A quick summary of the major development and operations initiatives underway this month:

More detail below the fold…


Virginia Data Center – Setting up a world-class primary data center for Wikimedia Foundation properties.

  • Status: We’re in the final phase of selecting the new data center. Rob Halsell is relocating to Virginia to be the primary on-site operations engineer for the new build-out.
  • Program manager: Mark Bergsma

Media Storage – Re-vamping our media storage architecture to accommodate expected increase in media uploads.

  • Status: Hiring a contractor for this project.
  • Program manager: Mark Bergsma

Monitoring – Enhancing both Operations and public monitoring to a) notice potential outages sooner, b) increase transparency to the community, c) support progress tracking required in the 5-year plan.

  • Status: Last month, we improved our integration of Monitoring systems with our Configuration Management software, which helps us make sure that monitoring is automatically set up for any new machines that we deploy. In the coming month, we plan to set up SMS notifications for vital service outages and other abnormalities. We’re also investigating some third-party monitoring solutions for monitoring our uptime and site/service performance.
  • Program manager: Mark Bergsma

Virtualization cluster – more easily deploy temporary machines for testing and experimentation. This cluster is intended for use not just by WMF staff, but will be available to volunteers working on important projects as capacity allows.

  • Status: Ryan Lane has been working on this since he started. He has been investigating OpenStack and other open source solutions. He’s testing on a couple of machines. There’s nothing production grade yet, but he’s hoping to have something useful by the end of the year.
  • Program manager: Mark Bergsma

Content Quality Tools

Article Feedback – Working on feature to collaboratively assess article quality and incorporate reader ratings on Wikipedia

  • Status: Phase 1, deployed last week in a pilot experiment for the Public Policy Initiative. The goal is to gather metrics and learn about how this feature should work. We plan to use this information to help develop requirements for the next phase in the first quarter of 2011.
  • Program manager: Alolita Sharma

Pending Changes – Pending Changes is a new review feature recently deployed to en.wikipedia.org, which allows changes made by anonymous and new users be reviewed before they appear as the primary version of an article.

  • Status: We’re planning a release of Pending Changes in November 2010, which is currently under development, described on our roadmap here: (see Pending Changes roadmap). Aaron Schulz is advising us as the author of the vast majority of the code, having mostly implemented the “reject” button. Chad Horohoe and Priyanka Dhanda are working on some of the short term development items. Brandon Harris and Parul Vora are advising us on how we can make this feature mesh with our long term usability strategy. We’re currently tracking the list of items we intend to complete in Bugzilla. For more information, see the full update on wikitech-l
  • Program manager: Rob Lanphier

Threaded discussions

Liquid Threads – LiquidThreads is an extension that brings threaded discussions capabilities to Wikimedia projects and MediaWiki.

  • Status: Liquid Threads is in development currently with community feedback being incorporated. The primary developer Andrew Garrett is working on the multilingual version. We’re planning for an initial phase of deployment in the first half of next year.
  • Program manager: Alolita Sharma

Multimedia tools

Upload wizard – The upload wizard is an extension for MediaWiki providing an easier way of uploading files to Wikimedia Commons, the media library associated with Wikipedia.

  • Status: Primary developer Neil Kandalgaonkar checked the bulk of the available code into a branch, and it’s undergoing code review now. Guillaume Paumier is working on the Licensing tutorial and the Multimedia Usability project report. We’re working hard to meet the October 31 deadline for the Ford Foundation grant.
  • Program manager: Alolita Sharma

Add media wizard – The Add-media wizard is a gadget to facilitate the insertion of media files into wiki pages. Development effort for this labs feature is supported by Kaltura (consider re-working this section to a “MediaLabs” section that can contain notes on Michael Dale’s gadgets).

  • Status: Initial development has been completed. Further development and testing is in progress.
  • Program manager: Alolita Sharma

MediaWiki Infrastructure

Resource loader – The resource loader aims to improve the load times for JavaScript and CSS components on any wiki page. The intention of this work is to support faster loading of the Vector skin, media extensions, and anything else that makes use of Javascript.

  • Status: An initial version of the Resource Loader was checked-in last month. The major extensions are in the process of being migrated to work with the Resource Loader. Both developers, Trevor Parscal and Roan Kattouw have been debugging and bug-fixing as extensions are ported to work with the new framework.
  • Program manager: Alolita Sharma

Central Notice – CentralNotice is a banner system used for global messaging across Wikimedia projects.

  • Status: Last month, we deployed GeoIP functionality, new dynamic banner loader, deployed new testing features. The coming month is going to be about bugfixes, incorporating feedback, and documentation.
  • Program manager: Tomasz Finc

Analytics Revamp – Incorporate an analytics solution that can grow and answer the questions that the Wikimedia movement has.

  • Status: Last month, we developed all of our required features for the fundraiser (flow tracking through the donation pipeline, categorization, and goal tracking), and now we’re integrating with the WMF infrastructure and testing the result. We’re working with Peter Adams, the main developer for Open Web Analytics to make it possible to deploy on WMF properties in the future. Now that we’ve done significant work to make it easier to install OWA with MediaWiki, we’d love for people to try this out and tell us how it works.
  • Program managers: Rob Lanphier & Tomasz Finc

General Engineering

Test framework deployment – Building an automated test environment for MediaWiki using CruiseControl, Selenium, and PHPUnit

  • Status: Currently weekly meetings (which are public) are aimed at getting enough of the framework in place by the Hack-A-Ton so we can code against it there since team members (staff and volunteer) will all be in DC. Come on over if you’re interested. Working to configure on a per-test basis so tests are repeatable even when they alter the database.
  • Program manager: Rob Lanphier

Process improvement – Increase transparency and generally organize Wikimedia Foundation’s engineering efforts more efficiently

  • Status: Established monthly blog posts, project pages and more info to this blog in general about what we’re doing, drafting updates on mediawiki.org.  If you are interested in helping out, there is already a stub for next month’s update. Some of the work on selecting project management tools has been put on hold as we’ve not fallen in love with anything we’ve encountered so far. We currently have high hopes for the release of Bugzilla 4.0, and ways in which we’ll be able to configure it for our needs. On other fronts, Guillaume created an excellent list of communication tools and recommendations for their use, which we invite your comment on.
  • Program manager: Rob Lanphier

Code review

  • Status: We’ve known for a long time that our code review resources were too constrained, but it’s taken time to realize that finding or growing individuals with suitable expertise and experience to perform sufficient code review may also be suboptimal to address the needs of the developer community. We want to create an environment where MediaWiki developers can grow into capable mentors and reviewers. In the near term, given Tim Starling’s paternity leave and the Mark Hershberger’s recent accident (which he’s thankfully recovering well from), we have recruited a larger team of existing and former staff (including Brion Vibber, Trevor Parscal, Roan Kattouw, and Mark as he comes back up to speed). In the longer term, we are brainstorming now how to best identify and train community members to take up some of the code review tasks and how to provide appropriate oversight to ensure that we continue to catch potential style, architecture, performance, and security flaws in submitted code.
  • Program manager: Rob Lanphier

Technical Documentation – Improve our technical documentation by making small, incremental improvements to the docs and docs process.

  • Status: MediaWiki’s documentation is quite useful. Hundreds of people have authored and edited thousands of pages of documentation. Taken together, this content covers a significant portion of what is known about MediaWiki. Unfortunately, the content varies greatly in accuracy, completeness, content, page structure, translation status, writing style and quality. This inconsistency makes the documentation hard for many people to use. Over the next few months, Zak Greant will be focused on improving MediaWiki’s developer documentation and the technical documentation processes. He’ll be focusing on three key things: community engagement; editing, writing and wiki gardening; and testing, collaborating and planning. For more details, review the WMF Projects/Technical Documentation project page.
  • Program Managers: Rob Lanphier / Zak Greant


2010 Fundraiser

Credit card server upgrade – Upgrading our current payments infrastructure to support 1-click donations.

  • Status: In-progress. We’re increasing our capacity, and in turn simplifying our donation flow. We’d be happy to talk to the Wikimedia Chapters about lessons learned.
  • Program manager: Tomasz Finc


Hack-A-Ton – held October 22–24, 2010 just outside Washington, D.C. This is our first developer event on the east coast of the United States, and it’s designed more of a hackathon/bugsmash than the Developers’ Workshop in Berlin, which focuses on demonstrations and small group discussions.

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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Love it. Keep it up guys – as the tech team (let alone the WMF in general) gets bigger this kind of report becomes increasingly useful.
Just wondering: are there any plans to push Single User Login further to it’s logical conclusion to do things like universal language preference, universal watchlist…

+1 to Witty lama’s feedback

Nice article, Thanks for sharing all the useful information with me.Keep writing this.