Editor retention: Editing tools
In April, the VisualEditor team worked to improve the stability of the editor, adding some new features and improving usability so that users can create and edit pages more swiftly and intuitively with VisualEditor than before. Template editing was over-hauled to make adding parameters less busy, showing only a few parameters at first rather than all possible ones, which can number in the dozens or more, especially in the case of some often-used templates like those for citations or infoboxes. Setting the size of images was tweaked to give a more natural set of controls based on feedback from users. The page settings dialog had a number of minor tweaks, leading to the set of options that can be modified inside VisualEditor being completed. VisualEditor’s edit tab is now more consistent with the rest of the MediaWiki interface in a number of noticeable if minor ways, such as on pages to do with the Education Program, on file pages which are hosted on Commons rather than on the local wiki, or on very narrow screens. User testing was carried out on the forthcoming citation dialog and some final simplifications were made, such as adding suggested as well as required parameters, ahead of its pending introduction. Finally, a careful audit of all Wikimedia wikis led to fixing broken local community-written code, to ensure that VisualEditor runs on all of them. The deployed version of the code was updated four times in the regular release cycle (1.23-wmf21
In April, the Parsoid team continued to fix bugs and tweak code. Two areas in particular received a lot of attention: template encapsulation and link handling. We ironed out a whole bunch of edge case handling in template encapsulation code and its interaction with fostered content from tables (caused by misnested tags in tables). We also fixed many unhandled scenarios and edge cases parsing and serializing links. In addition to bug fixes, we also improved the performance of the parsing pipeline; some pages like Barack Obama
should now parse 30% faster than before. We continued migrating our debugging and tracing code to use our new logger. April also saw additional progress providing support for visual editing of transclusion parameters; this should land on master soon.
In April, Growth switched gears to focus on a new experimental area: anonymous editor acquisition
. The team prepared its first two experimental interface changes, aimed at asking anonymous editors to register accounts
(expected to be launched in early May). The team also will be conducting basic research into the role anonymous editors play in Wikipedia − more at Research:Anonymous phenomena
and Research:Anonymous editor acquisition
Wikipedia Education Program
This month we deployed several bug fixes, including disabling the malfunctioning and little-used student profiles feature and setting a sensible default end date for new courses. Thanks to volunteer Tony Thomas, the extension-related preferences were moved into the Appearance tab of Preferences. Progress toward several other improvements was made in April: Sage Ross began implementing an API to generate lists of enrolled student editors from one or more courses, and the Facebook Open Academy students continued their work on new notification features, and also embarked on need-finding research for an improved course activity feed.
The Mobile App team continued moving toward the first market release of the rebooted Wikipedia App for Android and iOS. The team focused on bug fixes, editing refinements, and UX polish. Several issues related to keyboard, navigation bar, edit summary, and abuse filter were fixed. The app now uses the newly created Wikifont which reduced the size of the app and the number of graphical assets. Articles should now look even closer to their mobile web counterparts. Product management switched from Kenan Wang to Maryana Pinchuk due to Kenan’s departure, and the team welcomed Dmitry Brant as an Android software developer.
Mobile web projects
This month, the mobile web team released history and contributions pages, as well as an updated watchlist view, for all users. We also promoted two new features geared toward “humanizing” Wikipedia for readers and new editors: a prominent “last modified” banner that indicates when articles haven’t been edited in a while and may need some attention, and a user profile feature to provide a mobile-friendly snapshot of users’ contributions and activity. For tablets, we updated typography and layout and worked on adding the ability to add and modify links via VisualEditor in beta, in preparation for redirecting tablets to the mobile site later this quarter.
During the last month, the team continued setup tasks on the Partners portal, JSON configuration store, and graceful image quality reduction. The team also updated Android and iOS Wikipedia app reboot visual flourishes for Wikipedia Zero, analyzed anomalous access patterns and proxy-oriented configuration and tech documentation to close gaps, and created bugfixes for unnecessary charge warnings in the “Read in another language” language picker plus direct upload.wikimedia.org image hyperlinks on File: pages. The team also removed some legacy ETL code from the ZeroRatedMobileAccess extension.
Yuri did outreach abroad and continued analytics work on SMS/USSD pilot data. The team also generated two custom pageview analyses for an operator to distinguish traffic by high level device access characteristics as part of ongoing discussions. The team also explored legacy Android Wikipedia app trends.
Additionally, the team cut Android Wikipedia app alpha builds, worked on User-Agent string and URL format updates for the forthcoming iOS Wikipedia app to ensure pageview logging, and performed app code review.
Discussion with the community on MCC-MNC logging to address mobile IP drift was conducted, and it appears it is okay to proceed; the team will reduce the date granularity of log lines to the day (e.g., YYYYMMDD) with a patch to MediaWiki core, though.
Routine pre- and post-launch configuration changes were made to support operator zero-rating, and in-depth technical assistance was provided to operators and the partner management team to help add zero-rating and address anomalies.
The team emailed further about full-text search in reboots of Wikipedia apps, and may resume investigation of it later.
The team also examined requirements for portal and general partners engineering human resources.
Wikipedia Zero (partnerships)
- IPKO in Kosovo launched Wikipedia Zero, bringing us to a total of 28 partners in 26 countries. We delivered 68 million free page views in April. Adele Vrana visited South Africa to meet with MTN (current Wikipedia Zero partner), prospective partners, members of Wikimedia South Africa (WMZA) and the Singenjongo High School. This trip was part of a broader strategy to promote Wikipedia in our partners’ corporate social responsibility (CSR) and education initiatives, increasing awareness and impact locally. We are identifying new collaboration opportunities with MTN and local organizations, including the Wikimedia chapter in South Africa and other mission-aligned nonprofits. Additionally, we will continue to support the local initiative created by Sinenjongo High School teachers and students.
Work on the Zend plugin compatibility layer is feature complete, and now the team is working on proper packaging of HHVM, and is working toward making HHVM the default PHP implementation on the Beta cluster.
Release & QA
The tool that deploys code in production (“scap”) is now used to deploy/update code on the Beta cluster, removing another difference between the Beta cluster and production along with providing us an environment to safely test changes to our deployment system(s). We converted more scap code to python (scap-rebuild-cdbs and mw-update-l10n), and moved a ton of Jenkins jobs from the Cloudbees Jenkins to our self-hosted instance; we’re on target to end the use of Cloudbees’ Jenkins in the next two weeks. We also made significant progress on the two open positions (Release Engineer and QA Automation).
We deployed Cirrus as a Beta Feature on all wikis that didn’t yet have it. We’re working on deploying a change to how snippets are generated that should be faster and better. We’re also starting to work with Elasticsearch plugins for improved analysis of some languages as well as backup.
We did initial work on Authn/z requirements for RFC architecture, and an initial review of Requests for comment/AuthStack
. We also investigated the use of MediaWiki’s OAuth for Phabricator, and worked on a proof of concept.
Wikimania Scholarships app
Several small bug fixes and feature requests were worked on by volunteers applying for GSoC
projects. No operational issues were reported.
We started investigating changes that may be needed to support the use of HHVM in production.
Security auditing and response
We helped with the operational response to the Heartbleed vulnerability. Significant work was done on identifying and testing static analysis tools to integrate into the release workflow. We finished reviewing varnishkafka for Analytics, and Compact Personal Bar for UX. MediaWiki releases 1.21.9 and 1.22.6 fixed one security issue.
This month saw the QA team working closely with the MobileFrontend team to extend and refactor their test suite. We also made great progress in running many of the browser test suites on headless Firefox instances in builds controlled by WMF Jenkins. Work on the WMF Jenkins browser test builds will continue in order to take advantage of the power and flexibility we have there.
The QA team released a number of new browser test features, including the ability to create test data in the target wiki at runtime. This feature was immediately put into use by the MobileFrontend team in their browser test suite. A complete list of shared features
available to any browser tests in any extension repository is available.
In April, the multimedia team released Media Viewer v0.2
on 14 pilot sites, in preparation for a wider deployment
next month: overall response has been favorable so far, and a growing majority of survey respondents
are finding this new multimedia browser useful. Gilles Dubuc, Mark Holmquist, Gergő Tisza and Aaron Arcos developed final features for this release, as described on this release’s wall
, based on designs by Pau Giner. We also developed a set of metrics dashboards
to track global activity, image load and network performance, as well as local metrics dashboards
for selected sites: first results show a decline in image load time
, and suggest that Media Viewer loads faster than file description pages
. We invite you to test the latest version
of Media Viewer (see these testing tips
) and share your feedback
Fabrice Florin led product planning and management, hosting a planning meeting
for our next development cycle (leading to a wall of tasks
): for the next six weeks, we plan to divide our time between Media Viewer (e.g. serious bugs, basic zoom feature), Technical Debt (e.g. image scalers) and Upload Wizard. Keegan Peterzell and Fabrice announced the gradual release of Media Viewer
on dozens of wiki sites, starting new discussions in collaboration with our community partners, as well as launching surveys in multiple languages
to get reader feedback about this tool. For more updates about our multimedia work, we invite you to join the multimedia mailing list
Daniel Zahn and Andre Klapper upgraded Wikimedia Bugzilla
to the latest version 4.4.4. Valhallasw replaced the brittle wikibugs IRC notification bot by pywikibugs
). A bugday
took place updating about 50 MediaWiki General/Unknown tickets. Bugzilla’s “Tools” product was renamed to “Utilities”
to decrease confusion with tools on Tool Labs. Numerous old forgotten “Backport_WMF?” flags on bug reports, older PATCH_TO_REVIEW tickets with all patches merged, and a lot of older WikiEditor tickets were cleaned up. In general, work mostly concentrated on handling the Phabricator RfC
Project management tools review
On April 14, the Request for comment
was finalized and a related FAQ
published. The RfC was announced on the wikitech-l
mailing lists, asking everybody for feedback on the RfC itself, discussion on its talk page, actively trying out proposed “Phabricator” in a testing instance
, and creating tickets in the test instance under the “Wikimedia Phabricator” project for functionality that is missing.
Sixteen Google Summer of Code
students and seven FOSS Outreach Program for Women
interns will be busy in the next months working on Wikimedia projects. We got 23 participants in total, two more than a year ago, even if our quality criteria have been more strict this time.
In addition to ongoing communications support
for the engineering staff, Guillaume Paumier
organized and archived many team documentation pages
of the Engineering Community Team, like planning pages, reports and meeting notes. He also set up subscription templates on mediawiki.org
and the English Wikipedia
that display the latest version of the technical newsletter
for users who prefer not to get it delivered on their talk page.
Volunteer coordination and outreach
Architecture and Requests for comment process
We held several Request for Comment review meetings in IRC:
Also, we worked on improving security, architecture, and performance guidelines for developers. We aim to have MediaWiki performance guidelines ready to approve at the Zürich hackathon in mid-May.