On our way to Phabricator

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Later this year, we’ll say good-bye to Bugzilla, our bug tracking platform, and migrate its content to another software called Phabricator. This will be an opportunity to centralize our various project and product management tools into a single platform, making it easier to follow technical discussions you’re interested in. This is the result of a six-month community review and discussion that identified requirements, evaluated options and decided on Phabricator.

What does this mean for me?

Bug reports and feature requests are listed as “tasks”, in an attractive interface not too different from Bugzilla’s.

If you’re a casual reader of Wikipedia and its sister sites, nothing will change (except maybe the rate at which you see improvements to the site, if our productivity increases).
If you’re an editor on a Wikimedia wiki, we expect this change to make your life easier, if you sometimes report bugs, request new features or participate in other technical discussions:

  • You’ll be able to use your SUL username to log into Phabricator;
  • No more having to go through half a dozen different tools to follow what’s happening on a specific bug or feature you’re watching: eventually, everything will be in one place.
  • Existing bug reports will be migrated to the new tool, and most links will continue to work; they will redirect to the bugs’ new location.
  • You’ll need a little time to adjust to this new tool, but hopefully Phabricator’s modern interface will make it easier for you to report bugs and participate in technical discussions.

If you’re more involved in the Wikimedia technical community, you’ve probably already participated in the discussions that have led to this decision. If you have other questions, you can ask them on the help page.

Why are we moving?

Since we started to use Bugzilla, the size of our technical community has dramatically increased. There are now dozens of developers, engineers, designers, tools maintainers, bot owners, project and product managers, etc. (not yet counting the hundreds of users regularly reporting bugs and participating in technical discussions).
It’s easy to see how a single tool with a limited scope (bug tracking) may not be able to meet the needs of all members of our technical community. Therefore, over the years, we’ve started to use other tools to complement Bugzilla in the areas of code review, project and product management, and quality assurance.
This had led however to a proliferation of scattered tools that barely talked to each other; engineers wrote scripts to keep some of them synchronized, but this wasn’t an ideal solution. Discussions about a single technical issue could be split across Bugzilla, Gerrit, Trello, Mingle and/or Scrumbugz. It was difficult for developers, and even more so for casual users.
Phabricator solves this problem by offering all those features under a single unified umbrella; eventually, everything will be in one place, tightly integrated and neatly organized. Initially, we’ll focus on bug tracking and project management, but we’re planning to also use it for code review once the features we need have been added.

How was this decided?

Phabricator notably includes a project management feature, allowing users to organize tasks in “boards” familiar to developers using the Agile methodology.

In late 2013, the Wikimedia Foundation started to facilitate a community review of all the project management tools then in use in the Wikimedia technical community. Developers, engineers and anyone who identified as a stakeholder in this discussion was invited to provide input and share their use cases, needs and usual processes. After this consultation period, this input was summarized into consolidated requirements.
A list of options was proposed, and discussed by the community to only keep those that were true contenders, based on our requirements.
Phabricator emerged as the only real challenger to the status quo. After a three-week request for comment, the technical community had weighed in the costs and benefits, and expressed an interest in moving to Phabricator. There were still a few issues and missing features to iron out, as well as a carefully-prepared migration plan to put in place, but overall the feeling was that once those had been resolved, there wouldn’t be any social blockers.
The Wikimedia Foundation is now preparing for the migration, and your help is much welcome. You can get involved directly in our test instance of Phabricator, that was originally set up just for testing, but that later became home to the migration project itself in order to become more familiar with the software.

When will this happen?

The migration plan gives an overview of the current timeline. There’s still work to be done, and Wikimedia engineers are working closely with the Phabricator development team, who’s been very responsive and open to collaboration. Together, they’re making sure that the features we need are present, and that we can adapt the software to our various workflows.
The current plan is to deploy a bare bones Phabricator instance with only Wikimedia SUL enabled, and make a first community call to test only the login process. The next step will be to deploy the Trusted User Tool required by the Legal and Community Advocacy team to keep track of agreements signed by community members. These steps will help guaranteeing a successful Day 1, when Phabricator will become the new driver of our development infrastructure.
On the Wikimedia side, Andre Klapper is leading the migration project, Mukunda Modell is lending his Phabricator expertise and Chase Pettet is handling the Operations side. You can read Andre’s retrospective on the review process and the road ahead. You’re also encouraged to follow the progress of the migration (dubbed “Wikimedia Phabricator Day 1”) on the dedicated page, the tracking item and its associated board in our test instance.
Guillaume Paumier, Technical communications 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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[…] heard about Phabricator from Greg, in reference to the WMF collapsing a bunch of other tools into this one omni-developer app. I’ve been struggling to figure out what I am doing with my repo hosting, so it was neat to […]