Today we’re excited to announce the relaunch of the Wikimedia blog, with a new design and new features intended to make it easier for people to participate in sharing knowledge about the Wikimedia movement. We also hope this relaunch serves as a very public reminder: today is always the day you can–and should!–contribute a blog post.
The Wikimedia Foundation blog was started in 2008 as a place for staff of the WMF to share their work. Early blog posts often focused on the work of the Engineering team, including updates about the MediaWiki platform. News from the technology team remains a significant portion of the content shared on the blog today, but it has been joined by a riotous mix of content from every corner of the Wikimedia world.
Over the past six years, the blog has evolved and taken on a character closer to the movement of which it is a part. In April 2012, only 5 percent of blog posts were from authors who were not employed by the Wikimedia Foundation. Today community-authored posts often make up more than half of the total posts in a given month. The blog has become a platform for the movement, with more contributors, more languages, and increasingly diverse subjects and geographies. The volume of posts has grown tremendously: we frequently publish two or more posts a day. We long ago stopped referring to it as the Foundation blog — instead, it is a blog for the entire Wikimedia movement.
Today’s relaunch is designed to reflect some of these changes. We’ve dropped the word Foundation from the blog’s logo: visually, it is now the Wikimedia blog. The design changes offer more space to highlight stories and updates from across the movement, as well as different types of content. (For example, the big, beautiful images from initiatives like Wiki Loves Monument and Wiki Loves Earth will be right at home here.) Blog posts that attract lots of comments and discussion will be automatically featured on the homepage, making it easier to see what people are talking about. Posts in languages other than English will be easier to find and read, offering more opportunities to engage with other language communities.
Some other notable updates include:
- Direct comment publishing with no moderator delay, thanks to a custom privacy-friendly captcha solution.
- A responsive design that works better on varying screen sizes: Catch up with the movement as you commute.
- The code for the theme will be released on Github: We’re looking forward to your pull request for bug fixes.
- Easier and faster updates thanks to dedicated tech support.
- An admin tool for simple transfer of licensing information for images from Wikimedia Commons, to easily and correctly attribute the work of community members.
- Enabling multi-author bylines, reflecting the collaborative production process of many posts (such as this one)
With all these changes, it’s still a work in progress. In the year since we embarked on a redesign process (implemented by Exygy, a San Francisco software firm) we have continued to learn about how the community uses the blog; there are additional tweaks we may add to the look and feel in the future. We’re still working on how to best categorize posts in a way that works for longtime community members, as well as people new to the movement. In the spirit of Cunningham’s Law, we thought we’d start with Movement, Technology, Events, and Foundation as the main navigation categories, and learn from the feedback about how they work for readers. You will probably find other features you’d like to nominate for continued evolution. Please do. (And point out any bugs in the comments… we’re still finding some.)
In planning this relaunch, we had extensive conversations with members of the WMF Operations and Engineering teams about whether we should continue to host the blog on our servers, or move to a third-party host. We reconfirmed that the mission of the Operations team is to operate one the world’s most popular websites. Rather than staff up to support the blog, we jointly concluded that it made sense to work with a third-party host, Automattic, that has particular expertise in this area and understands our needs and values, including a commitment to free software. They have been a strong partner, working to meet our privacy standards, disabling some of their standard analytics tools and clarifying how they handle certain information. They have also altered their WordPress VIP Terms of Service to accommodate Creative Commons licenses.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, it’s taken the care and attention of many people to seamlessly move so much movement history from one platform to another, besides the work of the current Communications team (mainly Heather Walls, who designed the blog’s new theme, and Tilman Bayer, who lead the rollout process with Automattic and Exygy). We’d like to thank the many members of the community who have been–and no doubt will be–providing suggestions and bug reports for the blog platform (with a special thanks to Jeremy Baron). A very big thanks to former WMF Communications team member Matthew Roth, who spearheaded this process and led the redesign work in 2013; to Terry Chay, who provided invaluable technical advice on the process; to the WMF Legal, UX and Operations teams, in particular Luis Villa and Rob Halsell; and to the teams at Exygy (in particular Justin Carboneau and Zach Berke) and at Automattic.
A final reminder: Like the Wikimedia projects, the blog is created by you. You can draft posts directly on Meta, and the Communications team will work with you to edit and publish, according to a transparent editorial process: it’s now common for posts to be created in full view of anyone who is inclined to read or participate. This blog is a platform for the movement, and we’re here to help you share your message with the world.
The WMF Communications Team
Katherine, Tilman, Carlos, and Heather
- ↑ Because one WMF Board member happens to be an executive at Automattic, the contract was reviewed with regard to the Foundation’s
Conflict of Interest policy and approved by the Board in absence of this Board member.
Old vs. New:
2014-08-01: Edited to add a footnote explaining how the WMF COI policy was handled for the contract with Automattic.
2014-08-14: Edited to add more information about who on the current WMF Communications team had worked on which part of the project.
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