Tagged: mozilla wiki

An Update from the MozillaWiki Team, including a report from Wikimania London

Last week we pushed a major upgrade to MozillaWiki, one that was months in the making. This post discusses the process of that upgrade and also talks about work the MozillaWiki Team did while together in London for Wikimania.

Who is the MozillaWiki Team?

The MozillaWiki team (formerly called the Wiki Working Group) is a mix of paid and volunteer contributors working to improve MozillaWiki. It is facilitated by MozillaWiki module owner (myself) and peers Gordon P. Hemsley and Lyre Calliope (both volunteer contributors).

Results from MozillaWiki user survey informs current roadmap

This summer, OPW (GNOME Outreach Program for Women) intern Joelle conducted a survey of MozillaWiki users. Much of our current roadmap is informed by the results of this survey, including re-organizing the Main Page, making information easier to find, improving the mobile experience and making editing easier.

If you’re interested in the results of that survey, watch her presentation Improving the Gateway: Mozilla Wiki User Research.

Why upgrade Mozilla Wiki now?

The primary motivation for this upgrade was to make current the version of MediaWiki, the software that runs MozillaWiki. Running a relatively older version of MediaWiki (1.19) prevented us from utilizing newer, beneficial features as well as useful extensions that require current versions of MediaWiki.

The Mozilla Wiki now utilizes MediaWiki version 1.23, and you can read about key features and improvements here: https://wiki.mozilla.org/MozillaWiki:News/2014-08/Upgrade_to_MediaWiki_1.23#MediaWiki_changes

This upgrade was carried out in two steps. The first was to change the default skin to Vector, which we did at the beginning of August. The second was to upgrade the software and require all users to use the new skin. This work we did last week.

Why did we choose Vector and drop support for all other skins?

Creating and maintaining MediaWiki skins is a complex and time-consuming process.

The two previous custom skins used on MozillaWiki were Cavendish and GMO. Already these themes, particularly GMO, were missing features available to users in officially supported skins. Our planned upgrade would make this disparity in user experience even greater. While planning the upgrade, we determined it didn’t make sense to expend resources keeping these skins tested and up to date, nor did it make sense to continue to offer a broken user experience just to maintain familiarity.

We selected Vector as the default skin because it is the one supported by MediaWiki itself and is thereby guaranteed to be stable and fully-featured. MonoBook is another theme supported by MediaWiki and we have left that enabled and available to use for those users who want an alternative look and feel. (You can make this change on your preferences page.)

Report from Wikimania London

As I mentioned, the MozillaWiki team has been preparing for and planning for this upgrade for several months. A small group of us gathered in London this August to have dedicated time to work together together and learn about MediaWiki and how to best utilize it at Mozilla by attending Wikimania, the annual MediaWiki community conference

The group included an even mix of paid and volunteer contributors who had been regularly participating in MozillaWiki team activities: Lyre Calliope, Jennie Halperin, Joelle F, Gordon P. Hemsley, C Liang and myself.

We spent the first two days hacking on MozillaWiki and the other three attending conference sessions and hacking together in between.

Having this rare time together in one place allowed us to get a lot done in a relatively short period of time.

Tasks we accomplished include:

  • updated sidebar (only visible in Vector and MonoBook)
  • created and deployed a new Main Page
  • roadmap planning through 2015 q1
  • planned and tested an upgrade to MediaWiki 1.23
  • continued to work on category planning

During the Wikimania conference, we accomplished the following:

  • learned about upcoming changes in MediaWiki, such as the new search extension (elastic search)  and visual editor
  • generated ideas for engaging new contributors across Mozilla projects, via targeted campaigns and directed play
  • generated ideas for recognizing different kinds of contributions leveraging badges and other projects at Mozilla
  • increased awareness of the Mozilla Wiki in the larger wiki community
  • learned about ways to enable real-time collaboration on the wiki
  • invited a number of Wikimedians to join Mozilla via the Wiki Working Group, CBT, and other areas

All of this information and collaboration helped us create our current roadmap.

Improvements planned for rest of 2014

We’re really proud of the work we’ve done on the Mozilla Wiki so far, but we’ve no intention to slow down yet. Improvements we’re planning to roll out this year, include:

  • Bug 1051201 – Audit and adjust user rights (to restore important feature to users and make wiki easier to use)
  • Bug 1051189 – Install MobileFrontend extension (to provide a mobile-friendly interface)
  • Bug 915187 – Improve search
  • Bug 1051204 – Implement real-time collaborative editing
  • Bug 1051206 – Improve discussion and collaboration
  • Bug 1064994 – Improve page categorization

An invitation to Participate

We hope you’re liking our work on MozillaWiki so far! We invite all those who would like to contribute to the wiki to join our regular MozillaWiki team meetings which are every other Tuesday at 8:30am PT (15:30 UTC). Our next meeting is 16 September. Participation details.

Driving Project-wide Community Growth by Improving the Mozilla Wiki

At the Mozilla project there are many ways to contribute. Some contributions are directly to our products: Firefox Desktop, Firefox for Android, Firefox OS, Webmaker, etc. Some contributions are to things that make those products better: QA, localization, release engineering, etc. Some contributions are to tools that help us work together better, such as: Pontoon, Bugzilla, Mozillians and the Mozilla Wiki.

I’ve long had a personal interest in the Mozilla Wiki. When I started as a paid contributor in 2011, it was my main source of information about the many, many Mozilla projects.

And I’m not alone in this. Contributor Sujith Reddy says:

The wiki page of Mozilla has got info about every project running around. For instance, being a Rep, I get questioned by many people on mails, What exactly is the ReMo program. I would reply’em with a single link: https://wiki.mozilla.org/ReMo Basically, it makes my work easier to explain people. It is Mozilla-Encyclopedia :)

And contributor Mark A. Hershberger says:

Wikis provide the best way for a community with many members to collaborate to disseminate knowledge about their shared interest…The wiki provides one of the easiest ways to start contributing to the shared work and become a contributing member of the Mozilla community.

And it’s not just volunteer contributors who find the wiki essential. Here’s Benjamin Sternthal from Web Production:

The Mozilla Wiki is an essential part of how Web Productions manages projects and involves community. The Wiki is particularly valuable for our project hubs, the central place where anyone can view information about a project without having to hunt around in various systems.

History of the Mozilla Wiki

The Mozilla Wiki has been around for a long time. According to WikiApiary it was founded on in November of 2004 making it nearly 10 years old! It has over 90,000 pages, all of which are public, and roughly 600 daily users.

During most of its existence the Wiki has been maintained by community without organized effort. Mozilla IT has supported it on Mozilla’s corporate infrastructure, and various community members, paid and volunteer, have worked to keep it as up-to-date and functional as possible.

This approach worked fairly well for a long time. But during the last couple of years, as our community has experienced incredible growth, this ad-hoc approach stopped serving us well. The wiki has become harder and harder to use when it should become easier and easier to use.

Formation of the Wiki Working Group

And that’s why a group of us came together in March 2014 and formed the Wiki Working Group. It’s been a few months and the group is going very well. We meet twice a month as a full group, and in smaller groups as needed to work through specific issues. There are 25 people on our mailinglist and meeting attendance averages 8-12, with a mix of paid and volunteer contributors in about a 1:1 ratio. Of the paid contributors, I am the only with time dedicated to work on the Wiki.

In a short amount of time we’ve made some significant accomplishments, including:

  • triaged all open bugs (>100, some open several years without updates)
  • created a formal governance structure by creating a submodule for the Wiki within Websites
  • reduced the clutter and improved usability on the wiki by eliminating new spam (spam accounts and pages previously numbered in the several hundreds per day on average)
  • improved usability of the wiki by fixing a few critical but long-standing bugs, including an issue with table sorting
  • created an About page for the Wiki that clarifies its scope and role in the project, including what is appropriate content and how to report issues

One of the long-standing bugs was to re-enable the WikiEditor which greatly improves usability by giving users an easy-to-use toolbar to allow page authoring without having to know wiki markup.

Chris More from Web Productions gave us this feedback on these recent changes:

With the re-introduction of the visual wikieditor, it has allowed non-technical people to be able to maintain their project’s wiki page without having to learn the common wiki markup language. This has been invaluable with getting the new process adopted across the Engagement team.

We’ve also worked hard to create a clear vision for the purpose of the Wiki Working Group. Early on we reached consensus that it is not our role to be the only ones contributing to the wiki. Rather, it is our role to enable everyone across the project to feel empowered to participate and collaborate to make the Mozilla Wiki an enjoyable and lively place to document and communicate about our work.

Where we’re going in 2014

With that in mind, we’re working towards the following milestones for this year:

  • increasing usability and stability) upgrading to current version of Mediawiki
  • updating the default skin (theme) to be more usable and mobile-friendly
  • improving the information architecture of the site so content is easier to find and maintain
  • engage contributors to learn to use the wiki and help us improve it by running a series of “wiki missions”
  • create compelling visual dashboards that will help us better understand and recognize wiki activity

We expect these changes to increase participation on the wiki itself considerably, and to increase community activity in other areas of the project by making it easier to document and discover contribution pathways. In this way, the WWG serves all teams at Mozilla in their community building efforts.

Chris More from Web Production again:

The use of the wiki has recently been amplified by the introduction of the Integrated Marketing process. The new process is essentially program management best practices to ensure what Engagement is working on is relevant, organized, and transparent. The wiki has been used to document, share, and to be the hub for both the process and every major project Engagement is working on. Without the wiki, Engagement would have no central public location to share our plans with the world and to understand how to get involved.

So, while our group is small, we are highly engaged. As we continue our work, we’ll enable many, many more people to become contributors and to continue contributing across the project.

How to Get Involved

If you’re interested in joining or following the Wiki Working Group, take a look at the How to Participate section on our wiki page for links to our mailinglist and meeting schedule.

If you have general feedback about the Mozilla Wiki, or things you’d like to see improved there, leave comments on this Sandbox page.