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:
- [bugzilla bug_id=”1051201″] (to restore important feature to users and make wiki easier to use)
- [bugzilla bug_id=”1051189″] (to provide a mobile-friendly interface)
- [bugzilla bug_id=”915187″]
- [bugzilla bug_id=”1051204″]
- [bugzilla bug_id=”1051206″]
- [bugzilla bug_id=”1064994″]
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.
Thanks for the update. Out of curiosity, why didn’t you upgrade PHP from 5.3.3 (EOL’ed recently) to a newer version?
Good question. I don’t know the answer as our WebOps team manages the servers on which Mozilla Wiki is deployed. I’ll look in to it.
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