MediaWiki as a community resource

As is only to be expected, Brion asked:

What sort of outcomes are you looking for in such a meeting? Are you looking to meet with engineers about technical issues, or managers to ask about formally committing WMF resources?

I copy-pasted Chris Koerner’s response:

  • People use MediaWiki!
  • How can we bring them into the fold?
  • What is the WMF stance on MediaWiki? Is it part of the mission or a by-product of it?
  • Roadmap roadmap roadmap

But I couldn’t let it stop there, so I went into rant mode.

Since it seems that some people involved in the shared hosting/non-technical office hour weren’t aware of us — “they don’t report bugs” was said over and over and just isn’t true… @cicalese, for example, has been struggling with submitting code — we do contribute and we have a huge investment in the future of MW.

There are a number of large users — NASA, NATO, Pfizer, oil companies, Medical providers and medical researchers, various government agencies as well as the numerous “less serious” game-based wikis. The list goes on.

All of these uses are not controlled by the Foundation, but they do feed the mission statement of the WMF by providing a tool that people use to “empower and engage people around the world to collect and develop educational content … and to disseminate it effectively and globally.

Even if the content isn’t released in the public domain (e.g. it is kept “in house”), it trains people to use the MediaWiki software and allows them to share there knowledge where it is appreciated, even when that knowledge isn’t notable enough for a project with Wikipedia’s aspirations.

The problem, as I see it, is one of direction and vision. Should WMF developers continue to only be concerned with those who have knowledge to share that the Wikipedia communities allow, or should their efforts enable people to share less note-worthy knowledge that — while it doesn’t meet the bar set for Wikipedia — is still part of the sum of all human knowledge that it is WMF’s vision to ensure everyone has access to.

It’s true, some organisations will set up wikis that are not publicly accessible. Even the WMF has some non-public wikis. The Wiki, though, is an amazing tool for publishing knowledge and people have seen the potential (through Wikipedia) of this idea of providing a knowledge sharing tool where “anyone can edit.”

Without engaging those people who use MediaWiki outside of the WMF, the WMF is missing out on a huge amount of feedback on the software and interesting uses for it that the Foundation hasn’t thought of.

There’s a virtuous cycle that the Foundation is missing out on.

2 thoughts on “MediaWiki as a community resource”

  1. I am amazed at the level of commitment and energy you put into this. While I don’t understand fully the power and usefulness of MediaWiki, it is comforting to have someone who is passionate about advocating for the third party. Next time we meet, I will buy you a cup of coffee! That’s a promise!

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