Proposal:Build WikiProject tools into MediaWiki

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The status of this proposal is:
Request for Discussion / Sign-Ups

Strategic Priorities

Every proposal should be tied to one of the strategic priorities below.

Edit this page to help identify the priorities related to this proposal!


  1. Achieve continued growth in readership
  2. Focus on quality content
  3. Increase Participation
  4. Stabilize and improve the infrastructure
  5. Encourage Innovation



Summary

Add tools for WikiProjects into the MediaWiki software to make creating and participating in WikiProjects easier. To that end, define technical standards for WikiProjects.

Motivation

In larger wikis with thousands of users, the need arises for editors to organize themselves in smaller groups that work on different aspects of the wiki, or focus on a restricted set of content pages. This can particularly be observed in the largest Wikimedia project, en.wikipedia, where more than 1.000 "WikiProjects" along with their subprojects, work groups, and task forces have been formed. Other large-scale wiki communities have introduces similar structures (e.g. "Fachredaktionen" on de.wikipedia, "progetti" on it.wikipedia), though they technically employ quite different structures. The term project group is used in the following to refer to these editorial groups.

Support for these project groups is an important part of the community process, and should hence be supported on the technical side. In fact, numerous technical tools have been developed for use by project groups, ranging from high-complexity templates to bots and interactive external applications.

However, both development and use of these tools are hindered by the lack of technical standardization. While a kind of de-facto standard has emerged for the organization of WikiProjects on en.wikipedia, this standard has never consistently been designed, nor written down for reference, nor ever been formally agreed upon, nor is it universally being used. Software tools (that need to rely on such standard) will therefore fail in some circumstances even within en.wikipedia; their re-use across wikis is virtually impossible at present.

As a consequence, creating, maintaining, and participating in project groups is currently an intimidating endeavour that involves building (often complicated) project pages and custom templates, signing up for bot services, etc. This is time-consuming for users, and large amounts of editorial effort are spent on administrative tasks that could be avoided.

Proposal

Why not build support for project groups into MediaWiki itself? This could be done on several levels, evolving with time.

Step 0: Define technical standards for project groups

In a minimalistic approach, one might try to simplify the situation by defining technical standards for project groups, as a mere specification, without providing any software implementation within MediaWiki.

  • association of editors (members) to project groups,
  • association of wiki pages to project groups.
  • hierarchical structure of project groups (see, e.g., sub-projects, work groups, taskforces on en.wikipedia)

These standards would be defined in terms of categories, templates, wiki pages, etc. that "constitute" the project group. If necessary, several technical alternatives e.g. for the "project group—page" association might be defined.

There would be no need to enforce these standards on existing project groups. However, if technical tools rely on the standards, there would be a strong incentive for project groups to be compliant with them.

Step 1: Rudimentary support for project groups within MediaWiki

As a further step, MediaWiki itself should be equipped, on a very low level, with features that implement the standards above. This means that MediaWiki should provide

  • the possibility to assign pages to project groups (and unassign them),
  • the possibility for users to join and leave project groups,
  • a directory of project groups within each wiki,
  • on the technical side, access to "project group—page" and "project group—member" relations via database tables and via the API.

External tools could then make use of the project group data provided by MediaWiki, either by database access (e.g., on the toolserver or from a data dumps) or by API calls. As pat of this process, we may want to move WikiProjects to a new "Project:" namespace.

Step 2: Integrate project-related tools into MediaWiki

Finally, tools that are useful for project groups might directly be implemented in MediaWiki as extensions. Such tools might include, in particular:

  • Wizards for creation of new project groups and related infrastructure,
  • Article assessment schemes (as used currently on en.wikipedia),
  • Reporting applications (e.g., see Article alerts).

Key Questions

  • What de-facto standards exist at present for the organization of project groups, within and across Wikimedia projects?
  • How can these be unified and simplified into a scheme that fits all (or most) projects?
  • What tools would it make sense to add to MediaWiki?
  • What would be the best way to implement those tools?

Potential Costs

  • Needs some community agreement on technical standardization - this has proven to be difficult in the past.
  • Software development.
  • Less flexibility in how WikiProjects are implemented.

References

For a related proposal of larger scope, see Proposal:Stop using wikis for tasks for which wikis are not suitable.

Community Discussion

Do you have a thought about this proposal? A suggestion? Discuss this proposal by going to Proposal talk:Build WikiProject tools into MediaWiki.

Want to work on this proposal?

  1. Kaldari 19:21, 21 June 2010 (UTC)
  2. Triona 09:31, 31 August 2010 (UTC)