With this preview I'd like to demonstrate what is possible with
collaboration. These demos were kept up-to-date with the project's progress
and benefited from the WMF developers' work to iron out some details. If
that collaboration would go both ways, the project could have been at the
same stage possibly a few months ago, nearing the finish line by now.
There are surprisingly few volunteers, even less professionals contributing
at MediaWiki, despite its high visibility. The small number of GitHub stars
and forks of the replica repos is also negligible compared to the thousands
of stars and forks of similarly popular projects.
The following is my opinion.
There is a great pool of talent that could contribute to modernizing the
aging code-base and designs (both software and UI), but despite the WMF's
regular calls for participation, volunteering has a very limited
aspect, more similar to interning at a closed-source project, not
reminiscent of the contribution patterns of free software. The development
- or community - practices can't benefit from a wide range of volunteers.
This untapped potential is of great value, lost for the MediaWiki project
and the communities using it.
If the WMF wishes to manifest its vision
of an inclusive community, innovation and improved user experience, basic
steps can be taken at the back-office in that direction by making
development more open and welcoming to volunteers. Openness and
collaboration from the developer team would invite more talent and serve as
a foundation for a bigger, thriving developer community, similar to
open-source projects that succeeded with this model. There is a great
unused potential, that's in our core values to invite to the creation of
the foundation of free knowledge.
Re: Desktop Improvements volunteer preview - the value of collaboration
That is a very impressibe demo indeed! (Though my view on DIP is still that
it's an ill-conceived project that refuses to accept that Vector is dated
in many aspects and should NOT be extended, ever)
The following may be controversial and/or slightly impolite, I'm sorry, I
did not graduate in politics, so I have no idea how to word this better.
Back to the topic: I do agree that WMF is having issues with embracing the
input of the community. Making a bugfix is rather simple, but introducing a
new feature is just horribly painful. There are reasons to "temper"
volunteers when it comes to new features (e.g. maintainability), but
still... things are not perfect. Also, when it comes to implementing a
large new feature (like DIP) it is understandable that the Foundation would
want to do it itself, for a variety of reasons. Not that incorporating
volunteers in the process is impossible, it's just hard.
BTW: there are a few volunteers in the community that are really involved
and follow WMF's vision and they do get a lot of attention in CRs from WMF
employees. Their input is invaluable, but mark my words, this will lead to
quick burnout. Nobody wants to do the dirty work for free, in the long
term. This is NOT critisism (after all, how do you stop someone from being
helpful?), it's rather a reminder of how the current relationship between
WMF and the developer community looks like and what this relationship leads
to. And to me it looks like WMF gets to choose only the projects that
I don't think this can be changed with another policy, the entire
Foundation would have to change its mindset from "making MW suit Wikimedia
projects' needs" to "maintaining MediaWiki and meeting the needs of all
interested parties". That seems impossible to me for now, though.