Want to collaborate on writing a feature?

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Want to collaborate on writing a feature?

Tim Starling
Most developers have specialisations -- some of us hate UI design and love
DB performance optimisation, others don't know any PHP but can speak
HTML/CSS like a second language. This is a problem for writing features for
an open source web app -- the nature of the work is cross-disciplinary, but
the culture encourages individual effort. The result of this is that
developers are placed under pressure to learn a huge skill set, and that can
be a disincentive to participation.

I have an idea for a feature, and I was wondering if anyone might want to
collaborate on it. The idea is to display, in a box in the edit window,
information about who else has the same edit window open. For example, it
could display each username, along with the amount of time they have been
idle and the edit summary they have typed if any. The box will periodically
refresh itself, say once every 10 seconds. At the same time as fetching
updated data, the client sends back information about how long the user has
been idle and so on.

An optional subfeature would be allow the user to remove themselves from the
box voluntarily, e.g. to signal that they have no interest in actually
saving the article and that they are just looking at the source.

There are three different skill sets which are required to make this feature:

Person 1: User interface design
Person 2: Client-side programming
Person 3: Server-side programming

The tasks can be roughly divided as follows:

Person 1: Make a mockup of the user interface by taking the HTML of an edit
page from MediaWiki and adding a box with the required information. Edit the
HTML and the CSS. PHP or JavaScript knowledge is not required, although some
JS knowledge may be desirable to allow them to demonstrate any necessary
show/hide buttons and popups.

Person 2: Write the JavaScript. Monitor the edit window and send the
information I have described to the server. To update the info box, write a
model server response with a text editor, save it as a static file. Have the
JS load the model response and update the box in response. Deliver a
request/response format specification.

Person 3: Write the PHP. Implement the AJAX handler using the specification
from Person 2. Implement an internationalised user interface based on the
mockup delivered by Person 1.

I can probably be Person 3, but I don't think I can handle the other two
tasks as well. Any volunteers? Anyone know anyone who might be interested?

-- Tim Starling

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Re: Want to collaborate on writing a feature?

Steve Bennett-4
On 8/25/06, Tim Starling <[hidden email]> wrote:
> Most developers have specialisations -- some of us hate UI design and love
> DB performance optimisation, others don't know any PHP but can speak
> HTML/CSS like a second language. This is a problem for writing features for
> an open source web app -- the nature of the work is cross-disciplinary, but
> the culture encourages individual effort. The result of this is that
> developers are placed under pressure to learn a huge skill set, and that can
> be a disincentive to participation.

I really like this idea. I'd like to help develop MediaWiki, but since
I don't know PHP MySQL it's going to be a learning curve before I
really get started. However, I have a strong interest in user
interface design and would love to colaborate. (Unfortunately,
probably not for this project as I'm about to hit the road for 7 weeks
of continuous travelling - lucky me).


> I have an idea for a feature, and I was wondering if anyone might want to
> collaborate on it. The idea is to display, in a box in the edit window,
> information about who else has the same edit window open. For example, it
> could display each username, along with the amount of time they have been
> idle and the edit summary they have typed if any. The box will periodically
> refresh itself, say once every 10 seconds. At the same time as fetching
> updated data, the client sends back information about how long the user has
> been idle and so on.

Certainly an interesting idea. I have a mild concern about the use of
this feature on users' talk pages (I've already had instances of two
users accusing each other of monitoring my talk page for badmouthing
from the other!!), but it'd be especially nice for other talk pages
which get updated frequently.

If you wanted to take it even further, make it possibly to
automatically resync with the server if someone else saves the page.
It shouldn't be too hard to use a really granular diffing algorithm to
add or remove whole paragraphs, and to just say "no, too hard" if
there are any overlaps in the changes.

> An optional subfeature would be allow the user to remove themselves from the
> box voluntarily, e.g. to signal that they have no interest in actually
> saving the article and that they are just looking at the source.

If you're doing all this in javascript, could you not attempt to treat
them as being in "view source" mode until they actually modify the
source?

> I can probably be Person 3, but I don't think I can handle the other two
> tasks as well. Any volunteers? Anyone know anyone who might be interested?

If you don't find anyone before late October, feel free to give me a yell ;)

Steve
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Re: Want to collaborate on writing a feature?

Ligulem
In reply to this post by Tim Starling
Tim Starling wrote:
>  The idea is to display, in a box in the edit window,
> information about who else has the same edit window open. For example, it
> could display each username, along with the amount of time they have been
> idle and the edit summary they have typed if any.

While technically a nice idea, I'm a bit concerned about privacy.

I for myself do expect that I can edit a page and type anything into the
edit window without anyone else knowing. Not even knowing that I have
this page open. I don't want to publish any info *until* I hit save.

I have several times canceled a talk page post already written into the
edit window (censoring myself). And sometimes I was really glad having
canceled ;)

--Ligulem


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Re: Want to collaborate on writing a feature?

Steve Bennett-4
On 8/25/06, Ligulem <[hidden email]> wrote:
> I for myself do expect that I can edit a page and type anything into the
> edit window without anyone else knowing. Not even knowing that I have
> this page open. I don't want to publish any info *until* I hit save.
>
> I have several times canceled a talk page post already written into the
> edit window (censoring myself). And sometimes I was really glad having
> canceled ;)

Come to think of it, is there any need to display the username? Or at
least, make username-displaying an optional, opt-in feature?

It's certainly happened to me to consider editing articles which, at
save time, I reconsidered and decided I didn't want to be a permanent
part of my editing record. Call me a wuss, sure :)

Steve
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Re: Want to collaborate on writing a feature?

Tim Starling
In reply to this post by Ligulem
Ligulem wrote:

> Tim Starling wrote:
>>  The idea is to display, in a box in the edit window,
>> information about who else has the same edit window open. For example, it
>> could display each username, along with the amount of time they have been
>> idle and the edit summary they have typed if any.
>
> While technically a nice idea, I'm a bit concerned about privacy.
>
> I for myself do expect that I can edit a page and type anything into the
> edit window without anyone else knowing. Not even knowing that I have
> this page open. I don't want to publish any info *until* I hit save.
>
> I have several times canceled a talk page post already written into the
> edit window (censoring myself). And sometimes I was really glad having
> canceled ;)

I feel the same way, which is why I'm not suggesting that we send the actual
text typed into the edit box to the server. Just some meta-information such
as number of characters typed, or an explicitly public summary. Perhaps we
could have a separate textbox where the user can type a message to send to
other people viewing the edit page. Imagine if you could type "I'm busy
rewriting this rubbish stub, don't bother fixing the spelling". Then anyone
else who opened the article from new pages patrol would know to stay away.
It would save a lot of edit conflicts.

-- Tim Starling

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Re: Want to collaborate on writing a feature?

Ligulem
In reply to this post by Steve Bennett-4
Steve Bennett wrote:
> Come to think of it, is there any need to display the username? Or at
> least, make username-displaying an optional, opt-in feature?

The whole feature should be opt-in.

We have the {{inuse}} on en, which can be deliberately set or not.
Problem is, people forget to remove it.

And what about anons? Would we see the IP of someone that hit on edit?
We could then block that IP even before the user saves ;)

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Re: Want to collaborate on writing a feature?

Tim Starling
In reply to this post by Steve Bennett-4
Steve Bennett wrote:

> On 8/25/06, Ligulem <[hidden email]> wrote:
>> I for myself do expect that I can edit a page and type anything into the
>> edit window without anyone else knowing. Not even knowing that I have
>> this page open. I don't want to publish any info *until* I hit save.
>>
>> I have several times canceled a talk page post already written into the
>> edit window (censoring myself). And sometimes I was really glad having
>> canceled ;)
>
> Come to think of it, is there any need to display the username? Or at
> least, make username-displaying an optional, opt-in feature?
>
> It's certainly happened to me to consider editing articles which, at
> save time, I reconsidered and decided I didn't want to be a permanent
> part of my editing record. Call me a wuss, sure :)

Username yes, IP address for anons no. RC patrol can be a lonely task, I
want to make it a little bit more human. Displaying usernames encourages a
sense of community. But like I said in my original post, an opt-out feature
would be nice.

-- Tim Starling

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Re: Want to collaborate on writing a feature?

Steve Bennett-4
In reply to this post by Tim Starling
On 8/25/06, Tim Starling <[hidden email]> wrote:
> It would save a lot of edit conflicts.

If this is the goal, why not consider allowing true section editing
where editing section A doesn't conflict with an edit to section B?
Could be more work though :)

How do you feel about not showing the user's name? Perhaps if they
want to show it, they can type ~~~~ somewhere in the "meta-edit box"?

Also, are you proposing this feature being standard for all editors?
On Wikipedia?

Steve
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Re: Want to collaborate on writing a feature?

Ligulem
In reply to this post by Tim Starling
Tim Starling wrote:
> I feel the same way, which is why I'm not suggesting that we send the actual
> text typed into the edit box to the server. Just some meta-information such
> as number of characters typed, or an explicitly public summary. Perhaps we
> could have a separate textbox where the user can type a message to send to
> other people viewing the edit page. Imagine if you could type "I'm busy
> rewriting this rubbish stub, don't bother fixing the spelling". Then anyone
> else who opened the article from new pages patrol would know to stay away.
> It would save a lot of edit conflicts.

Ok. But you wrote:
... "and the edit summary they have typed if any"

So others could see the edit summary? (Shudder ;)

Maybe an optional message box would be helpful (editable). The message
while editing might not be the same as the edit summary.

Chatting with each other while editing? Like an IRC channel with the
title of the page?




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Re: Want to collaborate on writing a feature?

Steve Bennett-4
In reply to this post by Tim Starling
On 8/25/06, Tim Starling <[hidden email]> wrote:

> Username yes, IP address for anons no. RC patrol can be a lonely task, I
> want to make it a little bit more human. Displaying usernames encourages a
> sense of community. But like I said in my original post, an opt-out feature
> would be nice.

Ah yeah, ok. The difficulty is how to make that opt-out work nicely,
without the user having to "quickly" hit some button if he doesn't
want others to know he's viewing the source or whatever. Hence your
request for a GUI designer ;)

More collaborative editing tools in general might be nice. We see so
much discussion on this list about the few really controversial
articles that get dozens of edits a day that we forget that the vast
majority of Wikipedia is a very quiet place where you rarely bump into
anyone at all.

Steve
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Re: Want to collaborate on writing a feature?

Steve Bennett-4
In reply to this post by Ligulem
On 8/25/06, Ligulem <[hidden email]> wrote:
> Ok. But you wrote:
> ... "and the edit summary they have typed if any"
>
> So others could see the edit summary? (Shudder ;)
>
> Maybe an optional message box would be helpful (editable). The message
> while editing might not be the same as the edit summary.

Two separate messages for one short edit might be a bit overkill.
Dunno about everyone else, but my usual editing sequence goes
something like this:

1. Make a change
2. Type an edit summary and set the watch/minor checkboxes
3. Preview
4. Save or go back to 1.

> Chatting with each other while editing? Like an IRC channel with the
> title of the page?

Some kind of chat features would be kind of cool (but a totally
separate project), bearing in mind that:
- discussing anything "serious" by chat is bad for talk pages as it's
not recorded
- IRC already exists :)

However, it would certainly be useful as not everyone has access to an
IRC client, and it would be more centralised if built into the main
interface.

Steve
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Re: Want to collaborate on writing a feature?

Jay Ashworth-2
In reply to this post by Steve Bennett-4
On Fri, Aug 25, 2006 at 02:45:18PM +0200, Steve Bennett wrote:
> More collaborative editing tools in general might be nice. We see so
> much discussion on this list about the few really controversial
> articles that get dozens of edits a day that we forget that the vast
> majority of Wikipedia is a very quiet place where you rarely bump into
> anyone at all.

And while we're tangentially on the topic of my favorite hobby horse:

Are we *ever* going to get a way to edit ledes without having to lock
the whole page?

(Tim: could your thing show which section they're editing, too?)

Cheers,
-- jra
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Re: Want to collaborate on writing a feature?

Jay Ashworth-2
In reply to this post by Steve Bennett-4
On Fri, Aug 25, 2006 at 02:36:09PM +0200, Steve Bennett wrote:
> On 8/25/06, Tim Starling <[hidden email]> wrote:
> > It would save a lot of edit conflicts.
>
> If this is the goal, why not consider allowing true section editing
> where editing section A doesn't conflict with an edit to section B?
> Could be more work though :)

Color me confused: I thought we'd had *this* for *years*...

Cheers,
-- jra
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Re: Want to collaborate on writing a feature?

Rob Church
On 25/08/06, Jay R. Ashworth <[hidden email]> wrote:
> On Fri, Aug 25, 2006 at 02:36:09PM +0200, Steve Bennett wrote:
> > On 8/25/06, Tim Starling <[hidden email]> wrote:
> > > It would save a lot of edit conflicts.
> >
> > If this is the goal, why not consider allowing true section editing
> > where editing section A doesn't conflict with an edit to section B?
> > Could be more work though :)
>
> Color me confused: I thought we'd had *this* for *years*...

We do, sufficient enough. MediaWiki will attempt to merge edits
(simple merging, we're not talking gratuitous hyper-intelligent stuff)
if it can; I would wager that a lot of edit conflicts are avoided in
this step alone. Of course, if it can't, it throws a conflict. And I
expect sometimes something upsets it, and it throws a conflict for the
sheer hell of it. :)

There's quite a bit that could be done in the edit conflict arena,
though. Three-way merging of edits, anyone? A friendlier conflict UI
would be a damn good start, although I have to admit I'm not sure what
I'd call a "friendlier conflict UI"...I'd have to think on it.

One immediate improvement that someone could make is to have MediaWiki
handle in-section conflicts without "breaking out" and showing both
copies of the full text. Current behaviour means that, e.g. two
editors adding comments in a section on a discussion page who cause an
edit conflict will have to battle with the full text of the
page...which, as we all know, can be quite a considerable whack.


Rob Church
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Re: Want to collaborate on writing a feature?

Tim Starling
In reply to this post by Steve Bennett-4
Steve Bennett wrote:

> On 8/25/06, Ligulem <[hidden email]> wrote:
>> Ok. But you wrote:
>> ... "and the edit summary they have typed if any"
>>
>> So others could see the edit summary? (Shudder ;)
>>
>> Maybe an optional message box would be helpful (editable). The message
>> while editing might not be the same as the edit summary.
>
> Two separate messages for one short edit might be a bit overkill.

If it's too much then don't type it. If you think the feature won't be used
at all, then I think you have another thing coming.

> Dunno about everyone else, but my usual editing sequence goes
> something like this:
>
> 1. Make a change
> 2. Type an edit summary and set the watch/minor checkboxes
> 3. Preview
> 4. Save or go back to 1.

Yes, so does everyone's, that's because we don't have an interactive message
box to type into. Behaviour will change according to features.

Let me also say this: if your typical editing behaviour is to open the edit
box, change some little thing, and save it immediately, then you're one of
the culprits of the edit conflict problem. You're the kind of user that the
"please don't edit this" message is aimed at. Some users want to spend
longer editing and reviewing a change, and they shouldn't be penalised for
their extra dedication to correctness.

>> Chatting with each other while editing? Like an IRC channel with the
>> title of the page?
>
> Some kind of chat features would be kind of cool (but a totally
> separate project), bearing in mind that:
> - discussing anything "serious" by chat is bad for talk pages as it's
> not recorded
> - IRC already exists :)
>
> However, it would certainly be useful as not everyone has access to an
> IRC client, and it would be more centralised if built into the main
> interface.

Enough chit chat, where's my Person 1? I want concrete features and I want
them now. The feature is a simple one, if we can assemble the right skills,
just a few hours' work each. But to get us started, someone needs to make
that UI mockup.

-- Tim Starling

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Re: Want to collaborate on writing a feature?

Rob Church
On 25/08/06, Tim Starling <[hidden email]> wrote:
> Enough chit chat, where's my Person 1? I want concrete features and I want
> them now. The feature is a simple one, if we can assemble the right skills,
> just a few hours' work each. But to get us started, someone needs to make
> that UI mockup.

Tim wants his person one and he wants him/her now! But he's failed to
factor in the importance of promising cookies and fame. Oh, and the
fact that being brisk and abrupt and snappish to a bunch of volunteers
is a bad idea...

You know what "want" did, don't you?

Any road, snotty sarcasm over; I can see this feature enjoying use by
a wide variety of users; there's those who make long cleanup edits to
a page (and you don't really want to duplicate cleanup effort), recent
changes patrol, etc. Unfortunately, my UI skills are still pretty
crap; anything decent I've output is sheer chaos, luck and swearing at
Dreamweaver. One idea, though, might be to shove it all in a nice box
parallel to the top of the edit form; using a not-too-ridiculous font
size (the default, or a few points shaved off it, should do), and
positioning it in a sensible location (it'll be seen there, before the
text is, and will be in the user's view for the first few seconds of
editing, at least) will, hopefully, cause it to be considered useful,
not intrusive.

Is it worth making this a (default on) preference? I can think of
cases or wikis where I wouldn't want to use it, and being able to
switch it off for a few edits would be useful. Should we also,
perhaps, indicate whether the user in question is adding a section
(discussion pages, etc.)?


Rob Church
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Re: Want to collaborate on writing a feature?

Steve Bennett-4
In reply to this post by Tim Starling
On 8/25/06, Tim Starling <[hidden email]> wrote:
> > Two separate messages for one short edit might be a bit overkill.
>
> If it's too much then don't type it. If you think the feature won't be used
> at all, then I think you have another thing coming.

??? where did that come from???

Steve
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Re: Want to collaborate on writing a feature?

Jay Ashworth-2
In reply to this post by Rob Church
On Fri, Aug 25, 2006 at 02:14:03PM +0100, Rob Church wrote:

> > Color me confused: I thought we'd had *this* for *years*...
>
> We do, sufficient enough. MediaWiki will attempt to merge edits
> (simple merging, we're not talking gratuitous hyper-intelligent stuff)
> if it can; I would wager that a lot of edit conflicts are avoided in
> this step alone. Of course, if it can't, it throws a conflict. And I
> expect sometimes something upsets it, and it throws a conflict for the
> sheer hell of it. :)
>
> There's quite a bit that could be done in the edit conflict arena,
> though. Three-way merging of edits, anyone? A friendlier conflict UI
> would be a damn good start, although I have to admit I'm not sure what
> I'd call a "friendlier conflict UI"...I'd have to think on it.
>
> One immediate improvement that someone could make is to have MediaWiki
> handle in-section conflicts without "breaking out" and showing both
> copies of the full text. Current behaviour means that, e.g. two
> editors adding comments in a section on a discussion page who cause an
> edit conflict will have to battle with the full text of the
> page...which, as we all know, can be quite a considerable whack.

Come to think of it, yeah, I guess the Edit Conflict page *does* show
the whole page, doesn't it.  I don't fight that battle too often.

Cheers,
-- jra
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Re: Want to collaborate on writing a feature?

Jay Ashworth-2
In reply to this post by Tim Starling
On Fri, Aug 25, 2006 at 11:16:44PM +1000, Tim Starling wrote:
> If it's too much then don't type it. If you think the feature won't be used
> at all, then I think you have another thing coming.

Ken Jennings says that's "another think coming".  :-)

> > Dunno about everyone else, but my usual editing sequence goes
> > something like this:
> >
> > 1. Make a change
> > 2. Type an edit summary and set the watch/minor checkboxes
> > 3. Preview
> > 4. Save or go back to 1.
>
> Yes, so does everyone's, that's because we don't have an interactive message
> box to type into. Behaviour will change according to features.

Sometimes.  You hope.  :-)

> Let me also say this: if your typical editing behaviour is to open the edit
> box, change some little thing, and save it immediately, then you're one of
> the culprits of the edit conflict problem. You're the kind of user that the
> "please don't edit this" message is aimed at. Some users want to spend
> longer editing and reviewing a change, and they shouldn't be penalised for
> their extra dedication to correctness.

No, but they person fixing one thing shouldn't be penalized, neither,
should they?  Making them *both* happy was, I thought, your target here.

> Enough chit chat, where's my Person 1? I want concrete features and I want
> them now. The feature is a simple one, if we can assemble the right skills,
> just a few hours' work each. But to get us started, someone needs to make
> that UI mockup.

Alas, it's not me.  I'll shut up now.

Cheers,
-- jra
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Re: Want to collaborate on writing a feature?

Jay Ashworth-2
In reply to this post by Rob Church
On Fri, Aug 25, 2006 at 02:25:01PM +0100, Rob Church wrote:

> On 25/08/06, Tim Starling <[hidden email]> wrote:
> > Enough chit chat, where's my Person 1? I want concrete features and I want
> > them now. The feature is a simple one, if we can assemble the right skills,
> > just a few hours' work each. But to get us started, someone needs to make
> > that UI mockup.
>
> Tim wants his person one and he wants him/her now! But he's failed to
> factor in the importance of promising cookies and fame. Oh, and the
> fact that being brisk and abrupt and snappish to a bunch of volunteers
> is a bad idea...
>
> You know what "want" did, don't you?

Turn Robchurch's sense of humor off, temporarily?  :-)

> Any road, snotty sarcasm over; I can see this feature enjoying use by
> a wide variety of users; there's those who make long cleanup edits to
> a page (and you don't really want to duplicate cleanup effort), recent
> changes patrol, etc. Unfortunately, my UI skills are still pretty
> crap; anything decent I've output is sheer chaos, luck and swearing at
> Dreamweaver. One idea, though, might be to shove it all in a nice box
> parallel to the top of the edit form; using a not-too-ridiculous font
> size (the default, or a few points shaved off it, should do), and
> positioning it in a sensible location (it'll be seen there, before the
> text is, and will be in the user's view for the first few seconds of
> editing, at least) will, hopefully, cause it to be considered useful,
> not intrusive.

Pony: while we're working on the edit form, could we please at least
consider putting a LiveJournal inspired "log me in with this edit" box?

> Is it worth making this a (default on) preference? I can think of
> cases or wikis where I wouldn't want to use it, and being able to
> switch it off for a few edits would be useful. Should we also,
> perhaps, indicate whether the user in question is adding a section
> (discussion pages, etc.)?

I suspect that which *way* it defaults should be an installation time/
configuration file option.

Cheers,
-- jra
--
Jay R. Ashworth                                                [hidden email]
Designer                          Baylink                             RFC 2100
Ashworth & Associates        The Things I Think                        '87 e24
St Petersburg FL USA      http://baylink.pitas.com             +1 727 647 1274

        The Internet: We paved paradise, and put up a snarking lot.
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