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Press Releases

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The dream that died: Erik Möller and the WMF’s decade-long struggle for the perfect discussion system

 

By Scott Martin. Scott began editing the English Wikipedia in November 2002, and became an administrator in September 2007. He was so disgusted with its management at the time of writing this piece that he resigned his administrator status to take an indefinite break from editing.

 

 

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The Wikimedia Foundation (WMF) has, in the last few years, embarked upon a number of major engineering projects intended to modernize aspects of its increasingly dated user interface, with the aim of attracting new participants to the ailing encyclopedia project. Referred to internally by the WMF as “Editor Engagement”, these have so far included VisualEditor, a “what you see is what you get” text editor, and Media Viewer. Both were foisted upon a largely unwilling audience of volunteer editors in an extremely unfinished and bug-laden state, leading to large amounts of discord and the generation of any amount of bad will towards the WMF’s “rock star” developers. The latest addition to the WMF’s hall of software fame is Flow, which looks to replace the complex — yet, to most editors of the WMF’s projects, familiar — method for editors to discuss changes in Wikipedia articles. The WMF plans to supersede the old, familiar method, “wiki text” editing of “talk pages”, with a threaded discussion system more akin to that seen in web forums, or the comments section on blogs and news sites. This decision has been no stranger to controversy, attracting much opprobrium from established editors who both see the existing system as good enough to get things done, and have no confidence in the WMF’s programmers after the disastrous experiences of earlier “flagship” projects.

Flow, however, is not the first time that the WMF has embarked on this particular road. For

…continue reading The dream that died: Erik Möller and the WMF’s decade-long struggle for the perfect discussion system

Trouble at Jimmy Wales’ Talk Page

By Gregory Kohs and Andreas Kolbe

Only weeks after Wikipedia editors from around the globe gathered for a happy and uplifting Wikimania 2014 rally in London, many long-time active editors of Wikipedia began expressing their rage August 29, on the Talk page of Wikipedia’s co-founder, Jimmy Wales. At the Wikimania summit, unaware of the soon-to-be ironic angle of his comments, Wales gave a closing speech that dreamt of building the Wikipedia “community up into a more fabulous, fun-loving environment”, and cherished “love of each other, love of the project, love of life; love of the spirit of what we’re trying to accomplish”. Today, that spirit of love seems entirely gone from the discussions swirling around Wales.

The source of anger

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Jimmy

Hundreds of the most active Wikipedians are in a state of near-revolt over a MediaViewer software feature that the Wikimedia Foundation (WMF) implemented on Wikipedia recently. It opens photos on a black background that hides much of the meta information that Wikipedians typically want to see about an image. The MediaViewer had so many bugs and caused so many problems for active editors, some Wikipedia administrators began to take steps to override the software extension. That prompted the Deputy Director of the Foundation, Erik Moeller (who has his own curious history of pontificating about child pornography), to install a sort of lock on Wikipedia’s software called “Superprotect”. This enraged so many Wikipedians that even the German Wikipedia community (Moeller is a native German) voted six to one against the Superprotect installation.

Jimmy Wales eventually tried to calm everyone down by expressing his unfailing support for MediaViewer, but that just rattled users even more. They called Wales to task, saying things

…continue reading Trouble at Jimmy Wales’ Talk Page