News and notes
Usability rollout, downtime, admin phishing, Wikimania scholarships and more
Rollout of new user interface to begin in April, includes improved Wikipedia logo
Last week it was announced that the "Vector" skin (example), which has been developed as part of the Usability Initiative and has been in beta test since last August, will replace "Monobook" as the default skin on Wikimedia projects. Deployment will start on Wikimedia Commons on 5 April, and continue on the English Wikipedia in late April. The changes include an improved editing toolbar, relocation of the search box to the top right corner, a simplified layout and a new version of the Wikipedia logo which is "correcting small mistakes and representing new languages" (see e.g. meta:Wikipedia/Logo and earlier Signpost coverage of such issues). More information was provided on the Techblog, in a Q&A and in a discussion on Wikitech-l.
The announcement was covered by The Guardian ("Wikipedia gets a redesign"), on CNET Australia ("Wikipedia to finally get a facelift"), in The Huffington Post ("New Wikipedia Layout 2010: See PICTURES Of The 'Vector' Redesign") and on Wikinews ("Wikipedia and sister projects prepare new, easier interface").
The deployment roughly coincides with the usability project's original conclusion date as projected when it was initiated in January 2009, funded by an $800,000 grant by the Stanton Foundation (see Signpost coverage). Following the success of the last fundraiser and a $2 million grant from Google, the project was recently made permanent as "user experience" (UX) (see Signpost coverage). Other usability improvements such as the template editor or the "outline" (a table of contents allowing easier navigation while editing long articles) are still being tested and will be deployed at a later date.
Server overheating and DNS problems cause global Wikipedia downtime
On Wednesday, 24 March 2010, Wikipedia.org went globally offline for several hours. As explained on the Wikimedia tech blog, an overheating problem at the web site's European data center made it necessary to initiate a standard failover procedure to move the European traffic to the main server cluster in Florida. However, this procedure turned out to be broken, disabling DNS resolution for Wikimedia sites worldwide.
The story was covered by a number of media outlets. Bigtimepeace put together a list of related tweets.
Wikipedia administrator accounts targeted
Administrators on the English Wikipedia received a letter this weekend from "Wikipedia Freedom Fighters" asking them to give up their admin account details for the purposes of "utilis[ing] your account to help rid Wikipedia of the corruption and bureaucracy at every level that continues to plague it to this very day." Slightly different versions of the message were sent to inactive and active administrators. The messages were sent through the special:emailuser function, from a variety of throwaway accounts. The messages seem to have been sent to every administrator on the site, including current staff and Board members who are also administrators.
There was brief discussion, including posts containing the text of the letter, on the wikien-l and Foundation-l mailing lists.
Wikimania Scholarships open
The call for applications for Wikimania Scholarships to attend Wikimania 2010 in Gdansk, Poland (July 9-11) is now open. The Wikimedia Foundation offers Scholarships to pay for selected individuals' round trip travel, accommodations, and registration at the conference.
To apply, complete and submit the application form. For additional information, please visit the Scholarships information and FAQ pages.
Wikimedia Polska report
Wikimedia Polska (Wikimedia Poland) had their annual general assembly meeting this past weekend in Warsaw. The two-day event featured talks and a general business meeting, including a report on the status of the chapter and discussion about the chapter's future. Lectures included topics such as "Learning in Wikipedia and Wikipedia in learning," "Wikipedia and Marketing – Opportunities and Threats," and "Conversion of Wikipedia pages on DAISY Audio Format for the Visually Impaired and Blind." The English-language version of the program can be found .
Elections of chapter officials were also held. The new board is:
- Tomasz Ganicz (Polimerek) – President
- Marek Stelmasik (Masti) – Vicepresident
- Piotr Czerniawski (Szwedzki) – Vicepresident
- Agnieszka Kwiecień (Nova) – Secretary
- Paweł Drozd (Drozdp) – Treasurer
The conference attracted around 100 attendees and was held in the Zachęta National Art Gallery in the heart of Warsaw.
- Soxred93's Edit Counter, a tool analyzing a user's contributions which had been linked since last October on the wiki's contributions page, has been made partially opt-in after privacy concerns were raised about the monthly activity graphs it was displaying. The Toolserver rules allow edit counters, but restrict the kind of temporal behavior analysis done without a user's consent. Some years ago, the daily/weekly graphs of Interiot's edit counter were made opt-in due to legal concerns.
- The deadline for Wikimania 2011 bids to submit their complete information was 30 March; the current bids include Toronto, Canada; Montréal, Canada; Haifa, Israel, and New York City, USA. The Wikimedia jury will now spend four weeks analyzing and determining the suitability of the bids, including meeting with the bidders; all community members are welcome to comment on and ask questions of the bids on their bid talk pages, which are linked to from here.
- Hostnames starting with a "www.", such as "www.en.wikipedia.org" or "www.commons.wikimedia.org" are now redirecting to the corresponding project site (Bug 1698).
- The privacy warning that anonymous users see after clicking the edit button (MediaWiki:Anoneditwarning, advising them that their IP address will be stored in the edit history after clicking "Save page"), currently vanishes after they click "Show preview". In the future, the preview window will also display such a message, configurable at MediaWiki:Anonpreviewwarning. (Bug 21520, added in version r64367. When it will be enabled on Wikipedia is unknown.)
- On his blog, Guillaume Paumier from the Multimedia Usability project examined the ratio of the number of files to the number of active or very active participants on Wikimedia Commons. Paumier found that both numbers have risen sharply in recent years (in contrast to the ratio of articles per participant on the English Wikipedia), and observes that "MediaWiki does not provide dedicated features to help the limited community of participants absorb the inflow of new media files".
This week in history