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The Athena Project: being bold

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By Brandon Harris
Athena as shown at Wikimania 2012
Athena as shown at Wikimania 2012, illustrating the Echo notifications system
Flow as shown at Wikimania 2012
Brandon Harris is the senior designer at the Wikimedia Foundation. The views expressed are those of the author only; responses and critical commentary are invited in the comments section.
The Signpost welcomes proposals for op-eds at our opinion desk.

As Senior Designer of the Wikimedia Foundation, it's part of my job to stimulate conversation about the future of Wikimedia's user experiences. This op-ed is first and foremost intended to do so, although it's not an exact roadmap with deliverables and deadlines. If you'd like to see our goals for the year, please take a look at the 2012–13 goals.

At this year's Wikimania, I gave a talk entitled The Athena Project: Wikipedia in 2015 (slides). The talk broadly outlined several ideas the foundation is exploring for planned features, user interface changes, and workflow improvements. We expect that many of these changes will be welcomed, while others will be controversial.

During the question-and-answer period, I was asked whether people should think of Athena as a skin, a project, or something else. I responded, "You should think of Athena as a kick in the head" – because that's exactly what it's supposed to be: a radical and bold re-examination of some of our sacred cows when it comes to the interface.

Why we need a change

I'm certain many people are asking, "Why do we need a change? Why is this important?" Simply put: the software is a barrier and it is dragging you down.

There's no need to throw up graphs about editor decline or toss around numbers about participation and gender imbalance here – you've either seen them and agree that something needs to be done, or you've dismissed them. Let's skip those arguments and talk about why these changes will benefit the editor community at large and not just a hypothetical group of newbies.

More editors means less work

If we can attract and retain new contributors we'll reduce the overall workload for everyone. How quickly will backlogs disappear if we add even 5,000 new editors who can easily get into the mix?

Better workflows mean less work

I've spent the past year studying the many workflows used on Wikipedia, speaking with hundreds of Wikipedians. I've watched screencasts of editors doing page patrol that filled me with a sense of agony and sympathy for those doing the work. I've watched so many people – people who could be productive, good Wikipedians – quit in frustration simply because using Wikipedia is too hard.

What's the takeaway from all of this? The software (or lack of it) is a barrier. It doesn't do the right things, it makes simple things difficult, and it hides features and information that should be front and center. Did you know that no two page patrollers do the work the same way? That's because the software is so bad that everyone has to make up their own way to work around it and get things done.

We need to revisit these workflows. We need to make it easier to read, contribute, and curate. With better tools come streamlined processes and thus less work.

More bodies means better articles

Increasing the size of our community will naturally adjust the voice of the community. I don't think anyone believes we should be writing only from one or two points of view – featured articles are so good precisely because they are edited by so many. Bringing on more skilled editors will create a more accurate encyclopedia. It means that the voice of Wikipedia is more powerful by virtue of being diverse. The sum of our parts becomes greater than the whole.

Changes you should expect to see

Let's face it: our interface would feel right at home in the year 2002. However, we find ourselves rapidly moving towards 2013. Our editors and readers deserve a modern interface with modern tools. The Visual Editor is one project to help make this a reality. Here are several others:

A project to create a singular design language for all foundation projects going forward. This is needed because the design team has grown significantly and we all have our own styles. Agora is about a common color palette, a common icon set, and common design patterns, so we can speak with one voice. We hope the greater community will want to adopt this voice as well.
Let's bring modern, real-time notifications to the projects. Echo is designed to drive interactions across all wikis in all languages. If someone leaves you a message on your talk page on Commons, you'll be notified on the English Wikipedia (or wherever you are currently working). You can see a working prototype of Echo on now.
This is a replacement for user talk-pages. Our research has shown that user-to-user communication is one of the biggest hurdles for the participation for new editors. Flow will solve handfuls of problems, such as common questions: when someone posts to my talk, do I respond on my talk page or on theirs? How do they get notified that it happened?
The Athena Skin
The skin focuses on letting people to do what they're trying to do. It emphasizes content – what most of our users want to see – and supports the concept of different "modes" of interaction. Athena will be the end result of several iterations of user-focused design. I should point out that the various mockup screens you may find are intended not as the final product, but to spark imagination and conversation. We want this to be a vibrant process.
Mobile (including tablets)
Our mobile experience is becoming much better for readers. In fact, it was by examining how we could go about adding contribution features to the mobile site that many of our design problems moved directly into the light. Mobile forces us to focus on reducing complexity, something we desperately need.
Global Profile
Structured information about you, your skills, and your contributions will elevate your interest graph. This includes things like tracking and sharing your skills and talents as well as memberships in groups and wiki projects. It focuses on your contributions and how you are bound to the projects.
Workflow Modes
If we step back, it becomes obvious that people interact with Wikipedia in one of three "modes" of operation: reading, editing/contributing, and curating/patrolling. We're going to make these modes more obvious and focused. You can see the beginning of this with the introduction of our new Page Curation feature, which focuses on the activity of new-page patrolling at first, but will eventually grow into a larger suite of tools.

Wikipedia is not and will not be Facebook

Athena as shown at Wikimania 2012, showing GlobalProfile

The fear that Wikipedia will turn into a social networking site is one I hear fairly often. However, I don't see that as a real threat: there's a distinction between becoming a social network and having modern software to support the building of an encyclopedia.

Wikis are collaborative software engines, which makes them social software – and social networks – by definition. What makes us different from other social networks is our purpose. Sites like Facebook and Twitter are motivated by making connections between people, but we are motivated by producing something: the greatest encyclopedia ever to exist. To do that, we have to connect people with tasks they are interested in.

For us, features like Echo, Flow, and Global Profile will be used to make collaboration easier and faster. They'll do this by tying interest graphs together. Imagine a day when the software will detect a "Needs sources" tag on World War II, and members of WikiProject Military History can be automatically notified in real time if they want, without having to go check their watchlist?

How this serves the Mission

Imagine a world in which every single human being can freely share in the sum of all knowledge.

What a powerful idea that is. The Mission (and I always capitalize it) is what's important here. We are here to educate, to open minds, to make the world a better place. I believe in this so much that I had it tattooed on my arm.

Indirectly, our work will do magnificent things. By educating the people of the world, we are sparking the growth of a new era in thinking. We speak to genius-level intellects who have no access to formal education. Maybe one of them will cure cancer, or discover ways for faster-than-light travel, or develop new ways of philosophical thinking that change the world? We can change the course of history. Right here. Today.

We do this by showcasing our content. By emphasising it, by curating it, by editing it. By being proud of it.

To do this, we must make the software easier to use. We must make it easier to collaborate, to read, to contribute, to curate.

Which means we have to change. Sadly, change is difficult and often painful. The good news is that after a time of chrysalis, we'll emerge as something better.

It's time to become a butterfly.

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Initial comments

I thought the new design looks kinda like Encarta. I like Encarta, but nothing new. That's me though... --Rochelimit (talk) 09:44, 8 August 2012 (UTC)[reply]

This future will be great. Trizek from FR 09:26, 7 August 2012 (UTC)[reply]

That's a damn fine manifesto. Br'er Rabbit (talk) 09:44, 7 August 2012 (UTC)[reply]

Thanks. Jean-Fred (talk) 10:05, 7 August 2012 (UTC)[reply]

Is Athena going to explain WP:5P to 5,000 new editors, or is that not the WMF's problem? How will Athena make working with references easier? How will Athena help avoid good editors being driven away by a never-ending stream of POV warriors (that's why they leave—it's not a software problem)? Johnuniq (talk) 10:12, 7 August 2012 (UTC)[reply]

Sure it may be bold, but where's the bit about reverting and discussing (something the WMF traditionally sucks at)? As far as I can tell, this piece is no more than blatant, self-justifying WMF propaganda trying to lay groundwork for the inevitable forced deployment of these "features" whether the community wants them or not.
To the WMF: get your heads out of the clouds and in to the sewers. MER-C 10:18, 7 August 2012 (UTC)[reply]
To MER-C: they've at least got a foot in there. benzband (talk) 10:51, 7 August 2012 (UTC)[reply]
No, they haven't. Remember, NPF is something essentially forced down our throats because the WMF didn't like WP:ACTRIAL. MER-C 12:17, 7 August 2012 (UTC)[reply]
Restriction page creation to autoconfirmed users is not a good idea and goes against the very ethos of the project. Powers T 14:04, 7 August 2012 (UTC)[reply]
If that's the case, you should start a motion to change the motto to "Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia where anyone can dump heaping piles of crap and expect a few overworked volunteers to clean up after it". The Blade of the Northern Lights (話して下さい) 22:15, 7 August 2012 (UTC)[reply]
I have told you guys before, if the WMF won't support you in NPP, then refuse to do it. Let Wikipedia fill up with pages and pages of random nonsense. Then, sit back and watch and wait for the WMF to back down. They will. Cla68 (talk) 00:33, 8 August 2012 (UTC)[reply]
That's an interesting perspective on life. The WMF is not a company trying to sell Wikipedia, hence the power balances are different from a typical worker/evil corporate overload, so such tactics have different effects. Bawolff (talk) 14:51, 8 August 2012 (UTC)[reply]
I think many of these proposed changes—Flow, most of all—are long overdue. And yes, having a better reference management system, preferably one working with a Wikidata integrated bibliographic database, would be at the top of my list of requested features. —Ruud 12:01, 7 August 2012 (UTC)[reply]

My first thought when I saw the headline in the email: Wow, Project Athena is back?  « Saper // @talk »  11:42, 7 August 2012 (UTC)[reply]

  • Who cares about backlogs? Is there a deadline to finish Wikipedias ? Are we late in that respect? change is good if it solves problesm Changing just for the sake of changing is just a waste of everyone's time. Meodudlye (talk) 11:54, 7 August 2012 (UTC)[reply]

Some random first responses to this op-ed:

  1. This is definitely bold thinking and I applaud that. I also applaud the sticking some mockups out there just to see what people think. That is how we work out what sort of things people do and don't like the look of.
  2. I do have a "don’t make it like Facebook" fear but it is different from that described by Brandon. I actually don't like the Facebook interface. I often wish it could be more like Wikipedia. Timeline, especially, sucks big time. If we can "borrow" some features from Facebook that improve the MediaWiki interface then great. But if people assume it is better just because it is “modern”, that is where it will get annoying.
  3. I am glad that curation is getting some attention. Even the name curation ... I only first saw that in relation to Wikipedia the other day, when Okeyes mentioned the curation toolbar. If we can make that easier that will be a massive boon. But we have to remember that there are a lot of tools that people have developed to help with this. Things like WP:Twinkle. Ideally any new work will not break these old tools. I know that will not be possible in some cases. The most important thing is that the new tools will also be modable. The modability of MediaWiki is one reason it is so successful.
  4. Here's a bold thought of my own. I throw it out there in the same spirit - expecting it to be challenged and hoping that the ensuing dialogue will be productive. The priority for foundation's developers is not so much the improvement the user experience for Wikimedia wikis, it is the improvement of the development experience for the independent developers, enabling them to code and collaborate more effectively.

Yaris678 (talk) 12:28, 7 August 2012 (UTC)[reply]

In relation to my 4th point above, I think moving to git is an excellent step in terms of making things more friendly for developers of Mediawiki itself. More stuff in that area would be good... and more stuff to help people who develop stuff that bolts on to MediaWiki in various ways, through JavaScript, the API etc. Yaris678 (talk) 17:34, 7 August 2012 (UTC)[reply]
The friendliness to (volunteer) developers of moving to git is debatable... Bawolff (talk) 14:51, 8 August 2012 (UTC)[reply]
  • It's gonna be hard to get used to (To me), but it looks great! gtajaxoxo ©® 12:47, 7 August 2012 (UTC)[reply]
  • Imagine a world in which every single human being can freely share in the sum of all knowledge. This is why we are here. I'd like to thank Brandon for putting his heart and soul in to making Wikimedia projects better for everybody. Thanks Brandon. (talk) 13:31, 7 August 2012 (UTC)[reply]
  • I eagerly await these changes and would like to know how I can help make them happen. All WMF projects will benefit from these radical changes. Even if it drives away a few stick-in-the-muds, I think the benefit will be worth the cost. Powers T 14:04, 7 August 2012 (UTC)[reply]
  • Is there going to be an opt-out on this? I'd much prefer the current style over this FB-esque thing. Toa Nidhiki05 14:58, 7 August 2012 (UTC)[reply]
    • The impression from the design docs is this is going to be an ordinary skin. If so, you would be able to change it in your preferences (Just like you can go back to Monobook if you don't like vector, or even use the "clasic" skin if you miss the ugliness of Wikipedia from way way back in the day). Bawolff (talk) 14:51, 8 August 2012 (UTC)[reply]
    • Depends what you mean by "this". For instance, if you mean mw:Echo and mw:Flow, these are new features so there's no "opt-out" per se and they'd have to work with the existing skins (though tracking the mw:Page Curation introduction, I'd imagine UserTalk won't go away when Flow hits). As for the "Athena skin" then the answer would be to simply set your skin back to Vector or Monobook. The WMF does not have the Athena skin nor Global Profile in-plan for 2012-13 so all talk there is theoretical. - tychay (tchay@wikimedia) (talk) 01:06, 10 August 2012 (UTC)[reply]
  • Like a lot of other editors, I have mixed feelings toward this. There are changes which are certainly long-overdue: the showcased "Flow" is pretty much the standard for Internet commenting everywhere else, and talk pages are needless annoying to work with--the article mentions the question of whether to respond on your own talk page or another person's, for example. And then there's that thing where comments to comments to commends mean the discussion slides to the right of the page as more colons get added, until some brave soul returns to the left edge of the page. It's silly and needs to change. The visual editor is also useful; I think learning the intricacies of wiki code is what puts off a lot of people. Sure, using the code is useful, and the visual editor can never replace it. But if a new editor wants to make a simple change to an article, doing so should be simple as well, or they won't bother. The "global profile" and whatnot seem less useful to me, and I'm worried Wikipedia could become too social. Currently, the website revolves around the encyclopedia, with user interaction really being secondary--that stimulates improving the encyclopedia. That said, it's true some things are hidden away and need to be more visible: does anyone remember when they first discovered there was such a thing as the Help: and Wikipedia: namespaces? Knight of Truth (talk) 16:36, 7 August 2012 (UTC)[reply]
    • There is a peculiar delusion that "If we can attract and retain new contributors we'll reduce the overall workload for everyone." If we add more editors they will make a proportionate share of new problems. What we need is not simply more editors, but a greater proportion of high-quality editors. We can obtain them by trying to attract new editors likely to be of high quality, and also by improving the quality of the existing editors. To the extent we add social features, to the extent we look like a networking site, we will tend to attract editors who are likely to spend proportionately more time on social features, not article improvement. The only social features we should consider are those of direct positive function to the encyclopedia. We want the people who don't join networking sites, but do join productive projects. DGG ( talk ) 18:14, 7 August 2012 (UTC)[reply]
      • Agreed, this "any editor is a good editor" belief the WMF seems to hold is a bit naive (although there probably isn't enough to empirical data to prove of disprove that claim conclusively). I do think that some automated tools that make it easier to run more WikiProjects as effectively as WikiProject Mathematics or WikiProject Military history, both—probably not coincidentally—quite social projects, would be a very good thing. Making it easier to create an "I like ponies and unicorns and this is my pet hamster" user page, probably not. On the other hand, if the social features ended up being more like LinkedIn than Facebook, than perhaps they could help attract high-quality editors? I wouldn't be surprised if some are currently turned off by our current resemblance to GeoCities and MySpace. —Ruud 18:38, 7 August 2012 (UTC)[reply]
        • Refer to Erik's talk about WikiProjects to find out that the deputy director of the WMF (at least) agrees with you. ;-) The issue is in order to create a "purpose-driven" focus find that mediawiki is missing key components necessary to create good editors and successful and effective wikiprojects. For example: notifications and messaging. That's why those were prioritized for 2012-13. :-) - tychay (tchay@wikimedia) (talk) 01:17, 10 August 2012 (UTC)[reply]
          • i respectfully disagree, the Wikipedia:Teahouse/Pilot report clearly indicates: invited new editors are 2x more productive; new editors that interact socially at teahouse are 10x more productive.[1] maybe we can train new editors using social features. too bad we can't train old editors. however, i agree that we will improve article space only by editing there. it's the current editors who persist in tag-spamming and taunting on talk. a higher scrap rate; higher barrier to entry is not the same thing as higher quality. "Social the course of wiki-Empire Takes Its Way".
          • but one disagreement, it's not more Kirk, less Spock; but more Deanna Troi less Spock. Slowking4 †@1₭ 21:42, 10 August 2012 (UTC)[reply]
            • The Teahouse proves the point. It's an effective way to make editors more productive: right now people need to be informed of the existence of teahouse which is currently done through a set of manually run scripts on the toolserver, they need to interact via talk page conventions currently. Both the former and the latter would benefit from Notifications and Messaging. :-) - tychay (tchay@wikimedia) (talk) 05:21, 20 August 2012 (UTC)[reply]
  • Thanks for doing this. Wikipedia at the moment looks like something from the pre-CSS era, really. Will the change be gradual or will there be a sudden break? The latter scenario concerns me very much. The last thing we would want is a mass Digg-style exodus.
I am generally one who is surprised that so many people have mixed feelings about this sort of change. A redesign of the interface is long overdue. Usually one can safely assume that any website that has screen-width main text is from 2003 and contains nothing new of interest. Wikipedia is the odd exception. The mockups look fantastic.
But there's one thing that I would urge designers to avoid, or at least provide an opt-out for: the avatars in the discussions. Discussions on Wikipedia get quite long very easily, and take up lots of vertical space. Essential are both one-liners like "Done" and extended arguments in favor or against of some motion. Please do not bloat talk pages with a fancy box around every comment and an avatar to ensure a minimum height for every little comment. See reddit, a high-traffic, rapidly-growing site that still has a very plain text-only comments interface.
Finally, please do not follow Facebook in making things impossible to find after they are more than 2 hours old. I think one reason people appreciate static interfaces is that you always know where to find something, even if it's 6 years old. I am all for a notification system, but the name "Echo" worries me just a bit. I'd hate to see Wikipedia become a dynamic chamber of ephemeral echoes. Leonxlin (talk) 01:22, 8 August 2012 (UTC)[reply]
Just for clarity, the name "Echo" was chosen because the idea was that notifications would "echo" between various wikis and projects. --Jorm (WMF) (talk) 01:27, 8 August 2012 (UTC)[reply]

Looks easy enough for my mother to use. Marcus Qwertyus (talk) 10:48, 10 August 2012 (UTC)[reply]

It's a welcome change, I honestly didn't like the editing functions on Wikipedia. I guess I am use to other editors but still a bold move in the right direction, HOWEVER you must not alienate your old userbase. Toggle system would be nice if users want to revert to the old look. Dfg (talk) 14:56, 13 August 2012 (UTC)[reply]

  • Broadly speaking, I agree with the honourable DGG; but "high-quality editors" misses an important distinction. We really need more new editors who would be good at building high-quality content. This is not the same group as new editors who would be good at adapting to a slightly awkward old UI. Experienced editors who comment on threads like this already know how our existing UI works and already instinctively follow our existing conversational norms - but that isn't necessarily the case with new editors. I've seen plenty who get a bit lost/confused, including some who are apparently SMEs on their respective topics, and there are surely more who are deterred altogether. bobrayner (talk) 10:28, 14 August 2012 (UTC)[reply]

Where is the research?

Where is the research that supports development and implementation of this new feature? Where is the survey data, end-user trials, and marketing research? Where is the business plan? Has any of this been done? Cla68 (talk) 00:39, 8 August 2012 (UTC)[reply]

OOC, what exactly are you asking for here? Research into the need for a redesign? Ed [talk] [majestic titan] 06:23, 8 August 2012 (UTC)[reply]
Yup. Before expending funds on a project, and before attempting to implement it, there needs to be a clearly defined requirement or deficiency, supported by research and data. Otherwise, it's just busywork with the hope that it will produce something worthwhile. Cla68 (talk) 00:21, 9 August 2012 (UTC)[reply]

Some of you have seen this site via the Wikimedia-I mailing list, but has also taken on the challenge of redesigning all of the WMF's sites. Some of the ideas there are quite interesting—although I doubt we'd get rid of the logo!—but many dovetail well with the Athena Project. Ed [talk] [majestic titan] 06:23, 8 August 2012 (UTC)[reply]

Related: Wikipedia:Unsolicited redesigns. Steven Walling • talk 22:25, 8 August 2012 (UTC)[reply]
+1 Marcus Qwertyus (talk) 10:48, 10 August 2012 (UTC)[reply]


In retrospect, this piece is a bit of a PR showpiece that lacks the in-depth critical scrutiny journalism might provide; but that's not always possible at the Signpost because journalism is labour-intensive and we don't have enough hands on deck.

DGG and Ruud hit the nail on the head. And I have to say that I'm generally disappointed in the WMF's tech department—both its output and its priorities.

The more editors the merrier mindset of the foundation is very damaging. Tony (talk) 11:41, 8 August 2012 (UTC)[reply]

This is an Op-Ed. Since when do Op-Ed's involve the "in-depth critical scrutiny journalism might provide". Bawolff (talk) 14:51, 8 August 2012 (UTC)[reply]
The "most people are incompetent" mindset is even more damaging. Powers T 15:33, 8 August 2012 (UTC)[reply]
Would you elaborate on this? --MZMcBride (talk) 21:51, 10 August 2012 (UTC)[reply]
The only way I can see that "the more the merrier" could be damaging, as Tony contends, is if the "more" in question would be a net subtrahend from the project. Presumably that would primarily be the case if a majority of the potential new editors were considered incompetent to contribute. If they were competent to contribute, how could trying to get more of them to contribute be damaging? Powers T 00:18, 22 August 2012 (UTC)[reply]


I'd love for there to be an opt-out feature for this. Wikipedia shouldn't become like Facebook and, if it does, it should at least give editors that like the current layout the option to avoid the new one (as opposed to Facebook which forced Timeline down everyone's throats). Toa Nidhiki05 14:42, 8 August 2012 (UTC)[reply]

Which of the 6 or 7 features proposed here are you referring to exactly? For example, for Flow there are some reasons given at mw:Flow#Elimination of User Talk on why it would technically be very difficult to allow some users to keep their old-style talk pages. —Ruud 14:58, 8 August 2012 (UTC)[reply]
Pretty much all of it, with the exception of the idea of Global Profile page. That's a good idea. I'm already on Facebook and Google+, I don't need another one. No offense to those who designed this but I like the current set-up and I really don't want to have to learn to edit again. I'm a content editor, that's what I focus on, and I'd much rather be making content and improving articles than having to deal with and navigate through an entirely new interface.
As for Flow, I'm not sure how you intend to keep all the information while getting rid of talk pages - there is a heap of valuable information that would be needed for future issues such as Arbitration cases or RfA/RfB/RfPs. Toa Nidhiki05 15:26, 8 August 2012 (UTC)[reply]
Good point! Talk pages must be archived even if superseded by Flow documents, but I believe it is best to voice this concern on mw:Flow#Elimination of User Talk so these considerations aren't missed when Flow gets built - tychay (tchay@wikimedia) (talk) 01:23, 10 August 2012 (UTC)[reply]

I also view this with considerable alarm. This is a text-based project and it isn't primarily about connecting with people. Talk pages are ancillary. It's already disturbing enough to have that orange banner go off; solving the minor problem of "where should I respond" by forcing me into a social media experience is going to impede my writing. Hello - that's what we do here. And unlike Toa Nidhiki05, I don't want someone deciding what my userpage should look like, especially not what it should look like across all Wikimedia projects. I'm not here to raise my profile, for goodness' sake! I'm here to improve and write encyclopedia articles! Yngvadottir (talk) 18:31, 8 August 2012 (UTC)[reply]

Huh, I thought the global profile was just a main profile account to appear on all wikis. I didn't click on the link and now that I did that isn't a good idea either. Toa Nidhiki05 18:36, 8 August 2012 (UTC)[reply]
Global Profile is not planned to be built by the WMF for 2012-13. I recommend you provide input on mw:Talk:GlobalProfile/design sometime before 2014 ;-) - tychay (tchay@wikimedia) (talk) 01:26, 10 August 2012 (UTC)[reply]
What mystifies me here is the idea that Wikipedia is a "text-based project" and not "primarily about connecting with people." While we're obviously not here to connect people, the sentiment suggests that Wikipedia has become a singular society, devoid of collaboration. When did this happen? Social interaction is a cornerstone of Wikipedia. For examples, WikiProjects exist to bring like-minded editors together in a casual, social atmosphere to assist in the development of articles, and featured articles wouldn't exist without the social iterations inherent in a FAC. Without a significant amount of social interaction, we wouldn't be anywhere near where we are today.
As such, the idea of a 'global profile' intrigues me, in that it could (potentially) fulfill the role of WikiProjects on a global scale. Through it, I could quite possibly find someone in Brazil who is just as interested in South American battleships as I am – yet in the current system of segregated projects thanks to language barriers, I am far more likely to never find this mythical person. Ed [talk] [majestic titan] 21:23, 10 August 2012 (UTC)[reply]
I think you failed to notice the word "primarily" :-) Yes, some editors love wikiprojects and even consider them vital to Wikipedia; but most of them appear to be moribund, so I'm apparently not alone in not liking them :-) Chacun à son goût. The fact remains that what we are fundamentally here for is to write articles; which are fundamentally text. The collaboration - however it happens, and most editors, including those of us most at ease with collaborative writing, will never be involved at FAC, simply because FAC is a very specific, competitive kind of endeavor - has the same goal as solo gnoming: the production and improvement of articles. Hence, as I say, the social interactions are ancillary. I don't think that's the same as suggesting Wikipedia has become a solo activity, or even as suggesting we all work in the same way. In my view, one of the strengths of the wiki model is that it facilitates collaboration between people with very different mindsets and ways of working. A visual text editor as an alternative to wikicode - something the project has been moving toward providing from the beginning - would be helpful. A structure that imposes a particular style of work/communication would be detrimental. We saw this with Vector, which got in the way of the ways in which many of us keyboard here. We saw it again recently with the changes to the Watchlist display. Unless people for whom these are impediments can keep out of them, they will impede those people, and therefore accomplish the opposite of the desired objective. Which is enabling every kind of constructive editor to help write an encyclopedia. Yngvadottir (talk) 17:09, 11 August 2012 (UTC)[reply]


I did a search for 'Athena' on the mw:Wikimedia_Engineering/2012-13_Goals 2012-13_goals link and found nothing. What are some goals and dates for alpha, beta releases or even development/research sprints? Also, how can we be sure some of these projects don't end up like LiquidThreads that was abandoned. (talk) 17:25, 8 August 2012 (UTC)[reply]

Firstly, try reading the first sentence of the op-ed "As Senior Designer of the Wikimedia Foundation, it's part of my job to stimulate conversation about the future of Wikimedia's user experiences. This op-ed is first and foremost intended to do so, although it's not an exact roadmap with deliverables and deadlines."
Secondly, I am sure that there are things that can be learnt from the LiquidThreads experience. That involves thinking about it. Not setting goals and dates before we've even worked out what we want to do.
Yaris678 (talk) 11:40, 9 August 2012 (UTC)[reply]
Athena skin is not under 2012-13. Visual Editor, Echo, Flow, and mobile contribs (mentioned in the article) are. As for avoiding a repeat of LiquidThreads, the WMF is learning a lot. I'd look to more recent projects like mw:Page Curation or mw:Article_feedback/Version_5. I hope at least - tychay (tchay@wikimedia) (talk) 01:31, 10 August 2012 (UTC)[reply]

With my experience in showing and explaining Wikipedia to newbies, I can only support this mission. We don't just make editing more or less impossible to most people - skilled Internet users who even can edit find our user interface annoying and ridiculous. Ziko (talk) 22:22, 9 August 2012 (UTC)[reply]

Designers proposal

Here is a visual proposal of other designers Wikipedia Redefined. --Tsaorin (talk) 00:01, 9 August 2012 (UTC)[reply]

Aye, you seem to have missed the section above titled :-) --MZMcBride (talk) 21:50, 10 August 2012 (UTC)[reply]

Not Facebook, more like Gaia

First off, you link us to something called an Interest Graph: a crappy little article, full of inappropriate capitalization and written in the second person!!!! Then I read that you want to set up features to clutter my "Global Profile" with not only avatars but "accomplishment badges, gratitude awards, and reputation metrics". How sparkly! How shiny! How unprofessional and undignified and unsuited to anybody over the age of 11! --Orange Mike | Talk 15:39, 9 August 2012 (UTC)[reply]

As opposed to multiple exclamation marks, which everyone over 11 agrees is the sign of professionalism.  :-)
BTW, I think he was talking about the concept of the interest graph, which may be relevant to thoughts on how to improve Wikipedia. The article on the subject was linked to because it explains the subject, rather than because it was a shining example of appropriate capitalisation.
Yaris678 (talk) 16:19, 9 August 2012 (UTC)[reply]

On the topic of Echo, I don't think the drop-down notification system is an ideal solution. If possible, you should avoid covering the content of a page with a notification tray. I suggest a vertical, expanding sidebar, that reflows the content of the main page. A user, if they so chose, could leave the notification tray expanded or collapsed. This may be a comment for the Echo page, though, I'm not certain. Kalus (talk) 14:21, 13 August 2012 (UTC)[reply]

Looks a lot like Wikia

It really does, but I'm not sure if this is for the better. I always appreciated the somewhat formal, but not too formal, design that Wikipedia has right now, and the way this is going, it looks like a social network. Thoughts? Thekillerpenguin (talk) 21:20, 9 August 2012 (UTC)[reply]

Yes, the Wikimedia Foundation is currently in the process of (attempted) Wikiafication of the site. --MZMcBride (talk) 21:48, 10 August 2012 (UTC)[reply]
Ugg, at this rate, there will be no difference from Wikipedia and Wikia. I don't really think that Wikiafication is going to work too well. Well, I hope the monobook/vector skins will still be there, as I think the concept interface is, well, to flashy. Thekillerpenguin (talk) 17:28, 11 August 2012 (UTC)[reply]

Response in next week's issue?

Hi. I've suggested publishing a counter-op-ed here. --MZMcBride (talk) 21:53, 10 August 2012 (UTC)[reply]

That's a great idea. There is obviously a large segment of the community that does not like this idea and they need a voice too. Toa Nidhiki05 22:23, 10 August 2012 (UTC)[reply]
Excellent, please do respond. I have thought of adding a rant here to explain how the WMF is acting like all bureaucracies do, but I didn't bother as my comments would be lost and I'm too lazy to follow all the WMF developments so I don't know the full story. My feeling is that the WMF needs "measurable" outcomes, and only trivial things can be measured in practice (I know there are hundreds of people doing what they hope is serious research, but I'm pretty confident that they are mostly superficial). The most easily understood quantity is number of active editors, and it's the most easily measurable, so the WMF gets staff who excitedly aim to improve the project by getting more editors—whether the new editors are a benefit or a hindrance is not their problem since an increasing number means the staffer has succeeded; it does not matter whether the new editors are just adding nonsense that tired regulars have to remove. Stuff like mw:Flow is simply astonishing: we read that Flow must allow for various stuff, but no mention that it must allow easy removal of inappropriate comments, and easy collapsing and easy deletion of inappropriate threads, and easy editing of thread titles—and that must be easily achieved by just about anyone (possibly restrict to rollbackers and above, but certainly not admins only). My comment at "10:12, 7 August" above suggests we need serious development effort with things like referencing, but what is needed more than anything is a method to keep good editors by reducing the daily grind of dealing with POV warriors. Johnuniq (talk) 00:20, 11 August 2012 (UTC)[reply]
Thank you both for your support.
I started a draft at Wikipedia:Wikipedia Signpost/2012-08-20/Op-ed. Please feel free to help out if you have the time and inclination.
I included some discussion of the anti-abuse features not being thought through/implemented from the start. The writing is somewhat weak currently and the piece itself needs a bit more time to develop. You can see the general idea of where I'm headed, though. (I'd originally hoped to get this finished today, but the op-ed needs more thought and more time to allow it to grow sharper teeth, I think.) --MZMcBride (talk) 21:45, 12 August 2012 (UTC)[reply]
That's excellent, thanks. I'm watching and will try to contribute. I don't know how (without bloat and possibly an overly whining style), but I would like to mention Flow as an example of a feature that may be dropped on the community without proper consultation, and which may introduce yet more of the abuse you mentioned. Johnuniq (talk) 02:08, 13 August 2012 (UTC)[reply]

Response now at Wikipedia:Wikipedia Signpost/2012-08-20/Response Yaris678 (talk) 18:04, 13 August 2012 (UTC)[reply]

  • ::: Wow, that sounds pretty bad to me, unfortunately. What about privacy? What about people who want to contribute to the furtherance of human knowledge without getting involved in social systems? Will we be sidelined? — Preceding unsigned comment added by Ghooster (talkcontribs) 21:37, 17 June 2013 (UTC)[reply]


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