How to merge improvements?

This Tuesday I went as usual to the Bits & Bugs computer geek meeting in Erlangen. Like several times before Maha, Blackwing, me and several others were debating on recent changes in Wikipedia.

Maha told from the last Wikipedia workshop and get-together in Cologne. It must have been a great success. People were exchanging efficiently and in a good atmosphere ideas, tipps and tricks how to do certain things in Wikimedia projects and in the underlying MediaWiki software in general and did create quite some new content.

Blackwing however couldn’t resist making some remarks that the sun is not always shining so bright and started with a larger slightly heated debate about his recent Wikipedia experience. His view was quite the contrary.

He was basically complaining that Wikipedia has such a great potential but that the underlying technology does encumber Wikipedia and Wikimedia as a whole. He was especially refering to server outages and that there are in fact people out there that have lots of knowledge on database management (the main Wikimedia performance bottleneck are the database servers) and who would volunteer and seem to know quite in detail how to speed up the database structure. He named a few issues like the current gzipped storage in MySQL and several ideas how to reduce the number of database calls in order to generate a web page a user is browsing (the red and blue links recursion problem for example). He said that that he and several others did speak to Wikimedia developers but did not recieve much positive feedback out of several reasons and were thus quite frustrated. He also told that there are people that even have just done a restructuring of Wikipedia database dumps and wrote a HTML output engine for it, for example the people of the German language read-only Wikpedia mirror (I don’t like the user interface there as it is IMHO really ugly embedded into the main freenet design but it is indeed quite fast).

I must admit I don’t have any detailed knowledge on SQL and databases in general but at least this experience was also sometimes my own so I did not think that it was just a rant and nothing else. During my work of cleaning up of the Wikimedia Commons interface several small usability improvements came into my mind that should be solved best inside MediaWiki (and not via CSS/Javascript Mediawiki skin hacks by me if possible) but it wasn’t really easy explaining it to MediaWiki developers. Apparently they face the same problem as Wikimedia Commons: Many local communities (there are more than 600 Wikimedia wiki communities and many more independent wikis using MediaWiki) want this and that (and of course wanted a certain thing already solved yesterday 😉 and all together create a large noise and in the end you simply focus on your own agenda and communication doesn’t work that ideal.

So my conclusion is: From time to time we should just should focus on our own small world and try to do the things we want to get done on our own or in small groups and show in the end our results to the others. So I’d call to the people that have lots of knowledge on databases: Don’t try to persuade Wikimedia developers now although you’re maybe 100% right. Create a nice open project read-only Wikipedia mirror (I know but it is English language only and not what I am thinking about) and make it damn fast and if you’re done we have two things:

  • A fast reliable good working and nice looking Wikipedia read-only mirror for our readers (there are so much poor mirrors full of adword spam out there).
  • A working solution how to refactor the Wikimedia database structure efficiently.
  • And of course if you have something that just rocks and which you can show to others it is much easier to convince people.


    Eine Antwort to “How to merge improvements?”

    1. Martin Says:

      Nice text and welcome to the blogosphere!

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