Friday, June 01, 2012

#WMDEVDAYS - Gadgets

Many of the gadgets people use in #Wikipedia are awesome. They make things possible. Once a good one is developed, they are copied to other wikis to do its job.

There are a few problems with this model.

Once a gadget is finding its use, it becomes more clear how to best use it. Some of the changes change the text used in the software others change the functionality itself. Because of this every instance of a gadget is different and consequently, when the MediaWiki software is updated, a gadget may or may not fail. This is not knowable in advance.

The next iteration of gadgets is going to bring three major improvements:
  • A gadget can be enabled on any wiki but exists only in one place
  • A gadget can be localised to support your language
  • A gadget can be made more future proof by implementing the latest technology
Currently, Wikimedia developers visit wikis ahead of an upgrade of the MediaWiki software.  They check many gadgets and other local functionality to ensure that everything will still work after the upgrade.  Even though they make a darn good best effort, things still fail. Because of the numbers involved, there is no chance for them to succeed. With "Gadgets 2.0" gadgets will need to be checked only once and that gives them a fighting chance and our communities improved continuity.
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