Saturday, December 31, 2005

A meeting with Brion

I have been to Berlin again. Again for a conference, again in the first place to meet one man. Brion Vibber is the Chief Technological Officer of the Wikimedia Foundation. Brion is the person who is responsible for the technology behind Wikipedia, and all the other Wikimedia Foundation projects. Brion thinks that the first development milestone, the Wikidata namespace manager, could go into the next release of Mediawiki.. WOW

We discussed the long standing need for single login. Because it is a dependency for many other projects related to Ultimate Wiktionary and Wikimedia in general, if at all possible, Brion will start working on it soon after the release of MediaWiki 1.6. Brion will also look into Surfnet's A-Select in order to interface Wikimedia with other authentication service providers. There is a need for outside authentication to Wikimedia projects, especially Wiktionary, and A-Select has the potential to provide it. However, Brion feels that thinking about federation is only possible after the Wikimedia-internal authentication problems are fully resolved.

Together with Erik, we discussed the need for handling multiple languages inside a MediaWiki installation, which is obviously related to Wikidata and UW and will likely be one of our next development milestones. While Brion sees this as a quite complex problem, he did agree that the situation as it currently is - that multilingual projects like Meta and Commons have no language-awareness whatsoever - is broken. What we agreed to do is to send him specifications to review before any implementation begins. Brion also pointed out some current and potential problems with MySQL: that certain UTF-8 characters cannot be stored with the proper charset encoding, and that it may not be possible to have multiple sorting orders on a field without duplicating it. (In this context, we debated the need for following important standards such as CLDR for locale data.)
Besides meeting Brion, we made an appointment with two officials of Wikimedia Germany to discuss the potential for cooperation in different areas. So far, the signals are positive.

Guten Rutsch!