October's coding challenge: results now in; progress on 1.19 steady; and why for a while interwiki links were no more
October 2011 coding challenge results announced
Screenshot of the "Upload to Wikimedia Commons" Android app, the winner of the mobile editing category
The final results of October's "coding challenge" were announced this week on the Wikimedia blog, with the top prizes going to "Upload to Wikimedia Commons" (a fully-functional Android app to facilitate uploads, pictured right), "mostEdited" (a user script that provides a list of articles undergoing periods of frenetic editing activity) and a user script that provides (via a tab) a slideshow of all the images in an article. Each winner received sponsored travel to a Wikimedia-themed event of their choice; in addition, two runners up in each category received certificates of excellence for their work.
When the project was announced, there were great hopes for the format breaking through and coding challenges becoming a regular event as a result. While the submissions to this trial contest were strong, WMF Deputy Director Erik Möller admitted that lessons would need to be learnt if the dream of regular challenges were to become a reality. Potential improvements for the future include a more streamlined judging process, the possibility of group projects, and a more useful "starter back" to get potential entrants into the swing of the competition. Overall, it seems likely that the contest format will be revived in some form later this year.
1.19 closing in on first deployment
With the amount of time until February 13 (the date selected for the deployment of MediaWiki version 1.19 to a more comprehensive test wiki) rapidly narrowing, a limited but still significant amount of work remains to be done. At this time, some 27 revisions still need to be reviewed, whilst a further 14 are in need of follow-up revisions to fix bugs or other errors (full report). Meanwhile, at least four bugs are still "blocking" widespread deployment and therefore must be resolved shortly (wikitech-l mailing list).
On the present timetable, 1.19, which includes a number of new features as well as dozens of bug fixes, is likely to be branched this week, allowing time for the branch to stabilise ahead of next week's test deployment. Should all go well, that deployment will be followed by a series of further deployments culminating in the release of the software to the English Wikipedia on 1 March (Signpost coverage).
Any slippage in that timetable would also result in MediaWiki's migration to Git being postponed, since migrating during the final stages of a release cycle is inherently undesirable. All indications are, however, that the WMF team leading the migration will be ready to begin their half of the process as soon as the deployments are out of the way: both the official timetable and a number of supporting documents – including a guide for developers – were updated this week in anticipation of the delicate switchover (wikitech-l mailing list).
Not all fixes may have gone live to WMF sites at the time of writing; some may not be scheduled to go live for many weeks.
San Francisco videos available: WMF Deputy Director Erik Möller reported this week on the wikitech-l mailing list that videos from the San Francisco Hackathon January 2012 are now available on Wikimedia Commons, although their high quality makes prior downloading advisable. The seven videos, covering the six different presentations given at the event (held in the Californian city from January 20–22), join dozens of photographs that have already been uploaded. Away from the presentations, the three day hackathon also included time for various teams to work on a diverse range of showcase projects.
One of the photographs now available from the San Francisco Hackathon
- Wikimedians attend FOSDEM: As noted by Gerard Meijssen on his personal blog, several Wikimedians will be in attendance at FOSDEM 2012, an annual conference targetted at developers of free and open source software, and focused mainly on the European market.
- Update breaks interwiki links: Updates made to the Wikimedia interwiki cache on February 1 temporarily broke the rendering of interwiki links on articles, it was soon reported on the English Wikipedia Technical Village Pump and at various other fora. Though the issue was soon resolved, some bad renderings of the links (often as plain red links) remain in various caching layers, prompting them still to be displayed for some or all visitors to the articles. Consequently, editors are encouraged to purge any pages they find to be affected by the problem.
- File backend changes in progress: System administrators are now in the process of updating the way that Wikimedia wikis store media files to drastically increase the amount of redundancy that the system provides. The move to a system based on Swift (a system developed as part of cloud computing project OpenStack) will thus decrease the likelihood of total system failure, whilst at the same time making file storage as a whole more scalable to meet Wikimedia's rapidly increasing demands. Minimal disruption is expected as the new system gradually replaces the existing setup. In unrelated news, system administrator Asher Feldman has published a topology showing the relationship between the various Wikimedia databases as replicated (either instantly or with a degree of the notorious "replication lag") across different servers.
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