Community Tech/Tool Labs support

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Tool Labs support is a sub-team of the Wikimedia Foundation Community Tech team with a mission of helping Tool Labs developers create more robust, secure and performant tools and bots to support Wikimedia wikis.

Rationale[edit]

Bots and tools are a vital resource for many on-wiki content creation and curation activities. A typical bot/tool project begins life as a way for a motivated Wikimedia community member to make some on-wiki task easier (or possible). These individuals are "scratching their own itch" in the best tradition of open source development. Many of these projects have a short lifecycle due to factors such as loss of interest by the maintainer, insurmountable technical hurdles, or discovery of a better means to manage the original problem. Others however become popular and tightly integrated in the workflows of one or more on-wiki communities.

Popular tools and bots become de facto production software needed to keep the wikis healthy and happy. Their roots as weekend projects from motivated volunteers brought them their success, but ultimately pose a risk to their end users. Life happens and a single developer project is in perpetual danger of abandonment. In The Cathedral and the Bazaar, ESR notes that "When you lose interest in a program, your last duty to it is to hand it off to a competent successor." Facilitating the best practices and communication that allow for this hand off to happen and for project to grow beyond what can be accomplished by a single motivated individual is a primary focus of Tool Labs support.

Key activities[edit]

  • Curate and promote documentation of best practices for tool and bot development.
  • Connect bot and tool developers via mailing lists, irc channels, phabricator and other public communication channels to solve shared problems and advocate for shared concerns.
  • Help interested developers transition from one person weekend projects to small collaborative communities.
  • Help organize groups to work on shared libraries/infrastructure needed for bots and tools. Pywikibot is a good example of a healthy library community to emulate for other projects.
  • Help curate bootstrap projects for common tasks including support for best practices and evolving Labs infrastructure.
  • Consult on performance and security for interested projects.
  • Advocate for shared Tool Labs user concerns in Wikimedia Foundation planning.
Information

These activities are carefully worded to avoid implying that the Tool Labs support team is primarily responsible for actually developing or supporting any bots, tools, software products, or documentation. The intent is to assist the Tool developer community in doing these tasks. Some bootstrapping and proactive participation will be expected, but the long term goal is self-sustaining work done by the users of the Tool Labs environment themselves. Paid editing doesn't work any better for documentation than it does for encyclopedia articles. Additionally the resources of the Wikimedia Foundation don't scale in the same way that FLOSS/Open Knowledge communities do.

Proposals[edit]

Status[edit]

2017-04-11[edit]

The Community Tech Tool Labs support team and the Technical Operations Labs team have been merged into a new Wikimedia Cloud Services team at the Foundation. Work on Tool Labs onboarding and documentation improvements are part of the core mission of this new team.

2017-01-25[edit]

2016-08-26[edit]

Announced initial deployment of Toolsadmin.wikimedia.org (https://toolsadmin.wikimedia.org) on labs-l.

2016-05-04[edit]

Announced Annual Tool Labs Survey results on labs-l and wikitech-l.

2016-04-15[edit]

Announced Tool Labs vision on labs-l and wikitech-l.

2016-03-24[edit]

Announced the team/project on meta by creating this page. Work has been ongoing in an ad hoc capacity for several months in the form of minor improvements to wikitech including: