Grants:Project/Isarra/Timeless: Post-deployment support
This is a re-submission of a previous proposal, which can be found here.
[[Category:]] [[Category:WMF grant reports by grantee|]]
- 1 Project idea
- 2 Project goals
- 3 Project impact
- 4 Project plan
- 5 Get involved
- 6 Notes
- TL;DR: Timeless has been deployed across all Wikimedia projects, with continuing feedback and issues incoming. This grant proposes to devote the development and design resources needed to effectively aggregate and address the results of this deployment in order to create a full-featured modern skin that effectively meets the needs of users across the projects, and to prevent the skin from stagnating and creating a maintenance burden for WMF staff.
- This is a resubmission of a previous grant that was vetoed in the late stages due to objections from WMF staff; those objections have since been withdrawn.
What is the problem you're trying to solve?
There are two issues this proposes to address:
- The broader issue: That the primary Wikimedia skin, Vector, is dated and difficult to use. This cannot be effectively addressed until the underlying problems with the MediaWiki skinning system, and especially how we approach it as developers, are addressed. But without information on what a replacement might actually need in practice, addressing these problems is also very difficult.
- The immediate issue: That the Timeless skin, a new volunteer-developed skin, has been recently deployed to Wikimedia production, but lacks the support and resources to meet the needs of users and developers without becoming an undue burden over time.
For more information on these issues, please see the Problem background in the previous two proposals, especially the second, of which this is effectively a reproposal:
What is your solution to this problem?
Timeless, a MediaWiki skin developed originally in 2015 for a skin creation Tech Talk, was rolled out to all Wikimedia projects as an alternative option to the existing skins (Vector, MonoBook, Cologne Blue, MinervaNeue, and Modern) in late November. This is effectively a beta release, seeking testing and feedback from users, with full disclosure that the skin is not a finished project.
With the Timeless skin already deployed, this provides the perfect opportunity to develop the skin into a complete product that better serves the needs of the communities who have gone out of their way to ask to test it beyond anything currently deployed, with a modern design and structured code, and thus determine the precise problems that need to be addressed with regard to MediaWiki skinning in general. By addressing compatibility issues with other extensions as well as gadgets onwiki (these are a major blocker for a lot of users even testing the skin), addressing new use cases with built-in features, and testing various tool layouts and colour schemes, we can discover just what we are lacking in core and standards, and thus what will be required of any future such projects.
The end goal of this project is to render Timeless into a generally complete, stable product, produce better answers to the question of what is required from a new Wikimedia deployed skin, and seek the input and feedback required to evaluate the success or failure of this skin's deployment, and thus whether or not to keep it deployed to Wikimedia production.
No further funding will be required for development of Timeless itself; ongoing required maintenance will be comparable to that of MonoBook or Cologne Blue, and if fully successful, the skin will remain available as an option on Wikimedia projects alongside those, allowing users to choose whichever skin they want without having to worry about frequent bugs.
How will you know if you have met your goals?
For Timeless, we will measure completion as (based on phabricator:tag/timeless/):
- Features implemented and general styles finalised
- Compatibility issues with particular browsers and devices are resolved - all grade A browsers function fully and look consistent, and grade C ones at least mostly work, though no guarantees about mobile (unless you have some way to make tiny interface work withous js).
- Regressions and functional problems with core and Wikimedia deployed extensions in Timeless are resolved
- A lot of this seems to be the same five extensions breaking over and over, but we can probably expect around 20-30 total distinct tasks over the course of the project for around 10-20 total extensions/components.
- Gadgets/scripts/etc either work in Timeless, or can be made to work with gadget-side layout improvements
- Appearance issues with core and Wikimedia deployed extensions in Timeless are resolved
Numerically, we can expect around ~35 other meaningful tasks (features/bugfixes) to be closed, bearing in mind likely equivalent numbers of duplicates, unactionable items, and other low-priority tasks. Some tasks will simply not be addressed. This is expected.
To determine the success or failure of Timeless as a deployed skin, a process or set of requirements will be determined outside the scope of this grant, evaluating metrics as outlined here as well as consensuses and use across the projects.
Do you have any goals around participation or content?
We will measure participation and content results via the following:
- Total active users opted into Timeless across the projects
- Total number of users enabling timeless vs turning it off
- Number of content pages edited using Timeless
For (1), we have data on user skin preferences (by user activity); extrapolating on that, we can measure this periodically and define goals for preference numbers at the end of the project. phabricator:T147696 is the 2016 results; phabricator:T180860 covers rerunning it.
We will aim for the following targets for Timeless: That 0.3% of all editors use it by the end of the project, 1% of active editors, and 5% of very active editors.
For (2), it is possible to log user preference changes and determine if there are issues with users opting in and then just opting out again. For this retention, the percentage keeping and adopting Timeless should go up. We will aim for the following target at the end of the project: that the retention rate does increase over earlier stages.
For (3), it would be nice if in particular we could specifically track formatting changes (fixes to content so it renders appropriately in Timeless, which in many cases would likely also fix it for other mobile-friendly skins such as Minerva as well), but the type of edit not really possible to determine. We can, however track edits per skin in general, which will invariably include those edits as some percentage. phabricator:T181772 concerns the specifics for measuring this.
We will aim for the following target at the end of the project: that .05-0.1% of all (non-bot) logged-in edits are made through Timeless.
To proceed effectively, the project requires organisation and direction. We need not just to devote the resources to resolving the bugs and implementing the features missing from the skin itself, but also to:
- Community outreach
- Setting up hub(s) for collecting feedback, user stories, etc (mw:Talk:Timeless for the main one? also an IRC channel)
- Reaching out to the wider community specifically soliciting feedback and knowledge, and coming back periodically to survey current status, results of changes, whether or not previous blockers have been resolved (at least beginning, middle, end)
- Issuing periodic newsletters with updates on the status of the project to all interested users (monthly?)
- Filing tasks for issues raised by users who may not necessarily want to do so directly themselves (especially non-technical users)
- Coordinating with other teams and developers responsible for related projects
- Developers/maintainers of on-wiki gadgets
- Developers/maintainers of extensions with which compatibility issues arise
- Developers/maintainers of libraries, interfaces, etc that Timeless uses or should use (such as OOjs UI)
- Triaging the tasks, including identifying duplicates, reproducing issues, prioritising which to work on first ('nice to have' versus 'unbreak now before it deploys and ruins everything')
- Doing code review and ensuring patches from other developers do not fall through the cracks
As well as:
- Ensuring evaluation of skin deployment actually happens - is it considered worth keeping by developers, operations people, and users? (end of project outreach)
- Setting up and tracking the metrics
- Additional overhead for the grant process itself
This grant request is for the allocation of 20hrs/week over the duration of four-six months for me to work specifically on Timeless stuff. Using a standard rate of 30-50 USD/hour and assuming accuracy of the 292 hours (15 weeks/4 months) calculated below, that comes out to 11,680 USD total. Given the inherent unpredictability of software development as new issues arise and the potential for other expenses (hardware, travel for outreach and engagement, etc), we will round up to 16,000 USD (300-400 hours, or 20 weeks/6 months).
Estimated time breakdown:
|Item||count||time per||total hours|
|Task triage||200||2 minutes||6.66|
|Code review||20||10 minutes||3.33|
|Feature development||5||10 hours||50|
|Compatibility fixes||25||3 hours||75|
|Miscellaneous bugfixes||30||4 hours||120|
|Outreach and coordination|
|Metrics setup and tracking||4|
|Total cost after rounding||16,000 USD|
- Resolving a task (implementing a fix or feature) can be expected to take about 3-5 hours on average. Some will be one-liners. Some will require reimplementing half of the skin output, or learning an entirely new extension, or redefining how the tools are handled.
- Filing, triaging, or clarifying a task can take anywhere from a minute to a few hours. This is because bugs can be difficult to effectively reproduce/rule out, and some tasks, such as addressing design problems, require looking into a lot more than what may or may not be on the task itself.
- The reason for the part-time approach is to account for the time required for changes and announcements to reach users, and user responses to trickle back. A six-month scope also allows for more meaningful data to be acquired regarding buy-in and practical usability of the skin over time, in order to better amass data for the eventual assessment of the skin itself.
- Budget does not account for hardware testing needs. These can be addressed elsewhere, such as by leveraging time of volunteers who already have needed devices.
Per above, this is built into the project plan. Venues will include specific hubs, newsletters, announcements, as well as discussion on IRC and Phabricator.
- Isarra is a volunteer MediaWiki developer and designer specialising in skins and formatting extensions. She was the developer and designer for Timeless, and will now be working to complete the project.
- Jack Phoenix is the primary reviewer for Timeless, and an accomplished MediaWiki developer in general who also specialises in skins and user-facing extensions. He will continue to assist with task triage and code review.
Announcements of the reproposal going out 12 February:
- Previous grant talkpage
- Wikitech-l and Wikimedia-l
Do you think this project should be selected for a Project Grant? Please add your name and rationale for endorsing this project below! (Other constructive feedback is welcome on the discussion page).
- There is strong and broad support for sustaining this skin Jtmorgan (talk) 23:47, 12 February 2018 (UTC)
- It is outright Kafkaesque how many times a proposal with wide community approval and interest has to be submitted for it to be seriously considered. --Jack Phoenix (Contact) 00:02, 13 February 2018 (UTC)
- Definitely support. I especially find one of the decisions for not selecting this project to be confounding - 'stating that it does not follow standard principles that create a positive user experience in skins'. It's not going to be perfect from the start, otherwise there'd be no point in proposing a grant in the first place - there's plenty members of the community that have said they appreciate the skin too, including me. I'd like to appraise Isarra for the all the hard work she's dedicated to Timeless, and I think it'd be a shame if this went to waste (i.e eventually slow down development to a halt) because we couldn't provide enough support. SamanthaNguyen (talk) 01:02, 13 February 2018 (UTC)
- There's no reason we shouldn't support maintenance and bug fixes for this skin now that it's been deployed. Otherwise, that burden falls to WMF developers who have plenty on their plates already. I think Isarra is fully capable of handling this task and making the Timeless skin a better experience for our users. Kaldari (talk) 01:29, 13 February 2018 (UTC)
- Here's what I wrote last time: "Isarra is one of the few people who had the drive and commitment to get a new skin deployed to Wikimedia projects (putting her on the same level of Wikimedia greats like Roan, Gabriel, and River). There is a significant amount of communities that are interested in trying out and using Timeless, and it would be great if we could sponsor Isarra to continue working on it." Legoktm (talk) 01:39, 13 February 2018 (UTC)
- My prior endorsement still stands. Since that time I have enabled Timeless on all wikis that I use on a regular basis and continue to enjoy it's compact layout in my 1024x1024 browser window. The work that Isarra is doing with this skin is both inspirational and instructive for similar efforts by both volunteers and Foundation staff. $16,000 seems like a reasonable investment for the movement to make in continuing the experiment of producing a viable responsive skin and exploring the issues that may arise with Wikimedia deployed extensions and content when moving beyond Monobook and Vector and into a more modern interface treatment. BDavis (WMF) (talk) 03:40, 13 February 2018 (UTC)
- I've endorsed this (twice) and everything I said still stands. We must fund this or I will lose faith in the Grants program entirely. 😂 (talk) 04:49, 13 February 2018 (UTC)
- cleans up code base for skins in general besides supporting a more modern skin. ThurnerRupert (talk) 05:13, 13 February 2018 (UTC)
- I again endorse with enthusiasm. It is amazing to be able to do more advanced administrative work on my phone, without having to zoom in to access the tiny links as I do with Vector. Even on desktop, for many people Timeless answers the longstanding need for a modern look, but there is still a lot of work to be done. This will prove to be a worthy investment. — MusikAnimal talk 05:24, 13 February 2018 (UTC)
- I fully support this proposal. See my comments on previous proposals for details. Bawolff (talk) 05:44, 13 February 2018 (UTC)
- I support this proposal. Timeless is a great experiment of a responsive MediaWiki skin. I believe it is also important to support improvements to the Wikimedia stack from outside of WMF and WMDE. Tpt (talk) 08:48, 13 February 2018 (UTC)
- I support this proposal and love the skin. Poke me if you need review ·addshore· talk to me! 09:57, 13 February 2018 (UTC)
- I support this. Hope to see it deployed to all wikis soon :) Petrb (talk) 12:59, 13 February 2018 (UTC)
- I have been using Timeless since it was first made available and like it a lot. I fully support this grant and Isarra’s work on this project! Srishti Sethi (talk) 14:16, 13 February 2018 (UTC)
- I Support this, as one of the people who requested this be deployed on wmf wiki's, i am starting to use timeless more over vector. There's alot of issues that need to be fixed in the skin and possibly new features too. Paladox (talk) 22:53, 13 February 2018 (UTC)
- Mobile friendly and sensible skin, support this! --Gryllida 00:26, 14 February 2018 (UTC)
- Technical things needed to improve more and more. Jayprakash >>> Talk 06:45, 14 February 2018 (UTC)
- It's a clean, good-looking skin and I certainly think it would do well to be further improved. I've been using is since I first found it, and have been loving it. —Mikemoral♪♫ 08:21, 14 February 2018 (UTC)
- I use Timeless occasionally and enjoy its modern design. We should support its development. -- NKohli (WMF) (talk) 18:57, 14 February 2018 (UTC)
- After supproting this proposal once, I continue to do so. Timeless brings fresh air into the world of MediaWiki skins and might be the first one to provide an universal skin useful for both authors and readers on desktop as on mobile. It is't perfect right now, but it has a lot of potential in it. --MGChecker (talk) 16:34, 15 February 2018 (UTC)
- Timeless is the closest today to making power users productive on mobile screens. Editing on mobile is inherently hard but there are various administrative and wikignoming actions which are only hard because the other skins are broken in various ways. Having one that works would be a benefit to the projects. --Tgr (talk) 07:03, 16 February 2018 (UTC)
- Strong support. Can't put it much better than BDavis did. the wub "?!" 23:51, 21 February 2018 (UTC)
- Support, basically per what MusikAnimal said – it's great to be able to do advanced editing on a mobile device. A full-featured responsive skin that works on all screen sizes definitely makes sense in a world with an increasing number/proportion of mobile and tablet devices. - Evad37 (talk)
- I don't know much about the inner specifics of coding but I do enjoy using Timeless on mobile as I can comfortably access Twinkle (and other JS tools) without having to do acrobatics(pinching the screen, trying to press miniscule buttons ). I also like the expanded search bar and would seriously like WMF to incorporate the top panel in any later Vector redesigns the top panel Force Radical (talk) 11:53, 10 March 2018 (UTC)
- Support Slowking4 (talk) 00:09, 12 March 2018 (UTC)
- See: phabricator:T154371.
- Stuff like phabricator:T161470 and phabricator:T177146, and actually testing everything.
Previous grant proposals:
- Grants:Project/Isarra/Post-deployment support and subsequent talkpage discussions regarding the final decision