Strategy/Wikimedia movement/2018-20/Recommendations/Sprint/Product & Technology/6A
Improve Technical Contributor Engagement
Renamed from New Developer Engagement Models
Q 1 What is your Recommendation?
Track technical contributors (developers, including those of WMF-supported software, independent or standalone tools, on-wiki tools, and bots; and others involved in development such as designers, translators or documentation writers) and implement engagement models with clearly distributed roles and responsibilities that will help attract or convert, retain, and support them, including direct help such as mentoring, training or organized code review, and indirect help such as documentation writing.
Q 2-1 What assumptions are you making about the future context that led you to make this Recommendation?
To build the essential ecosystem of free knowledge, we will need to grow existing Wikimedia projects and create new ones. That will require technical work, which won't be possible without building the technical capacity of the movement. To do so, we will need to improve our engagement mechanisms to make the experience of contributing to Wikimedia fun and smooth for developers.
Q 2-2 What is your thinking and logic behind this recommendation?
Becoming the infrastructure of free knowledge is a vast undertaking and will require a large increase of technical capacity. The developer community for WMF-supported software is stagnant with poor retention rates, hard to enter, lacks diversity and is dominated by paid staff. There is no systematic process to onboard new developers, track their progress and retain them. We don't have an account of other types of technical contributors (e.g., for tools, bots) and unsure how we can better support their needs. There haven't been many efforts to support collaboration with external open source organizations or local Wikimedia technical communities.
To build the capacity we need, our metrics and engagement models need to be re-examined and the resources necessary for support committed.
Q 3-1 What will change because of the Recommendation?
A larger and more diverse technical contributor community will mean increased technical capacity for supporting critical tools and processes that are not sustained officially, resilience to local problems, and capacity for experimentation (e.g., tool support for early-phase partnerships). This will result in more equitable tooling support , and a better ability to do the innovation and fine-tuning necessary for becoming the infrastructure of free knowledge.
Q 3-2 Who specifically will be influenced by this recommendation?
Wikimedia groups working with technical contributors (such as WMF’s Technical Engagement team), and the volunteers they work with.
Q 4-1 Could this Recommendation have a negative impact/change?
The efforts to grow the editor and technical contributor communities could happen independently of each other and take place in silos.
The increased influx of technical contributors could overburden support structures. Mentors or maintainers could burn out.
It could expose end-users to risk of harm, and site operators to legal risk, by empowering our contributors who could deploy broken or malicious code.
Q 4-2 What could be done to mitigate this risk?
Movement organizers involved in building editor and technical contributor communities should collaborate, exchange their learnings with each other frequently, to understand the priorities better and avoid any reinventing of the wheel.
There should be clear growth paths for existing members of our community. We help more people become maintainers, ensure their needs are addressed as well.
Ensure technical contributor communities follow privacy and security best practices and self-police, via outreach and training.
Q 5 How does this Recommendation relate to the current structural reality?
It calls for expanding the resources for Wikimedia Foundation's Technical Engagement team to investigate engagement models, build partnerships with other open-source organizations and increase our knowledge on the scope and breadth of technical contributors. Particularly for investigating engagement models, we could use a consultant service.
Q 6-1 Does this Recommendation connect or depend on another of your Recommendations? If yes, how?
The recommendation has strong ties to Modernize Technical Contributor Tooling, as they are the two sides of increasing technical capacity by growing and empowering the technical contributor community.
Q 6-2 Does this Recommendation connect or relate to your Scoping Questions? If yes, how?
It is related to the scoping question “How can we better attract, support and retain diverse technical contributors particularly: building and supporting local technical contributor communities and prioritizing projects which will engage technical contributors?”.
Q 7 How is this Recommendation connected to other WGs?
Increasing diversity and capacity in the technical contributor community, ideally, is one of the planned outcomes of this recommendation. In that sense, it is related to the work of the Diversity & Capacity Building working group. The three working groups can coordinate in the future while developing the implementation plan for the recommendations.