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Strategy/Wikimedia movement/2018-20/Working Groups/Product & Technology/Scoping/Platform evolution

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What is your area of inquiry?[edit]


What is the current situation?[edit]

In a world of significant change both in technology as well as user expectations, WMF and the Wikimedia movement are addressing issues around the future direction of the technology underlying our products and services. Staff at the WMF and WMDE formed a working group (ATWG) in Fall 2017 and then developed the Platform Evolution program at the Developer Summit and All Hands in Jan 2018. The program officially began in July 2018. Since then the Program team has been interviewing stakeholders, aggregating feedback and facilitating discussion (most notably at the Wikimedia Technical Conference in October) in order to develop a 3-5 year technical strategy and roadmap. In February, the PE Program team published an update on progress since the Technical Conference. At the same time, the PE program released a draft of goals and outcomes to clearly define the direction of the program. These were developed based on the work performed over the prior year. Currently the PE Program team is validating these goals and outcomes with stakeholders in order to use them as a tool evaluating and prioritizing potential projects for inclusion in the roadmap.

Over the fall and winter of 2018, the Audiences department within the WMF has been developing product perspectives to both articulate and align the direction of our user facing products. Like the PE Goals and Outcomes, these are intended to feed into the 3 year midterm planning process that began in January at All Hands.

Still, there are several issues that need further development like:

  • absence of long term  ( beyond 3 years) direction and goals of the technology base (beyond the current 3 year midterm planning cycle, which is a good  step)
  • how to maintain/further increase superior user satisfaction along the value chain
  • matching of resources and requirements
  • Is there a need for a significantly stronger involvement across the board of all types of community or in some areas rather than others (see below re:decision-making; limited legitimacy of RfC processes)
  • Limited inclusion of communities in their full diversity
  • There is no objective analysis of our platform architecture or our development processes
  • The need to optimize decision making processes to increase efficiency and free resources to accelerate the progress of the top priority issues
  • Insularity: no knowledge of the ecosystem at large (e.g. Atlassian, Wikia), no effort to coordinate or learn from players outside the Wikimedia movement.
  • There is no plan for to continue supporting or stop supporting our 3rd Party release. It is currently underfunded and undermaintained (difficult to install, update, configure) as the WMF is not aligned on whether or not it clearly supports the Wikimedia Mission. No decision has been made largely to avoid potentially difficult community discussions.

Why this scope?[edit]

Platform is where coders, contributors and users meet.

What are the key questions within the scope of the Working Group?[edit]

  1. What is our winning aspiration (in the technology area)?
    1. What is the longer-term direction of the technology base,  for what shall Wikimedia stand out technologically among all stakeholders ?
    2. Is our platform architecture adequate for supporting the Movement Strategic Direction and the expectations of the community ?
  2. “Where will we play”:
    1. Which are the priority platform topics to ensure superior satisfaction for key stakeholders for each element of the value chain (coders, contributors, readers)?
  3. “How will we win”:
    1. Are our platform architecture and  our development processes adequate to fulfill the Strategic Direction?
    2. Which  structures and processes can best match resources and expectations (incl. the voluntary developer community)?
    3. Are our planning and development processes adequate to set the right priorities and assure efficiency (as benchmarked with comparable organizations)?
  4. “What capabilities must we have”:
    1. Which are the structures and processes to assure the required level of inclusion of the community at large in their full diversity?
    2. How do we benchmark with comparable wiki software developers like Atlassian and collaborative content production platforms like Reddit or Baidu Baike - how much resources do they have? How do they use them? How do they support their volunteer development community?
    3. Do we have / need a set of common KPIs to evaluate level of achievement of platform organization (internal and volunteer)  goals?
  5. “How do we make sure this works”:
    1. Is it desirable to review existing  and if needed propose adequate decision making processes within WMF with particular view on community inclusion and the arbitration to align with the capacity of the technology community?
    2. Do we have / need a set of common KPIs to evaluate level of achievement of platform organization (internal and volunteer)  goals?

What are the questions the Working Group needs to ask from the wider community?[edit]

  • Do the right movement structures exist / what movement structures are needed for understanding and prioritizing user expectations?
  • What are adequate formats and processes to include the wider community into technology roadmap planning?
  • What are adequate formats and processes to include the volunteer developer community into technology roadmap planning?

What are the areas where you see outside expertise is needed?[edit]

Internal expertise
Access to resources to provide access to information on plans, user expectations and processes
External expertise
business analysis of the Wikiverse - benchmarking with other wiki companies (Wikia/Atlassian); identify gaps with other large volunteer-based projects (Mozilla, Linux, etc.).
How to orchestrate a global process to include the full diversity of our movement (how do other NGOs and Open Source SW providers do this?). [we feel this belongs into the developer ecosystem subscope but the question was raised during our discussion so here we go]


Statements from the interview with Toby/Victoria, and elements of the documents of the Technology Conference and Wilkimedia Conf 2018