WMDE Technical Wishes/Geoinformation

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What is this about?[edit]

Many encyclopedic topics have a geographic reference, and those are shown as maps or coordinates in articles. However, it is often very cumbersome to add and edit this geographical information, and the way this information is displayed is also often not satisfying – for instance, because the content is not updated or because the maps lack functionality.

„How can the representation of geoinformation be improved?“ was chosen as the winner in the Survey Technical Wishes 2020. This means the Technical Wishes team is spending approximately two years on this topic and is tackling various problems within this area.

Projects and their status[edit]

Our work in this focus area is mostly done. We are finishing up some loose ends and are planning to deploy the "show nearby articles" feature on more wikis.

Project On some wikis On all wikis
Update maki icons
Show nearby articles
Adding geopoints via QID
Fixing bugs
Improve documentation for Kartographer
Make Kartographer compatible with page stabilization and pending changes
VisualEditor Kartographer improvements
Improved accessibility

Fixing bugs[edit]

Besides working on new features for features, we have also spent some time fixing on bugs around Kartographer.

  • Yes Kartographer maps are no longer shown as empty when a geoline was created via VisualEditor. (T308560)
  • Yes Another issue with geolines in Kartographer maps has been fixed: Geolines consisting of points with QIDs (e.g., subway lines) are no longer shown with pushpins. (T292613)
  • Improved error processing and messages for maps:
    • Yes Kartographer validates the GeoJSON code and properties (simplestyle) provided by users. Previously, if there was an error, the JSON schema would just give a generic error message. Now, it is possible to expand a list of validation attempts to better narrow down the error from a list of possible validation errors. Also, two simplified error messages have been introduced for frequent basic GeoJSON validation errors.  (T317873)
    • Yes A misleading GeoJSON error message has been improved. (T304748)
  • Yes When a marker indicated in the marker symbol attribute is missing or invalid, the thumbnail is no longer empty. Instead, the map loads showing a simple marker. (T315226)
  • Yes The team tried to get a better understanding of why geoshapes and geolines don’t load (T316075), (T308638) and investigated different known bugs (T308638). By starting to add internal diagnostics of user-facing errors, a high rate of previously undetected map errors was determined. At least 15% of geoshapes and 7% of thumbnails currently fail. (T317766)
  • Yes Polygons and shapes such as countries, roads, parks, etc. are defined in OpenStreetMaps (OSM). They then need to be synced with infrastructure in order to appear on maps in Wikimedia projects. Wikimedia does not access the database at OSM.org directly, but occasionally replicates a copy on WMF's own servers. There has been a substantial lag in the syncing of these two systems. Many of the synchronization issues have been solved by our team and our colleagues at the WMF. Teams at the WMF will invest more time to improve the overall maps infrastructure. (T316365) Read more about synchronization between OSM and Wikimedia servers and errors here.

Improved accessibility[edit]

  • Yes Some accessible names of user interface elements were missing in the VisualEditor Kartographer dialog. They have been added to improve the editing experience with screen readers. (T307993)
  • Yes It was already possible to use keyboard navigation to move around a Kartographer map (arrow keys) and zoom (+/-). The new focus outline makes clear when the map is in focus when using keyboard navigation. (T315997)
  • Yes It is now possible to close a full size map via keyboard navigation. Before, it was not possible to hit enter on the "close button" (the little x). (T326804)
  • Yes It is now possible to open a full size map via keyboard navigation on Google Chrome. Before, when you were using Chrome and were on a page that contains a static map, nothing would happen when you pressed enter on the button "show in full screen". Now, you can open the map in full screen by navigating to the frame of the static map and hitting enter. (T326786)


2017 WMF works on Kartographer Improving maps was already the number 1 wish in the international survey (Community Wishlist 2017). As a result, the MediaWiki extension Kartographer has been greatly improved.
Vote on German Wikipedia The focus area "Better support for geoinformation" gets elected by German wiki communities in the Technical Wishes survey 2020.
2021 Research by WMDE
Determining the focus inside this focus area
  • Our team evaluated all the collected wishes and problems, taking into consideration the feasibility for our team, impact, effort, the user groups who would benefit, possible side effects and risks. Three main problem areas emerged:
    • Maps
    • Coordinates
    • Special:Nearby
  • In a survey from July 19 to August 1, 2021, we asked contributors from German wikis including Commons in which of these three areas improvements are most urgent. Maps won, which is why this is the area where we implement improvements.
2022 Determine much-needed improvements in Kartographer In March 2022, our team conducted a survey (Lamapoll) to find out which issues there are with Kartographer and which improvements would be most useful. The results of this survey are published here.
Kartographer becomes available on all wikis Kartographer is made available on the five wikis where it wasn't usable before. Bugs for Kartographer use on other wikis were fixed. On German Wikipedia, we ran a campaign to introduce this new feature.
Kartographer improvements see #Projects and their status
End of this focus area Our work on this focus area has ended. We are finishing work on a few tasks and are planning to deploy the feature "articles nearby" to wikis that are not yet using it.