25 Lessons learned in huge projects: Wikidata
tl;dr: Take your time for finding the right employees for your software team, team's diversity is an huge advantage. Work with them in one office (in real life), it helps a lot.
Wikidata Project Timeline
- 2012: March WMDE started WD project
- 2013: April WMDE continued project after its completion
- 2014: WMDE decides to start a Software Engineering & Development department
- Wikidata is a central data repository similar to Wikimedia Commons
Key Success Factors
- hiring process
- Abraham found that it was necessary to have a team working in the same office, rather than collaborating remotely.
- it was important for the initial year to work near together
- Constantly exchanging ideas and plans, and talking to other people was particularly important (at MediaWiki Hackathons, Google Hangouts, Wikimania) The constant exchange, telling other people, and getting feedback was important.
- Expectation management: Lydia says she did not want to hype the project too much because there was much groundwork to do. They therefore kept the project's profile low in the beginning.
- Development processes: Importance on build trust, much code review. Abraham says also, he did not engage in code war to create new tools
- Split roles and responsibilities really well.
- Option of coming together in one place.
- Very high and active communication within the team
Key Challenges (first year)
- New Team & Environment: Built a team from scratch from different countries. Brought in different cultures and backgrounds from the IT industry together.
- Development methods & processes: Started from scratch, but you lose a lot of time because you have to introduce new methods, tools and processes. Also shared knowledge between new colleagues.
- Community Building around Wikidata
Key Success Factors (second year)
- worked very closely in collaboration processes with WMF. Set up constant and regular meetings every week.
- Asked for dedicated individuals within WMF who could field specific questions (operations, grants, legal, fundraising, communications, etc.)
- Well Functioning-Team:
- Well-established processes and working environment
Key Challenges (second year)
- Change of key positions
- Developing a team culture
- Project development v. product development
- Financial Planning
- Adoption of Wikidata on the large wikipedias.
- code review takes a lot of time-
- Diversity on the team helps a lot
- Finding the right (tech) employees takes time
- different from tech start-ups in that they are working to create impact for culture and working in a FLOS environment
- Take away: if you have a good idea, do it, be bold, and be brave!
- Keep the global movement innovative, especially in the area of software development (this cannot happen if everything is centralized) FLOS deveopment is decentralized.
starting parallel projects in other places
- Tips for starting parallel projects in other places (riffing off the idea that FLOS projects are decentralized)
- identifying the need -> consider community input, don't look through the glasses of developers to identify goals and objectives
- getting funding the project--but don't focus or count on just one source of funding. -> look for a party interested in the results of your project
- have a plan of action of what you might do once the funding ends. Keep an eye on the infrastructure. -> start building a team in one place