Wikimedia Conference 2014/Documentation/25

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25 Lessons learned in huge projects: Wikidata

slides (pdf)
Abraham speaking
Lydia speaking

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[edit]

    • 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[edit]

  • 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

"Soft" Factors[edit]

    • 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)[edit]

    • 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)[edit]

    • 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)[edit]

    • Change of key positions
    • Developing a team culture
    • Project development v. product development
    • Financial Planning
    • Adoption of Wikidata on the large wikipedias.

Lessons learned[edit]

    • 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[edit]

  • Tips for starting parallel projects in other places (riffing off the idea that FLOS projects are decentralized)
  1. identifying the need -> consider community input, don't look through the glasses of developers to identify goals and objectives
  2. 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
  3. 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