Thoughts on Brendan Eich’s departure

(Disclaimer: None of the views here are those of the Wikimedia Foundation.)

Brendan Eich, creator of Javascript, resigned as CEO of Mozilla mostly over his unrepenting anti-gay views.

I must admit a brief bit of schadenfreude because I predicted that this change would happen on Prop 8 specifically. The only thing that surprises me from those six-year-old articles is the quickness of the sea change around this issue.Continue reading about Eich and other thoughts after the jump

Notes from Chapter 8 of the Power of Habit

## Saddleback Church and the Montgomery Bus Boycott (244)

> It was Thursday, December 1, 1555, in Montgomery, Alabama and she has just finished a long day at Montgomery Fair, the department store where she worked as a seamstress. The bus was crowded and, by law, the first four rows were reserved for white passengers. The area where blacks were allowed to sit, in the back, was already full and so the woman—**Rosa Parks**— sat in a center row, right behind the white section, where either race could claim a seat (p.215)

The process of social movements (p.217) requires convergence of 3 parts:

1. Start: Social habits of friendships, and strong ties between close acquaintances
2. Growth: Habits of community, and the weak ties that hold neighborhoods and clans together.
3. Endures: Movement leaders give participants new habits that create fresh sense of identity and feeling of ownershipContinue reading


So, the weather got decent in San Francisco (which has been rare).

On this beautiful Friday, as a way of getting myself unstuckavoiding work, I am trying out [Unstuck][]…

Unstuck's Pick 3

It asks me if I’m using Wikipedia as a way of avoiding work. (I am using Unstuck app a way of avoiding work I should be doing at [Wikimedia Foundation][wmf].)

The irony is thick with that one.

Update: It appears that the app is useful if you are only stuck creatively, not if you’re just procrastinating. Helping me be more creative? That’s the exact opposite of what I need.

[Unstuck]: “Unstuck iPad app: How to live better every day”
[wmf]: “Wikimedia Foundation”

The fundraising team is happy today

Today was the first official UTC day of the fundraiser, [the previous days were tests][fundraiser 2012]. This year they’ve decided to only run it in 5 english speaking countries in December with the rest of the world to follow in April (to make translations, etc. to not be [bottlenecked on testing][2012 tests]).

Fundraiser statistics - Wikimedia Foundation

The Wikimedia Fundraiser this year and the previous two years. See

If you can’t read the graph, they’re on track to have their first $2 million revenue day in history. 🙂

Thanks to all of you who donated and support Wikipedia.

Time to go up to the 6th floor and mooch the Fundraiser first-day cake. 🙂

[fundraiser 2012]: “Wikipedia 2012 Fundraiser”
[2012 tests]: “Fundraising 2012/ We Need A Breakthrough—Meta Wiki”

Draft: Fix this workflow, help thousands of Wikipedians (and the world)

This is a draft version. Final version is at [](

Wikipedia is more than 10 years old, and has hundreds of millions of visitors a month. Here at the Wikimedia Foundation, we’re very proud to support such a project. But despite being a household name, issues with our user experience are deeply troubling.

This is especially true for the smaller contingent of people who are the regular contributors to the encyclopedia. Today, across the Wikipedias, there are around 80,000 people who make 5 or more edits to the site every month, and they are determined to improve it. As Wikipedia’s user interface and their user experience has failed to keep pace with the the encyclopedia’s growth, their community, like the proverbial Little Dutch Boy, has creatively built workarounds to accomplish their goal in creating and curating the content nearly a half billion people rely on every month.

Despite their efforts, the lack of a modernized editor experience has contributed to a decline in active editorship starting around 2007:

In particular, this has created an increasingly steep barrier to new editors as they attempt to quickly learn the many kludges experienced ones slowly accreted to keep the encyclopedia together—their numbers start to decline sharply starting as early as 2005. Without this funnel of new editors becoming experienced ones, the encyclopedia faces a slow, inexorable heat death.

This trend has been the ever present Sword of Damocles that motivates all of us here working on editor engagement.

The Editor Engagement Experiments team tries to reverse this trend by defining, measuring, and fixing these important editing workflows and improving the experience of Wikipedia editors who create content used by people all around the world.

The problem (by example)

Imagine you want to create an article for English Wikipedia. You search for the term or you enter in the URL directly. If you’re not logged in, the first hurdle will the site will simply tell you that you don’t have permission to start the page. At this point, most people would give up — you just need to create an account; we just don’t tell you up front.

Let’s say you manage to log in or register and then get back to the task at hand. Great. But not so much if you’re brand new to Wikipedia, because all we do is dump a blank text box on you and hope you know what you’re doing. There’s no warning that poor articles will be swiftly deleted, and that you should get your feet wet by one of several workflows that are safer alternatives to starting a page immediately if you’re not 100 percent sure about it being appropriate or complete.

Thousands of people are subjected to this experience every month, and all they’re trying to do is help improve Wikipedia. If this fact makes you a little bit angry, keep reading.

Habits & Affordances: Defining the problem

By analogy, one way of understanding the nature of the problem is to describe the workflows of active editors in terms of habits. In The Power of Habit, Charles Duhigg describes habits that power our lives, organizations, and movements as a cycle of cue, routine, and reward.

Habit Loop

An active editor responds to a rich set of cues: red linking, article stubs, cleanup templates, Special Pages such as New Pages Feed, WikiProject attention needed requests, watchlists, User talk notifications, etc. They engage in routines that can vary from the simple to the complex, often assisted by gadgets like Huggle or bots on the Wikimedia Toolserver. And, finally, they receive a reward of adding a new article to the encyclopedia, fixing errors, fighting vandals and spam. These loops become so ingrained that they quickly moved from first-time use (or a vandal themselves) to our most activee editors, and they develop such mastery and expertise that a diminishing number have been able to manage an increasingly larger encyclopedia.

The problem is that these cues, routines, and rewards were simpler and made sense to the user of a decade ago. But, to the new user, none of these resemble the affordances of the web today: people expect to edit without coding, hit the reply button on their talk page, and they don’t expect to be able to be bold and fix a universally-accessible article on Wikipedia.

A/B Testing: Measuring and Experimentation

Returning to the original example of the new editor. The way Editor Engagement Experimentation seeks to address this is very simple. Instead of either turning away interested editors who aren’t logged in, or leaving new editors to the fates by not properly instructing them about the routines to creating a good article, we’d like to create an uncomplicated landing page system, one that gives proper cues to the editor:

  1. they should log in if they aren’t already;
  2. that they can create an article now, but it is subject to high standards; or
  3. they can use their personal sandbox to start an article in safety.

The goal here is to support authors of new articles on Wikipedia by making it clear the various methods for starting a new topic, each of which has varying advantages depending on your experience level and the free time you have to devote to the project.

The approach to ensure this is via A/B testing to improve and optimize a specific aspect of a specific habit loop. Later this can be expanded for new habits to create better on-boarding such as cuing low-risk, high-reward tasks on the community portal and educating them to ensure routine completion.

While this example focuses on the cueing first time page creators and directing them through the routines that successful editors use to create pages, previous and existing experiments address other aspects of the myriad of habits that engage the user to become editors in the community. Recent examples include:

Our vision: the unique challenge of Editor Engagement Experimentation

Around the same time as our editorship started declining, the application of A/B testing to the web have created two major growth booms in the commercial web: viral marketing and gamification.

But Editor Engagement Experimentation cannot simply be blind application of A/B testing to steal back the cognitive surplus that shifted in the last decade from Wikipedia and the sister projects to social networks and social gaming. The reason why is summed up in our Vision statement:

Imagine a world in which every single human being can freely share in the sum of all knowledge. That’s our commitment.

The goal of the commercial web is money. Viral marketing and gamification are designed to simply optimize the quantity of users or of their time because those two aspects are intimately tied to the quantity of their revenues and of their profit. But our vision statement ties us, not to the quantity of our editors or the quantity of our content, but to the quality of our content and the quality of interaction every single human being has with that content, being freely shared.

Reversing the editor decline is not an end in itself — it is only so important as this reversal improves the quality of the sum of all human knowledge — measuring editor engagement quantities are only a rough proxy for this. Our vision makes the approach a unique challenge in the realm of engagement and experimentation: use tools designed to optimize quantities to improve qualities that cannot be directly measured. This similarly defines the uniqueness of the Wikimedia Foundation as an organization, Wikipedia as an encyclopedia, and our entire community of readers and editors as a movement.


We hope after reading this, you identify with the problem of editor decline as a threat to our shared vision and are supportive of Editor Engagement Experimentation as one approach in tackling this problem.

If you see the editor decline and the limitations of the experimental approach, not as an intractable problem or as a stress, but as a unique challenge, the team invites you to find a way to participate in a manner that helps us address this challenge to our editors, our community, and our movement.

And, for one of you specifically, who are interested in testing their mettle with this project, we have a couple open positions below:

Our example is not the most complex engineering task we ask of our team, but it’s shows how we can make a positive difference to the volunteers that create and maintain the world’s biggest encyclopedia. If you’re game to build a prototype of this solution, then by all means, please be bold and show us.

(We’ve already built an internal toolchain for delivering controlled experiments and gathering data, so, you’d be responsible for delivering the frontend and making it jibe with our system. Working on our team, you’d also have support from researchers, analysts, designers and product managers, so don’t worry too much about number crunching or visual details.)

If you can architect a solution that will work for the 900+ pages created each day on English Wikipedia alone, then not only will we deploy your code, but you’ll make a difference to experience of every editor creating the sum of all knowledge and every single human being who reads it.

That’s a promise you don’t hear every day, and, we’d love for you to join us.

Terry Chay, Director of Features Engineering
Steven Walling, Associate Product Manager

Join Wikimedia (Senior LAMP Software Developer)

> “Imagine a world in which every single human being can freely share in the sum of all knowledge. **That’s our commitment.**”

If you don’t know already, [I left Automattic (WordPress)][leaving automattic] and have joined the [Wikimedia Foundation][wikimedia] ([Wikipedia][wikipedia]) in February. Before this, I haven’t posted our regular jobs because I wasn’t too sure how relevant they were, and because I got burned by the Jobvite system spamming [my twitter][twittertychay] followers with jobs. (I apologize profusely!)

This is despite the fact that our infrastructure is PHP ([obviously][mediawiki]).

Until recently the Foundation has had lacked mostly Javascript and UI engineers and not senior-level PHP ones. But I guess when I joined all of the good PHP developers left! j/k 😀

Currently and in the coming months, we will have had three positions open up for a Senior Software full-stack LAMP/PHP engineer. If you want to work for the 5th most popular web property in the world with nearly half a billion monthly uniques (and probably the largest single-install open-source PHP project), you should really consider working [here][wikimedia]

### Job description: [Senior Software Developer at the Wikimedia Foundation][jobvite]

Be a part of a newly forming team that will be tasked to entice new authors to Wikipedia. You will create responsive UI-driven software components in a highly iterative environment to support user engagement experimental features for Wikimedia websites using JavaScript, CSS3, HTML5 and PHP.

#### Some of the projects you’ll work on:

– Develop new experimental editor engagement features for Wikimedia sites.
– Extend MediaWiki software to support new experimental features.
– Participate in periodic technology meetings for design, development and testing of experimental features.
– Scrum master for development team.

#### Required Qualifications

– 5+ years of web development experience, including front-end development (JavaScript/jQuery/HTML5/CSS3), and server-side development using PHP/MySQL.
– 5+ years experience with rapid iterative software development processes, ability to quickly grasp requirements, derive UI workflow and develop functionality.
– Experience deploying code into high transaction volume production environments.
– Experience with A/B testing, cross-browser testing, debugging.
– Knowledge of Agile Methodologies such as Scrum and Extreme Programming (XP). ScrumMaster training preferred.
– Familiarity with version control systems/continuous integration tools (we use Git/Gerrit/Jenkins).
– Must be able to meet aggressive timelines, iterate rapidly, and switch rapidly across multiple projects.
– Strong communication skills: Must be able to communicate clearly and effectively; have strong written and oral communication skills as well as be able to collaborate easily within a cross-functional team.
– B.S. or M.S. Computer Science or related field preferred.

#### Extra Points if you have:

– Experience with MediaWiki and other open source PHP-based content management systems
– Experience in the Wikipedia community
– Experience contributing to a major Open Source project
– Understanding of free culture / free software /open source
– Experience working with online volunteers.
– Experience with wikis and participatory production environments.
– Good sense of humor
– Being creative, highly motivated, hard-working and ability to work effectively in multiple cultural contexts are great assets
– Comfortable working in an open, highly collaborative, consensus-oriented environment

Please provide URLs to any existing open source software work you may have done (your own software or patches to other packages) if possible. We’d love to see what you can do!

#### About the Wikimedia Foundation

The Wikimedia Foundation is the non-profit organization that operates Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. According to comScore Media Metrix, Wikipedia and the other projects operated by the Wikimedia Foundation receive more than 482 million unique visitors per month, making them the 5th most popular web property worldwide. Available in more than 270 languages, Wikipedia contains more than 21 million articles contributed by a global volunteer community of more than 100,000 people. Based in San Francisco, California, the Wikimedia Foundation is an audited, 501(c)(3) charity that is funded primarily through donations and grants. The Wikimedia Foundation was created in 2003 to manage the operation of Wikipedia and its sister projects. It currently employs 130 staff members. Wikimedia is supported by local chapter organizations in 38 countries or regions.

[Apply by clicking on this link][jobvite] or contact me personally. 🙂

### Why working here is totally awesome

Wikimedia Foundation 90 second HR Video with Disclaimer

Transcoded from original created and uploaded to Wikimedia Commons by WMFer, Victorgrigas.

(It’s probably a good thing this was filmed before I joined the Foundation. A version with me in it would have been rated R due to strong language. 😀 )

You should seriously work here. 🙂

[leaving automattic]: “Automattic Outro”
[wikimedia]: “Wikimedia Foundation”
[wikipedia]: “Wikipedia”
[twittertychay]: “Me @ Twitter”
[mediwiki]: “MediaWiki”
[jobvite]: “Senior Software Developer—Wikimedia Foundation @ Jobvite”

Wikimedia 503 Accessibility Hack Day (May 19, SF)

[The Wikimedia Foundation][wmf] is organizing a mini hackathon related to
accessibility (ensuring [our software][mediawiki] is usable by people with
disabilities or special needs). We’re working with Lucy Greco, an
Assistive Technology Specialist at the Disabled Student’s Program of
UC Berkeley on this.

If you’re a front-end developer or UI/UX designer, you can help. We’ll
work with a user of Dragon text-to-speech, a user of
on-screen-keyboard technology, 2-3 users of the JAWS screen reader,
and 1 user of a Mac screen reader. So you can directly help improve
the experience for real people who encounter issues with [Wikipedia] and
our other sites.

The event will be at the Wikimedia Foundation offices ([149 New
Montgomery Street][wmf hq], third floor) on Saturday, May 19, beginning at 10
AM and ending probably in the late PM. Lunch and dinner will be

Please RSVP with Rachel Farrand rfarrand [at] wikimedia dot] org by May 15 if
you’re interested in attending.

[wmf]: “Wikimedia Foundation”
[mediawiki]: “MediaWiki which powers Wikipedia”
[wmf hq]:,+San+Francisco,+California+94105&gl=us&t=m&z=16
[wikipedia]: “Wikipedia”

Automattic outro

[The company I work for][automattic] is distributed [around the world][map]. Automattic is the company behind WordPress so we keep in track of each other using a hundred different internal blogs known as “[the P2s][p2].” Since we might not see each other for over a year, someone (probably [Sara][sara rosso]) got the crazy idea of that new employees should record a video introducing ourselves to the rest of the company. Later, around my birthday, some of the old hands also belatedly created and posted videos to the P2s.

I secretly recorded one.

Since I am leaving Automattic, it made sense that I had better posted it before I leave.

By the way, Automattic is a great company, [you should work there][work at automattic]. As Marie said to me once, “It’s like a big company picnic…[with BBQ][matt bbq].”

[automattic]: “Automattic”
[map]: “About Us—Automattic”
[Automatticians]: “About Us—Automattic”
[Lloyd Dewolf]: “A Fool’s Wisdom: A Fool and his wisdom are soon parted”
[office porn]: “Office Porn”
[p2]: “P2 WordPress Theme, like twitter”
[sara rosso]: “Sarra Rosso: Technology, Communication, Photography, Food & Travel”
[work at automattic]: “Work With Us—Automattic”
[sopa blackout]: “Wikipedia, other websites back after anti-piracy bill protest—CNN”
[wordpress]: “WordPress: Blog tool, Publishing Platform, & CMS”
[Wikimedia]: “Wikimedia Foundation”
[matt bbq]:

What follows is a slightly modified version of my Automattic farewell.

Continue reading my farewell after the jump