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Responses to How to Build Wikipedia
Be in Charge and Be Humble - Understand Bias - Appreciate Idiosyncracy - Redesign the Wikipedia Software as a Community - Make Big Plans on Wikipedia - Avoid Cabals - Follow the Spirit of the GFDL - Be Respectful but Firm

Totally Redesign the Wikipedia Software, and Implement it as a Community

Or, Act Like Perl

Emphasize the connection between code and culture. Celebrate and require documentation and a mission plan.

Be bold in updating pages. Propose new ideas for how to use Wikipedia, from WikiProject to Project Sourceberg.

For anyone who wonders if this can be done, just think for a second about how Perl has developed and grown, nurtured by Larry Wall.


LMS responds:

We're already doing that.

I beg to differ, obviously. Or let me just say we could do better. --TheCunctator

I did counter each of your points on the new software and its implementation one-by-one. I think your points on this subject are weak, and even non-existant, save for concerns about documentation. And, like all things in Wikipedia, I think the documentation will come given a little time. --Stephen Gilbert

Documentation is pretty much my only concern (along with good testing). As long as a reasonable framework for documentation is put into place before the new software goes live, then I'll be much more content, and I'll try not to let my Perl advocacy get to me. --TheCunctator

Documentation was not your only concern originally. You accused Magnus of doing everything on his own, without consulting anyone, bloating the code with needless features, and generally acting like Microsoft. My suggestion is that you go to the test site, make an account, try to break things, brush up on your PHP (if you know Perl, you should be able to pick it up in a couple of days), and start some documentation, rather than sling accusations at Magnus and then say that documentation is your only concern. --Stephen Gilbert

If you want documentation go out and write it. That sounds rude, but it's true. You have the ability to do it just as anyone else has. Take responsibility for it just like any other part of Wikipedia. I've seen your contributions to the Wikipedia, and appreciate them as I'm sure many others do. I even wrote a dozen memorials for the 9-11 site which was a great idea. However, in this case you come across as whining rather than helping, at least to me. Maybe you could get some perl programmers to help write documentation the same way the 9-11 site got started? --Dmerrill

I am a Perl programmer. We want PHP programmers. There are a variety of reasons that I believe that "whining" is a more efficient way for me to help Wikipedia than to write documentation. For example, I want those who are in charge of implementing the code to agree that documentation is important and necessary, and they haven't. Please understand that I'm the same person, whether I'm creating pages or writing commentary, and if one thing I do seems like a great idea, then perhaps the other things I'm doing aren't completely stupid. I expect criticism of my work, not dismissal of it (not that I'm saying you're dismissing it). And even if I don't explicitly say so, I do consider what everyone writes.
In fact, I am working on documentation. These commentary pages and discussions are documentation about the goals, past, and future of Wikipedia, which is a crucial componenent of the documentation effort. A good programmer documents her work; LMS does a good job of documenting his work (and thus the work of Wikipedia). I'm attempting to contribute to that. I don't feel equipped to document Wikipedia code until I have documented the underlying needs of the Wikipedia project. And that it what these pages are part of.--TheCunctator

If you are concerned about a missing "feature list" of the PHP script, I'll leave detailed explanation to the wikipedia itself, once the script runs. In case you are talking about documentation of the actual source code, I added a brief comment to most of the functions by now. You can check at the CVS yourself. It's not the last word in documentation, but for software under development, it should do. --Magnus Manske

Emphasize the connection between code and culture. Celebrate and require documentation and a mission plan.

Requiring documentation is requiring people do work. I don't like making requirements of volunteers, particularly when the documentation in most cases is going to be pretty easy.

If it's going to be pretty easy, then it shouldn't be a problem to have it in place before implementation. Documentation is, I and many others believe, an essential component of successful software, especially in the free software/open source world. This is something I have experience in, and I vouch for its voracity. --The Cunctator

I think everything will get done in its good time, and you should not make vicious accusations as you did about Magnus.
What vicious accusations did I make? My tone was vicious, but I did not accuse Magnus of any malicious behavior. --TheCunctator
"On your Own, Totally Redesign the Wikipedia Software, and Implement it Without Testing. Or, Act like Microsoft." What balderdash! --LMS

I did admit that the implied comparison between Magnus and Microsoft was overly combative. But I do think that the current process of developing the WikiPHP is somewhat flawed, and that Wikipedians all share responsibility for trying to avoid/correct those flaws, and that the responsibility is not shared equally. In particular, those that implement it have the greatest responsibility. Remember that this essay is a "How To"--these are directions for the future, not accusations about what is already in the past. For example, the software has not been implemented without testing. If it is, or with minimal testing, documentation, and consideration, then I believe the consequences will be grave. --TheCunctator

Well, at the moment, having to work all on my own, sometimes I feel like Microsoft, just without the money part ;)
Cunctator, you are hereby officially invited to come over to [1] (http://wikipedia.sourceforge.net/fpw/wiki.phtml), get yourself a user name there, and try to crash the script! The last comment that was made there dates back three days. So, if you talk about "code and community", how about I bring the code, you bring the community;)
BTW, if nobody finds serious bugs by the weekend, I'm going to upload the English tarball there, and if it works out OK, I'll declare the code "ready for switching". Then it's in the hand of the wikipedia "root gods"... --Magnus Manske

Frankly, Cunctator, Magnus Manske is one of the most valuable members of Wikipedia (and Nupedia) because he focuses his energies on work, rather than hyperventilation. (Hyperventilating, as he well knows, is my job. :-) ) He has asked people to help and comment and he has been demonstrating the virtues that you have only been talking about (as well as others that you apparently value less than I do).

Frankly, I'm one of the most valuable members of Wikipedia because I focus my energies on work, rather than hyperventilation. I have not "only been talking about" the virtues which Magnus has been demonstrating, and you know it. Or do you really think that my editing work is a bunch of hyperventilation? You don't seem to in your comments on my work.
I really think you need to accept that other people should be allowed to contribute to Wikipedia by writing opinion pieces. Or you should say that you're not interested in them, and I'll stop, and go elsewhere. --TheCunctator
I didn't mean to imply that other people shouldn't create opinion pieces; I was just praising Magnus for his particularly unusual focus (and making a bit of a joke). Moreover, just so he knows, if Magnus should want to start commenting on stuff, or "hyperventilating," I would recognize fully that he would be in his rights to do so. So, of course other people can create opinion pieces; I am the one who created Wikipedia commentary, after all.
This doesn't mean that I have to think that their opinion pieces are in any way positive contributions to the community.
I think you've done a lot of good work, yes, and I wish I were more consistent in giving credit where it's due. --LMS



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