Currently scheduled for Monday, 3:40pm PST in Robertson 1. Check the official schedule to confirm.
Wikimedia software like MediaWiki is widely used for non-Wikimedia content (e.g. intranet wikis, hobbyist wikis) often using infrastructure quite different from the Wikimedia production environment (e.g. different database software, shared hosting). To what extent should Wikimedia software development serve the needs of running Wikimedia software in non-Wikimedia environments?
Definition of the problem
"Non-technical installs" includes shared hosting and one-click installs. Support for these ways of installing mediawiki has been on a volunteer basis and not a clear WMF objective. We need clarity on this topic, as it is often brought up - possibly incorrectly - as a potential blocker for mediawiki architectural changes.
Users currently using shared hosting are looking for a simple, cheap solution to easily host a wiki. Mediawiki in its current form seems to be the favored wiki to install for that use case.
VPS and containers hosting can be cheap, but they require a technical literacy that this audience doesn't have. They're not a viable alternative on their own. They would need an ecosystem of simple installation and maintenance to go with them, which doesn't seem to exist yet.
Expected outcome at the summit
Form consensus on the following questions:
- What subset of mediawiki functionality should get "Grade A" support for installs on lightweight shared hosting environments? Which extensions should that include?
The same way that we've defined grade support for browsers, we could do the same for limited hosting environments. Right now the picture is very unclear and mediawiki developers aren't told explicitely to what extent those use cases are expected to be supported.
- Should the WMF, as part of its mission to promote such content, offer one-click self-serve hosting for wikis focused on open-licensed educational content?
These users are currently hosting their projects themselves. Such a platform might serve as a better incubator than the one we currently have, which seems to be heavily focused on new languages for wikipedia. It would also make us build the technology that commercial hosting environments could reuse to provide one-click wiki installs to their customers.
- Beyond open-licensed educational content, what could we do to reconnect with the large audience of non-technical mediawiki installs on commercial hosting?
We find them hard to reach, but maybe they feel the same way. The main value for the mediawiki project to have these thousands of installs in the wild is to create a feedback loop for the project. Not only automated (which versions are running, which extensions, maybe some error reporting, etc.), but also maintaining the human connection of these users reporting bugs, engaging with the mediawiki community, etc. The fact that we find that audience very hard to reach at the moment is probably a sign that we can improve the situation. We're not getting the value we should for the mediawiki project with the current disconnect.
- What technical projects could be done to propose a viable alternative to shared hosting on richer platforms like container hosting?
Simplicity of installation, maintenance and upgrade would be key. It should be as simple and cheap for a non-technical person to use the alternative. This could very well happen on the same commercial hosting services they are using now, but there is clearly a long way to go before it's made easy to the hosts to offer such a service. Access to newer functionalities like VE should be a big selling point for all the stakeholders.
Current status of the discussion
We've gathered various stakeholders from the current shared hosting landscape to participate in this discussion. We could probably reach more, but this is a good start. Shared hosting constraints, and why people use share hosting seems to be a clearer subject now. The next step will likely be to hold office hours to explore individual questions listed above.
Links to background information
- Software appliances on mediawiki.org
- Hosting services on mediawiki.org
- T87774: Evaluate and decide on a distribution strategy targeted at VMs
- T92971: Examine ways to make using MediaWiki-Vagrant secure (or at least not wildly insecure) on a host exposed to the Internet
- T96903: Identify and prioritize architectural challenges
- http://markmail.org/thread/qxpprpetxw4egttd (April 2009)
- http://markmail.org/message/dyd4tdw7cnuypkev (April 2010)
- http://markmail.org/thread/rmm4qryc2oz66xwq (August 2010)
- http://markmail.org/thread/yp656dqxxlbxlh4j (October 2013, LARGE)
- http://markmail.org/thread/mctgizrwmqqksel6 + http://markmail.org/thread/5mdg73ckismzvv2f (October 2013, LARGE)
- http://markmail.org/thread/dnuzus4lbjenxtds (June 2014)
- http://markmail.org/thread/tjig2g4hunth3s6s (January 2015, LARGE)
- http://markmail.org/thread/inwkfa5dmut74t7v (late January 2015)
- http://markmail.org/message/akanfmhyqxfq63ws (September 2015)