Over the past few weeks, I have been thinking about how to improve (or rather, kick off) a more structured way to manage software and product development within the Wikimedia community. The result is a list of ideas and recommendations I have compiled and submitted to the relevant staff members at the Wikimedia Foundation. I am also publishing them here in order to allow for wider feedback. This article is the first of a series dedicated to this topic.
Right now, the bug tracker we use is based on Bugzilla and located at bugzilla.wikimedia.org. Many major free projects use a generic “bugs” or “issues” prefix or suffix in their URL: bugs.kde.org, bugs.gentoo.org, issues.apache.org, www.debian.org/Bugs. Some projects use the “bugzilla” prefix like we currently do, like bugzilla.gnome.org. The latter is an example of a choice based on the implementation model: the name reflects the technical implementation of the bug tracker, not its actual purpose. A better name would be closer to the user model and describe the actual goal of the platform: to report and manage bugs and issues related to a specific project. If we do change our tracker, the current name will have to change too, because it is specific to a given tool.
Recommendation: Use a generic descriptive prefix rather than one based on the tool we use.
Wikimedia & MediaWiki
Another current issue is the confusion caused by the similar names used for the organization (Wikimedia) and the software (MediaWiki). A good example of this confusion is the number of MediaWiki users who join the #wikimedia IRC channel instead of #mediawiki to ask for software support. The confusion is even worsened by the fact that we have a unique bug tracker located at bugzilla.wikimedia.org, dealing with issues related to both Wikimedia websites and the MediaWiki software.
There are obviously strong ties between Wikimedia projects and MediaWiki: all Wikimedia projects use the MediaWiki software, and the MediaWiki software is primarily developed with Wikimedia projects in mind. However, there is also a growing community of MediaWiki users who are not Wikimedia users and we should provide them with tools relevant to them. This might be for instance a support forum dedicated to MediaWiki users.
Wikimedia projects and MediaWiki are separate products and they should be acknowledged as such: as a consequence, the separation between bugs in the MediaWiki software, and Wikimedia-specific operations & configuration requests should be made more explicit. Obviously, we would prefer to have a unique back-end to support both sites, particularly to be able to move bugs and requests from one platform to another, but this is easily configurable. Possible names could be
tech.wikimedia.org; both are currently unused. They are pretty wide prefixes, because we may host a real project management platform there, rather than just bug trackers.
Recommendation: Offer two different public-facing platforms for MediaWiki- and Wikimedia-related issue tracking.