MozillaWiki team update, call for new leadership

From July 14-20th, I was in Mexico City for Wikimania 2015 with the MozillaWiki team. I’d been disengaged for a number of months and was excited to re-engage that week to help figure out our long-term plan.

Mozilla-wiki-logo-revThe work done by the MozillaWiki Team this past year and a half has been a labor of love, but like so many things at Mozilla, love alone unfortunately isn’t enough to sustain forward momentum. The MozillaWiki is currently at a crossroads, and we want to ensure it has a chance at a strong future. Before I get into the details of what’s next, I’d like to share some recent history.

For a number of years, the MozillaWiki lacked stewardship. It fell into disrepair. Spam was rampant, the deployed version of MediaWiki was rapidly approaching end-of-life, integrations were beginning to break, and wiki gardening best practices around metadata and namespacing were non-existent. And yet it remained one of the most accessible comprehensive records of work at every level of Mozilla and a significant entry point for contributor participation.

While the former Community Building Team seems to have been swept under the historical rug as a failed effort, it did have a number of successes. The MozillaWiki is one of them. As the lead of CBT’s Education Working Group, Christie Koehler recognized that the MozillaWiki was a critical piece of participation infrastructure needing some serious TLC. In the past year and a half, she built a team of Mozilla staff and volunteers, established a product roadmap emphasizing collaboration and participation features, and brought the MozillaWiki into modern times.

Last year in August, the MozillaWiki team had a work week in London that coincided with Wikimania 2014. In attendance was Jennie Halperin, Joelle F, Gordon P. Hemsley, C Liang, Christie Koehler, and myself. We created and deployed a new sidebar nav and main page, planned and tested the upgrade from Mediawiki 1.19 to 1.23 (without any downtime!), and planned our roadmap through the beginning of 2015. This week was a major milestone because we were finally able to get past a lot of technical debt enabling us to concentrate on adding new features.

In the year since, the MozillaWiki team has: streamlined the deployment process, closed all open security bugs, audited and adjusted user group rights to improve security and usability, deployed widget capabilities which enable Google Doc embeds, added flowchart and diagram creation capabilities via the GraphViz extension, and added the ability to create pages from Etherpads.

In November 2014, Christie wrote a blog post celebrating the 10th year anniversary of MozillaWiki with screenshots showing its evolution.

At the outset of 2015, the following executive summary slide deck was created outlining MozillaWiki’s usage statistics across the org as well as the MozillaWiki Team’s accomplishments and long-term goals.

Fast forward to this year’s Wikimania. MozillaWiki team members in attendance were Christie Koehler, Gordon Hemsley, Jason Crowe, Janet Swisher, and myself.

Recently, life changes have made continued progress difficult. Gordon Hemsley and I, both module peers for the Mozilla wiki, have been disengaged for a number of months as he found demanding work and I’ve been focused on personal development projects. Christie Koehler, module owner for MozillaWiki, joined the MDN team and has new staff responsibilities that don’t include stewardship of MozillaWiki. Other team members have had similar developments. We find ourselves facing the fact that there is no one able to commit to actively push things forward, nor passively maintain responsiveness.

Given the lack of resources and firm commitment on the part of staff and volunteers, the MozillaWiki team has decided it makes more sense to dissolve its current form and prepare for future stewards to take ownership of the MozillaWiki.

For our last hurrah in Mexico City, we launched a mobile interface for MozillaWiki! We also began taking steps to freeze active development, maintenance, and administration of the wiki. We are preparing a transition document so the next team of people, whoever they might be, can build upon the foundation we’ve established without having to start from scratch like we did.

We also visited the Teotihuacan pyramids outside of Mexico City.

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I hope this development can help fuel discussion on the role of critical participation infrastructure (such as MozillaWiki, Mozillians, the Heartbeat dashboard, the Reps portal, etc) in Mozilla’s future and the critical need for it to be resourced and aligned/integrated with other Mozilla infrastructure.

There is so much opportunity for continued work on the MozillaWiki that would make it a better tool for participation and cross-team collaboration at Mozilla. Things like a mobile interface, real-time collaborative editing, and tighter integration with other Mozilla infrastructure are realistic opportunities for a small technical team. Additionally, there’s also plenty of work left undone that aligns with emerging Mozilla Participation and Learning strategies in the areas of leadership development, curricula+workshop dev, and building collaborative bridges between volunteers and staff.

This wiki page has a section, ‘How is the Wiki a critical resource to the Mozilla Project?‘ which succinctly explains what motivated my participation on the Wiki Team. My personal story with Mozilla started with years of lurking on MozillaWiki, and I know others feel as strongly about it as I. It holds so much of our history, and this is an active living history with a great many people relying upon it as their primary resource for understanding Mozilla, where it’s going, and how to get involved.

There are outstanding questions regarding who will do daily maintenance including handling account requests and content related tasks, as well as long-term upkeep so MozillaWiki doesn’t again fall into disrepair. If you’re interested in helping to steward the wiki, check out our in progress transition document and get in touch.