Engineering vision

Noto Emoji Pie 1f4c4.svg This is an essay. It expresses the opinions and ideas of some Wikimedians but may not have wide support. This is not policy on Meta, but it may be a policy or guideline on other Wikimedia projects. Feel free to update this page as needed, or use the discussion page to propose major changes.

The first wiki went online two decades ago in 1995. Wikipedia followed in 2001, with its first use of MediaWiki coming in 2002. Arguably one of the largest public wikis, Wikipedia is proof of the adaptability, flexibility and power of the wiki system. It was made truly unique because of the community that tirelessly collaborated and built it - one article, one page, sometimes one word at a time. The active editors have built an innate understanding of the core concepts they subscribe to when editing.

Although the wiki interface can seem archaic today, editors have been forming these fundamental expectations for years, evolving a central philosophy which is frequently overlooked. Editors tend to be caught off-guard by new additions, interface changes and other large software changes because they don't respect that philosophy.

Evolution - or lack thereofEdit

The community subscribes to the simplest understanding of wikis, because they respected an inherent philosophy, which offered an unparalleled level of freedom: the freedom to do as they wish with their contributions, to manipulate text and layout and revert and comment to their heart's content, and to do it all simply and easily without added bloat. The rest of the web evolved fast, much faster than wikis, because wikis didn't need much in terms of evolution - they were functional from the start. The rise of social media and suchlike has changed the expectations of many new users - coding is alien to the new generation and people expect structured comment systems - yet wiki principles survived with some sort of an "unrepentant Web 1.0 egalitarianism" (quote from user:Wnt). It gives character and strength in certain contexts.

We have come to a fork in the road: either we embrace our unrepentant egalitarianism and capitalise on the power of wikis, or we adapt to fit modern expectations but risk forgoing some of our core values. There may even be a middle path where we can salvage the best of the core tenets wikis are based on and at the same time form something more fitting of the times. Either way, it is essential that we try to capture what it is that makes us, us.

We need to make an attempt to quantify certain innate expectations our community has, that makes certain new developments and software products doomed from the start. Without a vision document like the one being attempted here, we might never get the level of collaboration wikis excel at. Future development of new tools, extensions and platforms can benefit from this centralized vision of what wikis should be.

Core conceptsEdit

See also: mw:Principles.
  • History - Every past version of a page should be accessible. There is an inherent expectation that a wiki will have a history page with past iterations of the same page, to view, compare or revert.
  • Simplicity - Every revision of every wiki page should be viewable in its entirety from a static URL without Javascript. The simplicity to run a page on both the oldest and the newest hardware is important.
  • Reversibility - Edits should be reversible, not merely hideable or collapsible. Freedom to revert is very important.
  • Archives - The entire archive of discussions should be browsable and not fall off into infinite scroll.
  • Equality and neutrality - Every single editor and every single comment should have the exact equal representation on a page. Chances of one comment being more prominent than another is not something that the platform should engage in.
  • Freedom and fairness - Wikimedia projects thrive on the free licensing of their contents. The software must respect these licenses by always giving due credit, in accordance with the license used, and encouraging reusers to do so too.

In addition to that, it is important for previous discussions, votes, requests and debates to be available years and decades later. They aren't old discussions that become irrelevant with time, but display a historic representation of thoughts and ideas that lead to the decision at a given moment of time. Their historical value is unmatched, and hence they should be available at a moment's notice to browse through.