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We need to make it easy to fork and leave

 

 

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dgerard at gmail

Aug 12, 2011, 3:55 AM

Post #1 of 42 (1419 views)
Permalink
We need to make it easy to fork and leave

[.posted to foundation-l and wikitech-l, thread fork of a discussion elsewhere]


THESIS: Our inadvertent monopoly is *bad*. We need to make it easy to
fork the projects, so as to preserve them.

This is the single point of failure problem. The reasons for it having
happened are obvious, but it's still a problem. Blog posts (please
excuse me linking these yet again):

* http://davidgerard.co.uk/notes/2007/04/10/disaster-recovery-planning/
* http://davidgerard.co.uk/notes/2011/01/19/single-point-of-failure/

I dream of the encyclopedia being meaningfully backed up. This will
require technical attention specifically to making the projects -
particularly that huge encyclopedia in English - meaningfully
forkable.

Yes, we should be making ourselves forkable. That way people don't
*have* to trust us.

We're digital natives - we know the most effective way to keep
something safe is to make sure there's lots of copies around.

How easy is it to set up a copy of English Wikipedia - all text, all
pictures, all software, all extensions and customisations to the
software? What bits are hard? If a sizable chunk of the community
wanted to fork, how can we make it *easy* for them to do so?

And I ask all this knowing that we don't have the paid tech resources
to look into it - tech is a huge chunk of the WMF budget and we're
still flat-out just keeping the lights on. But I do think it needs
serious consideration for long-term preservation of all this work.


- d.

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putevod at mccme

Aug 12, 2011, 5:07 AM

Post #2 of 42 (1407 views)
Permalink
Re: We need to make it easy to fork and leave [In reply to]

On Fri, 12 Aug 2011 11:55:47 +0100, David Gerard <dgerard [at] gmail>
wrote:
> [.posted to foundation-l and wikitech-l, thread fork of a discussion
> elsewhere]
>
>
> THESIS: Our inadvertent monopoly is *bad*. We need to make it easy to
> fork the projects, so as to preserve them.
>
> This is the single point of failure problem. The reasons for it having
> happened are obvious, but it's still a problem. Blog posts (please
> excuse me linking these yet again):
>
> * http://davidgerard.co.uk/notes/2007/04/10/disaster-recovery-planning/
> * http://davidgerard.co.uk/notes/2011/01/19/single-point-of-failure/
>
> I dream of the encyclopedia being meaningfully backed up. This will
> require technical attention specifically to making the projects -
> particularly that huge encyclopedia in English - meaningfully
> forkable.
>

I do agree that the monopoly, at least in this case, is a bad thing, but I
do not see why stimulating creation of the forks would be the best way to
create competition. As far as I am concerned, the only real competition to
us comes from Chinese projects like Baidu, and not from many Wikipedia-like
forks or not even from Google Knol.

Cheers
Yaroslav

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dgerard at gmail

Aug 12, 2011, 5:32 AM

Post #3 of 42 (1416 views)
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Re: We need to make it easy to fork and leave [In reply to]

On 12 August 2011 13:07, Yaroslav M. Blanter <putevod [at] mccme> wrote:

> I do agree that the monopoly, at least in this case, is a bad thing, but I
> do not see why stimulating creation of the forks would be the best way to
> create competition. As far as I am concerned, the only real competition to
> us comes from Chinese projects like Baidu, and not from many Wikipedia-like
> forks or not even from Google Knol.


Making it easy to fork keeps us honest. I think we really need good
competitors, and we don't have any.


- d.

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putevod at mccme

Aug 12, 2011, 5:37 AM

Post #4 of 42 (1421 views)
Permalink
Re: We need to make it easy to fork and leave [In reply to]

On Fri, 12 Aug 2011 13:32:43 +0100, David Gerard <dgerard [at] gmail>
wrote:
> On 12 August 2011 13:07, Yaroslav M. Blanter <putevod [at] mccme> wrote:
>
>> I do agree that the monopoly, at least in this case, is a bad thing,
but
>> I
>> do not see why stimulating creation of the forks would be the best way
to
>> create competition. As far as I am concerned, the only real competition
>> to
>> us comes from Chinese projects like Baidu, and not from many
>> Wikipedia-like
>> forks or not even from Google Knol.
>
>
> Making it easy to fork keeps us honest. I think we really need good
> competitors, and we don't have any.
>
>

My point is that making it easy to fork does not create good competitors.
Good competitors come from elsewhere. And they will come, if we do not
deploy WISIWIG, not lower the entrance barrier for novices, not make it
harder to troll out respectable users, and not find a way to make
connections to academia or otherwise considerably improve the quality.

Cheers
Yaroslav

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dgerard at gmail

Aug 12, 2011, 5:47 AM

Post #5 of 42 (1406 views)
Permalink
Re: We need to make it easy to fork and leave [In reply to]

On 12 August 2011 13:37, Yaroslav M. Blanter <putevod [at] mccme> wrote:

> My point is that making it easy to fork does not create good competitors.
> Good competitors come from elsewhere. And they will come, if we do not
> deploy WISIWIG, not lower the entrance barrier for novices, not make it
> harder to troll out respectable users, and not find a way to make
> connections to academia or otherwise considerably improve the quality.


Oh, absolutely. The other thing they'd need is an actual sizable
editing community, big enough to take on the task. Citizendium failed
to achieve this, for example, and ended up deleting most of the
articles they'd forked from Wikipedia.

I'm pointing out that the technical ability is also a prerequisite.
Even if you have the other stuff, the ability to do it at all needs to
be present. Technical forkability is explicitly acknowledged by the
tech team as obviously the Right Thing, and it's why WMF is so gung-ho
about open source everything; the trouble is actually putting it into
practice in a resource-restricted environment. It's a variety of
technical debt [*].

WYSIWYG is in progress. Moon shot ahoy!

Academics appear to be coming to us, despite our inability to keep
idiots out of experts' faces. Or out of respectable users' faces. Or
out of anyone's face. A dissolution of the "expert problem" I hadn't
been expecting.


- d.

[*] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Technical_debt - the shortcuts you
take to get something working, knowing you need to fix them later if
not now. Numerical measure and accounting is tricky, but the analogy
to financial debt is surprisingly useful.

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emijrp at gmail

Aug 12, 2011, 11:53 AM

Post #6 of 42 (1407 views)
Permalink
Re: We need to make it easy to fork and leave [In reply to]

Man, Gerard is thinking about new methods to fork (in an easy way) single
articles, sets of articles or complete wikipedias, and people reply about
setting up servers/mediawiki/importing_databases and other geeky weekend
parties. That is why there is no successful forks. Forking Wikipedia is
_hard_.

People need a button to create a branch of an article or sets of articles,
and be allowed to re-write and work in the way they want. Of course, the
resulting articles can't be saved/showed close to the Wikipedia articles,
but in a new plataform. It would be an interesting experiment.

2011/8/12 David Gerard <dgerard [at] gmail>

> [.posted to foundation-l and wikitech-l, thread fork of a discussion
> elsewhere]
>
>
> THESIS: Our inadvertent monopoly is *bad*. We need to make it easy to
> fork the projects, so as to preserve them.
>
> This is the single point of failure problem. The reasons for it having
> happened are obvious, but it's still a problem. Blog posts (please
> excuse me linking these yet again):
>
> * http://davidgerard.co.uk/notes/2007/04/10/disaster-recovery-planning/
> * http://davidgerard.co.uk/notes/2011/01/19/single-point-of-failure/
>
> I dream of the encyclopedia being meaningfully backed up. This will
> require technical attention specifically to making the projects -
> particularly that huge encyclopedia in English - meaningfully
> forkable.
>
> Yes, we should be making ourselves forkable. That way people don't
> *have* to trust us.
>
> We're digital natives - we know the most effective way to keep
> something safe is to make sure there's lots of copies around.
>
> How easy is it to set up a copy of English Wikipedia - all text, all
> pictures, all software, all extensions and customisations to the
> software? What bits are hard? If a sizable chunk of the community
> wanted to fork, how can we make it *easy* for them to do so?
>
> And I ask all this knowing that we don't have the paid tech resources
> to look into it - tech is a huge chunk of the WMF budget and we're
> still flat-out just keeping the lights on. But I do think it needs
> serious consideration for long-term preservation of all this work.
>
>
> - d.
>
> _______________________________________________
> foundation-l mailing list
> foundation-l [at] lists
> Unsubscribe: https://lists.wikimedia.org/mailman/listinfo/foundation-l
>
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geniice at gmail

Aug 12, 2011, 12:16 PM

Post #7 of 42 (1403 views)
Permalink
Re: We need to make it easy to fork and leave [In reply to]

On 12 August 2011 13:47, David Gerard <dgerard [at] gmail> wrote:
> On 12 August 2011 13:37, Yaroslav M. Blanter <putevod [at] mccme> wrote:
>
>> My point is that making it easy to fork does not create good competitors.
>> Good competitors come from elsewhere. And they will come, if we do not
>> deploy WISIWIG, not lower the entrance barrier for novices, not make it
>> harder to troll out respectable users, and not find a way to make
>> connections to academia or otherwise considerably improve the quality.
>
>
> Oh, absolutely. The other thing they'd need is an actual sizable
> editing community, big enough to take on the task. Citizendium failed
> to achieve this, for example, and ended up deleting most of the
> articles they'd forked from Wikipedia.

That assumes it's actually worth editing wikipedia on any scale at
this point. For most normal applications of encyclopedias it probably
isn't.


--
geni

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george.herbert at gmail

Aug 12, 2011, 12:24 PM

Post #8 of 42 (1402 views)
Permalink
Re: We need to make it easy to fork and leave [In reply to]

On Fri, Aug 12, 2011 at 12:16 PM, geni <geniice [at] gmail> wrote:
> On 12 August 2011 13:47, David Gerard <dgerard [at] gmail> wrote:
>> On 12 August 2011 13:37, Yaroslav M. Blanter <putevod [at] mccme> wrote:
>>
>>> My point is that making it easy to fork does not create good competitors.
>>> Good competitors come from elsewhere. And they will come, if we do not
>>> deploy WISIWIG, not lower the entrance barrier for novices, not make it
>>> harder to troll out respectable users, and not find a way to make
>>> connections to academia or otherwise considerably improve the quality.
>>
>>
>> Oh, absolutely. The other thing they'd need is an actual sizable
>> editing community, big enough to take on the task. Citizendium failed
>> to achieve this, for example, and ended up deleting most of the
>> articles they'd forked from Wikipedia.
>
> That assumes it's actually worth editing wikipedia on any scale at
> this point. For most normal applications of encyclopedias it probably
> isn't.

We still have wide gaps in knowledge coverage. Not in the most common
areas, but in many specialized areas, where they're not heavily
geek-populated.


--
-george william herbert
george.herbert [at] gmail

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geniice at gmail

Aug 12, 2011, 12:53 PM

Post #9 of 42 (1400 views)
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Re: We need to make it easy to fork and leave [In reply to]

On 12 August 2011 20:24, George Herbert <george.herbert [at] gmail> wrote:
> We still have wide gaps in knowledge coverage. áNot in the most common
> areas, but in many specialized areas, where they're not heavily
> geek-populated.
>

Yes but those don't have much to do with normal applications of encyclopedias.


--
geni

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george.herbert at gmail

Aug 12, 2011, 12:59 PM

Post #10 of 42 (1423 views)
Permalink
Re: We need to make it easy to fork and leave [In reply to]

On Fri, Aug 12, 2011 at 12:53 PM, geni <geniice [at] gmail> wrote:
> On 12 August 2011 20:24, George Herbert <george.herbert [at] gmail> wrote:
>> We still have wide gaps in knowledge coverage. áNot in the most common
>> areas, but in many specialized areas, where they're not heavily
>> geek-populated.
>>
>
> Yes but those don't have much to do with normal applications of encyclopedias.

Sure they do. The question is what coverage you want in the encyclopedia.

You may not be a construction guy, but wouldn't it be useful if you
could say "Hmm, what are those standardized 1.5 inch square open metal
channels used everywhere in construction?" and find [[Strut channel]]
on Wikipedia.

And a few thousand other construction things I haven't had time to add, yet.

And engineering.

All these specialized things are encyclopedic, and matter in the
world, even if they're not geek-significant. There's no reason not to
define encyclopedic as inclusive of topics such as these.


--
-george william herbert
george.herbert [at] gmail

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geniice at gmail

Aug 12, 2011, 1:48 PM

Post #11 of 42 (1401 views)
Permalink
Re: We need to make it easy to fork and leave [In reply to]

On 12 August 2011 20:59, George Herbert <george.herbert [at] gmail> wrote:
> On Fri, Aug 12, 2011 at 12:53 PM, geni <geniice [at] gmail> wrote:
>> On 12 August 2011 20:24, George Herbert <george.herbert [at] gmail> wrote:
>>> We still have wide gaps in knowledge coverage. áNot in the most common
>>> areas, but in many specialized areas, where they're not heavily
>>> geek-populated.
>>>
>>
>> Yes but those don't have much to do with normal applications of encyclopedias.
>
> Sure they do. áThe question is what coverage you want in the encyclopedia.
>
> You may not be a construction guy, but wouldn't it be useful if you
> could say "Hmm, what are those standardized 1.5 inch square open metal
> channels used everywhere in construction?" and find [[Strut channel]]
> on Wikipedia.
>
> And a few thousand other construction things I haven't had time to add, yet.
>
> And engineering.
>
> All these specialized things are encyclopedic, and matter in the
> world, even if they're not geek-significant. áThere's no reason not to
> define encyclopedic as inclusive of topics such as these.


You appear to be confusing "articles needed for normal applications of
encyclopedias." and encyclopedic. [[Nabu-apla-iddina]] is
encyclopedic, a Babylonian king no less, however history shows that
encyclopedias can function just fine without having an article on him.

--
geni

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dgerard at gmail

Aug 12, 2011, 1:51 PM

Post #12 of 42 (1415 views)
Permalink
Re: We need to make it easy to fork and leave [In reply to]

On 12 August 2011 20:53, geni <geniice [at] gmail> wrote:
> On 12 August 2011 20:24, George Herbert <george.herbert [at] gmail> wrote:

>> We still have wide gaps in knowledge coverage.  Not in the most common
>> areas, but in many specialized areas, where they're not heavily
>> geek-populated.

> Yes but those don't have much to do with normal applications of encyclopedias.


Neither does Wikipedia. An encyclopedia is now "something like
Wikipedia." We are in indeterminate territory. The question we're
trying to answer in this subthread is "what would we use Wikipedia for
if it were there?"


- d.

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bzg at altern

Aug 13, 2011, 12:40 AM

Post #13 of 42 (1401 views)
Permalink
Re: We need to make it easy to fork and leave [In reply to]

+1 for the need to make it easy to fork (I suggested this back
in 2010 in Gdansk during the barcamp session.)

"Yaroslav M. Blanter" <putevod [at] mccme> writes:

> I do agree that the monopoly, at least in this case, is a bad thing, but I
> do not see why stimulating creation of the forks would be the best way to
> create competition.

Forks are not only a matter of _competition_ between branches,
but also a matter of _freedom_.

The whole point of using CC-by-sa in WM project is to allow people
to reuse and to improve the content, either within the projects or
outside the projects.

No doubt that the content is being massively reused outside the WM
project.

But I doubt the content is improved outside the project -- which
is what matters most to me. Various communities disagree on what
"improve" means, so it would be great if WM could let those
communities to fork the projects' content and start new ones.

The easiest way I can think of is a Mediawiki plugin that allows
people to grab content from WM projects and create new pages with
this content.

--
Bastien

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jayvdb at gmail

Aug 13, 2011, 12:50 AM

Post #14 of 42 (1398 views)
Permalink
Re: We need to make it easy to fork and leave [In reply to]

On Sat, Aug 13, 2011 at 4:53 AM, emijrp <emijrp [at] gmail> wrote:
> Man, Gerard is thinking about new methods to fork (in an easy way) single
> articles, sets of articles or complete wikipedias, and people reply about
> setting up servers/mediawiki/importing_databases and other geeky weekend
> parties. That is why there is no successful forks. Forking Wikipedia is
> _hard_.
>
> People need a button to create a branch of an article or sets of articles,
> and be allowed to re-write and work in the way they want. Of course, the
> resulting articles can't be saved/showed close to the Wikipedia articles,
> but in a new plataform. It would be an interesting experiment.

Something like this.. ?

http://wikimedia.org.au/wiki/Proposal:PersonalWikiTool

--
John Vandenberg

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emijrp at gmail

Aug 13, 2011, 1:44 AM

Post #15 of 42 (1399 views)
Permalink
Re: We need to make it easy to fork and leave [In reply to]

Yes, that tool looks similar to the idea I wrote. Other approaches may be
possible too.

2011/8/13 John Vandenberg <jayvdb [at] gmail>

> On Sat, Aug 13, 2011 at 4:53 AM, emijrp <emijrp [at] gmail> wrote:
> > Man, Gerard is thinking about new methods to fork (in an easy way) single
> > articles, sets of articles or complete wikipedias, and people reply about
> > setting up servers/mediawiki/importing_databases and other geeky weekend
> > parties. That is why there is no successful forks. Forking Wikipedia is
> > _hard_.
> >
> > People need a button to create a branch of an article or sets of
> articles,
> > and be allowed to re-write and work in the way they want. Of course, the
> > resulting articles can't be saved/showed close to the Wikipedia articles,
> > but in a new plataform. It would be an interesting experiment.
>
> Something like this.. ?
>
> http://wikimedia.org.au/wiki/Proposal:PersonalWikiTool
>
> --
> John Vandenberg
>
> _______________________________________________
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>
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tstarling at wikimedia

Aug 14, 2011, 9:04 PM

Post #16 of 42 (1364 views)
Permalink
Re: We need to make it easy to fork and leave [In reply to]

On 12/08/11 20:55, David Gerard wrote:
> THESIS: Our inadvertent monopoly is *bad*. We need to make it easy to
> fork the projects, so as to preserve them.

I must have missed the place where you actually made this case. I
tried reading your blog posts but I didn't see it there.

In 2005 you said that the point is to insure the data against the
financial collapse of the Foundation. But the chance of that appears
to be vanishingly small, and shrinking as the Foundation gets larger.
If there was some financial problem, then we would have plenty of
warning and plenty of time to plan an exit strategy. The technical
risks (meteorite strike etc.) are also receding as we grow larger.

Also, you seem to be conflating forking with mirroring. If the
Foundation did get into trouble in say 2030, then presumably the
community would want a copy of the whole site as it is in 2030, not a
content fork from 2011.

-- Tim Starling


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davidrichfield at gmail

Aug 14, 2011, 11:16 PM

Post #17 of 42 (1376 views)
Permalink
Re: We need to make it easy to fork and leave [In reply to]

On Mon, Aug 15, 2011 at 6:04 AM, Tim Starling <tstarling [at] wikimedia> wrote:
> On 12/08/11 20:55, David Gerard wrote:
>> THESIS: Our inadvertent monopoly is *bad*. We need to make it easy to
>> fork the projects, so as to preserve them.
>
> I must have missed the place where you actually made this case. I
> tried reading your blog posts but I didn't see it there.
>
> In 2005 you said that the point is to insure the data against the
> financial collapse of the Foundation.

It's not just financial collapse. When Sun was acquired by Oracle and
they started messing about with OpenOffice, it was not hard to fork
the project - take the codebase and run with it. It's not that easy
for Wikipedia, and we want to make sure that it remains doable, or
else the Foundation has too much power over the content community.

Let me make it clear that I currently am happy with the Foundation,
and don't see a fork as necessary. If the community has a problem
with the board at any point, we can elect a new one. If things
change, however, and it becomes clear that the project is being
jeopardised by the management, we need a plan C.

--
David Richfield
e^(­i)+1=0

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dgerard at gmail

Aug 14, 2011, 11:30 PM

Post #18 of 42 (1366 views)
Permalink
Re: We need to make it easy to fork and leave [In reply to]

2011/8/15 David Richfield <davidrichfield [at] gmail>:
> On Mon, Aug 15, 2011 at 6:04 AM, Tim Starling <tstarling [at] wikimedia> wrote:
>> On 12/08/11 20:55, David Gerard wrote:

>>> THESIS: Our inadvertent monopoly is *bad*. We need to make it easy to
>>> fork the projects, so as to preserve them.

>> I must have missed the place where you actually made this case. I
>> tried reading your blog posts but I didn't see it there.
>> In 2005 you said that the point is to insure the data against the
>> financial collapse of the Foundation.

> It's not just financial collapse.  When Sun was acquired by Oracle and
> they started messing about with OpenOffice, it was not hard to fork
> the project - take the codebase and run with it.  It's not that easy
> for Wikipedia, and we want to make sure that it remains doable, or
> else the Foundation has too much power over the content community.
> Let me make it clear that I currently am happy with the Foundation,
> and don't see a fork as necessary.  If the community has a problem
> with the board at any point, we can elect a new one.  If things
> change, however, and it becomes clear that the project is being
> jeopardised by the management, we need a plan C.


Pretty much. It's not urgent - I do understand we're chronically
underresourced - but I think it's fairly obvious it's a Right Thing,
and at the very least something to keep in the back of one's mind.


- d.

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tstarling at wikimedia

Aug 14, 2011, 11:51 PM

Post #19 of 42 (1374 views)
Permalink
Re: We need to make it easy to fork and leave [In reply to]

On 15/08/11 16:30, David Gerard wrote:
> 2011/8/15 David Richfield <davidrichfield [at] gmail>:
>> It's not just financial collapse. When Sun was acquired by Oracle and
>> they started messing about with OpenOffice, it was not hard to fork
>> the project - take the codebase and run with it. It's not that easy
>> for Wikipedia, and we want to make sure that it remains doable, or
>> else the Foundation has too much power over the content community.
>> Let me make it clear that I currently am happy with the Foundation,
>> and don't see a fork as necessary. If the community has a problem
>> with the board at any point, we can elect a new one. If things
>> change, however, and it becomes clear that the project is being
>> jeopardised by the management, we need a plan C.
>
>
> Pretty much. It's not urgent - I do understand we're chronically
> underresourced - but I think it's fairly obvious it's a Right Thing,
> and at the very least something to keep in the back of one's mind.

So you're worried about a policy change? What sort of policy change
specifically would necessitate forking the project? Is there any such
policy change which could plausibly be implemented by the Foundation
while it remains a charity?

I'm just trying to evaluate the scale of the risk here. The amount of
resources that we need to spend on this should be proportional to the
risk.

-- Tim Starling


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putevod at mccme

Aug 15, 2011, 12:10 AM

Post #20 of 42 (1380 views)
Permalink
Re: We need to make it easy to fork and leave [In reply to]

> So you're worried about a policy change? What sort of policy change
> specifically would necessitate forking the project? Is there any such
> policy change which could plausibly be implemented by the Foundation
> while it remains a charity?
>
Adding ads (for instance, Google ads) to the Wikipedia pages? (I do not
mean WMF is planning to do this, but as a remote possibility - why not?)

Cheers
Yaroslav



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dgerard at gmail

Aug 15, 2011, 12:21 AM

Post #21 of 42 (1377 views)
Permalink
Re: We need to make it easy to fork and leave [In reply to]

On 15 August 2011 07:51, Tim Starling <tstarling [at] wikimedia> wrote:

> So you're worried about a policy change? What sort of policy change
> specifically would necessitate forking the project? Is there any such
> policy change which could plausibly be implemented by the Foundation
> while it remains a charity?
> I'm just trying to evaluate the scale of the risk here. The amount of
> resources that we need to spend on this should be proportional to the
> risk.


I don't have a particular risk in mind, no, which is why I've been
consistently saying this is not urgent. You seem to be assuming I'm
saying something I'm not.


- d.

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smolensk at eunet

Aug 15, 2011, 12:26 AM

Post #22 of 42 (1375 views)
Permalink
Re: We need to make it easy to fork and leave [In reply to]

On 15/08/11 08:16, David Richfield wrote:
> It's not just financial collapse. When Sun was acquired by Oracle and
> they started messing about with OpenOffice, it was not hard to fork
> the project - take the codebase and run with it. It's not that easy
> for Wikipedia, and we want to make sure that it remains doable, or
> else the Foundation has too much power over the content community.

I'm fairly confident it would be much easier to fork Wikipedia than
OpenOffice.

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saintonge at telus

Aug 15, 2011, 12:38 AM

Post #23 of 42 (1378 views)
Permalink
Re: We need to make it easy to fork and leave [In reply to]

On 08/15/11 12:10 AM, Yaroslav M. Blanter wrote:
>> So you're worried about a policy change? What sort of policy change
>> specifically would necessitate forking the project? Is there any such
>> policy change which could plausibly be implemented by the Foundation
>> while it remains a charity?
>>
> Adding ads (for instance, Google ads) to the Wikipedia pages? (I do not
> mean WMF is planning to do this, but as a remote possibility - why not?)
>

A comprehensive fork would probably need ad revenue more than the WMF
unless it has deep pockets to get it going.

Ray

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fredbaud at fairpoint

Aug 15, 2011, 1:14 AM

Post #24 of 42 (1363 views)
Permalink
Re: We need to make it easy to fork and leave [In reply to]

> On 15/08/11 16:30, David Gerard wrote:
>> 2011/8/15 David Richfield <davidrichfield [at] gmail>:
>>> It's not just financial collapse. When Sun was acquired by Oracle and
>>> they started messing about with OpenOffice, it was not hard to fork
>>> the project - take the codebase and run with it. It's not that easy
>>> for Wikipedia, and we want to make sure that it remains doable, or
>>> else the Foundation has too much power over the content community.
>>> Let me make it clear that I currently am happy with the Foundation,
>>> and don't see a fork as necessary. If the community has a problem
>>> with the board at any point, we can elect a new one. If things
>>> change, however, and it becomes clear that the project is being
>>> jeopardised by the management, we need a plan C.
>>
>>
>> Pretty much. It's not urgent - I do understand we're chronically
>> underresourced - but I think it's fairly obvious it's a Right Thing,
>> and at the very least something to keep in the back of one's mind.
>
> So you're worried about a policy change? What sort of policy change
> specifically would necessitate forking the project? Is there any such
> policy change which could plausibly be implemented by the Foundation
> while it remains a charity?
>
> I'm just trying to evaluate the scale of the risk here. The amount of
> resources that we need to spend on this should be proportional to the
> risk.
>
> -- Tim Starling

That technical staff have effective power to decide whether a fork is
justified is reason enough.

Fred Bauder



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oliver.moran at gmail

Aug 15, 2011, 1:14 AM

Post #25 of 42 (1361 views)
Permalink
Re: We need to make it easy to fork and leave [In reply to]

Yes, it's not about the "end of the world is neigh" type scenario. It's just
a simple matter of, 'If I wanted a complete copy of Wikipedia, how do I get
it?'

There answer is that there are several ways.

First off, there are the DB dumps (
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wikipedia:Database_download). However, these
are so phenomenally large that they cannot be considered for everyday
use. These are what I assume professional forks of Wikipedia content are
based off today.

For everyday users, the simplest way to fork a project is to use
the Special:Export/Special:Import tools (e.g.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Special:Export). Using these, anyone can simply
choose the articles they want to fork, export them to a file, and then
import that file them into their own MediaWiki installation. Templates are
included and if images are from the Commons then these will be picked up by
a MediaWiki installation anyway.

There is also the API (http://en.wikipedia.org/w/api.php), which is a very
useful tool. If someone had a particular requirement for forking (e.g. they
wanted to create a compendium of articles that they or their friends had
contributed to on Wikipedia), the API would be a very able tool to do
so. Yes, you need technical knowledge to do so, but no more than you would
need to properly maintain a fork in any case. For someone with medium
programmings skills, it's not hard, and there are tools out there to make it
even easier (http://www.mediawiki.org/wiki/API:Client_Code).

In all, it is quite easy to fork any Wikimedia project. There may be
a question of distributed sharing of the DB dumps (e.g. share via a torrent
so that if the Wikimedia turned evil there may still be seeders of the DB
dumps out there). But, all things being considered, there are plenty of Plan
C's out there - and they are being used in practice already.

Regards,
Oliver

2011/8/15 David Richfield <davidrichfield [at] gmail>

> On Mon, Aug 15, 2011 at 6:04 AM, Tim Starling <tstarling [at] wikimedia>
> wrote:
> > On 12/08/11 20:55, David Gerard wrote:
> >> THESIS: Our inadvertent monopoly is *bad*. We need to make it easy to
> >> fork the projects, so as to preserve them.
> >
> > I must have missed the place where you actually made this case. I
> > tried reading your blog posts but I didn't see it there.
> >
> > In 2005 you said that the point is to insure the data against the
> > financial collapse of the Foundation.
>
> It's not just financial collapse. When Sun was acquired by Oracle and
> they started messing about with OpenOffice, it was not hard to fork
> the project - take the codebase and run with it. It's not that easy
> for Wikipedia, and we want to make sure that it remains doable, or
> else the Foundation has too much power over the content community.
>
> Let me make it clear that I currently am happy with the Foundation,
> and don't see a fork as necessary. If the community has a problem
> with the board at any point, we can elect a new one. If things
> change, however, and it becomes clear that the project is being
> jeopardised by the management, we need a plan C.
>
> --
> David Richfield
> e^(­i)+1=0
>
> _______________________________________________
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> foundation-l [at] lists
> Unsubscribe: https://lists.wikimedia.org/mailman/listinfo/foundation-l
>
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