A culture of knowledge sharing – Impressions from the Wikimedia Hackathon 2017

Wikimedia Hackathon 2017 Fixing LDAP

Wikimedia Hackathon – the event for the MediaWiki tech community, image by Mglaser (CC BY-SA 4.0), via Wikimedia Commons

Vienna! A city of music, culture and avant-garde. And, notably, the host of this year’s Wikimedia Hackathon, an annual tech event where roundabout 200 developers, maintainers and users of MediaWiki gathered to experiment, discuss, plan and, of course, enjoy the company of like-minded people. Naturally, BlueSpice, being the largest professional flavor of MediaWiki, was also represented in various ways, getting glimpses at the most recent turns in development, making connections among colleagues, and exchanging experiences and ideas.

One issue we wanted to resolve was the current state of LDAP support for MediaWiki. The maintenance of the old LDAPAuthentication extension has been discontinued. At roughly the same time, MediaWiki changed its authentication model. While LDAPAuthentication was updated to work in the most common scenarios, it does no longer fit many requirements in enterprise contexts. As a result, many initiatives have been started to restore LDAP support, leading to a variety of ad hoc solutions. At the Hackathon, Robert took the chance to unify those efforts. In his session, we agreed to jointly work on a system based on PluggableAuth (by Cindy Cicalese) in conjunction with Mark Hershberger’s PluggableSSO and some other extensions. This is the first step towards a standardisation and a good showcase how collaboration among various external stakeholders can work.

For the first time at a Hackathon, the MediaWiki Stakeholders’ Group, which BlueSpice is also a member of, had its own track of sessions: “Fantastic MediaWikis and how to maintain them“. We talked about use cases (ESA, Baugeschichte.at and the Vienna History Wiki), best practises and solutions (deployment with Oregano, proper setup of runJobs, installation of VisualEditor, synchronisation of multiple Semantic MediaWikis), analytical insights (comparison to Confluence, results of a user survey), and discussed how to increase the acceptance of MediaWiki.

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More 250 than participants joined the Wikimedia Hackathon 2017, image by Manfred Werner (Tsui) –  (CC BY-SA 4.0), via Wikimedia Commons

Among the many fantastic things you can do with MediaWiki, there is this maker platform, WikiFab.org, which utilizes SMW to let users share their instructions for building nice things in real life. You can think of it as an open source repository for hardware. In the last two years, WikiFab has built a suite of extensions which might also be of interest for enterprise users. BlueSpice and WikiFab are currently exploring the possibilities of a cooperation.

Being somewhat courageous, we offered a session on how to contribute to BlueSpice. Our software has many entry points for developers, such as the API, bug fixes in gerrit and extensions based on BlueSpiceFoundation. In the session we explored the architecture and the named possibilities. The feedback of the participants helped a lot to structure the field of how to participate and this will be baked into a comprehensive documentation soon.

The people at the Hackathon have produced a variety of prototypes, features and explorations, some of which can be seen at the showcase page. It’s definitely worth a look. Among the projects, there is an experimental real time collaborative editor, a sentiment analysis of talk pages, a trending topics page for Wikipedia, a game to categorize images on Wikimedia Commons, and WikiReaper to keep you updated on recent notable fatalities.

Markus and Richi are particularly honored to have received a special mention during the opening ceremony for organizing the “Fantastic MediaWikis” track. Overall, the hackathon was extremely well organized and it was a joy to participate!

P.S.: Credits to the title of this blog post go to Mark Hershberger.

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