I’ve been watching the MediaViewer debate unfold with uncharacteristic silence. I figure every point to be made has been made by others far more eloquent than I. Just to get my opinions out of the way:
- I share most of the concerns with MediaViewer.
- I believe that the way the WMF and the broader community collaborate to develop and release software going forward is the bigger issue by far.
- I don’t think that adding another level of privileges to Mediawiki is a good solution to any problem.
- Having had to make go/no go decisions on software releases myself, I reserve rollbacks for releases that break existing use cases with no workarounds. Since users can opt out of MediaViewer, I don’t think that a rollback is called for where it has already been deployed.
- I believe that MediaViewer can and will be a great addition to Mediawiki.
- I know that development cycles are long, that big changes have been made at the WMF since the MediaViewer project was kicked off, and that Lila was appointed specifically for her expertise in managing software releases. Patience may pay off now, even if it hasn’t before.
As far as I can tell, with the possible exception of the necessity of a rollback, my beliefs are consistent with those of most people speaking up on wikimedia-l and elsewhere. If this post were just about these issues, I’d leave it at “+1″.
Where this letter comes up short, however, is in consequences. A fork is mentioned somewhere. That’s one possibility. Or maybe mass retirement? Another option would be that everyone who signs the letter will refuse to donate money to the WMF going forward. Or maybe it makes sense to leave the negotiating table by refusing to discuss further collaboration until these demands are met? There are lots of candidates, but the letter ends on a rather weak “but we need the Wikimedia Foundation to act decisively before it is possible to move forward effectively.” If I’m asking what exactly this means, my guess is that the WMF isn’t sure either.
When I created a petition to allow Greg Kohs to attend all open Wikipedia conferences, I wrote it as a pledge that supporters would refuse to attend any event to which Greg was banned. Of course, it can be harder to get signatures that way; after all, the signees must accept some consequences for themselves, too. For example, since I created that petition, Greg revisited a statement that would have been a showstopper for the petition if not for what seemed to be a very sincere apology. Suffice it to say, I wouldn’t create a petition supporting Greg by name now, but I still believe that Wikipedia conferences should be open to all and I committed to my beliefs by signing the petition along with some 30 others. Just imagine what could be accomplished with 500 community members deeply and demonstratively committing to a cause like we have!
However this plays out, we’re at a turning point for both the WMF and the community. The WMF has new leadership. The community has proven that it can rally significant support around a cause, although more needs to be done to clarify the members’ commitment to that cause, IMO. The question now comes down to whether they will be navigating this tricky terrain together or turning their separate ways.