Next steps on Wikimedia Space

Last year, Wikimedia Foundation launched Wikimedia Space to experiment with new ways to connect volunteers, increase movement participation, and showcase community stories. While we remain committed to this important goal, based on lessons learned through the Space prototype, the Foundation has decided to close Discuss Space. The Space blog, which continues to fill a need to share news for the movement by the movement, will continue in a new home. 

We are starting work to move the blog to production and migrate existing content to a new site. Please continue to submit stories and news from the movement so we might highlight your work, lessons and successes. 

The Wikimedia Foundation is starting focused discussions and planning to address the problems that Space aimed to solve. Our goals are to improve the Wikimedia infrastructure for information, collaboration and support, involve the communities in the design, and rely on the existing Wikimedia platforms whenever possible. We aim to define a strategy aligned with the Movement Strategy and the Foundation’s medium-term plan, and build resources accordingly.

Experimenting with the Space Prototype

Wikimedia Space was released as a prototype on 25 June 2019, motivated by the Wikimedia 2030 strategic direction pillar of Knowledge equity to support strong and diverse communities. It was setup to explore and experiment with solutions around key problems obstructing equal access to information and equal means of participation in the Wikimedia movement.

The proposal to establish the Space prototype based on existing open source products allowed for a quick launch and a hands-on comparison with other tools both in and outside Wikimedia’s infrastructure. This approach has provided us with a lot of practical experiences and feedback to work from, but also had its shortcomings. Adoption rates have been mixed: many curious and open-minded volunteers and groups joined Space and started to devise future plans counting on it, but only a small percentage stayed engaged. 

Instead of keeping Space while planning and implementing the future plans the Foundation has decided to focus our resources on developing a more comprehensive strategy around movement engagement.

Stopping the development of Discuss Space

The team in charge of the Space prototype has stopped the development of new forum features, including the events calendar and map, mailing list mirrors and internationalization, and we are ramping down the maintenance work. Our current plan is to freeze Discuss Space by March 31, restricting the publishing of new forum posts and comments. The content published in Space before the freeze will remain publicly available while a longer term plan for it is defined. 

Collecting lessons learned

We have learned a lot from this initiative and want to thank all Space users for their time and contributions. We also invite everyone interested in documenting lessons learned and discussing next steps to join us in taking this effort even further, either at the About Wikimedia Space category in Discuss or the Space talk page in Meta


Replies

  1. No :frowning:

    [Citation needed]

    Can I buy this Cloud instance?

  2. I was very disappointed when I heard about this news. We invested quite a lot of energy to prepare this forum as a communication platform for the community, where

    1. it is easy to contribute (without any knowledge of wikicode or similar),
    2. easy to navigate and search,
    3. provide a safe and friendly place for the contributors
    4. editors can discuss and chat with each others without topic limitations
    5. it looks good/modern with some extra features, like event map and calendar
    6. etc.

    We wanted to use this platform instead of some mailing lists where there are always conflicts between funny chats which helps to build the community cohesion but creates noise, and topic and goal oriented discussions. People are different, and some of them feel negative in case we choose between these approaches.

    We wanted to provide this place for the new editors and interested people to inform them about Wikipedia. Wikipedia itself (lets say MediaWiki) cannot serve these needs right now, and I don’t expect it will be good for that in the mid-term future.

    Facebook works more or less good for these goals, but not every people can live with its privacy policy and other terms, therefore we close out part of our community from there. We tried to build this platform, which can provide similar social network and information platform for everybody.

    In the previous months I tried to convince many people and groups about the advantage of using Wikimedia Space, but I received many times the answer, that they don’t believe in it, because so many initiatives they saw, were tried and stopped at some point in the previous years, and they don’t want to invest energy inside. I answered, that in this case it is part of the WMF’s mid-term plan and it supports the featured strategic goal of community growth; it will probably reach the production phase in a few months and surely will not be shut down. I was wrong.

    Now, we will try to build up the community forum on Facebook, and patiently wait for the future features of the Wikimedia infrastructure.

    I would like to say thank you from my heart for all moderators, developers, translators and contributors of Wikimedia Space. It was a nice time together.

  3. It is my personal opinion that management looked at this and went: “Why are we working on two discussion systems (wiki and discourse) when we can’t even afford to invest in one?”. Honestly, I’m surprised it even got approved in the first round as an experiment. I do think it is short sighted… but then again, that seems to be a theme lately, we have gone from doing too many products to almost none at all it seems.

    Importantly, you can’t judge success based on an experiment that was NEVER going to be successful without a high level of integration and cross pollination (a common mistake with management looking at experiments within our movement). Discussion areas and/or ‘social networks’ are a typical example of where “build and they will come” is not gonna fly.

    In the times of Facebook and Twitter it is imperative to understand that you need a critical mass before anything becomes successful. As long as it is easier to tag and talk to people on Facebook, that is where they will stay. The problem was that this site was an experimental and isolated community, instead of a social network. And if there is no social network you are guaranteed to fail at launching a forum.

    It is crucial to think about how you will rope ppl in. The event calendar and map was one such way, and you can see that has actually been some of the most successful and loved parts of this experiment… Other hooks would be required to amplify that, to cross pollinate.
    Those (privileged few) who are familiar with my connect.wikimedia.org proposal may also note that I warned of starting with discussion/chat/forums, specifically because they are so difficult to get right, no matter how ‘critical’ they are perceived to be. Yet, while it didn’t replace my FB groups, it did replace the mailinglists for me (which I have largely given up on), so in that regard it was more successful than I had anticipated.

    Honestly, of course we shouldn’t be working on this discussion system. That we do is just a side effect of our inability to get it done within the wiki. But when failing at the basics so much, when we are so underresourced, we should also very much be careful of walking into Not Invented Here syndrome.

Compliments? Comments? Questions? Go to discussion

32 more replies

Participants