Webworld 2011 – MediaWiki and UserBase

Greetings to the Planet KDE readers, where this should be my first blog post. My nickname on the net is Nikerabbit. I’ve been developing MediaWiki for many years, and I’m the author of the Translate extension. The Translate extension is used at translatewiki.net which is a wiki site and community that does open source software translation. Translate extension can also be used to translate wikipages, which is the way it is used on userbase.kde.org.

That is also the reason why I am now here at the KDE WebWorld sprint. I have updated the Translate extension on UserBase and fixed a number of bugs in it. Mostly minor things that can confuse normal users – they are no longer automatically directed to pages that are of no use to them. And UserBase now has its own translation memory. It’s the same kind we use in translatewiki.net: a very simple one provided by the translate toolkit. Currently those two are independent of each other, but maybe in the future we can find a way to use each others translations.

While working on UserBase issues here, I realized some problems in MediaWiki. First of all the Translate extension is supposed to be compatible with two MediaWiki versions: the latest stable version (1.16, used on UseBase) and the latest development version (1.19alpha, used on translatewiki.net). I am not going to talk about why there are two unreleased versions and third one being in development. Anyway, a lot of development has happened between those versions, including major new features and big rewrites. I’m spending a considerable time keeping Translate extension compatible with 1.16 when developing new features for it. It also makes the code more complex and doubles the testing required. It is not made easier by the fact that not all changes are documented in appropriate places. For example there is no mentions in hooks.txt that the parameters for SkinSubPageSubtitle hook have been changed at some point.

Another thing is that MediaWiki has so many ways to tweak it, most of them undocumented and not easily discoverable. For example all the messages in MediaWiki: namespace, some of which may even be empty by default. There is no way you can find a suitable message unless you already know that such message exists and how it is called. The same applies to configuration variables. They are at least documented in DefaultSettings.php and some also in mediawiki.org, but again it is hard to find some specific thing that could help you (if it even occurs to you that such thing might exist).

This means that people can’t really find out everything you can do with MediaWiki and they either end up not doing some things at all or creating something new from scratch.

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1 thought on “Webworld 2011 – MediaWiki and UserBase

  1. Bios Element

    This is why I personally feel MediaWiki is not a very good platform, but it still remains the best out there. I’ve actually been working to find a few other people to collab on a python-based Wiki system, if you’d be interested I’d love to speak with you.

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