Submissions/From open hostility to collaboration: The WMF, the VisualEditor and the German-language Wikipedia

From Wikimania

This is an accepted submission for Wikimania 2017.


This is a Completed submission for Wikimania 2017 ready to be reviewed by a member of the Programme Committee.

Submission no. 2085 - C10
Title of the submission
From open hostility to collaboration: The WMF, the VisualEditor and the German-language Wikipedia
Type of submission (lecture, panel, tutorial/workshop, roundtable discussion, lightning talk, poster, birds of a feather discussion)
Author of the submission
Language of presentation
E-mail address

Country of origin
Affiliation, if any (organisation, company etc.)
Personal homepage or blog
Abstract (up to 300 words to describe your proposal)

When the VisualEditor was first activated on the German-language Wikipedia in 2013, there was an uproar in the community. Not only its poor performance, but the WMF‘s top-down approach which many Wikipedians felt was condescending and dismissive towards the community‘s needs and opinion, lead to protests. Eventually, the VisualEditor was turned off again and was only available to registered users as a beta feature.

A couple of years later, a small group of users started an initiative to introduce the VisualEditor as the default editor for new and unregistered users. While the community‘s support was strong – as long as there was absolutely no change for already-registered users, even opponents of the VisualEditor were willing to agree – it was now the WMF‘s development team who was hesitant to have the community hold a binding poll (Meinungsbild). Too big was the fear that a negative outcome would make it impossible to ever introduce the VisualEditor in the foreseeable future.

However, through close collaboration with the WMF‘s developers, who understood that even a single click in the user settings to turn off the VisualEditor as the default would not be acceptable for many in the community, a well-prepared poll, and excellent communication with all involved resulted in the succesful introduction of the VisualEditor. By now, it is a widely accepted tool whose introduction despite justified earlier concerns caused very few problems.

The introduction of the VisualEditor in the German-language Wikipedia is an excellent case study on how a radical change both in approach and communication combined with close collaboration between volunteers and paid staff members helps when introducing new, disrupting technical features.

What will attendees take away from this session?

By closely examining the history of the VisualEditor in the German-language Wikipedia, attendees will learn in detail about the steps taken which ultimately resulted in the success of this endeavor. These steps are applicable to a wide range of similar technical changes (e.g. Mediaviewer, integration of Wikidata, structured meta data on Commons). Staff and volunteer developers, community members, and staff and board members responsible for strategic decisions in these areas will gain valuable insight how all parties involved can successfully work together on these often controversial topics.

Theme of presentation

Technology, Interface & Infrastructure (as well as WikiCulture & Community)

For workshops and discussions, what level is the intended audience?
Length of session (if other than 25 minutes, specify how long)
25 minutes
Will you attend Wikimania if your submission is not accepted?
Yes (scholarship by Wikimedia Germany)
Slides or further information (optional)
Special requests
Is this Submission a Draft or Final?

This is a Completed submission for Wikimania 2017 ready to be reviewed by a member of the Programme Committee.

Interested attendees

If you are interested in attending this session, please sign with your username below. This will help reviewers to decide which sessions are of high interest. Sign with a hash and four tildes. (# ~~~~).

  1. Amir É. Aharoni (talk) 04:45, 10 April 2017 (UTC)[reply]
  2. Schiste (talk) 07:51, 10 April 2017 (UTC)[reply]
  3. SSastry (WMF) (talk) 16:51, 10 April 2017 (UTC)[reply]
  4. Jdforrester (WMF) (talk) 17:21, 10 April 2017 (UTC)[reply]
  5. --Gnom (talk) 18:37, 10 April 2017 (UTC)[reply]
  6. --Gereon K. (talk) 21:28, 10 April 2017 (UTC)[reply]
  7. Trizek (WMF) (talk) 12:23, 11 April 2017 (UTC)[reply]
  8. CKoerner (WMF) (talk) 15:43, 11 April 2017 (UTC)[reply]
  9. Birgit Müller (WMDE) (talk) 17:31, 11 April 2017 (UTC)[reply]
  10. Martin Kraft (talk) 08:16, 12 April 2017 (UTC)[reply]
  11. Wuselig (talk) 11:08, 12 April 2017 (UTC)[reply]
  12. John Andersson (WMSE) (talk) 19:58, 12 April 2017 (UTC)[reply]
  13. Christoph Jauera (WMDE) (talk) 06:59, 26 April 2017 (UTC)[reply]
  14. GDubuc (WMF) (talk) 20:10, 1 May 2017 (UTC)[reply]
  15. Roan Kattouw (WMF) (talk) 00:51, 25 May 2017 (UTC)[reply]
  16. TBolliger (WMF) (talk) 20:15, 5 June 2017 (UTC)[reply]
  17. MB-one (talk) 11:57, 10 June 2017 (UTC)[reply]
  18. --Elitre (WMF) (talk) 13:49, 23 June 2017 (UTC)[reply]