Looking for a comment June 16, 2015 7:05 AM   Subscribe

There was a longish comment by a person who does design/UX work for Wikipedia about what a huge pain in the ass it was, getting everything AOK across hundreds of different language sites and all the rest. This was offered as a plausible explanation for why the site does not change its looks very often. I liked this comment and I think we mentioned it on a podcast. My Googling, it does nothing. Do you remember?

I don't think it's this comment about gmail, but I could be mistaken. Anyone know the comment I am thinking of?
posted by jessamyn to MetaFilter-Related at 7:05 AM (23 comments total) 12 users marked this as a favorite

This isn't on Metafilter, but it sounds an awful lot like this answer from Brandon Harris on Quora.
posted by feckless at 7:27 AM on June 16, 2015 [1 favorite]


It sure does, doesn't it? And I am pretty sure it was Brandon so maybe someone just linked ot that here.
posted by jessamyn (retired) at 8:02 AM on June 16, 2015


This one from schmod is about US government web sites, not Wikipedia, but otherwise is pretty close.
posted by exogenous at 8:41 AM on June 16, 2015


Do you remember any unusual words that were used in the comment. Like did he use the word "exsanguination" or something as unusual that could be easily googled?
posted by hal_c_on at 12:57 PM on June 16, 2015


Yes, this comment/quote is indeed from me, and it is from a Quora answer.

I was senior designer at the Wikimedia Foundation for just under five years.
posted by jorm at 7:20 PM on June 16, 2015 [9 favorites]


Thanks jorm! I was pretty sure it was from you but wasn't sure if you were a MeFite (hey now you are) and someone must have referenced it.
posted by jessamyn (retired) at 7:38 PM on June 16, 2015 [1 favorite]


Long time listener, first time caller and all that.
posted by jorm at 7:43 PM on June 16, 2015 [10 favorites]


Yay, the jorm signal works!
posted by rewil at 8:25 PM on June 16, 2015 [3 favorites]


"I'm the guy in the post" is one of my favorite Metafilter phenomena, but I don't think I've ever seen it happen in Metatalk!
posted by Pope Guilty at 12:50 AM on June 17, 2015 [13 favorites]


And I still don't know who linked to the comment in the first place (I know I saw it here first and I did a cursory check of the people I know work for WMF in some respect)
posted by jessamyn (retired) at 7:08 AM on June 17, 2015


Jessamyn, you yourself linked to Brandon's comment at Quora on metatalk back in May 2013.
posted by RichardP at 7:52 AM on June 17, 2015 [13 favorites]


Oh man, no wonder it was tickling my brain.
posted by jessamyn (retired) at 8:20 AM on June 17, 2015 [14 favorites]


Jessamyn, did you have any questions about the design process at Wikimedia that I can help you with, or was this just a one-off wondering?
posted by jorm at 10:21 AM on June 17, 2015


I was actually talking to someone on a mailing list about whether Wikipedia's DIY look-and-feel was an intentional design choice to make people feel more at home interacting with and editing the content and whether its "brokenness" (his word) was intentionally there to look inviting.

I responded that a lot of thought went into making Wikipedia the way it was (wanted to find that comment) and I felt that the low-fi look was more about being accessible to the greatest number of users, language groups and cultures and that it wasn't intentionally broken.

It's my opinion that there are a lot of people who feel that things that lack a "high design" look are going for some sort of "fashion of anti-fashion" (normcore) sort of thing and my take was that Wikipedia was just going for functionality foremost and that it's actually intentionally designed in a lot of ways you might not notice, broken to fewer people than most sites would be in, say IE6. If you had any specific comments about the process I'd love to pass them along but mostly I was using your comment to illustrate my larger point.

Also we met for like five minutes in London last August, I was with Phoebe. Hi.
posted by jessamyn (retired) at 11:06 AM on June 17, 2015 [2 favorites]


The current visual design was done before I worked that the Foundation. It was done before things like "responsive" became the new hotness, and it was done in a time when we still needed to support Internet Explorer Five on the Mac (and obviously it had to work with IE 6).

Most of those browsers have fallen off the "required to support" list now, mind. The site still must be viewable or readable without Javascript, etc.

A big thing that people forget is that the mission of Wikipedia is different than those of corporations. It's one thing for Facebook to say "eh, fuck Oriya, it's a small language" and cite a cost/benefit analysis. It's another when your non-profits mission is to bring free education to EVERYONE in the world.

I look at that as a huge benefit rather than a limitation, frankly.

The visuals aren't intentionally trying to be low-fi. They were trying to be hi-fi (at the time) and were done by people who were primarily engineers. So there's that.

Changing it then was a hellish fight with the community; changing it now would be an even bigger, more horrible fight, and one I don't think that the Foundation is willing to get into.
posted by jorm at 12:38 PM on June 17, 2015 [8 favorites]


A big thing that people forget is that the mission of Wikipedia is different than those of corporations. It's one thing for Facebook to say "eh, fuck Oriya, it's a small language" and cite a cost/benefit analysis. It's another when your non-profits mission is to bring free education to EVERYONE in the world.


This is eerily similar to my discussion about public libraries when people have some of the same (or similar) criticisms. Thanks for the extra intel.
posted by jessamyn (retired) at 12:42 PM on June 17, 2015


Hah, jessamyn--just yesterday I attended a talk that, in part, discussed how libraries need to rethink the 'design for everyone' model and instead design for the few. The full argument was to keep core services open for everyone and then design extra services for the users who are already active (rather than designing something to lure users in). It was a provocative and interesting talk.
posted by librarylis at 5:54 PM on June 17, 2015


Oh neat, who gave it?
posted by jessamyn (retired) at 6:05 PM on June 17, 2015


M J D'Elia (for a talk at SLA).
posted by librarylis at 6:38 PM on June 17, 2015 [3 favorites]


I have no knowledge or interest in this topic/question... but wanted to state that this little slice of metafilter, the exchange and community represented in this exchange, truly reflects what is best about MeFi.
posted by HuronBob at 11:01 PM on June 17, 2015 [16 favorites]


Changing it then was a hellish fight with the community; changing it now would be an even bigger, more horrible fight, and one I don't think that the Foundation is willing to get into.

Yeah... I can understand that. I always switch myself from the default to the "classic" look even it looks like something out of the early naughties (which it is) because it feels familiar and looks better than the current design.
posted by MartinWisse at 12:41 AM on June 18, 2015


If you want to copy my vector.css data into your own, it can make the site look significantly better. Make sure Vector is set as your skin preferences, and then go get the stuff from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/User:Jorm/vector.css and put it into yours ( User:yourusername/vector.css ).
posted by jorm at 12:56 PM on June 18, 2015 [4 favorites]


Jorm, what exactly are the changes that that CSS file is supposed to make? I am trying it out, but the differences seem very minor to me.
posted by Conrad Cornelius o'Donald o'Dell at 5:20 PM on June 19, 2015


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