With the Foundation’s support, I’ve spent the last few months churning away at LiquidThreads, a new discussion system that is proposed for use on Wikimedia projects.
Essentially, it’s an attempt to marry the radical openness of the wiki paradigm with the usability and practicality of a forum-like system. As the name implies, LiquidThreads is designed to allow any user to easily refactor discussions while maintaining edit history, to edit other users’ comments, and to collaborate on a summary of an ongoing discussion. LiquidThreads also brings many standard communication features lacking from wiki discussion pages, such as watching and protecting individual discussion threads, RSS feeds of comments in a discussion or on a discussion page. In the world of online communication, its approach is entirely unique.
LiquidThreads has been in alpha testing on Wikimedia Labs for several months, and, more recently, it’s been used in a production context on the strategy wiki, where it has been quite well-received. It’s been easy to run these smaller trials, as the extension allows the activation and deactivation of LiquidThreads discussions on individual pages with a simple parser function.
While there are still some issues remaining before wider trials, I believe I can resolve most of them quite quickly (within a few weeks when my vacation finishes at the end of next month), and I’d like to get the ball rolling in proposing small-scale trials on some of the larger wikis, so that a full discussion can be had, and so that adjustments can be made on the basis of ongoing feedback. I’d especially like to see LiquidThreads used on some of the higher-traffic discussion pages on English Wikipedia (such as the technical village pump), and progressive rollout on some of our mid to large sized wikis.
So, I’d like to encourage you to have a play with LiquidThreads, either on the strategy wiki or on the test site (which generally runs a newer version). Tell me what you like about it, and (far more importantly) what improvements you think it needs before we can expand our trials to wider parts of the Wikimedia Universe, and perhaps move towards a full rollout of this very exciting technology.
I should give the following caveats about LiquidThreads as it stands. These are all issues that I intend to address before any trial expansion occurs.
- Presently the system is somewhat vulnerable to abuse. I intend to make changes to the way signatures work, and improve tracking and listing of thread actions by specific users.
- While LiquidThreads allows for thread summaries and discussion headers, the system does not currently have support for collaboratively-edited posts which are unsigned or signed by a group of people. These are a key piece of any decision-making framework, and I intend to make adjustments to make this possible.
- There is no support for embedding LiquidThreads discussion pages on other pages.
- There are plenty of minor interface issues which I intend to clean up.
Software Development Contractor