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Announcement of changes in technical support staff[edit]

Moved from Wikitravel Shared:22 August 2007

Dear Wikitravel Community

On August 15th, 2007, I chose not to renew my contract with Internet Brands for work on Wikitravel and Wikitravel Extra. The last four years have been an amazing experience as I watched the site grow from an idea born of a frustrating moment on a beach in Thailand to a Webby Award-winning site. As I move to focus on my family and other projects, the Wikitravel community will always have my admiration and heartfelt support. Thank you for your support, effort, and friendliness!

Michele Ann Jenkins, AKA Maj 11:28, 22 August 2007 (EDT)

I want to follow up with some additional comments about my own changing role. IB has decided to bring more of the development and maintenance of Wikitravel in-house. For this reason, I'll no longer be the principal system administrator and developer for Wikitravel. I will, however, remain an active member of the community and I will continue to work on Wikitravel content and policies.
Wikitravel has always been a family project for us, and I will sincerely miss Maj's work on this project and her voice in our discussions. Without her dedication to travel and her organizational skills, Wikitravel would have been quite literally inconceivable. I want to thank her for everything she's done to build this project and to further the idea of Open Content travel guides. -- Evan 11:31, 22 August 2007 (EDT)

Can we have more concrete details? Who at IB will be responsible for system administration and development, how do we contact them, etc? What are IB's plans? Jpatokal 13:20, 22 August 2007 (EDT)

Yes, that would all be great info to know... nobody knows this Wiki as intimately as Evan, who is going to step in and take on that role? As far as I'm aware nobody at IB has been very involved in the guides and the community, which to me is an important part of understanding how to do a lot of the stuff Evan does. – cacahuate talk 20:45, 22 August 2007 (EDT)
Oops! -- Der Fussi 01:45, 23 August 2007 (EDT)
And important to users' comfort level about what's going to be done with the work they put into this site. Come on, a major announcement like this can't drop in a quiet corner of Shared with no comment from IB. Gorilla Jones 03:12, 23 August 2007 (EDT)
Well, we the contributors own the content. It's contingent on IB to remember that. Meanwhile my concern is this: how do we get technical issues addressed? -- Mark 03:36, 23 August 2007 (EDT)
Agreed, I would think IB would have coordinated an announcement to coincide with Evan and Maj's, this is a pretty major change, and some explaining is certainly in order – cacahuate talk 03:37, 23 August 2007 (EDT)
Well, I have John McGanty's phone number. Of course it's the middle of the night in LA, but that's not going to stop me from calling if something is busted. -- Mark 03:52, 23 August 2007 (EDT)
I've already sent John an email, no need to call during the middle of the night. -- Sapphire(Talk) • 04:41, 23 August 2007 (EDT)
It's not the corrupting commercial influence that concerns me about IB. It's this. During the page-splitting discussion, the community was on the verge of a riot, and it took several days for anyone from IB to pipe up. Now, it's been 24 hours since that announcement was made, and still nobody from IB has bothered to say anything. That's initiative they need to take. Gorilla Jones 08:32, 23 August 2007 (EDT)
Although I am a newer contributor, I feel a need to thank both Maj and Evan for helping to develop Wikitravel to this point and wish them well in their future. Nothing good lasts forever, so they say. I doubt if IB will abandon us like orphans and it is my guess there will be a few bumps in this transition. But, I would encourage all to continue and help bring this site to it's full potential. I do get a kick out of Gorilla Jones and do not want to be around if he is participating in any riots. I am new to "virtual riots", but that is an interesting concept. 2old 10:09, 23 August 2007 (EDT)

John from IB here. As Evan shared, IB will be stepping up its involvement in handling the technical operation of Wikitravel. My role is general manager here, and we have a team of people involved. Kevin is our technical lead for Wikitravel and Ryan is our community lead across several sites. Both will post here subsequent to me. You can reach me either at john dot mcganty at internetbrands.com or Wikitravel user Redondo.

We do have 24/7 coverage of major problems such as site outages. We'll provide a means of notifying these people of such problems, and we also run our own site monitoring software to generate an alert if the site goes down. Non-emergency issues will be handled by Kevin and our technical team, and we'll provide a separate contact for these matters.

As we take on a larger role in the technical operation of Wikitravel, I want to be clear that we don't intend for this to be a step toward sidelining the Wikitravel community in the ongoing management of the site. We have endeavored to stay out of the way of the community's site leadership, and we want to remain respectful of the community's shared ownership of the Wikitravel content and policymaking. At the suggestion of a couple admins, we'll initiate a discussion on-site regarding advertising policy. We haven't felt an immediacy to do to because we remain patient about not making any money from the site now. We'll have to at some point, but we're happy to support the site and let its growth be the primary focus. We plan to have communithy discussion be a key input when the time comes for IB to be deriving revenue from Wikitravel.

Beyond the technical operation of the site, I've been reaching out to some of the active site contributors asking your perspective on how IB can best partner with the Wikitravel community for the betterment of Wikitravel. I invite any of you to provide this feedback to me. I'm on email fairly constantly, but on-site dialogue is of course fine, as well. Redondo 14:18, 23 August 2007 (EDT)

Hi everyone, my name is Kevin Hayes. I'm the project manager for our travel division here at Internet Brands. As John mentioned, my team and I will be taking over the main system admin and development tasks here on Wikitravel. We have a great group of developers who will work with the community to make sure Wikitravel continues to grow as it has in the past. We are excited to help build great new features to enhance the wikitravel experience for both users and moderators.
We'll continue to use the current Technical requests page to gather new feature request and bug reports. You can also reach the IB tech team at one of the following email address
  • tech at wikitravel dot org – for non-emergency technical questions/comments/requests.
  • urgent at wikitravel dot org – for the highest priority issues. (i.e. Site down)
Looking forward to working with all of you! IBKevin 15:141, 23 August 2007 (EDT)
The current Technical requests page has already been pointed out its problem. I'm not opposed to using Wiki to gather new feature request and bug reports because non-Wiki system may be a barrier for ordinary Wikitravel users. But if we continue to use that page, I think some improvements are needed; severity code to indicate priority, more detailed status code to indicate progress and control of status, etc. At least I'd like to know whether developer has already read requests/reports or not yet. ;-) -- Tatata 06:24, 26 August 2007 (EDT)

I have a question about the ad policy... while it's noble and all that you don't want to put ads in yet, wouldn't it be a logical first step in helping get Evan's salary paid to continue full time tech work? Or is it not a financial issue? Most of us kinda like him... he thinks outside the box, has developed some great features for WT, and had some other ones I was pretty excited about up his sleeve. If someone really must take over that position, I hope they have or can develop the kind of insight to not only keep the site running but make it better than we can even imagine. Evan has that ability already. Not to be pessimistic or anything, but it doesn't seem clear to me why Evan is leaving, and why ads haven't been introduced yet. I of course love having the site without ads on it, but I really can't imagine why a commercial venture like IB would want to wait to make money. Waiting for a larger community? Waiting until we have more developed articles and star articles? Waiting for...? Anyway, nice to meet you Kevin, thanks for speaking up guys. – cacahuate talk 18:23, 23 August 2007 (EDT)

We have a fairly large technical staff here, and we anticipate being able to make significant contributions to Wikitravel in this way. Our technical team has been getting rather adept at operating MediaWiki sites, and they feel ready to take on this work for Wikitravel. These changing roles haven't been driven by budget. Evan will be focusing more on Wikitravel community and content issues, other than occasional development work in particular areas such as with the forms-based listing editor. Redondo 20:38, 23 August 2007 (EDT)

Hello everyone. This is Ryan from IB. As John mentioned, I'm the community lead here across the Travel websites here at Internet Brands, and I've communicated with many of you over the past few months. I only discovered this discussion when I came into the office today, so I apologize for not having written when the announcement was first made.

Wikitravel is obviously a unique community, comprised of people from all over the world who feel a strong sense of ownership over the site, and we recognize and value this sentiment. I want to stress that a big part of our role here is to learn from all of you, to consult with you and take into consideration the opinions of those who have been involved with Wikitravel for much longer than we have. We know you feel very strongly about the community and the content here, so the best we can do is make ourselves available, answer your questions, and strive to continue on with Wikitravel in the same spirit and enthusiasm for the site that Evan displayed.

With these recent developments, I’d like to take on a more active role here, contributing to the site and participating in its discussions. I work closely with John and Kevin, but if you would ever like to contact me personally to discuss anything, my lines of communication are always open for you. You can reach me through email at rfujitani at internetbrands.com and if you’d like to speak over the phone, shoot me an email and I’ll send you my number. I look forward to getting to know all of you better. - Ryan from IB 20:33, 23 August 2007 (EDT)

Advice for John, Ryan, and Kevin[edit]

Copied from Wikitravel Shared:22 August 2007

I think if we want to try to make this work then we should probably offer these guys some advice on how best to deal with the situation. So I'm starting this new thread for compiling a list of things to do in order to stay active. -- Mark 04:49, 24 August 2007 (EDT)

  1. Recent Changes Patrol - Something that most regular contributors do, and the number one way that contributors get themselves nominated for admin is to do a regular recent changes patrol. Once or twice a day each of you should take 10 minutes to look at recent changes here and on en. Fix anything that needs fixing. Rollback spam. Mark worthwhile edits as patrolled. Fix up formatting. Do little things as needed. Be kind, but be bold. Do not delegate this. It's fine of course to let up if you are on vacation, but consider this a vital part of your workday.
  2. Conduct WT related business on the site - Obviously you don't want to do this with your financial stuff, and we can sort of understand that, however if you are thinking about a feature or assigning something to a member of the team then the best way you can make sure that you have community buy in is to discuss it here, and not at a meeting in your offices. Of course, you'll probably have to sit the developers down around a whiteboard to get actual code written, but that's a 2nd step.
  3. Learn the wiki way - It sounds a little new-agey, but it really is important. Let's put it this way: getting people to contribute to a project like this can be pretty hard. Keeping them is harder. The "wiki way" is about keeping people motivated, or at least avoiding demotivating people. Treat newbies with kid-glove, even to some extent treat vandals this way too. If an edit looks like it's in good faith, be gentle. Take a while before reverting. Take the advise that we offer when we see you doing your recent changes patrols.
  4. Remember who owns the content - Remember that the reason we, the more seasoned and active contributors are doing this work - and it is work - is partly that we get something out of it. Each contributor owns the content that he or she contributes, and according to the license therefore owns the whole thing. When we ask for dumps or whatever you need to remember that we are only asking for what we own. Treat it like an employee who asks for their paycheck if it's a couple of days late. If there's a problem get it fixed. The whole business depends on keeping the deals you make after all.
My opinion is that #2 is what really matters -- and in fact, you could start right now by explaining what new features IB is planning to implement within the next year or so. The rest is welcome and wise if you're looking to gain actual respect instead of grudging tolerance... but optional if you're not. Jpatokal 05:39, 24 August 2007 (EDT)
Thanks for this guidance. We want to maintain a good working relationship with the Wikitravel community and this feedback is helpful. With regard to new features we think would be valuable, this is naturally a decision process we want to be a community discussion. Some of our thoughts include:
  • completion of form-based listing editor
  • mapping of items geo-coded in listings
  • script to geo-code items in listings that don't have long/lat provided
  • new page generation wizard
  • WYSIWYG editing
  • "Report this edit" button
  • variety of widgets people can post on their sites and blogs, with links back to Wikitravel (favorite destination, my most recently edited article, most recently edited article on my watch list, etc.)
  • more engaging invitations for users to contribute content
  • hardware upgrade
Are there other feature priorities people see? Redondo 13:50, 24 August 2007 (EDT)
What is "Report this edit"? -- Jonboy 14:40, 24 August 2007 (EDT)
This would be a button or link on every section or page that would let people report inappropriate edits (spam, etc.) The thought is some users might not be inclined to roll back such edits, but might be willing to at least report them. Would have to think through where those reports would go. But it would provide an added layer of protection for the site. Does that seem to have some value? Redondo 18:00, 24 August 2007 (EDT)
I would say yes, as I am not an Administrator, nor wish to be. There are times that I find questionable text or maybe something not working at all. But, you may get more false alarms. 2old 10:17, 25 August 2007 (EDT)
I'd like to convince both of you that the "report this" button is a very bad idea. Here's my argument: A button that tells users they can "report" an edit as being unwanted gives the idea that there is some higher authority to which the user should submit their ideas about what is and isn't acceptable. That might be fine for a site like flickr which essentially is providing users with a huge amount of free backup storage plus all the addons associated with photo-sharing, but it doesn't work here. It doesn't work here because what we're trying to do is to get users to take responsibility for creating a free content guide. Reporting an unwanted edit makes it somebody else's problem. It is not. It is the problem of the user who discovers it. The user who discovers a spammy edit has every right and every responsibility to deal with it his or herself and should be so encouraged. -- Mark 18:00, 25 August 2007 (EDT)
Helpful perspective, Mark. If that is the consensus point of view on this, I'm certainly fine with that. Other thoughts? Redondo 01:40, 27 August 2007 (EDT)
I fully agree with Mark -- we're trying to get users to edit the pages themselves, not report them to (nonexistent) higher authorities. Jpatokal 03:22, 27 August 2007 (EDT)
I'd like to concur with Jani that while all of Mark's points are valid, #2 is the most important. As an admin on en: I've gotten a private email from IB, and while that's appreciated it completely cuts out the rest of the community from the discussion. E-mail, private meetings, or any discussions that exclude the wider community are a BAD thing in the wiki world as it promotes a culture where there is a wiki-elite; similarly, simply providing an IB representative who will present the results of internal discussions to the community does not involve the community in the decision-making process. Discussion is done on the wiki so that it can include everyone, and while it may be a bit of extra work initially for IB to use the wiki for discussion rather than email or private meetings, in the longer term IB will find it is to your great benefit to make those discussions open and to be involved in existing discussions - the community generally has some great ideas, and I suspect you will be surprised by the talent pool available to be tapped for technical and other needs. The more that IB sees itself as part of the community, and the more that the community sees IB as members, the better things will be. -- Ryan 16:25, 25 August 2007 (EDT)
We have thus far been communicating most directly with Evan and Michele, relying on them to serve as spokespeople for our collective thinking with the Wikitravel community on the site. However, we will be more actively communicating directly with the community going forward, and we embrace the point of #2 above. Redondo 01:44, 27 August 2007 (EDT)

Mechanisms for direct interaction between IB and the community[edit]

Copied from Wikitravel Shared:22 August 2007

I think it would be best to create individual feature requests for features planned by IB so that we all can discuss and improve them in a systematic fashion. --Peter Talk 17:26, 27 August 2007 (EDT)

Agreed on both counts. I'd also suggest a Wikitravel:Roadmap for those features that IB has accepted onto its to-do list. Jpatokal 21:52, 27 August 2007 (EDT)
Agreed on all points here. Thanks! Redondo 22:17, 28 August 2007 (EDT)
Yes, such a "roadmap" would be extremely useful. As Tatata mentioned above, it is not actually clear which feature requests and bug issues are actually being worked on. This sort of additional transparency would really help focus discussions here. --Peter Talk 01:41, 29 August 2007 (EDT)
The Roadmap has now been created. Please contribute! Riggwelter 09:55, 29 August 2007 (EDT)

I'd like to suggest another mechanism for direct interaction: would the members of the IB team please create individual userpages? User pages are a great way to let others know a little about yourself and about what specifically you are working on. Personally I'm so used to them, it makes me feel as though we haven't met ;) --Peter Talk 03:57, 2 September 2007 (EDT)

Yes, it is time for all IB's Wikitravel involved employees to start at least your basic user page. User pages are important community connection tools that should be well used by project members -- leaving them unused sends the wrong message to community/project members who do not have face to face proximity. Take some time to enjoy creating your user page when you have time but do start now with at least, for example:
  • IB title if you have one
  • Official Wikitravel assignment/responsibilities if you have these
  • Interest in travel and in Wikitravel (why not?)
  • Contact info
  • Friendly photo (why not?)
  • Make it unique, shake it up, be you
We want Internet Brands' Wikitravel involved people here among us. --Rogerhc 01:54, 9 September 2007 (EDT)

Legal assistance[edit]

I'd like to have a contact person at Internet Brands, responsible for legal issues like how to deal with (for example) image issues and how to interpret the CC license. The discussions in the Travellers' pub are many and long. So, IB, do you have what we are looking for? --Riggwelter 11:17, 29 August 2007 (EDT)

I've added this. --Redondo 17:47, 29 August 2007 (EDT)

S l o w[edit]

John, Kevin, Ryan, Wikitravel has for several months been suffering intermittent severe server slowdowns. Under correct system administration and resource allocation this does not need to happen this much for this long. It is frustrating to participate in the wiki under these circumstances. If you start participating in the wiki, I think you will see what I mean. This is critical -- I think the survival of the wiki depends on fixing this. Could you look into this and report on en:Wikitravel:Travellers'_pub#Site_slowdown? Thank you. --Rogerhc 13:43, 11 September 2007 (EDT)

We are currently working on adding a squid server to our wikitravel environment. This should help offload much of the current traffic from the primary apache server and speed up tasks like article authoring and moderation. I'll post an update as soon as I have more information on when the hardware will be ready. Usability is very important to us and we are working on it. Thanks! -- Ibkevin 18:12, 11 September 2007 (EDT)
As Kevin says, we are going to be providing this added resource. We believe that will remedy most delays, but let us know if you observe otherwise. Thanks! Redondo 19:33, 12 September 2007 (EDT)

Can you please give us an update on this issue? I really hope someone who matters reads this and does something as soon as possible. I don't know if you realize what a GIGANTIC PROBLEM it is to have longstanding and CONSTANT SERVER SPEED PROBLEMS. Many times it is very much this story: Click edit on a page, wait 3 minutes, get an error, refresh, wait two minutes, make your edit and submit it, wait 3 minutes, get an error, resubmit, wait 2 minutes and get another error, resubmit, etc. It happens when we edit a page, it happens when we search for a page, it happens when we review differences, it happens when we click on a simple link from one page to another, and it is EXTREMELY IRRITATING to the point that if I weren't already heavily invested in this project I would be really dissuaded from becoming so. This is a serious problem and I really feel like we must be losing a lot of potential readers and contributors, and possibly losing long-time readers and contributors as well. This really, really, really needs to be a top priority. Texugo 18:59, 21 February 2008 (EST)

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