Come here to find out the latest updates on FANDOM Creator, our contribution experiment. This will log regular updates every 1-2 weeks as well as a list of the features and updates that have been completed. Please check back frequently and we want to hear your feedback on this experiment. You can share with us in Fandom Labs Discussions .
Currently Live Features
- WYSIWYM ("What You See Is What You Mean") article editing
- Infobox editing
- Mobile editing
- Data-driven, automatically updating widgets
- Customizable tables
- Image gallery
- Footnote / reference editing
- Sitemap editing / auto-generated navigation
Currently working on:
The problem we're trying to solve is "what do we do when there are two different things in a community which share the same name?". For example, if we have a music-related wiki we might need to represent both Greatest Hits (the album by The Police) and Greatest Hits (the 1996 John Anderson album - not to be confused with the 1984 John Anderson album of the same name).
Wikia and Wikipedia have historically solved this problem by pushing the problem onto the editors. This leads to page names such as Greatest Hits (1996 John Anderson album). Post-fixing extra data in parentheses works kind of ok, but can get confusing, such as in Disc One: All Their Greatest Hits (1991–2001) by Barenaked Ladies - an album which includes "(1991-2001)" in its actual name, and which was released in 2001.
We think this can be done better.
This is almost complete, so stay tuned for the next update on this front.
On tap after that:
Page and Link Creation Flows
Disambiguation will require some changes to the new page creation flow. So, while we're in there, we're going to polish up the flow so that it's easier and less error-prone.
MOST RECENT UPDATE
September 11 | Editable Sitemap and Disambiguation (phase 1)
Some UX changes were needed in order to make our disambiguation experiment's URI structure work. Sitemap / navigation editing is now available in a first rough form. A bunch of UI was polished up while we were in there, with more UI polish yet to come.
Highlights from this update:
- The first stage of our disambiguation experiment is almost complete. If you're the sort of person who reads URI's in the address bar, you'll have noticed that the URL format has changed somewhat - namely, there's now a numeric identifier, and the page name isn't represented exactly in the URL.
- The number part is there so that multiple pages can have the same name if needed to accurately represent your community's data. Additionally, it sets us up to enable proper page name aliases (no more need for redirects!), and to enable future experiments around internationalization of content.
- The altered page name part is there to assist with SEO, bringing it more in line with current SEO practices. The "slug" - as the name part of the URL is called in SEO jargon - is purely decorative, and is actually ignored by the underlying system when deciding which page to display. This permits us to experiment with the URL without having everyone's bookmarked links break all the time.
- Remaining work on disambiguation revolves around the new page creation flow, to give a sensible experience when trying to create a new page that shares a name with an existing page (e.g. creating "Episode 3" inside of "Season 2" when there's already an "Episode 3" inside of "Season 1"). With luck, this'll be wrapped up in the next two weeks.
- Sitemaps are now easily editable. Using the 'Edit Sitemap' feature that's in the 'Edit' button sub-menu, you can now easily organize your site and it'll automatically populate the navigation menus and breadcrumbs. Try it out and let us know what you think!
- For context on why this is extra exciting, think about how categories are used in MediaWiki today. We've identified three major uses:
- As site navigation, including setting up a site hierarchy with sub-categories. This experimental feature is the first step towards covering this use case in a first-class way. A well-organized community sitemap also helps to give semantic meaning to its content, but in a seamless way.
- As a way to dynamically create lists of pages based on metadata, as in "show me a list of all Anterran characters in this sci-fi show". FC partly covers this already with manually created data-driven list and table widgets, but we believe this can also be made automatic in a clean way with a little more work.
- As a way to flag pages for future action, such as "this page is a stub", "this page has typos", etc. This use case isn't covered yet, but we have some ideas on how to do this in a clean way.
- If you use categories for a different purpose than these three, please let us know!
- NOTE: there's a known issue where edits to the navigation aren't seen immediately. They can take up to 60 seconds before it starts to show up right now, but we have a plan for how to make this practically instant.
- Theming is now partly inside FANDOM Creator. We looked at how people were using Wikia.css for their theming needs, and saw that it was almost exclusively used to set just a couple of colors. We've moved the colors for those who set them into the FC on a read-only basis to start with, and we'll be adding some simple theming controls in the relatively near future. In the meantime, if you need to change the colors on your FC-enabled community, just start a new discussions thread to request it and we'll get you hooked up.
- A LOT of UI/UX polish, mostly around the headers and on overall responsive design. More to come on this soon!
IMPORTANT NOTE: Changing the URL structure for this experiment required us to do two things. First, to remove Oasis from the front-end equation, due to challenges with getting MediaWiki to process the new URL format in a consistent manner. As a pleasant side-effect of this change, the mobile and desktop views are now 100% consistent, including theming (where set). Second, to break all existing bookmarks - this should be the last time we ever have to do this.
July 19th | Back from Break
There's been radio silence here for a little while for a couple of reasons: one of our team members got married (congrats!), another went on vacation for a couple of weeks, and the disambiguation work is a whole lot of behind-the-scenes work that's not worth talking about too much until it starts to show up in the interface.
Nonetheless, here's some highlights from the past month:
- More test communities. We're into the low double digits' worth of communities now, and are continuing to gather data on the experiment's usage. One surprising highlight has been that the editing success rate (defined as "number of saved edits divided by number of clicks on the edit button") for users on mobile devices has exceeded the editing success rate for Visual Editor on desktop. We've been keeping a close eye on the mobile contribution data, and this is highly encouraging.
- New query language syntax. You can now query for entities based on id. "Why would I want to do that?", you ask? Well, probably as an end user you wouldn't query for an entity by its id very often, but getting the internals arranged to support this type of thing was required for our disambiguation experiment. We figured we were going to be using this new query operator anyway, so we may as well add it to the public API, too.
- Better styling integration with MediaWiki. We've tweaked the CSS rules to make things like font color and background color more readily themeable with the existing Wikia.css and theme builder.
- Minor UI consistency and visual cleanup. We had to touch the autocompletion component in order to lay groundwork for the disambiguation experiment, so we went ahead and converted to a Material UI widget and did some small visual cleanup while we were in there.
- Additional minor bugfixes and scalability improvements. Page creation / copying is more stable.
At this point, we're looking at another 1-2 weeks before the disambiguation experiment is fully live, though if you're into reverse engineering you can probably see some of the hints of where it's going already. Just think - soon, the "Contrived Example" RPG wiki can have pages for the tank (character class), a tank (an item which increases your carrying capacity), Tank (the name of one of the main characters), and the tank (the armored vehicle) without needing all those messy parentheses to tell them apart... we can hardly wait to share it with all of you!
June 9th | Stabilization and New Communities
IMPORTANT NOTE: We discovered a major bug in revisions generation which unfortunately resulted in data loss. On or about June 12th we will be resetting the revision history for Creator-enabled communities. We regret that this scenario has occurred, and have taken steps to reduce the likelihood of it happening again (see the changelog below for more details).
The experiment continues to look healthy from the aggregate data we're seeing. As such, we've spent a couple of weeks ensuring that we're ready to expand beyond the first handful of communities by doing a bunch of technical grunt work. We're hoping that expanding to additional communities will give us more statistically significant indications as to whether Creator is encouraging newer users to stick around after their first contributions.
- Geekspeak alert! We moved the backing service's container from Mesos/Marathon to Kubernetes, and deprecated a special-case machine we'd set up for the front-end by containerizing it and putting it on Kubernetes. Prior to doing this, we were limited in how many service containers we could spin up due to some routing-related issues that had forced us to set static ip's on our back-end containers. Now that we're under the Kubernetes infrastructure, this limit is gone and we can now throw hardware at both the front- and back-ends in the event one of the communities takes off in a big way. It also brings the experiment in line with the rest of our SOA.
- Non-technical translation: by using a different tool, we're now able to handle a LOT more traffic - just in case an experimental community gets super popular overnight.
- Improved "failure" scenarios. When the service that pre-renders the page went down, you used to see a blank middle of the page. Now, there's an error message to let users know that there should be something there, but it's temporarily broken.
- Additional tracking and monitoring. An experiment is only as good as the data it gathers, and a service is only as available as its failures are visible. So, we added some more analytics on the front-end to better understand where users stop editing, and moved the back-end error and access logs into the Wikia standard logging infrastructure.
- Bugfix: footnotes could be accidentally duplicated under certain editing patterns, and some minor visual cleanup.
- Bugfix: inserting a table didn't always cause the table to be visible in the editor (even though it would appear after saving the page).
- Major bugfix: data structure updates unexpectedly caused many revisions to become unrecoverable. We have substantially improved the reliability of revision generation and reconstruction, and will be adding additional diagnostics to help if/when future revisions failures occur.
- If you missed it above, we've added a "What's Next?" section, to give some visibility into what's coming up.
May 26th | Fancy-free and Footnotes
New designs in hand, we were able to put together a much improved footnotes/references experience. There's more to do on this front, but don't let that stop you from sharing your thoughts on what we should focus on next.
- Redesigned reference/footnote editing experience. In the editor, footnotes can now be easily seen and edited in context, which we hope will make editing and creating them a lot simpler to do. More to come on this in the future, including mouseover popups while reading. A huge "Thank you!" to Tammzz, LegitPLLGirl, and Ursuul for your feedback on footnotes/references!
- Creating a new page with the same name as an existing one now prompts you to avoid accidentally clobbering a page. This dialog is another crucial step on our path towards a more cohesive disambiguation strategy. In the future, this dialog will be able to instead ask "did you want to make a page about something else that just happens to have the same name?" and do something sensical with your response.
- Critical bugfix: revision history was broken for some pages, due to a bug in a library we're using to generate diffs. A workaround is in place for now that makes everything work for 99% of cases, with a more robust solution coming very soon. Thank you to LegitPLLGirl for bringing this to our attention.
- Additional minor bugfixes and polish.
Next up: boring prep work and stability improvements, so we can expand from ~3 to ~13 communities using the experiment.
There seems to be a healthy interest in and engagement with the experiment so far, so we'll put together a public list of "here's some of the things we're thinking of doing in the future" to help keep everyone better informed and to help stimulate good discussion on where to focus next. More likely than not, that'll show up sometime before the next release update.
May 19th, 2017 | Smoothing the edges
This past week we hammered out the designs for a new footnote editing experience that I hope you'll really like. We'll be working on implementing that over the next week or so, but in the meantime we tidied up a number of annoyances and rough edges.
- Bugfix: Creating a link to an existing page while also giving it a label causes a parser error. Thanks to KockaAdmiralac for pointing us in the right direction on this one!
- Enhancement: Visiting the bare domain (e.g. undefined) no longer causes the page to load partially, then redirect. Now, the URL updates via a history update, leading to a much smoother initial loading experience.
- Speaking of a smoother initial loading experience, the build process was optimized, which trimmed over 1 MB from the required assets size. There's more to be done here, but already this is a lot nicer.
- New options for table columns - you can now say "give me all the usual stuff" or "here's the exact set of columns I want to see", and when you pick the latter you can also add in the Page Type and Last Modified timestamp if you like. Page Type isn't exciting yet, but it'll be more interesting in a couple of weeks as we continue to build up support for custom Page Types (think "page templates, but more data savvy").
- Bugfix: Requesting a page with a '%' in the name no longer hangs the pre-rendering server. Somewhere out in the wild internet, a bad link got created that had mangled the page URL. It exposed an edge case in our own fault tolerance for malformed URLs. Once we fixed that, we also discovered that we'd accidentally fixed a bug we didn't even know we'd had, so that was nice.
- Replaced the date picker for metadata types with the textual one. While visually very pleasing, it just simply wasn't efficient to actually use seriously. Thanks to SEOkitten for suggesting this improvement!
- Additional minor bugfixes and groundwork-laying for future functionality, but nothing of particular importance.
Also of note: at Superdadsuper's request, we've created a clone of the Bible wiki using this experiment. bible.wikia.com will continue to use MediaWiki for now, and you can check out the experimental version over at bibledata.wikia.com. We're both hopeful that any data import weirdness will be sorted out soon, and if all the admins there like the final result then we'll switch the experiment on for the main domain to see what happens.
Want your own community converted to this experiment? Drop me a note in Discussions and let's see what we can do!
May 11th, 2017 | Invisible things
Any experiment needs reliable data, and we've discovered some places where our data tools needed improvement - so that's where we spent a lot of our time this week. Even so, we were able to make a couple of interesting visible improvements while we were in there.
- Choose your own table columns. This offers some additional flexibility in how you can structure your tables, and sets us up nicely for additional per-widget customization in the future. We're still chewing on some of the ways to improve table creation, so stay tuned to future updates for more on that.
- Peer into the unknown. Well, ok, this is less "crystal ball" and more "see how the page structure fits together". After seeing a lot of the pain that was happening when editing main pages, we realized that a big part of the problem is not being able to see where paragraph and float breaks happen. So, we added a new button under the 'three dots' menu on the right that makes the invisible structures well, visible. Try it out, and let us know what you think, or what else you'd want to see in there.
- Article transclusion. New to the widgets list (courtesy of a suggestion we received!) are 'Article' and 'Article Summary', for when you want the body of another article (or just the beginning of another article) to appear on your page. Like the table, gallery, and all other widgets, the included article text will update automatically when the other page updates - no bots required.
- Behind the scenes work. One of the interesting findings so far has been the popularity of edits being made from the mobile experience - they're currently happening at about twice the rate of edits coming from desktop. We hadn't expected this at all - Wikia has historically been a desktop-only editing experience - so this week we added a way for us to differentiate where which edits are coming from. This should give us a good indicator as to whether people are using their phones for quick edits only, or if they're writing more substantial articles there. Less interestingly, we also updated a piece of our server software from node 6.4.0 to node 7.10.0, which - thankfully - worked without a hitch.
We're working closely with the design team next week to address some of the biggest rough edges that many of you have suggested. Footnotes seems to be the area of biggest need right now based on what we've heard from LegitPLLGirl, Ursuul, and Tammzz, so we'll be starting there. With luck, we'll have something much smoother live on production within the next 2-3 weeks.
In the meantime, we've got a handful of smaller features that we had planned out from before the experiment that we'll be working on - some of which continue to move the ball towards our disambiguation experiment.
May 5th, 2017 | Visual Polish, Security, Bugs
Common themes have started to emerge from the feedback we're receiving, so we wanted to try to address some of these which were high-impact/low-cost. We've also been pleased to see the experiment get enough general usage in production that it warranted tightening up some of the security controls.
- Icon updates and general visual polish. KockaAdmiralac, DanZFLT, JustLeafy, and Ursuul have pointed out some places where the existing iconography was confusing, or where there were some opportunities to just generally make things look nicer. We were able to steal a couple of hours from one of our in-house designers and - informed by all of your feedback - improved the look-and-feel and tightened up the icon usage throughout. More can, should, and will be done on this front, but it's definitely looking a lot more professional now.
- Major bugfix: pages created with underscores in the title can appear "lost". Fiona of Amber and Tammzz both pointed out problems that turned out to be the result of friction between the CP's handling of underscores and MW's handling of underscores. We expect that this sort of thing will continue to be a pain point for a while, but this is one major bug down and out of the way.
- Major Bugfix: clicking outside of the editor causes link and widget insertions to fail silently. A big "thank you!" to Tammzz and KockaAdmiralac, whose two different bug reports combined into a solid lead on what the exact problem was.
- Tables can now be edited in place. Table usage is still too "techy", as LegitPLLGirl and Ursuul have rightfully pointed out. As a first step on the path towards making tables more intuitive, we've made it possible to edit tables in-place. More will be coming here over the coming weeks, esp. when it comes to creating new tables.
- Soft deletion of pages. Gone is the warning that deletions are permanent - pages can now be restored should the need arise.
- Progress towards a disambiguation experiment. KockaAdmiralac and Sophiedp have asked about the URL structure and the thinking behind it. Honestly, we just put something together quickly back when it was internal-only still and figured we'd come back to it later. Well, later is now, and we're laying the groundwork for an experiment with URL structure and disambiguation. I don't want to say too much about the approach right now, though, because I'd like clean feedback once it goes live in a couple of weeks-ish. Stay tuned for more news on this!
April 27, 2017 | Post-launch Fixes
With the experiment live and receiving both real traffic and real feedback, we wanted to address some of the most troublesome bugs as quickly as we could.
- The infobox layout has been changed to move the page title above the image. Thanks, LegitPLLGirl!
- Stability has been improved, so blank pages should no longer be occurring. For the tech-heads out there, we had under-provisioned the node server container, causing it to swap to disk under what’s basically normal operating conditions. For the non-tech-heads out there, once we figured out what was going on, we tweaked a setting on the server and it started working better. Thanks to everyone who reported this as it was happening!
- The page layout no longer jumps around as the page is loading. This turned out to be a small bug with a big impact. Thanks to KockaAdmiralac for pointing us in the right direction!
- The “Create Page” dialog was refactored to be more reliable. This one we found and fixed before we received any complaints, but I’ve no doubt at all that some users bumped into this one.
- When a left-floated image is present, there’s now a way to tell it “stop putting the text next to this image” by inserting a heading or sub-heading. We didn’t get a specific report on this, but we did look at the edits that Tammzz and LegitPLLGirl were making on the main page where they were struggling to get a good visual effect, and were able to get a much cleaner looking main page as a result.
- The data-driven widgets dialog was re-organized and tidied up. KockaAdmiralac’s question about the UI elements here helped us realize that we should get this cleaned up sooner rather than later.
More little stuff changed, too, but nothing that warrants any particular mention.
April 20, 2017 | Initial Launch
This launch took what had been an internal experiment and turned it live on a single community. For this specific release, we were just looking to work through the logistic and tactical details of getting such an experiment alive and healthy.