I don’t have to find tasks. Tasks are coming to me. Being a Volunteer Developer for Wikimedia projects: An Interview with Tpt
“Ich suche mir keine Aufgaben. Normalerweise kommen die Aufgaben einfach zu mir,” sagt Thomas, freiwilliger Entwickler für MediaWiki. Wie sieht eigentlich die ehrenamtliche Tätigkeit eines freiwilligen Entwicklers aus? Wer steckt hinter dem Code und den Features, die tagtäglich von vielen Editoren benutzt werden? Julia Schuetze setzte sich mit Thomas aka tpt zusammen, um einen Einblick in die Programmiertätigkeit eines Freiwilligen zu bekommen.
An interview by Julia Schuetze with Thomas Pellissier-Tanon aka Tpt
“I work on the software behind Wikipedia!” That’s what Thomas aka (Tpt), a Volunteer Developer from France, tells his friends if they ask him about what he does in his free time. Up to ten hours per week he dedicates to free knowledge that way.
In the past two months, I got the chance to talk to some of our volunteer developers about their experience with the Wikimedia movement. I’d like to share Thomas’ story, his views, concerns, ideas and accomplishments with you.
Thomas started in 2009 when he was still in high school. A passion for egyptian history and pharaohs inspired him to contribute to the French Wikipedia. Back then, programming was new to him. He started by writing templates and by learning how to use the functions around Wikipedia.
Starting is not easy. Wikipedia is a project created, maintained and developed by millions of people. Thousands contribute at least once a month. People commit, some stay for longer, some only for a short time. I wondered what made Thomas stick around and become a very innovative volunteer developer in our community for over seven years now.
MediaWiki: “huge, complex and often ugly”
The first few months can be rocky, he says. It was an exploration for him because MediaWiki, the free and open source wiki application, which stores the content into databases, “is huge, complex and often ugly.” “It was a lot of reading code to see how it works and how all the pieces are fitting together,” Thomas remembers. “Some of that can act as barriers. Especially for developers who are not familiar with Wikis,” he explains. It was quite difficult to write code matching MediaWiki standards and conventions and with a good enough level of quality at first.”