Wikimedia’s Open Source Toolset

Posted in Tools, Wikis at 3:31 pm by Erik

There is a rarely explored relationship between the world of open source tools and free knowledge collaboration. This relationship developed naturally and quietly. Some open source tools have become quite essential to projects like Wikipedia, and I’ve started a page on our Meta-Wiki called Open Source Toolset to document the use of open source/free software tools in the Wikimedia Foundation projects. Others have quickly made useful additions (if you see any glaring omissions, please do not hesitate to edit).

Inkscape is an example of a mainstream open source tool that has become essential, even though it has not reached 1.0 yet. It has been used to create thousands of vector drawings in Wikimedia projects. But there are much more specialized tools, such as Hugin (used for stitching panorama pictures) or PP3 (used for celestial charts). The availability of these tools is incredibly empowering. Anyone with the necessary skills and interest can use them to immediately contribute their knowledge; there is no charge, and the quality of the software almost always increases over time.

The importance of this open source ecosystem of tools can hardly be overestimated. Every new tool, every new feature, directly feeds back into the quality of content that is being generated. Therefore, I strongly believe that we must find ways to support them. Google has an annual Summer of Code, through which it spends a lot of money on student projects. This is very worthwhile indeed. We do not have a lot of money, but we do have global website exposure. Perhaps the Wikimedia Foundation should support its own “Autumn of Collaboration”, providing learning resources and guiding volunteers to work on the projects that make the greatest difference in the collection and development of human knowledge.


  1. Nick Moreau said,

    April 2, 2007 at 4:11 pm

    I’ve never really got the hang of Inkscape, but this Blender program looks promising. Wow!

  2. Your open source toolset - Creative Commons said,

    April 3, 2007 at 12:15 am

    [...] Wikipedian Erik Möller weighs in with a practical post on Wikimedia’s open source toolset, which may be seen as a paean to open source media creation software generally (Wikipedia leading [...]

  3. CC 3.0 Licenses now in Inkscape in SVN at rejon.org said,

    April 3, 2007 at 4:09 am

    [...] Wikipedian Erik Möller weighs in with a practical post on Wikimedia’s open source toolset, which may be seen as a paean to open source media creation software generally (Wikipedia leading [...]

  4. jon phillips said,

    April 3, 2007 at 7:18 am

    This is a great idea! And, wha a great post!

  5. David Gerard said,

    April 4, 2007 at 11:52 am

    Inkscape is not terribly hard to use, but you absolutely have to work through the tutorials under the ‘Help’ menu or you’ll never be able to use it very well. It’s not the sort of app you can muddle through knowing what you want to achieve.

  6. Nick Moreau said,

    April 4, 2007 at 4:53 pm

    I was trying to trace my Wikisource “sourceberg 2.0″ logo in it, and it just seemed to simplify all of my shapes. I dunno, have to give another wack at it at some point. Until then, I’m sticking with Illustrator and Corel.

  7. skierpage said,

    April 4, 2007 at 11:12 pm

    I added a “MediaWiki development” section to that meta page. It still blows my mind that a few hours after wondering how Semantic MediaWiki handled unit conversions, I had downloaded several million lines of free code (SMW and MediaWiki, the XAMPPLITE bundle of Apache/PHP/MySQL for Windows, and Eclipse + PHPEclipse) and was making minor alterations on top of that mountain of riches.

  8. Amy Stephen said,

    April 4, 2007 at 11:20 pm

    Really, really nice! Might want to add Open Office, too! Thanks for sharing this!

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