Perhaps i am hyperfocused on technical debt in the sense of improving the
abstractions used in mediawiki. The phrasing around sustainability
especially leads me in that direction. However, technical debt is certainly
a broad concept and can mean a lot of things.

The common thread in the examples you cited seem to be things that have
fallen through the ownership cracks. I'm not sure its the case that
engineers aren't incentivized to fix these, so much as there are no natural
engineers to be incentivized due to team structure (scribunto is an
exception but i would disagree with that task's inclusion for reasons that
get off topic). On the other hand, perhaps a different incentivization
structure would encourage people to branch out more.

I think it is especially telling that 3 (or 4 even) of these tasks are
multimedia related, given that wmf hasn't had a multimedia team in a very
long time [SDC does not count], and definitely not one focused on the
backend. There are quite a few multimedia related areas in desperate need
of love (it is 2023 and video uploads are limited to 4gb with the flakiest
upload process known to man).

It was also pointed out to me on irc, that many critical workflows in the
community depend on toolforge tools that have very limited volunteer
maintainership. A sort of situation. Just because
they're not "production" we often pretend they don't exist. Regardless of
how we label them, in the end it doesn't make a difference to the end user,
and the fragility of that ecosystem is a form of technical debt that is
often overlooked.

So i guess it all depends on what is meant by "technical debt"

On Friday, April 14, 2023, Andre Klapper <> wrote:

> On Thu, 2023-04-13 at 20:06 -0700, bawolff wrote:
> > > "I think there are lots of promising opportunities to incentivise
> > > people to pay off technical debt and make our existing stack more
> > > sustainable. Right now there are no incentives for engineers in
> > > this regard."
> >
> > Interesting. Personally to me, it can sometimes feel like we never
> > stop talking about technical debt. While I think paying off technical
> > debt is important, at times I feel like we've swung in the opposite
> > direction where we are essentially rewriting things for the sake of
> > rewriting things.
> "Technical debt" spontaneously brings the following items to my little
> mind. They should not be about rewriting but rather "maintenance":
>  * librsvg for SVG rendering is a five year old version:
> /
>  * Graph extension on old Vega version 2.6.3: see subtasks of
>  * Scribunto extension on old Lua version 5.1 (last 5.1.x release was
>    in 2012):
>  * 3D extension on a five year old three.js library in
>  * Removing the OpenStackManager extension from
>  * Removing WVUI from MediaWiki
>    core:
>  * Replacing jsduck with JSDoc3 across all Wikimedia code bases:
>  * Undeploy VipsScaler from Wikimedia wikis:
>  * (a non-public task)
> This is not a complete list. Plus there are also separate "waiting for
> someone to make a decision" and "improving communicating & documenting
> already-made decisions" categories which would be different lists.
> Of course there might be valid reasons not to look into some of this
> technical debt (other higher priorities, high risk, complexity, etc).
> Cheers,
> andre
> --
> Andre Klapper (he/him) | Bugwrangler / Developer Advocate
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