Hi all,

Pardon for a long mail, just unavoidable.

We have seen the WebFonts roll out[0] last night to most Indic wikis except
Malayalam and Tamil. We in Tamil Community felt WebFonts extension is just
not ready for us. We would like to share on why we in Tamil community didnt
chose webfonts and also what could work better in future for Indic
communities during technology adoption.

1. *Unavailability of "Quality Free fonts"* :-
During the development, our request for not setting the default font as a
lower quality font was rejected citing "it will defeat the purpose of
extension".[1] The available fonts had issues and deploying the extension
with those low quality fonts to everyone would not only defeat the purpose
of extension, but also gives Tamil Wikipedia a bad image when people just
cant read the fonts even though they had better fonts in system. (Just like
how i18n team says people who see boxes will just simply close the window,
we say giving these poor fonts will also lead to same thing and not help
the cause, instead will also hurt those who have better fonts.).

2. *Quality of User Experience* :-
We are a smaller wiki, we have a smaller reader base, but still we are
ranked 7th most visited website in Tamil according to alexa[2]. Just like
how no-nonsense / no-mediocrity is tolerated in any code that enters WMF
cluster, any change which will affect the site's look and feel, user
experience will have to be of highest standards and must be accepted by
community. WebFonts were just not ready to enter Wikipedia, since it
changes the UX for all the readers to help a potentially lower number of
users who dont have Tamil fonts than the current existing reader base.

*What we feel was wrong in WebFonts deployment*

We have also been seeing the wikis where they have been rolled out and
reporting issues. We ourselves are reporting issues inspite of not taking
WebFonts, with the hope software just gets better and some day we can
deploy them. Dont get us wrong, we are not against technology, we just need
it in better form and are not in any urgency. (After all we at Ta wiki
initiated an RFC and asked Webfonts even before the announcement was made).
We would also like to mention some points which we feel i18n team could
have done better for a smoother launch.

1. *Font Testing* :-
The point of language support team is that the people who are aware of
language give feedback to make any software better supported for the
language. We are not sure if Font-Testing was ever done at all for those
languages where the WebFonts were deployed. The hinting issue which was a
concern and made us raise against deployment in Tamil is also present in
Hindi,Sanskrit,Telugu(atleast till we saw) and gave the same worst
readability. The i18n team did font assessment[3], testing only 1 word to
test the font. Can any font be tested with just rendering of 4 characters /
1 word? For Tamil,we did a test in little more comprehensive way(We would
not say its complete)[4]. This should have been a *must* to see rendering /
font issues with chosen default font especially since the fonts are being
set default to every single user to the site. Sadly community was involved
the least, a note was posted in Village pumps and we dont think community
involved itself in any testing and poor quality was eventually pushed
without proper testing.

2. *Real world testing* :-
Though cross browser testing was done, there was a severe lack of real
world testing and as a result we are seeing a host of issues being
discovered post launch. Average PC in India might have 1 GB RAM, Firefox 3
/ 4, worse IE 5.5 / IE6 on 100 Kbps semi-broadband connection. We cannot
tell them move to latest or ignore them. More care should have been taken
especially since the webfonts is bound to set a default font.

With only a few hours of testing serious issues have been found -  in IE 8
where webfonts might be rolled back [5], IE 7.0 (where webfonts dont work)
[6] ,  ubuntu + Firefox (fixed now) [7] and Win+Firefox 5.0,  [8]. We are
still testing for other browsers and usecases and dont know how many issues
we will discover. In short - This code is not ready to go live, especially
when it is being made default compulsorily for everyone. There are serious
performance issues for typical Indian internet connections as well.[9]

3. *Communication and Community Engagement* :-
Most of the above things could have solved earlier if there was more
communication and community engagement. We asked for more information,
engagement on this very list. There was no reply to the mail on increasing
community engagement for i18n projects[10]. Most communities know WebFonts
is coming on Dec 12, didnt know what was coming, any further details.
Worse, Even Indic Consultant was not having clear information. Why this
lack of transparency? Community is more than willing to help, if only they
are informed. Even though we did not take up WebFonts, we have spent time
to help making it better.

 And the end users in the wikis dont know where to report and follow up
issues. (Not everyone is aware of and familiar with the Bugzilla process).
The request we raised to have a visible bug reporting link has not been
acted upon [11]. There might be a lot of issues going unreported, because
people dont know whom to report to. When a change of this scale is being
done, Community admins must be advised to run Sitenotice campaigns to
inform the users about the change with some solid newbie oriented
documentation. Infact this must be done for RFC itself, so as to make an
informed decision. We did the same for RFC in Tamil[12].

*Proposal for Future i18n / any special deployments to Indic wikiprojects*:-

The WebFonts deployment is a classic example of making deployment without
enough community engagement. Can this done in any of English / German /
Russian wikipedia which have a strong community? The fact that Tamil /
Malayalam resisted was because the community had concerns over the
solution. Till an hour before deployment yesterday, we did not know if Ta
wiki projects will get webfonts despite our objections.  We had been
pursuing Siebrand and Gerard across forums - facebook, twitter, meta talk
pages, village pumps, gmail chat etc looking for answers. But till the
deployment happened, we had no clue what we would be getting. This method
of deploying in silence *must* stop ASAP. Any deployment to any Indic wiki
must go through the community (language support teams) informed of the
change with Indic Consultant kept in loop. We suggest Shiju Alex to work on
a policy and put it in place regarding this. If there is problem
identifying community members to help, we are sure Shiju will help
connecting.

Irrespective of that happening Tamil Wiki Projects will follow this process.

1. Test any deployment on translatewiki
2. File Bugs and verify in translatewiki till it reaches acceptable level.
3. Language support team member will make a RFC page explaining the merits
/ demerits of the technology in simple terms with use of screenshots /
external links
4. Reverify / Ask for deployment in largely-inactive Wikiprojects like
WikiQuote / WikiBooks *post community concensus*
5. Test again / File Bugs
6. Reverify / Ask for deployment Wikiprojects next in line in terms of
activity ( Wiktionary / Wikinews/ Wikisource)
7. Test again / File Bugs
8. Only after ironing out all issues, any deployment will be allowed in
Tamil Wikipedia.

We had burnt our fingers during Narayam deployment already once and
community was so resistive of Narayam itself and was asking to go back to
older javascript solution. After that we followed the above process for
bringing back Narayam on all Tamil Wikiprojects.

We suggest the other communities adopt something similar. We sincerely hope
that the community engagement is improved, not just before deployment, even
from start of development.

[0] http://blog.wikimedia.org/2011/12/12/going-live-december-12-2011/
[1] https://bugzilla.wikimedia.org/30506
[2] http://www.alexa.com/topsites/category/Top/World/Tamil
[3] http://translatewiki.net/wiki/WebFonts_assessment
[4] http://translatewiki.net/wiki/User:Sodabottle/test1
[5] https://bugzilla.wikimedia.org/32775
[6] https://bugzilla.wikimedia.org/33024
[7] https://bugzilla.wikimedia.org/33025
[8] https://bugzilla.wikimedia.org/33018
[9] https://bugzilla.wikimedia.org/33027
[10]
http://lists.wikimedia.org/pipermail/wikimediaindia-l/2011-November/005153.html
[11] https://bugzilla.wikimedia.org/32942
[12] http://tawp.in/r/2r1f

-- 
Regards
Bala Jeyaraman & Srikanth.L
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