Arduino Playground will be a regular website and not a wiki

Hello Arduino Users,

we are going to improve many areas of our systems and Arduino Playground now has some widely known issues, specifically:

  • Almost impossible to maintain/update fix security issues
  • A lot of links and content will be broken as soon as we will switch to HTTPS only
  • We had/have a lot of spammers writing there
  • There are no moderators so pretty often there are either wrong information in some articles or pages sponsoring clones/low quality products, articles not related to Arduino
  • Some malicious users also used it to claim they are affiliated in some way with the official Arduino company just because they wrote an article there

Because of all these reasons we decided to have playground.arduino.cc as a read only website. To let the user write their own content and share with other we invite them to add tutorials in https://create.arduino.cc/projecthub
The best and most viewed articles of the Arduino Playground site were already been migrated in our main website under the Tutorial section https://www.arduino.cc/en/Tutorial/HomePage

The website will remain visible but will become read only by the end of the year, do not be scared, we will keep it online and the content is not going to be removed unless obviously spam or clearly wrong. Everything else will remain available.

Thank you!

Thanks for the update.

Also nice to see the new user category implemented.
Now we can easily see you and take what you say with much more confidence.

I like this idea, but please leave some mechanism by which errors can be corrected and information can be updated. We get a ton of posts here on the forum related to stuff in the playground that is wrong, misleading, or even dangerous and all we can say is that we have no way to change any of it and no way to reach anyone who can.

Delta_G:
but please leave some mechanism by which errors can be corrected and information can be updated.

I agree,

The mechanism is already in place - if only the Arduino developers would regularly participate in this section of the Forum.

…R

lcipriani: A lot of links and content will be broken as soon as we will switch to HTTPS only

Then the community will fix the breakage.

lcipriani: We had/have a lot of spammers writing there

I just don't see evidence of this. A few years ago, the Playground was made read only as a temporary measure, supposedly in reaction to spam. I went through the entire edit history of the Playground at that time and reverted every spam edit. Although there certainly was spam, I only found 74 cases in the 9 years of edit history. I just went through the last 1.5 years of edits and didn't find a single spam edit, which indicates to me that the captcha solution you implemented is working fine. I did find a few harmful edits but these were not malicious, but caused by confused people. So we have ~74 spams over 12 years, which the Arduino community has handled. I don't see this as a valid reason.

lcipriani: There are no moderators

At the resolution of the last time you tried to make the Playground read-only, you had added an RSS feed at my request and I used that to monitor every single edit to the Playground as soon as it happened. Some time later, the RSS feed stopped working. I reported this and it was assigned to you: https://github.com/arduino/Arduino/issues/6587 but no action was taken after over a year. This has resulted in me no longer monitoring the Playground so closely. If you think not having a moderator is such a problem, why didn't you fix the RSS feed?

lcipriani: pretty often there are either wrong information in some articles or pages sponsoring clones/low quality products, articles not related to Arduino

There will always be some bad content in a public wiki. I really don't see a huge amount of this in the Playground. Whenever people have reported problems with the content I have quickly fixed it. As for "pages sponsoring clones/low quality products", if that's not allowed then why isn't it mentioned anywhere in the Playground? In fact, you even have an official section of the Playground "Sources for Electronic Parts".

lcipriani: Some malicious users also used it to claim they are affiliated in some way with the official Arduino company just because they wrote an article there

I've never seen anything like that. I don't see how it would be an effective ploy.

lcipriani: Because of all these reasons we decided to have playground.arduino.cc as a read only website.

So it seems to me the only valid reason you've given is:

lcipriani: Almost impossible to maintain/update fix security issues

Well, as webmaster, isn't that your job? Instead of ruining a valuable community resource, why not find out how to fix the problems? Maybe it will take some work to figure it out, but compare that to how much ongoing work it will be for the Arduino team to be responsible for every correction that needs to be made to all the Playground pages. You already can't keep up with all the suggested changes to the documentation so imagine how it will be when the huge number of Playground pages are added on.

lcipriani: Because of all these reasons we decided to have playground.arduino.cc as a read only website.

This makes me very sad. I have put a ton of work into the Arduino Playground, as have many others.

lcipriani: To let the user write their own content and share with other we invite them to add tutorials in https://create.arduino.cc/projecthub

The Project Hub is in no way a replacement for the Playground.

lcipriani: Everything else will remain available.

A read only Playground has far less value and will lose more and more as time goes on. It's very useful to have a centralized location where the community can collaborate on documentation and the Playground is the only thing of that type we have. I truly believe that the expense for the Arduino organization of maintaining this resource is more than paid back by its benefits.

Delta_G: I like this idea

What do you like about it?

Delta_G: We get a ton of posts here on the forum related to stuff in the playground that is wrong, misleading, or even dangerous

I think that's a serious exaggeration. I'm always on the lookout for those sorts of posts and they're not very common.

Delta_G: all we can say is that we have no way to change any of it and no way to reach anyone who can.

Currently, we can easily change it. If the Playground is made read-only, we will be stuck with the incredibly inefficient and slow system we use to get changes made to the reference pages. The new Language Reference system is good but lcipriani has already stated that will not be extended even to all the official documentation so I'm sure it has no chance of being done for the Playground.

Hello,

Yes, keeping things secure is our job and securing something insecure by design is really hard. That said even recently we had to recover content from backups just because someone changed the whole home page. I never said we are not going to implement a solution similar to the reference system and we are already providing good alternatives. What is limiting the users in using Arduino Project Hub for the same purpose? I cannot see advantages in having two different systems doing the same thing but one is secure, stable and integrated in our websites much better than the Playground. I am happy and thankful you fixed most of the spam editing but we cannot relay on volunteers only, we should have someone in our company reviewing the content, that is what we do have already in projecthub. For us to review and edit playground is really an hard job due to technical limitations of the system and is impossible to make it nice on mobile which is a must for me in 2018. I know there are some disadvantages in making it read only but I mainly see advantages in using the other systems we already have or invest in having a similar solution like the reference flow instead of trying to fix a legacy and unsecure system. If I have to invest each single dollar for a web content system I would invest them in making the other platforms better than fixing a wrongly designed system.

About the captcha, yes it works in EU and USA, and many other countries but prevents all our Chinese users to even access the platform, so we are making unhappy 1/3 of our users just because of an old system. For the SSO we have a solution but for content editing is impossible to provide a good alternative for the Chinese users who are prevented in changing our website. This is really bad.

That said we are open to give access to a limited number of people to edit the pages even after the change to read only mode and fix old broken content, and I would be happy to add you for sure.

Let me known if that sounds good for you.

mastrolinux:
we had to recover content from backups just because someone changed the whole home page

Why from backups? You can just go into the edit history and click the “Restore” button. If the RSS feed was working I would have taken care of that problem in no time. That change wasn’t done maliciously. It was just some clueless person who didn’t understand how the Playground works. That’s not a security issue, it’s just an unavoidable downside of wikis. That sort of thing happens all the time on Wikipedia too. The key is for there to be more people making beneficial edits than people making unbeneficial edits. There are far more beneficial edits to the Playground so on average the content continues to improve.

mastrolinux:
I never said we are not going to implement a solution similar to the reference system

Not for the Playground, but you did say it for other content:

mastrolinux:
No we do not think allowing editing of the whole website is something useful for both the Arduino Company and Community but we want to open as many places as possible if it makes sense to have contribution from the community. If you have any suggestion about what are the most relevant sections in your opinion to be opened then let me know and we will evaluate.

My assumption is that if you’re not going to do that for all the standard website content, then you certainly wouldn’t do so for the Playground content. I’d be happy if I was wrong. I still prefer the Playground to remain a standard Wiki, but editing it via pull requests to a GitHub repository would be second-best, as long as that repository was actively maintained.

mastrolinux:
What is limiting the users in using Arduino Project Hub for the same purpose?
I cannot see advantages in having two different systems doing the same thing but one is secure, stable and integrated in our websites much better than the Playground.

Because the Arduino Project Hub is something completely different. That’s like saying “Why do we need Wikipedia when we have tumblr?” The characteristic of the Playground that makes it valuable is that anyone can edit/create any content. You can’t do that on the Project Hub. The Project Hub is also specifically focused on projects, but much of the Playground content is not about projects. The Project Hub is fine, but it’s not a replacement for the Playground by any stretch of the imagination. The arduino/Arduino repository’s wiki would be a closer replacement, but 95% of the Playground content would not be appropriate for that wiki, since it has a different focus of advanced documentation for developers.

mastrolinux:
we cannot relay on volunteers only, we should have someone in our company reviewing the content

I don’t understand why you think that’s necessary. The volunteers have done a decent job of it for years now. I have always maintained that the content of the Playground is the responsibility of the Arduino community. The only responsibility Arduino should have is the infrastructure (because the community don’t have the ability to work on that) and hosting it.

mastrolinux:
For us to review and edit playground is really an hard job due to technical limitations of the system and is impossible to make it nice on mobile which is a must for me in 2018.

The system is certainly not perfect, and I would like to see it improved, but I still think having a publicly editable wiki with an imperfect system is far better than having a read-only wiki, which will probably still have the same issues. I just don’t see this as a valid justification.

mastrolinux:
invest in having a similar solution like the reference flow

I think that’s a reasonable alternative, but this is the first that possibility has been presented.

mastrolinux:
About the captcha, yes it works in EU and USA, and many other countries but prevents all our Chinese users to even access the platform, so we are making unhappy 1/3 of our users just because of an old system. For the SSO we have a solution but for content editing is impossible to provide a good alternative for the Chinese users who are prevented in changing our website. This is really bad.

That is very unfortunate but I still don’t think it’s a valid justification to shut it down for 3/3 of the users just because it doesn’t work for 1/3 of the users. Also, I don’t even think the Captcha was so essential. You could solve that problem by removing the captcha and fixing the RSS feed so that I can quickly catch the occasional spam edit.

mastrolinux:
That said we are open to give access to a limited number of people to edit the pages even after the change to read only mode and fix old broken content, and I would be happy to add you for sure.

You can do that, but it doesn’t change my objections to this. If I still had access, I would make edits to resolve issues that people report with the Playground content (as I already do). However, I probably wouldn’t make the effort to improve the Playground anymore on my own initiative, since I think it being read-only destroys much of the value of the resource and I’d rather put my limited volunteer time to more worthy causes.

I have been in some fights with people forcing their view/agenda on the playground. I never saw any Arduino action so when I read [quote author=: mastrolinux ]

we cannot relay on volunteers only, we should have someone in our company reviewing the content [/quote] I think why would it be any better there?

I also wonder... what if these malicious people change things about 1 minute before closing time? Will you guys clean up? Och wait .... the newbie assigned to the clean up probably doesn't even understand what it is all about ...

In other words: If you plan to freeze; freeze now.

I have done some contributions to the playground but I will not contribute to https://create.arduino.cc/projecthub. Seriously content does not require a nice picture, it does require structure.

It comes to me that arduino changed from a organisation that enabled people to learn and do something with electronics to a company selling boards not caring about anyone learning or doing something with them.

For me this is another sad day in Arduino land.

I agree with Pert. Projecthub will be like Instructables or similar site, is project oriented, not a Wiki. One can create example projects like in Playground but they will be among many much others projects, difficult to find.

Maybe in Projecthub you can create an area for learning projects.

Other sites have done this, and IT IS A HORRIBLE IDEA - because you end up with this problem:-

  • There are no moderators so pretty often there are either wrong information in some articles or pages sponsoring clones/low quality products, articles not related to Arduino

STILL THERE, but now with no way to fix or remove it anymore.

You end up being indexed "top in google" with wrong and bogus answers forever.

PLEASE - if you go "read only", delete the entire site. It's better for everyone to start-over with usable correct info, than for legacy "wrong" to live forever.

Alternatively - just fix the problems you've got. None of them seem hard.

cndg: STILL THERE, but now with no way to fix or remove it anymore.

I understand this concern, but I don't think the potential problem warrants your suggestion:

cndg: delete the entire site

I'd like to think that if Arduino makes the Playground read-only, they will take responsibility for the maintenance of that content. If given write access, I'm willing to help with that. I monitor the forum and the bug tracker and, for the last few years, I have already been editing the Playground to address any issues with the Playground reported either place. The exception is when the reported issue is on some very technical subject and I don't have enough knowledge to assess or correct. In the event the Playground was made read-only, I would hope that one of the Arduino employees with more advanced knowledge on that subject would step in and make any necessary corrections.

cndg: Alternatively - just fix the problems you've got. None of them seem hard.

Of course I'm 1000% in agreement with this. I suspect that, in the long run, the time Arduino would spend maintaining all this new content they chose to "own" by making the Playground read-only would exceed the time it takes to solve any security problems posed by the publicly editable Playground. It's not clear to me what these security issues are so it's difficult for me to get a feel for what might be involved in fixing them.

I wouldn't mind the playground becoming, say, yet another github repository. That seems to be a nice mid-way point between a Wild Wiki and a Closed site; you can submit "issues" to report problems (which is much better than the current situation, I think), and pull-requests if you have actual edits.

We already have the "stale info" problem. Especially since people come along and add their info, and then lose interest/disappear, leaving behind an un-maintained and un-owned page that no one feels responsible for (and/or no one feels entitled or knowledgeable enough to actually change.)

Nothing says it can't be transferred/recreated as an independent (of Arduino.cc) website.

True, but that's a huge task. Are you volunteering to do it?

pert: True, but that's a huge task. Are you volunteering to do it?

Do it? I'll need to do a bit of learning first.

MastroLinux suggested that Arduino might set up a system similar to how the Language Reference pages now work with the content in a GitHub repository, where it can be edited by the community, then published to the Arduino website. If that is actually going to happen, then I don't think we need a 3rd party version of the Playground. However, I'm still very skeptical that will ever happen. It would be really helpful if we could get a firm official answer on whether that is something Arduino is going to commit to doing, and if so, what a realistic timeline is. It's been 1.5 years since Massimo Banzi announced that the official library reference content was moving to GitHub, but I haven't seen any work done towards that. It's hard for me to believe that the Playground project would be given higher priority (if any at all).

Probably the quickest path for starting a 3rd party Playground would be to set up the PmWiki software currently used by the Playground on a separate website: http://pmwiki.org/ After that, there should be some way to easily import the contents of the Playground. It might be necessary to coordinate with someone from Arduino to get access to the raw content.

Based on my experience with the Playground, I'm actually not a big fan of PmWiki. The edit history is just terrible. I'm also not crazy about the markup. It would be much better if we could use Markdown, which anyone using GitHub, Stack Exchange, etc. will already be familiar with. I suppose it's possible that PmWiki has been much improved since whatever outdated version Arduino is using, or maybe there are modifications that can be made to improve it. However, converting the content from PmWiki to some other platform is likely to be a much bigger job (though perhaps not so bad if we found some magic converter program that does an acceptable job).

The big question is how this 3rd party Playground will be hosted. If some random community member grabs a domain and hosting plan and sets this up, what guarantee do we have that the bills will continue to be paid and necessary infrastructure maintenance work will be done? This is an issue because I don't want to do a lot of work contributing to a resource that's going to disappear after a couple years. That is why Arduino is the best organization to host this resource. I believe that Arduino does benefit from community-generated documentation.

I have actually given the idea of starting a 3rd party version of the Playground quite a bit of thought since this announcement was made. Hosting it on GitHub seems like a good option. Public GitHub repositories are free so there is no concern of paying for hosting. If the owners did end up abandoning the project without passing on the torch, it's simple enough for someone to fork the repo. It is unfortunate that a GitHub account is required to contribute, but a significant number of the potential contributors already have one and it's quite easy for people who don't to set one up. I've noticed an amazing lack of spam/abuse/vandalism on GitHub. I considered a GitHub Wiki, but that feature is surprisingly very poorly done. In the end, I think a standard GitHub repository would be better. The potential issue with that option is that it MUST be actively administrated. Valid PRs must be merged quickly, otherwise people will not be motivated to make the effort to contribute. It's a shame you can't create GitHub repos that give everyone push access (as is the case with public GitHub wikis). I think the key would be for the repository to have a lot of administrators with a liberal policy about accepting PRs. The big problem is the work of transferring the Playground content to the GitHub repository. I know there are some tools that will convert the HTML output of the Playground to Markdown (perhaps pandoc). I also see there is a PmWiki "cookbook" that allows PmWiki pages to be shown as Markup output: https://www.pmwiki.org/wiki/Cookbook/MarkdownOutput

Being an oldTimer, I'd be looking at the Frontier (UIserLand) software I built my old websites with - they had an Edit button so users could edit any page. I don't know about security so that would be my issue, but I'm willing to tackle that when it's an issue.

Like I said, Feb 09 is my target date.

An essential feature is to be able to clearly see the edit history and revert to any point in that history. The Playground does have such an edit history, but it doesn’t at all do a good job of showing a “diff”, which makes it very difficult to review edits to make sure they were beneficial. Wikipedia and GitHub provide a very nice diff of edits.

I also think it’s very useful to be able to get notifications of edits. For a short period, the Playground did allow you to get notifications of all edits via a RSS feed. Email would probably be better for most people since I don’t think RSS is very commonly used anymore (I still really like it). Wikipedia allows you to watch specific pages. GitHub allows you to watch repositories, which allows you to get an email for every pull request, issue report, or comment in those threads. You can’t get emails for edits to a GitHub wiki, but you will see them for any repo you’re watching in your GitHub feed.

How would you address my concern regarding long term stability of the website?

I've seen this really derail some communities. It's just not viable to have one person with complete control over a resource like that (the "bus factor"). People disappear or die without any warning.

Then you have the issue of funding. If one person is paying out of pocket, how can we be sure they'll continue to do so. If it's funded by ads or donations, what happens if they fall short? If it's a community resource and there is income in excess of requirements, what happens to that money?

Here's my thoughts:

Funding could come as voluntary contributions from users of the site. As many of us will be on fixed incomes, we would need to put some effort into fundraising. I believe we could afford this valuable resource though.

Stability - I imagine a group of curators would manage the content, while folks with technical expertise would keep it all up and running. I have no doubt that the a.cc community has the necessary brain-power to do it.

Software - My web-mastering experience is a decade or so old, so I'll need reeducated. I have served large websites using Frontier software, which seems to fit this bill exactly, however I do not know the state of that software, nor the company that made it. I've also used Apache/database with live pages, and that would also work. And of course there is Wikimedia, which would simplify construction.