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Post scriptum

I am running a lot of tools on Labs. As with most software, the majority of feedback I get for those tools falls into one of two categories: bug reports and feature requests, the latter often in the form “can the tool get input from/filter on/output to…”. In many cases, that is quick to implement; others are more tricky. Besides increasing the complexity of tools, and filling up the interface with rarely-used buttons and input fields, the combinations (“…as you did in that other tool…”) would eventually exceed my coding bandwidth. And with “eventually”, I mean some time ago.

Wouldn’t it be better if users could “connect” tools on their own? Take the output of tool X and use it as the input of tool Y? About two years ago, I tried to let users pipeline some tools on their own; the uptake, however, was rather underwhelming, which might have been due to the early stage of this “meta-tool”, and its somewhat limited flexibility.

A script and its output

A script and its output.

So today, I present a new approach to the issue: scripting! Using toolscript, users can now take results from other tools such as category intersection and Wikidata Query, filter and combine the results, and display the results or even use tools like WiDaR to perform on-wiki actions. Many of these actions come “packaged” with this new tool, and the user has almost unlimited flexibility in operating on the data. This flexibility, however, is bought by the scary word programming (an euphemism for “scripting”). In essence, the tool runs JavaScript code that the user types or pastes into a text box.

Still here? Good! Because, first, there are some examples you can copy, run, and play with; if people can learn MediaWiki markup this way, JavaScript should pose little challenge. Second, I am working on a built-in script storage, which should add many more example scripts, ready to run (in the meantime, I recommend a wiki or pastebin). Third, all build-in functions use synchronous data access (no callbacks!), which makes JavaScript a lot more … scriptable, as in “logical linear flow”.

The basic approach is to generate one or more page lists (on a single Wikimedia project), and then operate on those. One can merge lists, filter them, “flip” from Wikipedia to associated Wikidata items and back, etc. Consider this script, which I wrote for my dutiful beta tester Gerard:

all_items = ts.getNewList('','wikidata');
cat = ts.getNewList('it','wikipedia').addPage('Category:Morti nel 2014') ;
cat_item = cat.getWikidataItems().loadWikidataInfo();
$.each ( cat_item.pages[0].wd.sitelinks , function ( site , sitelink ) {
  var s = ts.getNewList(site).addPage(sitelink.title);
  if ( s.pages[0].page_namespace != 14 ) return ;
  var tree = ts.categorytree({language:s.language,project:s.project,root:s.pages[0].page_title,redirects:'none'}) ;
  var items = tree.getWikidataItems().hasProperty("P570",false);
  all_items = all_items.join(items);
} )
all_items.show();

This short script will display a list of all Wikidata items that are in a “died 2014″ category tree on any Wikipedia, that do not have a death date yet. The steps are as follows:

  • Takes the “Category:Morti nel 2014″ from it.wikipedia
  • Finds the associated Wikidata item
  • Gets the item data for that item
  • For all of the site links into different projects on this item:
    • Checks if the link is a category
    • Gets the pages in the category tree for that category, on that site
    • Gets the associated Wikidata items for those pages
    • Removes those items that already have a death date
    • Adds the ones without a death date to a “collection list”
  • Finally, displays that list of Wikidata items with missing death dates

Thus, with a handful of straightforward functions (like “get Wikidata items for these pages”), one can ask complex questions of Wikimedia sites. A slight modification could, for example, create Wikidata items the pages in these categories. All functions are documented in the tool. Many more can be added on request; and, as with adding Wikidata labels, a single added function can enable many more use-cases.

I hope that this tool can become a hub for users who want more than the “simple” tools, to answer complex questions, or automate tedious actions.

One Comment

  1. TomT0m wrote:

    You are my master. I’ll bow :)

    Thursday, April 10, 2014 at 16:12 | Permalink