The Wikimedia Foundation broke Russian Wikinews again

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Tuesday, July 27, 2021

This article mentions Wikimedia Foundation, one of  its projects or related people. Wikinews  is one of Wikimedia Foundation projects.

Wikimedia Foundation has disabled one of main functionality again Russian Wikinews due to well-known technical specialists of a critical problem that they have not solved for almost a year. Another shutdown followed a global failure in the Foundation’s infrastructure, which lasted for about 20 minutes.

Around 1:30 pm Moscow time (10:30 am UTC) on Monday, July 26, 2021, all Wikimedia wikis in all languages ​​began to experience difficulty accessing and soon stopped responding with the message:

«upstream connect error or disconnect/reset before headers. reset reason: overflow»

The failure was recorded all over the world. A ticket phab: T287362 was opened in the Phabricator project, where fixes errors in Wikimedia projects.

After a while, engineer Amir Sarabadani (Ladsgroup / Amir Sarabadani (WMDE)) wrote:

«Status update: I disabled DPL on ruwikinews and now things are getting back to normal»

Thus, the Wikimedia Foundation once again sacrificed Russian Wikinews to bring up the rest of the projects.

Towards evening, Amir closed the ticket, believing that shutting down one of the largest projects of the Wikimedia Foundation was not an urgent problem and could be resolved in a working, calm mode.

The problem that caused the Wikimedia Foundation servers to crash has been known for a long time, according to engineers. It consists in the fact that one of the components of the server software, called DynamicPageList (DPL), does not work correctly and consumes increased resources, which increase dramatically as the project grows. The DPL extension is widely used in Wikinews projects in all languages. In particular, news feeds are implemented on it — the main component of any news project.

In September 2020, a DPL crash was already causing Russian Wikinews to go offline. However, then the issue was resolved by installing data caching on the server (the data of news feeds became slower to update). In addition, then a number of measures were proposed that were designed to solve the problem. For example, to rewrite DPL from direct database calls to use the progressive search engine CirrusSearch. In particular, this mechanism is used to implement a bot that updates news feeds on Russian Wikipedia portals and works quickly and reliably. It took less than an hour to write it.

However, for almost a year, no one has tackled a well-known and very critical problem.

At the same time, Russian Wikinews grew and developed, rising to 16th place in the ranking of all Wikimedia projects in terms of the number of articles in the main space and to fifth place in terms of the total number of pages. In fact, it is now one of the largest Wikimedia projects.

It is noteworthy that for large Wikimedia projects, engineers create a dedicated infrastructure, but Russian Wikinews remained in the common pool of small projects, despite its gigantic size.

Ignoring the problem predictably lead to another collapse of the infrastructure of the Wikimedia Foundation, which, following a pool of small projects, spread to all sites. It is curious that it was not the technical specialists and the management of the organization who were accused of the failure, who knew about the problem and did not solve it, but the community of Russian Wikinews volunteers, in fact, for daring to develop. At the same time, the Russian Wikinews community has never received any messages about the need to slow down development on the part of the Foundation’s management and engineers.

Currently, all Russian Wikinews feeds (project and by tags) are not working, and news is sorted only alphabetically. It is impossible to use the project as a news portal. The management of the Wikimedia Foundation does not show itself in any way and does not position this problem as critical. The Foundation’s engineers propose to solve it for the participants of Russian Wikinews on their own.


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