Something is amiss at Wikipedia, and Wikimedia senior designer Brandon Harris has a plan to fix it. In his recent entry to the Wikimedia Signpost introducing something he calls the "Athena Project," Harris says that "there's no need to throw up graphs about editor decline or toss around numbers about participation and gender imbalance here — you've either seen them and agree that something needs to be done, or you've dismissed them."

The Athena Project aims to fix this systemic misalignment that has editors running for the door. Harris says that the site's tools are "so bad that everyone has to make up their own way to work around it and get things done" and that "the software (or lack of it) is a barrier." By giving contributors a more modern interface, Harris believes that the encyclopedia can quickly bring editors back, and with them the quality entries that readers expect. Unaffiliated third parties have taken a stab at redesigning Wikipedia wholesale, so it'll be interesting to see if any of that DNA finds its way into Wikimedia's plans.

The Athena Project aims to fix this systemic misalignment that has editors running for the door

Harris' post includes links to a number of existing and upcoming Wikipedia overhaul initiatives including not only the much needed reconstruction of the Visual Editor, but also projects like Agora, which aims to provide a "singular design language for all foundation projects going forward." While Harris assures readers that Wikipedia will not become a social networking site like Facebook anytime soon, there are forward-looking plans to increase the site's collaborative potential. He said that, while "it's not an exact roadmap with deliverables and deadlines," he'd encourage readers to visit Wikipedia's list of 2012-13 Goals for specifics about Project Athena.