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Analytics/Data access

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Revision as of 09:08, 20 March 2020 by imported>Elukey (→‎Access Groups)
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In addition to a variety of publicly-available data sources, Wikimedia has a parallel set of private data sources. The main reason is to allows a carefully vetted set of users to perform research and analysis on confidential user data (such as the IP addresses of readers and editors) which is stored according to our privacy policy and data retention guidelines. This private infrastructure also provides duplicate copies of publicly-available data for ease of use.

Shell access

This private data lives in same server cluster that runs Wikimedia's production websites. This means you will need production shell access to get it (see also these notes on configuring SSH specifically for the purpose of working with the stats servers).

However, since this access gets you closer to both those production websites and this confidential data, it is not freely given out. First, you have to demonstrate a need for these resources. Second, you need to have a non-disclosure agreement with the Wikimedia Foundation. If you're a Foundation employee, this was included as part of your employment agreement. If you're a researcher, it's possible to be sponsored through a formal collaboration with the Wikimedia Foundation's Research team.

User responsibilities

If you get this access, you must remember that this access is extremely sensitive. You have a duty to protect the privacy of our users. As Uncle Ben says, "with great power comes great responsibility." Always follow the rules outlined in the Acknowledgement of Server Access Responsibilities, which you have signed if you have access to this data.

In addition, keep in mind the following important principles:

  • Be paranoid about personally identifiable information (PII). Familiarize yourself with the data you are working on, and determine if it contains any PII. It's better to double and triple check than to assume anything, but if you have any doubt ask the Analytics team (via IRC or email or Phabricator). Please see the data retention guidelines.
  • Don't copy sensitive data (for example, data accessible only by the users in the analytics-privatedata-users) from its origin location to elsewhere (in HDFS or on any other host/support) unless strictly necessary. And most importantly, do it only if you know what you are doing. If you are in doubt, please reach out to the Analytics team first.
  • Restrict access. If you do need to copy sensitive data somewhere, please make sure that you are the only one able to access the data. For example, if you copy Webrequest data from its location on HDFS to your /user/$your-username directory, make sure that the permissions are set to avoid everybody with access to HDFS to read the data. This is essential to avoid accidental leaks of PII/sensitive data or retention over our guidelines (
  • Clean up copies of data. Please make sure that any data that you copied is deleted as soon as your work has been done.

If you ever have any questions or doubts, err on the side of caution and contact the Analytics team. We are very friendly and happy to help!

Access Groups

To get access, you submit a request on phabricator and tag SRE-Access-Requests for shell access: Production shell access#Requesting access. You will need to specify what access group you need.

'analytics-*' groups have access to the Analytics Cluster (which mostly means Hadoop) and to stat* servers for local (non distributed) compute resources. These groups overlap in what servers they grant ssh access to, but further posix permissions restrict access to things like MySQL, Hadoop, and files.

Here's a summary of groups you might need (as of 2020-03-16):

Team specific:

WMDE specific group (mostly used for crons). Access to stat1007 and to MariaDB slaves in /etc/mysql/conf.d/research-wmde-client.cnf
Search specific group (used for various Analytics-Search jobs). Access to stat1007, an-launcher1001 and to MariaDB slaves.

Generic users. To decide which group to apply, of researchers, analytics-users, analytics-privatedata-users, see:

Access to stat100x and the credentials for the MariaDB slaves in/etc/mysql/conf.d/research-client.cnf. It is called "researchers" because it grants access to the "research" user's Mariadb wiki replicas credentials, and historically it was done for the Research team, but this assumption doesn't hold anymore (namely people from other teams got access as well). This group should be considered deprecated but it may be still used for some particular use cases, reach out to the Analytics team to double check in case :)
Access to all the stat100x hosts. Doesn't grant access to Hadoop or any private data.
Access to all the stat100x hosts. Can connect to the Analytics/Cluster (Hadoop/Hive), and can query private data hosted there, including webrequest logs. Access to MariaDB slaves in /etc/mysql/conf.d/analytics-research-client.cnf
If you want Hadoop access you probably want this. Please also request a Kerberos authentication principal following Analytics/Systems/Kerberos/UserGuide#Get_a_password_for_Kerberos if you hold an existing user in analytics-privatedata-users but not one for Kerberos, otherwise it is sufficient to request it in the task of your access request. To SRE: if you are adding a new user in analytics-privatedata-users, remember that from December 2019 Kerberos was enabled for Hadoop, so group membership is not enough to access the cluster. In order to create an Kerberos principal, please follow: Analytics/Systems/Kerberos#Create_a_principal_for_a_real_user.

The list of users currently in each group is available in this configuration file.[1]

Host access granted

Access Groups Access to stat1007 Access to stat1006 Access to stat1004 Access to stat1005 Access to notebook100[34]
researchers X X X X
analytics-users X X X X X
analytics-privatedata-users X X X X X
analytics-wmde X

Data access granted

Access Groups Hadoop access

(No private data)

Hadoop access

(Private data)

research-client.cnf research-wmde-client.cnf analytics-research-client.cnf
researchers X
analytics-privatedata-users X X X
analytics-wmde X

Data access expiration

Data access is given to collaborators and contractors with a time limit. Normally the end date is set to be the contract or collaboration end date. For staff data access terminates upon employment termination unless there is a collaboration in place.

Once a user is terminated their home directory is deleted, if the team wishes to preserve some of the user work (work, not data as data as strict guidelines for deletion) it can be done via archiving that work to hadoop. Please file a phab ticket to have this done. Archival to hadoop would happen in the following directory:


LDAP access

Some Analytics systems, including Superset, Turnilo, and SWAP, require a developer account in the wmf or nda LDAP groups for access.

If you need this access, first make sure you have a working developer account (if you can log into this wiki, you have one). If you need one, you can create one at mw:Developer_account.

Note that a developer account comes with two different usernames; some services need one and some services need the other. You can find both by logging into this wiki and visiting the "user profile" section of Special:Preferences. Your Wikitech username is listed under "Username", while your developer shell username is listed under "Instance shell account name". Thankfully, there's only one password!

Then, create a Phabricator task tagged with LDAP-access-requests asking to be added to the appropriate group. Make sure you include both your usernames. For an example task, see T208822.

Note that this access has similar requirements to shell access: you will need to either be a Wikimedia Foundation employee or have a signed volunteer NDA.


Analytics clients

Once you have access to the production cluster, there are several servers which you can use to access private data sources and run your analysis. There are two types: the stat servers, designed for command-line use, and the SWAP servers, designed for Jupyter notebook use. For more information, see Analytics/Systems/Clients.


The Analytics MariaDB cluster contains copies of the production MediaWiki databases (both actively-used mainstream projects and small internal-facing wikis, like various projects' Arbitration Committees).


As of November 2019, Hadoop is authenticated via Kerberos. See Kerberos User guide and Hadoop testing cluster.

Hadoop is our storage system for large amounts of data. The easiest way to query the Hadoop data is through Hive, which can be accessed from most of the Analytics clients. Simply type beeline in the terminal, switch to the wmf database, and input your query.

At the moment there are no recommended Hive access packages for R or Python. In the meantime, the best way to get data out of the system is to treat it as you would the Analytics slaves; through the terminal, type:

beeline -f my_query.hql > file_name.tsv

For information about writing HQL to query this data, see the Hive language manual.

Data sources

Data sets and data streams can be found in Category:Data_stream

Data Dashboards. Superset and Turnilo (previously called Pivot)

Superset: Pivot:

You need a wikitech login that is in the "wmf" or "nda" LDAP groups. If you don't have it, please create a task like

Before requesting access, please make sure you:

Depending on the above, you can request to be added to the wmf group or the nda group. Please indicate the motivation on the task about why you need access and ping the analytics team if you don't hear any feedback soon from the Opsen on duty.

MediaWiki application data

You can do a lot of work with the data stored by MediaWiki in the normal course of running itself. This includes data about:

  • Users' edit counts (consult the user table)
  • Edits to a particular page (consult the revision table, joined with the page table if necessary)
  • Account creations (consult the logging table)


You can access this data using the replica MariaDB databases. These are accessible from the stat100* machines, as detailed below.

For an overview of how the data is laid out in those databases, consult the database layout manual.

There are a few things that aren't available from the databases replicas. The main example of this is the actual content of pages and revisions. Instead, you can access them through the API or in the XML dumps, which are both described below.


A subset of this application data, which doesn't present privacy concerns, is also publicly accessible through the API (except for private wikis, which you shouldn't really need to perform research on anyway!). A good way to understand it, and to test queries, is Special:ApiSandbox, which provides a way of easily constructing API calls and testing them. The output includes "Request URL" - a direct URL for making that query in the future, that should work on any and all Wikimedia production wikis.

If you're interested in common API tasks, and don't feel like reinventing the wheel, there are a number of Python-based API wrappers and MediaWiki utilities. Our very own Aaron Halfaker maintains MediaWiki Utilities, which includes a module dedicated to API interactions. There's no equivalent for R yet.

Database dumps

Every month, XML snapshots of the databases are generated. Since they're generated monthly, they're always slightly outdated, but make up for it by being incredibly cohesive (and incredibly large). They contain both the text of each revision of each page, and snapshots of the database tables. As such, they're a really good way of getting large amounts of diffs or information on revisions without running into the query limits on the API.

Aaron's MediaWiki-utilities package contains a set of functions for handling and parsing through the XML dumps, which should drastically simplify dealing with them. They're also stored internally, as well as through, and can be found in /mnt/data/xmldatadumps/public on stat1006, stat1007, notebook1003, and notebook1004.

EventLogging data

One analytics-specific source of data is EventLogging. This allows us to track things we're interested in as researchers that MediaWiki doesn't normally log. Examples include:

  1. A log of changes to user preferences;
  2. A/B testing data;
  3. Clicktracking data.

These datasets are stored in the event and event_sanitized Hive databases, subject to HDFS access control.

Pageviews data

An important piece of community-facing data is information on our pageviews; what articles are being read, and how much? This is currently stored in our Hadoop cluster, which contains aggregated pageview data as well as the mostly-raw database of web requests. See the detailed documentation here.



Geolocation data

When you have IP addresses - be they from the RequestLogs, EventLogging or MediaWiki itself - you can do geolocation. This can be a very useful way of understanding user behaviour and evaluating how our ecosystem works. We currently use the MaxMind geolocation services, which are accessible on both stat1006 and stat1007: a full guide to geolocation and some examples of how to do it can be found on the 'geolocation' page.


  1. Other groups including statistics-admins, analytics-admins, eventlogging-admins, and statistics-web-users are for people doing system maintenance and administration, so you don't need them just to access data.