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Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Languages and Wikimedia

I got called a "dick" the other day on the foundation-l mailing list. Of course, it was framed in the favorite "Don't be a dick" way, as if linking to the Wikipedia policy somehow made the insult not an insult. Insinuating that a person should not be a dick is really analogous to saying that they currently are one. It's a little bit less direct, so that people can say "Don't be a dick" to somebody, without having to worry about angry retaliation. Don't get angry about it, it's just a Wikipedia policy after all.

The topic we were discussing at the time was languages. The question, specifically, was whether or not it should be a goal of the foundation, albeit a secondary one, to support and preserve small, dieing, and extinct languages? The thread did diverge a little bit to include topics from other language-related threads. I have a few thoughts on this, which I'll try to canonize here:
  1. We can do one thing well, or we can do many things poorly. If we lose focus of our current goals, and start to pursue all sorts of other aims, we are going to fail on all fronts. Preserving languages should be a secondary effect, at best, in the pursuit of our primary goals. Languages which can satisfy the viability and localization requirements are not likely to be effected in any measurable way by the existance of a Wikimedia project anyway.
  2. Saying that creating a new project doesnt cost much money to operate and maintain is not the same as saying that the project will be viable in the long term, or saying that there is significant potential benefit in having the project. One fewer reason why we shouldn't is not one more reason why we should.
  3. The localization effort of a particular language is not really a good barometer to determine the viability of a project. Localization only measures the size and motivation of the population of speakers who are bilingual in english and the language in question. With over 1500 system messages to translate, providing a complete localization is a highly daunting tasks that many of our volunteers might simply not be interested in performing.
  4. Conlangs, with precious few exceptions, shouldn't be given their own projects. I won't expand on this point too much here, because I might say too much, and never get back to my point.
  5. The incubator should be used to greater effect. There should be a simple and easy process to move projects from the incubator, and to move projects back to it when they need help. The incubator is used for this purpose, but I'm not under the impression that it's easy enough to do, or that it is utilized properly. Plus, there are a few projects that I can think about that really need to be moved there, because they were created before the incubator existed and never got off the ground.
I get motivated, in part, because so many non-viable projects have slipped in under the radar in the past. I'm still a little miffed about the Simple.Wikibooks project, which hasn't shown any signs of growth, activity, or progress since the discussion to merge with en.wikibooks was ended. Of the editors who were most outspoken against the merger, not one of them have made any edits whatsoever on simple.wikibooks since the discussion ended in November. Of course, this is a topic for a different blog post, so I won't dwell on it any further here.

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