Monday, August 14, 2006

MediaWiki software and "small" wikiprojects

This is a post I am sending right now to the wikitech-l ... I am posting it here as well, because many people will not read it there - only a few are subscribed. There is a discussion about wysiwyg and wiki software - now the discussion went into the direction of specific needs for specific languages and/or keyboards. Since I myself face some of these issues daily it only makes sense to talk about it.

Well: let's make some practical point: people on the nap.wikipedia are driven away because they have to use workarounds for '' - that is ' in whatever combination - we now uwse '' for '' to have a unique way to identify words and word combinations if some day we should need to use replace.py. Many now create non-standard artilces using the accent of à or á that it ` or ´ to create articles ... inserting spaces where they are not needed etc. (all sorts of strange solutions to avoid to see all in italics afterwards) before the &# thingie we needed to use to get things right. It is an annoyance to have continuously use workarounds - now I am quite "wikiphile" I'd say, being able to install my own wikis + extensions and create sometimes quite complicated templates ... imagine how someone feels who has no clue at all about wikis - someone who would like to start a first article and then, clicking on save gets weird stuff and therefore does not come back to edit again, because editing is "too difficult". I have also plenty of colleagues who maybe would like to help, but simply don't want to loose the time to learn wiki, because donating a translation is already a lot considering how much they would earn if they did translation jobs instead.

Next thingie - the | sign - you don't have it on the German keyboard - and it gets even worse if you have a laptop keyboard like I have - there is no way to reproduce it easily with alt+ like I could do it on a normal keyboard.

How I work on the nap.wikipedia? Well there are two things to it: I first write in OOo or Word, then I subsitute all '' with the numeric code with search and replace and I avoid to create wiki-links, because I am simply very annoyed (better I remain with nice words...) to copy and paste it here and there. Or I write the article on the wiki and then substitute the parts needed - both ways require loads of time more.

At least the {{ [[ are on the keyboard - so normal wiki-links are not much of an issue - for Wiktionary that works fine - but not for wikipedia where you have declensed forms of a word.

I find wikis great - but they are not suitable for the biggest part of potential contributors - maybe to 5% of them. See: I already said this last time I wrote about these issues here ... if Mediawiki was not developed by English sepaking people, but maybe by people speaking some kind of "strange" language - if it was not developed for the English speaking market only we would have more contributors in the regional editions it would be different - more conscious about such issues - no, please don't object - if people do things most of them only think about the English wikipedia - the other projects might exist, but are considered to be some kind of fun-stuff ... instead many of the small wikipedias are very serious projects - much more serious than anyone of you can imagine, they face many more problems you could ever imagine - a good software approach would help many of us to grow a better community and to be able to create more articles instead of having to re-read and adapt every article to our standards (' is some kind of standard for nap now) and people, who already have difficulties in writing local languages, yes we have an alphabetization rate of approx 2 to 4%, would not have to concentrate on multiple issues at a time, they could concentrate on the text they are writing ... that would be great ... that would be really a step ahead ... that would mean "think about the users" not "for the majority it's fine ... so who cares ..."

I am sorry that I have to write this ... it should not be necessary.

I'll post this mail also on my blog in order to have it accessible to more people.

Thank you for taking the time to read ... well I hope one day I will be able to say "thank you for caring about the small communities".

Best, Sabine
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