Sunday, October 15, 2006

Priorities ...

There are moments when one has to choose among several priorities. Now this is one of these moments ... I had to decide if to let others decide on how I spend my time or if it is me to decide it ... well, who knows me also knows that it is definitely me to decide on my own time.

Some weeks ago the usual trolls came along the nap.wikipedia - yes, I call them trolls, because they do not do facts, but only complain. They complain that people in Abruzzo (and please be aware that I do not say the whole of Abruzzo) speak Neapolitan (or better a variety of it). They claim that Abruzzese is a dialect of Italian quoting Ethnologue ... well some will say: it could be ... but no, it cannot be, because if Abruzzese was a dialect of Italian it would have developed after Italian had developed. This means it would have developed after the unification of Italy around the end of the XIX century. Well yes, Ethonologue says this, but Ethnologue did not make a study on Neapolitan like Rohlfs did. It is commonly accepted that Neapolitan is not only the language spoken in Naples, but, according to linguistic research, and also ISO, Neapolitan (code: nap) is spoken in many variations in quite a huge area. The fact that parts of Abruzzo are part of that macro language is not negotiable even if I can understand that people, not being linguists, but caring just about regional issues, have a problem with that.

The two or three people were offered our co-operation to get their own language code if they provided the necessary prerquisites. Instead they go ahead discussing, changing even wikipedia entries (this can be seen comparing the IPs and the edit time on the various wikis) like they want to have them. This fact is problematical in itself since without stating a paper they are doing original research or even worse vandalism. They do not provide other proof than Ethnologue, but that one cannot be correct, because I believe (well, know) that the Abruzzese language developed well before the unity of Italy and therefore it cannot be a dialect of Italian.

Now the last weeks went by discussing useless discussions - arriving at a point that people insult single contributors of nap.wikipedia directly. And no, we cannot answer them: they are anonymous. What I think about people who are not man enough to sign with their own name should be clear enough. What are they worrying about? If they are so sure about what they are saying and they can proof it by providing the prerequisites to be called an own language and not only a variety of the nap macro language, why don't they show up and tell us who they are? What would happen to them? I for myself always sign what I write with my name and you will always know what I think even if sometimes it might be not so nice.

Well at this stage time for decision has come: the language commission is dealing with the matter and it will take some time to come to a conclusion - no, I am not going to express myself there. They will get a copy of this post. This means that as long as it takes to have a decision on allowing Wikipedia to include original research or on offering these people the possibility from the side of the subcom to bring the prerequisites for an own language code, like already offered more than just once, and co-operating I will concentrate on projects that definitely need my attention. I am not going to have myself rule by some unknown people telling me what to do and what not.

I am sure they will have their chance to really poof they have their own language - but again: it does not depend on nap.wikipedia nor on the language subcom to proof that - it depends on them and on how serious they really are about what they want - it means they will have to work for their language and do good for it and I really hope, that, should they be right, they will do it ... otherwise another language would die out sooner or later (if it is considered to be a language of its own).

What does this mean? I am going to work on the OLPC Children's Dictionary on WiktionaryZ and on some other projects.

Also words & more needs some more attention - it will soon be part of a Stichting (a Dutch foundation). Well yes, it will not be a separate Italian foundation (ONLUS) - it is going to be integrated in an organisation that among other activities will care about translations.

Well, you who are reading this, if you want to co-operate on the OLPC Children's Dictionary project helping us to edit and improve 10 entries by adding translations of definitions + translations of words or by proofreading them and only adding them if they are missing, please write a short mail to stating into which language you would like to translate.

Thank you so much for your help and patience - and see you soon :-)

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Why should we create many stubs on small wikipedias?

This is a crossposting - originally the following text comes out of an e-mail to Aphropohnewikis, a yahoo-group where you can talk and learn about the wikipedias in various African languages.

Let's consider: which stubs are those that invite most people to contribute? Well ... that will be different from one wikipedia to the other, but talking about wikipedias that need a low hurdle in order to allow people for participation we should consider the following things:
*generally people know something about their home town and neigbouring towns - so stubs on these town + the capitals + countries can invite to add information - if not: they would just be there waiting for someone to take up this project
*the almanac: people know the birthdays + dates when people died - presidents, authors, painters etc. - that is why you want to have the calendar pages immediately. Then take people there and have them add the dates .... this is where they have to write small texts, create a wiki link and automatically learn how to work on a wiki
*sport: in many countries of the world football (soccer) is one of the favourite sports ... stubs about the players and teams will invite to contribute

What we, from the small wikipedias, should try to understand: our first steps are not about getting immediately great articles - it is about getting people to start doing things - it is about teaching people how to work on a wiki. The calendar pages for example were the first articles I uploaded to nap wikipedia - almost immediately - not only to educate people - one year ago I had more problems with Neapolitan - so writing short entries was one way for me of learning. To day there are hardly any corrections to my entries - so it serves also to teach pople the language.

Don't take en.wikipedia and de.wikipedia as examples - they don't have many difficulties we have to cope with... think about what people can easily do and give them the possibility to do - create projects like: add the dates of all presidents - after that create another project - tell people about it in a newsletter - not only in a mailing list. Create a first page that changes often so that people want to look at it - and use the first page to send it out to people. Print the fist page an put it on notice boards etc.

People will only start to contribute if they find you ... if they don't know where you are and what you are doing, how can they help? Go outside the Wikipedia crowd, connect to people you would not even expect to read Wikipedia. Pass them info - if there are questions about a theme somewhere: answer the question on wikipedia and send people the link ... there are so many ways of doing things. Create a page of "please help to translate these articles" and pass it on to universities and people who could help ... even by working offline and sending the translations to you. Then attribute them and give them a copy of what they translated as pdf.

That is why I disagree with "we need first to have good articles and a community to create stubs" - why (we were working in two when I did this on nap - yes, I was criticised by some wikipedians, that doesn't matter: the nap.wikipedia is now read on an almost daily basis by many people in the world)? You want people to help and work: make it as easy as possible for them - don't expect them to start articles themselves - for newbies that is a very high hurdle to take.

Even in our very computerised world what is mostly needed is human interaction. People want to be taken by the hand ... maybe they need it even more than many years ago - and only we, the ones who know the projects, can do that - and yes: it takes time.

Sunday, October 08, 2006

Encyclopaedias ... how long do their entries need to be???

This is one of these questions. When it comes to wikipedia many people immediately think about long articles about each topic. Considering the multitude of encyclopaedias you can find in a book shop one thing is obvious: entries can range from one sentence to full pages.

Now people often complain that the encyclopaedias of regional language's wikipedias do have many stubs and just some long articles - well: I would compare these to the kind of encyclopaedias that give you basic information on many topics in just one or two volumes. I would not compare them to the big ones like Britannica, Brockhaus etc.

Of course over time you will find single articles that get longer, others will remain short for a long time, but ... well ... does it really matter? I'd say no - because Wikipedia is not in concurrence with anyone to my opinion - people put us into a concurrence position, but we are not, because the way each language version is built and works is so unique.

Fact is: one can only write about what he/she knows or translate ... well being a professional translator I really avoid to translate also in my free-time if I don't have to. Not having much time to contribute I normally care about the almanac + some stubs related to the almanac ... much more is not possible (see the main page of the Neapolitan wikipdia for the historical events I normally work on). Another thing I of course care about is notions on the city I live in and that in various languages.

Everyone of us editors have something particular they care about ... and I believe that is great - and it is exactly what wikipedia is about: collecting the knowledge of everybody and put it into one huge encyclopaedia.