Developing new language editions of Wikipedia

From Meta, a Wikimedia project coordination wiki

The aim of this page is to help creation of new Wikipedia editions.


As of 2015, any new request for Wikipedia will almost for sure assume specific anthropological environment.

List of articles every Wikipedia should have is not just heavily biased in favor of the broad Western civilization (thousands of years of Chinese and Indian civilizations have been mostly neglected) and even gender problematic (for example, on the first sight, I didn't see any women among writers and they consist ~50% of human population), but it's not appropriate approach to the ethnolinguistic communities which usually don't even have the contemporary concepts. And while the list has been created as eventualist recommendation, it's de facto used as requirement for new projects.

That turned to be counter-productive, as people willing to share their knowledge have been stuck in searching for the right terminology source, usually not easily accessible; or they've been forced to start creating neologisms, which are generally forbidden by Wikipedia rules, as original research.

To move this process from the dead end, we have to adapt our recommendations from the point of the willingness to create Wikipedia in particular language to the point of having fully developed community, capable to deal with contemporary knowledge.


The steps are broad and presently built on assumption that: (1) particular language has writing system which could be used in contemporary computers (i.e. mapped in Unicode, standard fonts exist and could be easily reached); (2) it has enough bilinguals, capable to communicate with broader Wikimedia community; (3) internet access exists in the area (that includes migrants living in capital cities or other countries).

Those are the minimums necessary for sustainability of Wikipedia/Wikimedia community. It's likely that we'd build in the future recommendations for the languages which don't fulfill requirements above.

Step 1: Local knowledge[edit]

Both -- contemporary educated bilinguals and native monolinguals -- are the most interested in preserving local knowledge. That knowledge is usually not according to the standards of one contemporary encyclopedia, but gathering that kind of knowledge is fundamental because of two reasons: (1) we want them to share their knowledge with us, no matter if it's mythological or consisted of protoscientific descriptions of the nature around them; (2) it's necessary to attract population to build knowledge repository in their native language.

It's likely that this type of knowledge will have common topics all over the world: what's sky, what's river, local flora and fauna etc. However, while potential persons engaged in field work could ask them to describe something particularly, this should be fully open to the will of local population.

As mentioned above, the first step assumes field work. Persons doing the job should be equipped with tools and knowledge to record spoken language and then transcribe it (in Wikisource) and build articles about particular topics in Wikipedia.

This type of work is against common rules, which forbid original research. However, this is the only way to start the project. This type of the knowledge should be the only category which would assume violating OR rule. (It should be mentioned that this was and is a common practice on the most not well developed Wikimedia projects, although they exist in much more developed and literate environment than the languages with which we are starting to deal.)

As mentioned above, this is also the time when we should start using Wikisource for collecting data. Depending on the capacity of particular ethnolinguistic group, it should be hosted either on Multilingual Wikisource or on their own edition of Wikisource.

Besides Wikisource, Wiktionary is also important. If it's about very small ethnolinguistic community -- with less than 1,000 speakers and declining number of them -- it's much more rationale to use one of the larger Wiktionaries (likely in dominant L2) to describe the meanings of the words. However, if it's about a sustainable ethnolinguistic community, it would be better to create Wiktionary in their own language.

Organizationally, this step -- which could last for a long time, even after the completion of the next two steps -- assumes significant field work. This could be done by Wikimedians and Wikimedia organizations, but it could also be done by unaffiliated organizations. In the second case, we should coordinate with them.

Besides our own aims, there are many other organizations with similar, educational goals. It's also useful to work in coordination with them. For example, if one organization is interested in donating laptops to particular ethnolinguistic group, we should be ready to prepare Wikimedia-related program once those people get laptops.

Step 2: Primary school knowledge[edit]

Although this type of knowledge shouldn't be OR, it will largely diverge from the List of articles every Wikipedia should have. It doesn't assume the systematized "most important" concepts of the contemporary [Western] civilization, but contemporary knowledge useful for 6-15 years old persons. For example, it's more useful to them to learn about local writers (not necessarily the writers in particular language), than about famous artists not situationally important.

I suppose that we should build the lists of the scientific concepts appropriate for that level of knowledge, while we should leave local population to build their own lists of social concepts and important people, important to primary school students to know.

While preparing this work, if relevant academic institutions of particular ethnolinguistic group exist, the contact should be made with them, as well as we should coordinate our efforts with them.

At this moment of time, Wikibooks creation makes perfect sense. It's possible that we could actually build books for particular population, which would be used in their primary schools.

Step 3: Secondary school knowledge[edit]

This should correspond to a kind of modified List of articles every Wikipedia should have. If somebody lives in Latin America, it's more important to them to have knowledge about important Latin American writers, than about East European ones. But that list should be definitely compiled by Wikimedia community.

At the end of this phase, we should have self-sustainable community of Wikimedia editors, working on their own.