Grants talk:PEG/KuboF - Esperanto kaj Libera Scio/WikiTrans training and work session 2013

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GAC member status for this application[edit]

Grant Advisory Committee (GAC) can give its opinion here




Waiting for more details[edit]


So (if I got it straight) you are planing to create a machine translator from Danish to Esperanto to increase the number of articles by translating it from other wikis. My questions are:

  1. It will work with another languages? I can use your tool to translate from danish to german for example?
  2. Who are the "other participants", and can you please break down the number needed for then to attend the training?
  3. Could you be more especific with the measures of success section?

Thank you. Béria Lima msg 04:56, 30 March 2013 (UTC)

Hi. As is written in #Project goal, WikiTrans is yet live. Its developer is w:Eckhard Bick from GrammarSoft in collaboration with University of Souther Denmark. Now is available full version English → Esperanto; in preparation is version English → Danish (unfortunately machine translation into Danish is significantly more complicate than into Esperanto) and some more.
  1. WikiTrans is rule based machine translator and need deep grammar analyser so addition of every new language is relatively difficult. As you can see on now are supported more languages, especially north Germanic. The basic intention is to provide help with translating from big languages to small ones.
  2. "Other participants" are the learners. As we want to accept even last moment attendants we are unable to provide full list of attendants at the moment. The final break so will depend especially on their place of residence. Our intention is that most of learners should be from central Europe to minimize travel costs. The informational campaign about the training was started not long ago, when new informations will be available I will inform on the grant page.
  3. I will work about measures of success section.
--KuboF (talk) 13:46, 30 March 2013 (UTC)

Is there any serious advantage of WikiTrans over google translate ? Does it really provide better quality translation? Polimerek (talk) 16:15, 30 March 2013 (UTC)

See below. --KuboF (talk) 23:27, 4 April 2013 (UTC)
  • Before I say any more, let me explain that as a 12–13 year old I was heavily into Esperanto—it was all the rage among my school buddies; we appreciated the League of Nations context of its creation, as well as enjoying the phonological prettiness and structural cohesiveness of this invention. But I was soon to form the opinion that, first, it was all rather Euro-centric (just as the Treaty of Versailles was), and second, that French in the earlier 20th century, and now English, might have their engineering faults, but are far superior for a number of reasons as a lingua franca. In particular, Zammenhof was working at a time when neither French nor English had attained the extraordinary weight as the international language that English currently has.

    I suppose I don't mind WMF servers hosting the Esperanto WP, but like the Latin WP it's a hobby for the enthusiasts. In my view, putting WMF donor funds into more and better translation to and from the major natural languages at Meta is a far, far higher priority than bankrolling a technical improvement to a hobby site. I'm sorry to be so negative on this occasion. Tony (talk) 09:05, 1 April 2013 (UTC)

So, you’re telling me that every time I donate either my money or my work towards what I see as a translingual project to promote knowledge worldwide, I am actually, as per this kind of decisions, unwillingly weighting in in favour of a global language communication ethos that effectively keeps two separate castes: English native speakers, like yourself of course, and rabble like me… Good to know. (As for your knowledge about esperanto — League of Nations and Zamenhof, really? Too european, in spite of all evidence? Kia kretena fosilio…) Tuvalkin (talk) 20:26, 16 April 2013 (UTC)

Some thoughts[edit]

Thanks for the submission. The idea is interesting and amusing but there are still open questions relating to it:

  1. What is meant by "high-level" translations? Does it mean that all the sentences will be grammatically correct? Can you show us some examples of generated translations and relevant opinions on the use of WikiTrans?
  2. Do you plan to run the machine over all articles on the English and Danish Wikipedia to generate or improve the content on the Esperanto Wikipedia? Since you mention that the machine translates from English and the preparation in Danish will follow shortly, this seems to be a reasonable next step in the use of WikiTrans.
  3. What is the opinion of the very active users on the Esperanto Wikipedia regarding the use of the machine? Do you fear that some of them will get disparaged because their work will be easily compensated with the aid of a machine?
  4. Can you tell us more about the interest for WikiTrans in Slovakia? Do the developers think of making it available to translate from Slovak?

Best regards.--Kiril Simeonovski (talk) 12:39, 4 April 2013 (UTC)

  1. See below. --KuboF (talk) 23:27, 4 April 2013 (UTC)
  2. "All" (not the most fresh) articles from English Wikipedia have already been translated into online Esperanto WikiTrans and are updated on regular basis. Translation rules from English into Danish are in preparation for some time yet, but I really don't know when the Danish version will be started.
  3. (I will add soon because it's late now...)
  4. There are no short-time interest of Slovak wiki community for WikiTrans. Firstly there was a proposal from the main developer to host the meeting at he, but much cheaper is to travel Denmark <--> Slovakia for 1 person instead of 2-3 persons (the base team).
Whereas is really late now I can not provide more infos. See you later. Regards! --KuboF (talk) 23:27, 4 April 2013 (UTC)

Quality of translations from WikiTrans[edit]

The big advantage of WikiTrans is that it is focused on translating of Wikipedia. So WikiTrans understand, parse and work up a wiki syntax, can work up templates correctly, even infoboxes which doesn't exist in the target wiki. Using MediaWiki API it will can map titles of articles and automatically translate even strange name articles (untranslatable by normal translator meanings).

About language quality of its translations: Now there are free competitors in the field of machine translators from English into Esperanto: Google Translate, WikiTrans and Apertium.

  1. Apertium even don't understand wiki syntax...
  2. Google Translate understand the syntax much better and its quality is also higher. Unfortunately it runs on statistical translation so its quality can't increase much more as Google supposedly used as much source material as could. More improvements can be provided +/- only by user suggestions.
  3. As WikiTrans deeply analyse the grammar of the source text and its context, it provides better translations than Google Translate. Of course, the results aren't 100% accurate, but it's the best nowadays machine translator from English into Esperanto. Whereas the translation rules are still improved (and will be) and there is a plan to open the dictionary system to more users, the quality will supposedly grow.

As an example you can put [1] into Apertium, Google Translate and WikiTrans (page, cource). I have asked the main developer for more explanation of the status of quality. --KuboF (talk) 23:27, 4 April 2013 (UTC)

An Esperanto Wikipedia does not advance our mission[edit]

See also Wikimedia Conference 2013/Documentation/Day 3#Wikinews, Wikiversity, Rapa Nui and other lost causes.

The Wikimedia Foundation will not fund this grant proposal, despite its modest size and the track record and good standing of the proposer.

I must make very explicit that although the Esperanto Wikipedia is hosted on the Wikimedia Foundation's servers, and will remain so indefinitely, the existence, cultivation, and growth of the Esperanto Wikipedia does not advance our educational mission. No one needs free knowledge in Esperanto; the Esperanto Wikipedia (like the Latin Wikipedia) is a hobbyist's project, and has undoubted value for the Esperantist mission, but does not help spread free knowledge to people in the languages they need it in. We cannot consider funds spent specifically for the Esperanto Wikipedia funds used to further the mission.

We have supported an Esperanto-related initiative of yours in the past, despite these concerns, because the Czech and Slovak languages were also to benefit from the event, but we won't support this activity which is directly and exclusively beneficial to the growth of the Esperanto Wikipedia and the furthering of the Esperantist mission. It's a fine and noble mission, but it isn't Wikimedia's.

I will stress that this policy holds true for other languages that do not have significant native speaker populations or are "dead", like Latin and Ancient Greek. The Latin Wikipedia is a fine thing for Latinist hobbyists and as practice in Latin composition, but it is not useful in delivering free knowledge to people in their own language, and grant proposals seeking funds to cultivate it would be likewise declined.

I would also like to stress that an Esperanto Wikisource is valuable, and seems to have been growing in the past year. We would consider grant proposals related to cultivating the Esperanto Wikisource, as the production, collection, and curation of free original Esperanto literature does coincide with the Wikimedia mission.

I realize this is disappointing, but I encourage you to reflect on the question of mission fit, and to not take this as any criticism of your efforts for peace and international understanding -- again, fine and noble causes. I urge you and your colleagues at Esperanto kaj Libera Scio (congratulations on being recognized as a WUG!) to seek funding for the Esperanto Wikipedia from sources committed to the Esperantist mission, and to seek opportunities to work with other Wikimedia communities on projects better aligned with our mission, which would be eligible for funding by the Wikimedia Grants Program. Asaf Bartov (WMF Grants) talk 01:56, 5 April 2013 (UTC)

«No one needs free knowledge in Esperanto» — is this an official Wikimedia policy? Tuvalkin (talk) 20:29, 16 April 2013 (UTC)
No, it is not. It is my best interpretation of what our policy should be, given our mission. If you are convinced I am mistaken, I encourage you to offer some counter arguments, and I am open to changing my mind. Asaf Bartov (WMF Grants) talk 00:07, 5 May 2014 (UTC)
Do we need free knowledge in any language apart from English? Doesn't everyone speak English? -- Robert Weemeyer (talk) 14:04, 17 April 2013 (UTC)
I understand you are accusing me of myopia and Anglocentrism, or perhaps you just think my actual argument above does not deserve refutation, so you deploy a mere reductio ad absurdum. I think you are mistaken in thinking this. Multilingualism is very much at the core of our work, and is implicit in our Vision ("every single human being") and explicit in our Mission. We are actively and significantly supporting the editing communities of several dozen languages, including very small communities (e.g. the Estonian Wikipedia). I therefore encourage you to re-read my statement above, and offer actual counter-arguments if you wish. Asaf Bartov (WMF Grants) talk 00:07, 5 May 2014 (UTC)
"the existence, cultivation, and growth of the Esperanto Wikipedia does not advance our educational mission. No one needs free knowledge in Esperanto" - What a dumb and arrogant statement... You obviously didn´t understand the purpose neither of Wikipedia nor of Wikimedia. Chaddy (talk) 23:15, 4 May 2014 (UTC)
The statement, whether dumb or not, represents my best judgment at present, and is open to revision, if some actual argument is offered and found compelling. So far, we certainly see some people are upset, and that is understandable (and acknowledged in advance in my statement above), but no cogent argument for how the Esperanto Wikipedia (I stress, Wikipedia, as distinct from Wikisource the documentation of the Esperanto lexicon in other languages' Wiktionary projects) advances our mission in a way that justifies active investment. Asaf Bartov (WMF Grants) talk 00:07, 5 May 2014 (UTC)
You are aware that reductio ad absurdum is a valid form of argumentation? And people are directly citing what you have said in your initial statement, there are no strawmen just facts. Well, nevermind, it's pointless. I'm just suprised that someone in this day of age can be so arrogant to single-handedly assess the value of a language crucially based on an unquestioned fetish towards native languages, especially when a language is more prominent and in active use than many not subjected to this. -- 16:01, 12 May 2014 (UTC)
Furthermore what do you mean with this sentence: "the Esperanto Wikipedia (like the Latin Wikipedia) is a hobbyist's project"? All Wikimedia projects are "a hobbyist's project"! Chaddy (talk) 23:15, 4 May 2014 (UTC)
I explained the distinction I made in the original statement above, but perhaps you have missed it. While all of Wikipedia is a hobbyist project (a point I have acknowledged publicly in the past) insofar as it is written by volunteers, what sets apart the Esperanto (and Latin, and Volapük...) Wikipedia from the Arabic, the Indonesian (Bahasa), or the Estonian Wikipedias is that it (Esperanto Wikipedia) is not written for a native-speaker audience looking to consume information in this language. It is "a hobbyist project" as distinct from a "free knowledge project". I have nothing against the hobby (I am a Latinist myself, though I don't contribute to the Latin Wikipedia [precisely because when I contribute to Wikipedia, I do it for the goal of disseminating knowledge]), but I remain convinced it is not for the Wikimedia Foundation to fund this particular hobby. Asaf Bartov (WMF Grants) talk 00:07, 5 May 2014 (UTC)
"(Esperanto Wikipedia) is not written for a native-speaker audience" - yes, there are about 2,000 native Esperanto speakers so the majority of Esperanto Wikipedia readers know Esperanto as their second language. But they actually do it, they consume free knowledge provided in Esperanto. For example, for me (sk-N, cs-4, eo-3, en-2, pl-1) is Esperanto Wikipedia the best source of free knowledge about birds. If usefulness of Wikipedia would be considered only by number of native speakers, so usefulness of big-languages Wikipedias (such as English or German one) would decrease (many of such readers know that language as their second). --KuboF (talk) 11:51, 5 May 2014 (UTC)
I understand this argument. It would be good to rely on solid data here: can we somehow come up with a reasonable estimate for the number of people for whom this is true (i.e. whose best source of information is the Esperanto Wikipedia)? Asaf Bartov (WMF Grants) talk 20:26, 5 May 2014 (UTC)

Hi Asaf Bartov. There is a clear Language proposal policy (developed by Language Committee), where requirements are listed, which must be met so that a language could be supported (and imho that means also funded) by Wikimedia Foundation. Why do you decide here according to your own personal criteria and not according to that WMF policy? --Holder (talk) 07:27, 5 May 2014 (UTC)

The policy is only about which languages can get a Wikimedia project and what criteria they have to meet; it doesn't (and shouldn't) affect how WMF chooses to distribute funds. Jon Harald Søby (talk) 17:51, 5 May 2014 (UTC)
Correct. And if you look at the page history, you'll see the policy was developed before WMF started giving out grants in the first place (2009), so the policy did not take into account what does or does not make sense to actively invest funds in. I remind you that only this is at question here. Asaf Bartov (WMF Grants) talk 20:26, 5 May 2014 (UTC)

Hello, if you look to statistics, eo.wikipedia is even more viewed than hindi, latvian or azeri language versions. 2009 it was on rank 42 for all wikimedia projects, even before meta.wikimedia, french wikisource, english wikinews and simple english wikipedia. --Sinuhe20 (talk) 09:37, 5 May 2014 (UTC)

I think the argument being made by Asaf (feel free to correct me) is that no one NEEDS the Esperanto Wikipedia because no one speaks it exclusively. Are there arguments against this? Samwalton9 (talk) 11:00, 5 May 2014 (UTC)

I believe every language is in the end equally important. Esperanto is quite old and mature, used worldwide. Sometimes we might need to calculate importance, then we can count contributors, page accesses or number of articles. Also then Esperanto is not a small project, with nearly 200.000 articles. Yes, everyone speaks English, and we all pay with dollars, and we all love McDonalds. But the world ain't that simple in the end. Edoderoo (talk) 11:10, 5 May 2014 (UTC)
I don't know what this means. I have rarely paid for anything in dollars outside the USA, and certainly don't make a beeline for McDonalds. The majority of English speakers in the world are third or fourth etc language speakers, who don't speak it well or idiomatically. -MacRusgail (talk) 12:16, 5 May 2014 (UTC)
Yes. Please see my comment above about the reductio ad absurdum argument. Asaf Bartov (WMF Grants) talk 20:30, 5 May 2014 (UTC)

I see a flaw in the argument against eo wiki, as it is laid out. While indeed eo wiki would not be "useful in delivering free knowledge to people in their own language", why assume that people need (or are able) to extract knowledge only from content in their own language? For example, even if all native speakers stopped using English Wikipedia as of today, it would still be hugely useful to many people whose native language is not English, but are able to understand it (such as myself). The usefulness of a wiki for extracting knowledge is limited to a set of people who understand the language, rather than to a set of native speakers. In this respect, Esperanto is not different from any given minor (or perhaps not so minor) natural language. Granted, eo wiki does have an additional aspect of advancing the language and helping people acquire proficiency in it. However, this is an implicit aspect of any language wiki, and, while it is not a part of the WMF's mission, it is not detrimental to or incompatible with it. GregorB (talk) 11:15, 5 May 2014 (UTC)

I have no issue with EOWP's side-effect of promoting the Esperantist mission. I merely observe it is not our mission (please note: I'm not asserting it is contrary to our mission! Just outside it, orthogonal to it.), and therefore should not be actively funded, as distinct from passively hosted (at truly negligible marginal cost). Asaf Bartov (WMF Grants) talk 20:30, 5 May 2014 (UTC)

I consider it rude to those volunteers that they are called "hobbyists" as thus it is not valuable. If you really think that is a suitable way of addressing people, you are failing to understand what attitude you should have and what kind of communication is expected from WMF employees. WMF is acting too much in an ivory tower, and this kind of reactions illustrate that perfectly. This is independent from whether this grant request should be approved or rejected, this is absolutely not the way someone from WMF should behave. Romaine (talk) 11:27, 5 May 2014 (UTC)

This is a strawman. I have never said "hobbyist = not valuable". I said that EOWP (like the Latin Wikipedia) is not promoting our mission, and thus is "only" promoting the Esperanto hobby (which, admittedly, is its own (Esperantist) mission). Of course, Wikipedia in any language is a hobby as well. I'm not sure what you (and others) found so offensive in this. Wikipedia is my hobby too. :) Asaf Bartov (WMF Grants) talk 20:44, 5 May 2014 (UTC)
I am most disturbed by Asaf Bartov's easy words "their own language". If Wikipedians focused on "their own language", how much poorer would be the English, French, Spanish, Russian, etc ... Wikipedias? We are not delivering knowledge only to people who "own" those languages, but to all who can read them. Many, many edits in those languages are made by people who don't own those languages. Many edits are made across the Wikipedias, by people who think they are welcomed as contributors in any language they can handle. Many readers look far beyond their own language is searching for information on Wikipedia.
Which is my own language? Is it the English my parents spoke, or the French I use every day now, or the Latin I currently most often write on Wikipedia? Is my daughter to stop contributing in modern Greek because I brought her up speaking English? I dont think Asaf Bartov meant that at all, but I think those words need to be reconsidered by anyone who is making policy for the Foundation. We should be ashamed of saying, or implying, that people own or are owned by one language each, or that we can choose for them which language they belong to. The Foundation and the project will be immeasurably poorer if we go that way.
As to Esperanto and Latin, I think my reason for contributing in Latin is similar to the reason why many contribute in Esperanto. It is good to offer information and viewpoint that is not bound to any current national language or culture. Esperanto was designed to be international: Latin has become international. I agree that anyone who can read these languages can read others too, but why on Earth make a rule that this consciously international perspective doesn't belong in the Wikimedia Foundation? Andrew Dalby (talk) 11:54, 5 May 2014 (UTC)
This is another strawman: I have not suggested anyone edit only "in their own language", nor have I suggested or encouraged anyone not to edit the Esperanto Wikipedia. I am fully aware many (particularly in our movement) speak and contribute in more than one language (I do too), and that's fantastic, desirable, and worthwhile.
To your point about a "consciously international perspective", I'd say that this is a desired feature (and asymptotically approximable) of all Wikipedias (NPOV). We do not expect our readers to pick up Latin or Esperanto to obtain NPOV knowledge. Asaf Bartov (WMF Grants) talk 20:44, 5 May 2014 (UTC)
I have no problem whatsoever with free information in Esperanto. Even though it has ended up becoming the polar opposite of what it intended to be - i.e. a clannish, introverted subculture with little international standing - it is still a fairly successful language, and of all the artificial languages of recent times, it has produced a substantial literature, and even a minor cinema of its own. I do believe it is probably in decline, but since no one has a proper tally of the numbers, who can say?
While my own knowledge of Esperanto is limited (I can get bits and pieces), it is still highly interesting for me to be able to read large chunks in the language. I am not an Esperanto fanboy, nor am I anti-Esperanto, but I do appreciate it is a true language in its own right.
I think one could argue that sections of the English wikipedia are "hobbyist", after all, there are long spiels about obscure characters in cult pulp science fiction serials, that are of little interest to most people.-MacRusgail (talk) 12:13, 5 May 2014 (UTC)
Let's please agree Esperanto itself or the Esperantist mission are not on trial here. This is beside the point. Asaf Bartov (WMF Grants) talk 20:44, 5 May 2014 (UTC)
Having alternative language knowledge source is always usefull for not small group of knowledge seekers. Because most of Wikipedia knowledge pages being naively written for specific nationality oriented forms rather than for multicultural open minded form. Plus many of the sensetive numbers facts are wildly modified in WP environment. But Esepranto version is maybe only version that written through more open minded and multicultural ways than every other version. Alternative knowledge language source is always be important that is why even Wikipedia took over millions of readers on top of these millions of magazines and newspapers free websites although some facts on its pages are still inaccurate. Millions of advanced WP users use at least 2 languages versions of the WP to avoid inaccuracies and to learn expanded knowledge hence Esperanto version is always be good 3d option for many users although most people wont care Esperanto version. So Esperanto is quite cruciual 3d option knowledge source on the WP. Orgio89 (talk) 12:19, 5 May 2014 (UTC)
This is an interesting argument. If there's significant evidence beyond the anecdotal that Wikipedians regularly rely on EOWP in article writing, it may be a valid (though tenuous) argument to support it with active investment. Asaf Bartov (WMF Grants) talk 21:05, 5 May 2014 (UTC)
Probably the most constructive counter-argument yet. Need data to support the statement though. Bennylin 16:19, 12 May 2014 (UTC)

Yes, Esperanto isn't a native language to anyone. But, like Sinuhe20 said, it's still a major language, so why would we suddenly deny the knowledge to these people? (I'd like to see a Klingon Wikipedia, but I doubt that'll have near the interest that others like Latin and Esperanto would :D ) Supernerd11 (talk) 12:29, 5 May 2014 (UTC)

I don't think anybody "denied knowledge" to anybody. They're still free to edit, just in the same term as other hundreds of projects, with no special funding. Bennylin 16:19, 12 May 2014 (UTC)
Yes! It is! Esperanto estas mia denaska / gepatra lingvo kaj patro lingvo, ambaŭ gepatroj estas esperantistoj. Kio ĝenas Esperanton? Kial ne ricevos alemanisch ke neniu aŭdis? Aaa, you are looking for money, Esperanto is not productive, does not sell, that's another thing -- 14:18, 5 May 2014 (UTC)
Esperanto is not the (i.e. only) native language of anyone, even if some claim it as one of their native languages, a claim that has some sources but remains dubious. The decision isn't an anti-Esperanto one, it's simply an observation that an Esperanto WP isn't necessary for WMF's mission, however important it may be to Esperantists. — SMcCandlish [talk] [cont] ‹(-¿-)› 22:27, 6 May 2014 (UTC)
Perhaps this helps against your doubt: -- Robert Weemeyer (talk) 01:53, 7 May 2014 (UTC)
@Supernerd11: there was a Klingon Wikipedia, but it was closed/deleted. Dump, Wikia version. PiRSquared17 (talk) 12:57, 5 May 2014 (UTC)
And here's a second hint for Supernerd11: en:Native Esperanto speakers. -- Robert Weemeyer (talk) 13:03, 5 May 2014 (UTC)

Though I am not involved with esperanto, I won't give my opinion what I think about the statement «No one needs free knowledge in Esperanto», rather because I could be banned for that. However, if WMF could not afford 1300 euro within it's multi ten million dollar budget, I would suggest to stint Asaf Bartovs wage as a first step. – However, there are indeed very objective reasons why especially that project makes sense, perhaps at least for figuring out, if automatic translation of WP articles from one language in another would work better by using esperanto. At least for that reason the invest would be a really thought-through and senseful invest. Given how much money and efforts have been wasted in the machine translating project debacle when it was tried to tranfer articles from the English into the Hindi WP – which there havn't been asked for and eventually all or almost all of those articles got deleted – this decision is just a bad joke. More grotesque would be only the advice not to grant any money for any Swedish language projects since all people in Sweden understand English. --Matthiasb (talk) 12:38, 5 May 2014 (UTC)

It's distressing that in this entire thread no one has acknowledged the need to sink donors' money into the Old English WP. Tony (talk) 13:36, 5 May 2014 (UTC)
As one of the few people helping angwiki, even I do not think a grant would be needed. Esperanto is a very different case from Old Egnlish Wikipedia, where only a handful of users edit, and almost nobody reads. PiRSquared17 (talk) 21:01, 5 May 2014 (UTC)
Another strawman: I never said WMF "could not afford" the grant. You will have seen by now that I am making an argument from principle here, not a budgetary one. As for the (indeed damaging) Hindi content injection initiative, may I remind you it was not a WMF project, and no movement funds (AFAIK) were spent there? Asaf Bartov (WMF Grants) talk 21:05, 5 May 2014 (UTC)
Pardon? You did wrong, and now you're calling people critizising you strawmen? No excuse but even more personal attacks? Perhaps you don't get it, but reading such a statement gets me angry on my own. (For your information, I am one of the most prolific editors within the German Wikipedia, and I am a sysop in the German Wikinews, I have no needs to play anyone's strawman.) --Matthiasb (talk) 22:11, 8 May 2014 (UTC)

Asaf, as a WMF employee I guess you have a supervisor. Could you please inform her about this case? Maybe she can enlighten us whether your statements are WMF policy or not. Thanks, Stefan64 (talk) 13:52, 5 May 2014 (UTC)

Certainly. I have informed my supervisor, Anasuya Sengupta of this discussion. (Note I have already acknowledged above that there is no official WMF policy on this, which is why I had to use my own judgment in the first place. Indeed, one positive result this discussion could have would be the creation of official WMF policy (which I have been encouraging internally for a while now, but so far no organizational/board attention was allocated to this.), which I would of course abide by. Asaf Bartov (WMF Grants) talk 21:06, 5 May 2014 (UTC)

Contradicting the Wikimedia mission[edit]

While I haven't read the grant request, I am very concerned about Asaf's choice of wording above. From where I am standing, the idea that no one needs free knowledge in Esperanto and that the growth of Wikipedia in Esperanto does not advance our mission stands in direct contradiction to the Wikimedia mission, which is to provide free knowledge to every single person on the planet in their own language.

To read this coming from an employee of the Wikimedia Foundation, the organisation entrusted with pursuing this mission, is totally unacceptable in my book. That was a very, very poor choice of wording, Asaf Bartov (WMF Grants); I can only hope you can explain to us why you made this decision, because I cannot see any reason why we should be using such inflammatory language. I also second @Stefan64's request that you ask your supervisor to get involved in this discussion. Bonan tagon al vi! odder (talk) 14:59, 5 May 2014 (UTC)

I hope I can clarify it a little bit for those who want to understand. (From above, it is already clear that not everybody does.) While many people won't see all WMF-funded projects as necessary or even useful, and certainly not every one of those succeeds, in general, Wikimedia movement has just one WMF-sized pot of money. It may seem big, but it is not infinite. So, the hard trick is to select the projects that would be most useful for WMF's own agenda which is to spread knowledge. There are many different possibilities to set rules for selection; one of them is to select projects for funding so that in the end, ideally, every human being on this planet would have a chance to gain this knowledge. Now, there are people who won't get the access unless the knowledge is in English, Chinese, Icelandic, or Latvian. It's because there is some amount of native speakers who are monolingual in those languages. This means that one possible principle is to fund actively Wikipedias in the set of languages that would (ideally) cover everyone, and leave out all those languages which have no monolingual native speakers. If this principle is used, it leaves out all artificial languages (Esperanto, Volapük, Ido), dead languages (Latin, Sumerian, Ancient Greek), and very small languages which have only bilingual speakers (Selkup, Livonian). Personally, I don't like this very much, because I have interest in several of those omitted languages. But I understand that 1)there have to be some principles for selection of the projects; 2)this is one way to select the projects that are cost-effective in the long run. Because, indeed, no one needs free knowledge specifically in Esperanto. There are no monolingual speakers, every native Esperanto speaker can get it from some other language, while there are people for who need specifically those other languages. All in all, we can dispute this principle, but then we have to offer something better. But statements that sum up to "It's an outrage if I won't get my money" are not really helpful. --Oop (talk) 15:26, 5 May 2014 (UTC)
Is there a statement above that sums up to "It's an outrage if I won't get my money"? I didn't see it. Andrew Dalby (talk) 19:28, 5 May 2014 (UTC)
In my opinion it's really important to have wikipedia in all known languages, because it's a good way to keep them alive. For example, I'm an administrator on the Neapolitan Wikipedia, I suppose that nobody cares about what's written on it, and I could say the same about all the non-mainly spoken languages, but if we let Wikipedia only for languages with milions and milions people, Wikipedia would have maybe twenty languages or less and I don't think it's a good thing for an encyclopedia that, it's say's, anyone can edit and which is the world biggest one. --Chelin (talk) 16:54, 5 May 2014 (UTC)
I agree strongly with Chelin. I am an administrator at Vicipaedia Latina; I'm not a "hobbyist" but a professional scholar and teacher of Latin (and Ancient Greek and Sanskrit). I have met people with whom I had no other common language but Latin -- so we spoke Latin together. I grew up in a milieu where I heard Latin regularly; for me, though it is not my mother tongue, Latin is not "dead" except in the technical sense. The very existence of Wikipedias in small languages (like Neapolitan), constructed languages (like Esperanto), and languages that are no one's mother tongue (like Latin) helps educate other people about the existence of those languages, and how they work to communicate about the modern world. No one needs an encyclopedia in any single language -- most literate people in the world can read more than one language -- but we all benefit from an encylopedia in all languages. A. Mahoney (talk) 18:12, 5 May 2014 (UTC)
Once again: I have not argued for the shutting down of either EOWP or LAWP. I think both are fine and fun volunteer endeavors. I also think they are not impactful on our mission, and therefore should not be actively invested in, but left to develop by their editing communities without additional resources. i.e. I would have likewise turned down a grant proposal for a gathering of Latin Wikipedians (unless it had some strong other benefits). Asaf Bartov (WMF Grants) talk 21:33, 5 May 2014 (UTC)
Looking at so many people get the wrong idea (WMF won't let Esperanto speakers spread the knowledge in Esperanto language, or the rejection of this proposal means death to eo.wp!), a FAQ or disclaimer might be needed at the top of the thread... Bennylin 16:36, 12 May 2014 (UTC)
Please note I have never said the Esperantist mission "is contradictory" to our mission. It most certainly is not. It is merely different from; orthogonal, to it. My point is precisely that WMF is not "entrusted with pursuing this mission", and that to actively promote that mission alongside our mission is a distraction and an unjustified use of resources. As I have stated several times, I am open to arguments that would change my mind, or to official WMF policy that would settle the question.
I do agree I must have used poor phrasing: clearly, people are upset. However, it seems to me they are largely upset at what they think I'm saying (e.g. "volunteers don't matter", "Esperanto is useless", "the EOWP should be shut down", "hobbyists" as a derogatory term -- none of which I am actually saying), with only a minority actually upset at my position that WMF should not actively invest funds and resources (beyond the hosting) in the Esperanto Wikipedia (as distinct from Wikisource). Asaf Bartov (WMF Grants) talk 21:18, 5 May 2014 (UTC)
@Asaf Bartov (WMF Grants): Wikimedia projects are not a business you can invest in that will bring you profit; this is a very wrong way of looking at them, especially given that the WMF is a non-profit. If we looked at all projects like that, then only 20 or so languages would be worth investing in; the rest will only provide decreasing number of page views due to their ageing societies and decreasing number of native speakers. As for the argument that the WMF is not entrusted by this educational mission: in reality, and from the public point of view, it is. The WMF receives at least 80% of all Wikimedia funding, they operate the sites, and they, unlike most chapters, are in a position to directly influence the projects, even if they think they are not in the Wikimedia scope. odder (talk) 07:44, 6 May 2014 (UTC)

I would argue that information in Esperanto is useful: There are two million L2 speakers of Esperanto, but only about one million Estonian speakers. Thus, information added to the Esperanto Wikipedia has about twice as large a possible reader base as Estonian content. I also agree with Chelin above. PiRSquared17 (talk) 19:19, 5 May 2014 (UTC)

@Ijon: is that convincing at all? I guess you don't care since you consider it a "fake" language... PiRSquared17 (talk) 23:40, 5 May 2014 (UTC)
Surely there is enough to object to in what I actually said; you don't need to erect strawmen -- I never said Esperanto is a "fake language". And please don't "guess I don't care" -- I'm right here, to tell you whether I care or not.
To your point: that "twice as large" "possible reader base" does not seem to match the facts. Actual readership (measured in pageviews) of the Estonian Wikipedia (to use your example) is 150% that of the Esperanto readership. (see the bottom graph on both pages.) That said, whether 8 million page views a month (does anyone know how to factor out Web spiders and bots from this?) are enough to consider EOWP serving actual knowledge dissemination needs is a question I am willing to discuss further, with more data to compare against. Asaf Bartov (WMF Grants) talk 00:16, 6 May 2014 (UTC)
Sorry about the last sentence I wrote; that was rude and inappropriate. Under what conditions, if any, would you consider Esperanto Wikipedia to help fulfill WMF's vision? It has more pageviews than Latvian, but less than Estonian, not that that matters. Is the only problem the fact that it is not a natural language, that it does not have many native speakers, the low pageview stats, or a combination? It's probably true that there are no monolingual Esperanto speakers, but that could be said of many natural languages (and a few like Swedish where the vast majority speak English). PiRSquared17 (talk) 00:30, 6 May 2014 (UTC)

I give support to Esperanto language. It's important and we need to cultivate it and support it. I hope that you will receive what you request because it's for the good purpose.--Fraxinus (talk) 20:00, 5 May 2014 (UTC)

Although, volunteers investigating into Wikipedia projects can certainly use their resources otherwise as well, limited resources forces decisions on what projects to support usually in terms of past or expected future results as Oop pointed out. Nevertheless, a review and decision process must be open and transparent by referee’s comments to be understandable and thus acceptable. Assuming a missing Wikimedia policy giving freedom to “best interpretation of what our policy should be, given our mission” to decide on a project’s funding, by “I encourage you to offer some counter arguments, and I am open to changing my mind” it's still open for arguments and comments to improve the project.--Manuae (talk) 20:09, 5 May 2014 (UTC)

May I again call attention to the fact that odder's main point was not the decision in itself but Asaf's choice of wording. I second that. To tell a small but active community "Nobody needs free knowledge in your language“ (which is in fact equivalent to "Your project is worthless") is not an acceptable way to communicate a decision to the community by an WMF employee. I think Asaf owes the community an apology – not for his decision but for the overbearing and dismissive way he chose to disclose it. --Jossi2 (talk) 21:14, 5 May 2014 (UTC)

I disagree: while I still think it's true that nobody needs free knowledge specifically in Esperanto, I certainly don't agree it means EOWP "is worthless". Clearly, it's a useful project for the Esperantist mission, and if I were an Esperantist I would most probably contribute to it too. It's a fine and noble undertaking, and I wish it every success. At the same time, I think any funding for it should come from sources dedicated to advancing the Esperantist mission, not from Wikimedia.
I'm certainly sorry my comment was perceived (by at least some, some of whom furthermore actively encouraged and reinforced that perception) as "overbearing and dismissive". I assure you I have only meant to be direct and honest, as I am in my communication elsewhere. No value judgment was attached, in my mind, to the statement "nobody needs free knowledge in Esperanto". I do not, and have not, dismissed the dedication and worth of the volunteers of EOWP (see "fine and noble" in my original decision text). Asaf Bartov (WMF Grants) talk 21:26, 5 May 2014 (UTC)

Commenting generally on the discussion above: I agree that it would have been possible, and perhaps desirable, for Asaf to be more diplomatic in his delivery; however, for him to err on the side of being forthright, direct, and clear is vastly preferable to erring on the side of being distant and opaque in his reasoning. I think a better response to this encounter would be to rejoice in getting a clear view of the thinking of the organization, rather than quibbling over the way it was delivered. (We have certainly seen plenty of instances of the outcome of unclear communication, and the consequences are far worse.)

The Wikimedia Foundation has two obligations, which I think are getting blurred in this discussion:

  1. It has to sustain the platform that permits Wikimedians to do their work; and
  2. It has to allocate funds in a way that it deems sufficiently beneficial to the Wikimedia mission, in comparison to other options.

Sustaining the platform is by far the more important of the two, and it creates the opportunity for language communities to create and build projects. But sustaining the platform, as I understand it, is not part of Asaf's role in running the grants program. Other departments take care of that. I think his responsibility is entirely oriented toward #2. So he can and should make judgments about whether or not funds should be allocated to something that everybody agrees is within the mission. In other words: when he decides not to fund, it does not mean he believes something is incompatible with the mission. Jut not sufficiently compatible to fund.

As a native English speaker (unlike some of the people in this discussion), I also want to point out that the word "hobbyist" carries no negative connotation whatsoever. It seems possible that it might translate into something that sounds negative in other languages.

I agree that it might be nice to hear from Anasuya here, if only to underscore what Asaf's role is and is not. But I think calls for Asaf to resign are entirely unwarranted. I commend him for his clarity in expressing his position on this grant. -Pete F (talk) 22:39, 5 May 2014 (UTC)

Well said, Pete. Bennylin 16:36, 12 May 2014 (UTC)

You interprete the vision and mission as “delivering free knowledge to people in their own language”. This interpretation is inaccurate and biased by nationalist thinking: The vision just says “every single human being”, the mission says “multilingual”. It does not refer to “own languages”. What is “one’s own language”? Kiswahili is spoken by only few native speakers, the language is mainly used as a second language, it is a very important lingua franca. Many people in the world are illiterate in their native language, because written culture is not that strong in this language, and have only learned to read and write a second language. Many people live in multilingual environments where it is hard to tell what can be considered as “native language”. Others learn to speak a dialect (which may have its own Wikipedia) strongly differing from a standardised language, which might be the only one they learn to read and write. Migrants may change their linguistic environment before learning to read and write, etc. pp. I consider your interpretation as nationalist, based on the normative statement that people have one and only one “own” language, which is their prefered way to read and which is an essential property of each individual person. Sometimes the situation of people can be described like that (especially since nationalist movements implemented this norm), however, in reality it fails, in a world full of dialect continua, migration, multilingualism and different degrees of orality, writenness and literacy. You probably know some of the facts I have mentioned contrary to the parole of “their own language”. Never the less your formulation “their own language” is a normative misinterpretation of WikiMedia’s vision and mission. Esperanto is just one example of a language not matching this nationalist norm. You should explain why Esperanto is not a language in which knowledge is needed. This is your key argument and there is no explanation at all, except of the dubious assumption that there is some important concept of an “own language” in which knowledge should be presented, suggesting that Esperanto would not be anyone’s “own language” (and indeed there are native Esperanto speakers, contrary to Simple English). What is the substantial, qualitative difference between the value of having articles in Esperanto or Latin and the value of having articles in English, Simple English, Kiswahili, Romanes or Bavarian? You should explain that Furthermore the usage of the word “hobbyist” seems to be completely inadequate. The word “hobby” is used to make a distinction from professional labour, i. e. acts which are valued by economy, and only these acts are considered as “skilled”, while a hobby is something “unprofessional”, “unskilled”. The WikiMedia projects do not work according to such rules, the term “hobby” is completely unapplicable to make such distinctions within the WikiMedia projects as you did. --Chricho (talk) 23:09, 5 May 2014 (UTC)

No, I do not interpret the mission in this nationalist way. I have already clarified this above (in the middle edit there). I neither assume everyone has one and only one language to consume knowledge, nor to contribute to Wikipedia in. The Kiswahili example you bring (inaccurately, by the way: it is spoken as a first language, including use in higher education, in Tanzania) is instructive: for the majority of literate Kenyans, for example, knowledge is most accessible on the English Wikipedia, and the only Wikipedia they might contribute to (very few of them actually do) would be the English Wikipedia. Many don't actually have the kind of vocabulary or literacy in Kiswahili to read or write encyclopedic content. I therefore contend that we need to actively support (including via funding) Wikipedia in precisely all languages people actually need free knowledge in (this does include Kiswahili, for Tanzanians, Mombasan Kenyans, etc.), but that that set is distinct from the set "all languages people choose to edit in".
I may be mistaken in my assessment that Esperanto does not belong in the former set. If I am, I will change my mind. I'd like to do so following a discussion informed by data, though. Asaf Bartov (WMF Grants) talk 23:32, 5 May 2014 (UTC)
@Asaf Bartov (WMF Grants): The problem with your request is that your original decision appears to be based on your feelings and assumptions (I just re-read it to make sure you did not cite any numbers) — to request data from people that do not agree with you when you yourself provided none is quite a bit… dishonest, for lack of a better word. odder (talk) 07:50, 6 May 2014 (UTC)
Re the use of the term "hobbyist" -- it certainly communicated things I did not intend. I attach no derogatory sense to the term, and do not mean the distinction between professional and amateur. Of course, all Wikipedias are written by "hobbyists", and not for pay (whether or not the writers are "professional" in the fields they choose to write about). The distinction I was making -- evidently not clearly -- was rather between projects aligned with our mission and projects outside our mission (serving other missions or purposes, such as language preservation, personal language practice, socializing, etc.).
I am certainly sorry so many people found the term objectionable. Asaf Bartov (WMF Grants) talk 23:32, 5 May 2014 (UTC)
Thanks for your answer! Regarding Kiswahili: My words “a few” are still refering to millions of native speakers, not only in Tanzania (it is hard to guess), and these are of course much more than Esperanto native speakers. Nevertheless Kiswahili is shaped by second language speakers.
I am well aware that you know about phenomena of multilingualism (you are not uneducated), nevertheless “his own language” (instead of “the languages he wants to read in”) communicates a certain norm. --Chricho (talk) 07:40, 6 May 2014 (UTC)
Esperanto has many advantages over other real languages that is why it first created and it has survived for many decades compare to other many hundreds of dieing real small languages. Here there are not enough linguistic experts to enlighten people sufficiently about those real advantages. If WP management trim down Esperanto then we might should conclude that WP Management is having major cyclical falling down through its evolvement. Orgio89 (talk) 11:05, 6 May 2014 (UTC)
There is a flaw in Asaf Bartov's reasoning: It is certainly true that all Esperanto speakers can speak and read at least one other language well enough to read encyclopaedic articles in it. So if all material existing in the Esperanto Wikipedia also existed in all other languages, no one would need the Esperanto Wikipedia. But this is of course not the case.
Let's consider the case made by KuboF above: He claimed that for him the Esperanto Wikipedia is the best source of free knowledge about birds. Given the language knowledge he claims to have (sk-N, cs-4, eo-3, en-2, pl-1), this is likely to be true: The Esperanto Wikipedia has very good articles about birds, so it would not surprise me if they are better than the articles in Slovak and Czech. The main reason for these good articles about birds is that an Esperanto speaker from Spain has been very active in writing good articles about birds in Esperanto. This user from Spain has helped KuboF to get free knowledge about birds, and he would not have been able to do so without Esperanto given that he does not speak Slovak and Czech. So it is certainly not the case that the Esperanto Wikipedia does not help spread free knowledge to people.
I personally speak and read English and German very well, so for me there is not much material in the Esperanto Wikipedia that is really useful. But there is some: Mostly it is material about the Esperanto movement and its history. But I also often look at the Esperanto Wikipedia for other information related to language issues (for example to find out which languages are used in certain organizations). Since Esperantists are often more interested in languages than other people, the Esperanto Wikipedia often has more information on these kind of issues than the German and English Wikipedias. So even for me as a speaker of German and English the Esperanto Wikipedia is sometimes useful as a source of free knowledge which I can't find in the German and English Wikipedias.
Of course one can argue that the usefulness of the Esperanto Wikipedia in the spread of free knowledge is rather small compared to the (actual or potential) usefulness of Wikipedias in languages with a significant number of monolinguals (or a significant number of speakers whose only other languages have significantly less resources than the language in question, as is the case for example for Kiswahili and Sango). And one can argue that therefore WMF should clearly prioritize such language editions to the Esperanto Wikipedia in its allocation of funding. However, this would be a very different thing from arguing that the Esperanto Wikipedia is of no use at all to spreading free knowledge.
Since the use that the Esperanto Wikipedia actually has in spreading free knowledge is probably among the motivations for many Esperanto Wikipedians contributing to Wikipedia, Asaf Bartov's claim that the Esperanto Wikipedia does not help spread free knowledge can be very discouraging for these Wikipedians. I therefore hope that he will publicly retract that assertion. Marcos (talk) 11:07, 6 May 2014 (UTC)
Not one member of GAC supported the bid. It was not cast in terms of a springboard for further application on other WMF language sites (or "lessons learnt"). And there's the compelling priority of supporting global south languages, some of which desperately need our technical and logistical support. WMF sites have the potential to be significant agents for preserving their encoded cultural memories (some sites may already be this). I think you might find that the volunteers who make up the GAC are more impressed by the WMF Board's priorities, and it's hard to see Esperanto in these terms. I've written more on the Kurier talkpage. Asaf is a highly successful member of the grantmaking team; perhaps you might direct your feelings onto the GAC talkpage instead, where it might come to the attention of more of the volunteers who are involved in reviewing PEG applications. Thank you and I really do wish the best for the Esperanto WP despite what I've said about priorities. Tony (talk) 11:37, 6 May 2014 (UTC)
People working on grants distribution must prioritize, and it's better if they give reasons than if they don't. And it's surely true that languages reaching a large number of native speakers will generally have a much stronger claim. But there's a failure of understanding here still, and this is at the heart of the difference between Asaf's principles [as he has very openly stated them] and the aims of the Foundation. From the very beginning -- from 16 March 2001, when Jimmy Wales wrote those simple words "Anyhow, it seems like a useful thing to do this", and the German and Catalan wikipedias were started and linked in to the English -- our project has been multilingual. It was his greatest moment, in my view :) From that day, each language contributes to the others, and they are all linked. Chricho (just above) has it exactly right. We don't think "their own language". Instead, we think "the languages they want to read in". We have no right to decide for them which those languages are. We let them decide, by writing in those languages, by reading them, and by transferring knowledge among them so that, eventually, everyone will have access to all of it. Andrew Dalby (talk) 11:57, 6 May 2014 (UTC)
Tony, I am fine with this kind of prioritization and with the GAC's refusal to fund this project. I just think that Asaf has made false, offensive and demotivating claims in the reasons he presented for the refusal, and that therefore it would be good if he distanced himself from these claims. Marcos (talk) 13:59, 6 May 2014 (UTC)

Esperanto has two million speakers. I write articles both for the Hungarian and for the Esperanto Wikipedia. I have translated en Esperanto article into Hungarian that was likely to be translated from Spanish. I can also translate Hungarian articles into Esperanto, and this articles can be translated into the greater languages. Mainly the English Wikipedia has the longest articles, but only mainly. And if the Esperanto Wikipedia has half of the readers of the Estonian Wikipedia, it has its readers, and these will be angry if the Esperanto Wikipedia vanishes. Then I will be also angry, and don't will give more time for the Hungarian Wikipedia, because this time is for Esperanto. This will make the Esperanto culture poorer. Yes, Esperanto has its own culture, even if you don't know it. I hope that you will change your mind. Sorry for my mistakes, my English isn't native. Nobody (talk) 12:47, 6 May 2014 (UTC)

@Szalakóta: I don't understand how you can write such a long comment like this when you haven't read any of the discussion at all. Please point me to anyone on this page who has said that the Esperanto Wikipedia ought to "vanish". Your comment speaks to remarkably poor reading comprehension. Having been invited to this discussion from another wiki, I have read through all the strawman arguments on this page and it is disappointing that this is what passes for "discussion" among Esperantists. A year-old comment was revived for this? Shii (talk) 19:21, 6 May 2014 (UTC)
Please note that this is not a discussion among esperantists. As far as I know, only three of the contributors to this discussion are esperantists (Szalakóta, Marcos and me), the others aren't. -- Robert Weemeyer (talk) 19:52, 6 May 2014 (UTC)
@Shii: I hope that you did not mean your words "all the strawman arguments on this page" to refer to my argument in the 11:07, 6 May 2014 post above. I made a very conscious effort to only criticize what Asaf has actually said and not to criticize a strawman. Until now, no one has responded to my argument. Marcos (talk) 08:34, 7 May 2014 (UTC)
  • The Esperanto community has an admirable goal, but I agree with Asaf's decision here. Every single Esperanto speaker speaks at least one other language natively, so none of them need information in Esperanto. Grantmaking requires prioritization, and zero need implies extremely low priority. I also agree with Asaf that an explicit policy would help provide clarity to the issue.—Neil P. Quinn (talk) 02:45, 8 May 2014 (UTC)
No one who can read in more than one language needs information in any given language. So, for example, Basque speakers don't need information in Basque, because all of them also read either Spanish or French. A Basque person in Spain also doesn't need information in Spanish, because he can read information in Basque. All he needs is information that is either in Basque or in Spanish. Similarly Esperanto speakers don't need information in their mother tongue, because they can get information in Esperanto too. I hope you can see now that this notion of needing information in a given language is a very bad basis for prioritizing languages.
Have you read my argument agains Asaf's reasoning in my 11:07, 6 May 2014 post above? It would be very nice if someone commented on that argument. Marcos (talk) 08:08, 8 May 2014 (UTC)

On tone[edit]

Holger invited everyone on the hu.wp village pump to read this discussion, so I did; I don't really have an opinion about the grant itself, so I just want to echo Pete on the tone of Asaf's reply: I really appreciated his honest and blunt answer - maybe a bit too blunt at places, but that is still very much preferable to the polite ass-covering that often dominates grant discussions. Hurting people's feelings is unfortunate, but better than leaving them in the dark as to why exactly their proposal was rejected, and thus unable to make an effective counterargument.

Which is why all the indignation about tone is damaging. If you produce enough drama, you might get your way and next time the grant proposal evaluations will be less blunt and less honest. And that would be a great loss. It shows a group's level of maturity how well they can handle criticism, and with all this outrage, people are signalling that they are too immature to have an open conversation with, and should be just told nice things, instead of real opinions. This focus on drama is one of the ways in which the Wikimedia movement is its own worst enemy as a group, and we really need to learn how to change that. --Tgr (talk) 06:42, 7 May 2014 (UTC)

How is Esperanto different from any other smaller community speaking native language?[edit]

When community speaking the certain language is below the critical size, it becomes always possible to say that no knowledge spreading in this language is required, as all speakers of that language also speak English or some other major language. This is increasingly getting true even for countries like Estonia or Lithuania, leave alone anything smaller. Hence it is not very obvious to me, where the boundary should be set. If we are speaking about "strategic trimming", would it make more sense to restrict most of grants to English Wikipedia only? Audriusa (talk) 10:05, 7 May 2014 (UTC)

For what it's worth, Asaf has made it perfectly clear above where his boundary is set in making this kind of judgment about grants. -Pete F (talk) 15:35, 7 May 2014 (UTC)
The argument he presented for not giving this grant would equally apply to projects for the Sorbian or Basque Wikipedias, since all speakers of these languages also speak other languages, and hence don't need free knowledge in these languages. Nevertheless, he said that he would apply this policy only to "languages that do not have significant native speaker populations". It is not clear why he restricts this policy to these languages, even though his argument also applies to other languages. It is also not clear what is the limit for a "significant native speaker population". For minority languages, it is often not even clear who should be counted as a native speaker and who shouldn't. For example, I know a Tanzanian whose mother is a Hehe and whose father is a Gogo, but who grew up in Dar-es-Salaam, i.e. in a Swahili language environment. He learned some Gogo as a child, but much less than Swahili, and also picked up a little bit of Hehe as a child. When 18-20 years old, he lived for two years in the Hehe language area (at a place where Swahili is clearly more dominant than Hehe these days), and picked up some more Hehe. Should he be considered a native of either Gogo or Hehe. I know similarly complicated cases for Esperanto: Children, who grow up with parents who speak Esperanto to each other but not to the child often pick up Esperanto early on, especially if the parents also visit Esperanto meeting with them. Are they native speakers? And why should the response to such a question be relevant for the distribution of Wikimedia funds? Marcos (talk) 08:08, 8 May 2014 (UTC)
  • On a fundamental level I agree with Bartov, however why not take it even further - it wold be much more cost-effective (with respect to the goal of disseminating knowledge) to focus on the dozen or so top languages that cover the needs of most of mankind, and as for the rest the funds should be dedicated to machine translation that could tap into the collective knowledge of Wikipedia editors. The thing is, aside from the few "core" top Wikipedias (en, de, ru, fr, es, zh, ja and few others) the vast majority of the articles on the rest are manual translations from (or to) the "core" and if that process could be 1) facilitated through proper user interface, e.g. something like Google Translator Toolkit 2) monitored and recorded whereby the changes made by Wikipedia translators could then be isolated and fed back into the machine translation engine - the opportunity presents itself to automate the process altogether arriving at better and better results over time. This would be easiest for pluricentric languages like Serbo-Croatian and Hindustani (or varieties of English, German etc.) where differences between individual national standards are mostly lexical (i.e. reduce to simple word substitution.) This would be an attractive alternative for minor/extinct/conlang hobbyist languages where there is no hope that the Wiki community could ever reach size necessary to scale the project to usable level. Esperanto is a very interesting case because it's very simple and machine translating into it shouldn't be too difficult. For such cases hundreds of thousands of articles could be pre-generated on the server without wasting scarce human resources, which is what now is being done with manual translation. --Ivan Štambuk (talk) 12:53, 10 May 2014 (UTC)
the vast majority of the articles on the rest are manual translations from (or to) the "core" - I wonder, do you have actual data/statistics to back up this claim? Not saying that it's implausible, but of course any decisions should always be based upon actual data. Gestumblindi (talk) 02:21, 11 May 2014 (UTC)

Dear Asaf Bartov (WMF Grants), I have granted a lot of my energy and Work to Wikipedia not only to Esperanto but to more than 100 projects and I uploaded more than 14000 fotos from Switzerland to Wikipedia Commons project. All my contributions I understood as my contribution for the community as thank for the help to Esperanto by sustaining the Esperanto-version of Wikipedia. If now for (and this just for political reasons) the Esperanto-version would be stopped - for me it would be the death of Wikipedia! To destroy the Esperanto-Wikipedia for me would be fealt just like a "criminal" (not in juristic sense of the word or course) act! I would have no more motivation to substain the project in such a case. of course I understand, that this is not the question now, but if your statement is not answered clearly, it could be the beginning of such a strategy in future. - The same way as I think here a lot of other contributors to Esperanto-Wikipedia an other small Wikipedias (for which your above wording must be understood too). With ohter words - you cannot only consider the direct utility of Esperanto for this project but also the indirect! With no Esperanto version of the Wikipedia I would never upload all my foto material to Wikipedia - and this is about 10% of all fotos about Switzerland on Commons! So I am just a case how Esperanto helped also the Wikipedia in general. And it is a fact that most of the authors on Esperanto-Wikipedia contributes also to the other Wiki projects and to Commons and Wikimedia and also as I did contributed with money to the foundation.DidiWeidmann (talk) 17:48, 12 May 2014 (UTC)

Hi, @DidiWeidmann:. I'm afraid you were misled; no one, at any point proposed the closure of the Esperanto Wikipedia, so I think you are unnecessarily upset. What was discussed above was whether or not that Wikipedia can be considered to be contributing to our mission, in the context of funding decisions. I had been of the opinion it cannot be, and I have since changed my mind (see the following section), thanks to some constructive contributions (also see below). Asaf Bartov (WMF Grants) talk 01:16, 13 May 2014 (UTC)
Per the Wikimedia Stats website, the Esperanto Wikipedia had 10,000 page views per hour in March 2014. That's more than the Georgian, Afrikaans, Bssque, Uzbek, Cantonese and Javanese Wikipedias. I would hardly state that it "does not advance our educational mission". --NaBUru38 (talk) 15:20, 13 May 2014 (UTC)
@DidiWeidmann: You'll also find some additional discussion at Asaf's talk page. But as he mentioned, he changed his mind, so we can now calm down a bit :-) Gestumblindi (talk) 19:32, 13 May 2014 (UTC)

What about people who speaks Esperanto and who speak a native language with a Wikipedia not very developed, doesn't it help in that case that the information is available to him/her in that language (Esperanto)? Having it in more than one language makes more chances that the free knowledge he/she is looking for exist in a language that he/she understands, thus is in line with the Foundation`s mission. Amqui (talk) 02:43, 19 May 2014 (UTC)

In this context we should also relativize the question what is a "small language community". If we take the absolute number of speakers, of course Esperanto is a very small community (there are actually only 370000 Esperanto speakers as Users on Facebook, i.e. that there are only about 2 million Esperanto speakers around the world). If we consider the number of all speakers this is very few (Esperanto is ranking at about 150 of all languages of the world - from about 6000 languages) - If we consider the number of speakers of Esperanto as 2nd language, there is a totally other ranking: As Esperanto counts only about 10000 native speakers, with other words practically all 2 Million speakers are 2nd-language speaker. There are only 10 languages in the world with more than 2 Million 2nd language speakers, i.e. Esperanto is on rank 11 of all languages of the world as source of information (before Japanese) for the international community!!!13:18, 24 August 2014 (UTC)

Thanks for making me reconsider![edit]

As the epigram on my user page, which is certainly a "note to self" for me, points out, current convictions often stand in the way of seeing new or other facts. I'd like to thank those who have taken me up on my request to discuss and change my mind, and who have been able to formulate cogent arguments above, for getting me to reconsider my position and to amend it (as explained below). In particular, I'd like to acknowledge Marcos, Orgio89, PiRSquared17, Gestumblindi, and of course KuboF (who has been patient and graceful throughout), for their measured contributions. Special thanks also to Blahma for responding in the most constructive way possible: updating the ELiSo page with an explicit Benefit section.

I have indeed come to revise my position on the Esperanto Wikipedia: I recognize it does intersect with our mission, particularly thanks to second-order benefits it does indeed offer, and I am no longer opposed to funding activity related to it on principle. Specific initiatives will of course be judged on their merits and in terms of proportionality of spending to likely impact.

I regret the dismay and hurt feelings caused by the bluntness of the statements I made when delivering my decision on this grant proposal (above). As I have said above, no value judgment was attached, in my mind, to the statement "nobody needs free knowledge in Esperanto", nor was any personal slight intended in the term "hobbyist", with which I was attempting to make a distinction that was certainly not clear enough. I have explained this above. I will certainly endeavor to temper my natural directness with more attention to clarity of distinctions and to the possibility of being unintentionally read as offensive, without sacrificing what I strongly believe should be part of our conversations in general, and about funding in particular, i.e. direct and honest discourse. Asaf Bartov (WMF Grants) talk 00:58, 9 May 2014 (UTC)

You seem to have found out that 2+2=4 after having been insisting that it is 5 for months, with people more or less patiently explaining to you some basic arthmetics. Well, you are entitled to no congratulations, and surely no merit badge for Maths 101. On the contrary, this faux pas will linger in the envolved’s memories and, speaking at least for myself, it wont be one day too soon when your ties with the WMF, be those contractual or volontary, are definitively severed, along with those of other people sharing your reductionist approach to language diversity, multilinguism, its connection with free access to free knowledge, and the financing priorities of the WMF. Tuvalkin (talk) 06:17, 2 July 2014 (UTC)

A note on terms[edit]

It seems to me a good deal of the stronger emotions this discussion has seen expressed were founded in misunderstanding or overreactions to terms I have used innocuously. Beyond the "hobbyist" term discussed above, some seem to have taken exception to the verb "invest", which I had used neutrally, in the technical sense of spending resources on, but which was taken to imply a corporate approach(?). Likewise, I probably should have linked "strawman" to the Wikipedia article about it, to ensure everyone understands I am referring to a rhetorical fallacy rather than to a personal insult or an accusation of sockpuppetry, as seems to have been the case for at least some.

I will certainly pick my terms more carefully, or annotate them better, in the future. Asaf Bartov (WMF Grants) talk 00:58, 9 May 2014 (UTC)

I'd say you've had a baptism by fire in the field of public relations! Awesome FaceThe Hand That Feeds You:Bite 22:27, 10 May 2014 (UTC)

Next steps?[edit]

A point worth pursuing, probably not on this particular page, is the question of where the line should be drawn. I have been meaning to start a conversation on the question "what are the prerequisites for a viable Wikipedia in a given language?", which, when answered (in a community conversation, hopefully resulting in policy), should closely correspond to the answer to the question "In proposals for funding, which language Wikipedias should be considered reasonable to spend funds on?". While I have not yet had time to start the conversation, a tangent to it was brought up in a Wikimedia-l thread last month with the subject line "How Wikimedia could help languages to survive". You will see an initial response by me on that thread, with some thoughts which may ring familiar in light of my arguments above. That discussion has for now stalled, but would be better on-wiki anyway. If no one else does, I'll start this conversation later this month. Asaf Bartov (WMF Grants) talk 00:58, 9 May 2014 (UTC)

Have material I was unable to post to Wikimedia-l regarding language revitalization and Native American languages that may be useful in this discussion. Djembayz (talk) 11:24, 10 May 2014 (UTC)
Djembayz, i would love to see it. Maybe you can publish here in Meta or send me by e-mail? CasteloBrancomsg 11:35, 10 May 2014 (UTC)


Hi Ijon. Thank you very much. That's indeed good news. Best regards. --Holder (talk) 05:09, 9 May 2014 (UTC)

+1. -- Robert Weemeyer (talk) 07:21, 9 May 2014 (UTC)
Thanks too from my side!--Hubertl (talk) 07:22, 9 May 2014 (UTC)
Indeed good news, many thanks. --smial (talk) 07:40, 9 May 2014 (UTC)
Thanks for letting us know that you have revised your position on this! Marcos (talk) 10:10, 9 May 2014 (UTC)
Thanks for revising and looking forward for next step discusions! --KuboF (talk) 13:30, 9 May 2014 (UTC)
Way to go, Asaf! CasteloBrancomsg 18:01, 9 May 2014 (UTC)
Our tiny nation of Esperanto is saved from total wiping out we will rise and take over the world one day! (joke) Orgio89 (talk) 07:53, 13 May 2014 (UTC)

Good to read, but just a first step. I think the Foundation and especially the Grant comittee should review their selfimage. There can be good reasons to not fund a project - the decision against the machine translation has my approval -, but no person in the Foundation can make statements on and decide what the mission is. This is the sort of hybris that causes so much stress between Foundation and communities again and again. I would wish that Sues successor would start a process to change on this. --Julius1990 (talk) 11:07, 9 May 2014 (UTC)

Thank you, Asaf. I appreciate the ability to rethink matters when confronted with other viewpoints; it's something I also always strive to be able to. With regard to the statement by Julius1990, I'd say that the communities of Wikimedia projects and the Foundation should work together to get a clear picture of "what the mission is". The Foundation is nothing without the community, but the often disjointed communities need an entity like the Foundation to synthesize results and steer the Wikimedia ship on a clear course (a course that should be based upon community consensus as far as possible, but not consist of zigzag). Gestumblindi (talk) 19:19, 9 May 2014 (UTC)

I believe that there was a valid argument concerning funding or not, behind the phrasing which should not have given the impression of expression of official policy. I believe that Asaf handled the issue in an excellent way, after the issue was raised. --FocalPoint (talk) 21:01, 9 May 2014 (UTC)

I am very happy that Asaf has reconsidered his view. The Foundation needs to be conscious that Wikimedia projects are in practice useful for promoting minority and second languages, especially for encouraging literacy and study in those languages. Indeed, the Wikipedias are among the earliest and greatest means to this end on the Internet. Also it needs to be conscious that all the Wikipedias cross-fertilise, and this is one way in which they all grow. By these routes the Foundation's aims are certainly promoted. But I'm not saying that minority and special languages should have a strong claim to funding: I'd expect the opposite. Languages which reach the greatest number of people, especially people who are in other ways disadvantaged, should, of course, be prioritised. The original decision was right. Andrew Dalby (talk) 14:12, 18 May 2014 (UTC)