Multilingual error messages
Until 2005, whenever the Wikimedia servers encountered a squid error, visitors to any Wikimedia wiki (of any language) were served an English error message. This error message also linked to the "Wikipedia status" page at Openfacts.berlios.de, and the growth of Wikipedia meant that the presence of this link on the error page would bring that site to its knees at every Wikipedia downtime.
I made the heading text on the page soft green, going along with the story that green calms people down. :) This led to it being called the "Green Screen of Death". Soon after it was put in place, the green text had to be darkened because the nice fading pale green text was illegible for some people with vision problems.
Originally, I had only intended for the page to feature 5 or 7 languages (which was already way better than just English), but by the end of the translation drive it had grown to 11 languages: English, German, French, Italian, Japanese, Chinese (Simplified and Traditional on the one page), Swedish, Dutch, Spanish, Portuguese and Polish. I picked those languages because, between them, they covered the Wikipedias with the most articles, and also a large bulk of the site traffic as well. Czech and Russian were later added in by others, not looking at any particular rationale for inclusion.
During one particularly long downtime, news articles about Wikipedia's downtime quoted the Error message.
By 2007, I was getting sick of the design of the error page, and it had been described as "an atrocity that needs to be rewritten from top to bottom" by Simetrical. Also, the donation beg in the old message emphasised Wikimedia's "constant need to buy new hardware", which wasn't really true any more, as Wikimedia now had lots of other stuff to spend donated money on.
Since 2006 the error message has been placed into SVN so that changes to it can be tracked, with diffs etc. Once a change is made there, apparently it requires a "shell" to "sync" it. Which I think means the whole squid server software has to be rebuilt/recompiled and sent to the squids to update them.
That about covers everything to do with this message anyone would ever want to know. Below is a list of languages currently on the error message. - Mark 16:33, 30 September 2007 (UTC)
- Norwegian (Bokmal)
- Traditional Chinese
- Simplified Chinese
NOTE: The information below is outdated and is preserved here for historical purposes. If you wish to change the translations (such as to correct a spelling error or bad link), please either contact User:Mark on the English Wikipedia or a developer.
Old stuff regarding the change to multilingual error messages
Wikipedia (and, indeed, the other Wikimedia projects) have a heavy emphasis placed on their multilingualism. However, whenever we have a downtime with the servers, people on all of the wikis receive the same error message: in English. This error message will be replaced with a multilingual one, ideally incorporating 5 or 6 major languages.
Obviously, we cannot include every language. The error message file would be so big it would be impractical. We need to choose the languages which would have meaning to the largest proportion of the community. When I was tinkering with this a few months ago, the languages I chose were Swedish, French, English, German and Japanese. I'm open to suggestion, however. Going off article count alone, we should also include Italian, Polish and possibly Dutch.
The present error message can be viewed here. I suggest the following text be used for the new error message, and be translated:
- The Wikimedia Foundation servers are currently experiencing technical difficulties.
- The problem is most likely temporary and will hopefully be fixed soon. Please check back in a few minutes.
- For further information, you can visit the (insert local IRC channel here) channel on the Freenode IRC network.
- Wikipedia is now one of the top 50 sites on the Internet by traffic and continues to grow, and as a result the Wikimedia Foundation has a constant need to purchase new hardware. If you would like to help, please donate.
Please insert any discussion here. - Mark Ryan 07:36, 20 September 2005 (UTC)
Why can't we just use the user's accept-language? That way, we can have hundreds of languages, but they won't all be displayed for the user. In case the user doesn't have an accept langauge, they would be shown a truly multilingual error message. --Node
Or, why can't we just use the language of the respective wiki (if there is one) -- i.e. on cs.wikipedia.org, a Czech message should be displayed. --Mormegil 11:40, 20 September 2005 (UTC)
- Mormegil has a good point. But not all users of a wiki speaks a language fluently, paralell translation would be benefical.
- As for Yahoo! hosting servers, if I recall correctly, Ko, Zh and Ja use those resources. So I suppose it makes a sense to provide error messages in those three languages for those who access the apaches hosted by Yahoo! in Korea. --Aphaia++ 12:25, 20 September 2005 (UTC)
Multilingual error messages are already at Server outage message which was supposed to update the actual messages automatically somehow, but I don't know if it still does. Angela 13:03, 20 September 2005 (UTC)
Why not some sort of cascading system to make it as flexible as possible:
- if the user is logged in and their chosen interface language is available, use that;
- if they haven't chosen a language, check their browser settings and use that;
- if nothing else fails, use the default language for the appropriate wiki.
I support the idea of making all currently-possible languages available at the click of a link, since any automatic system is prone to failure. HTH HAND —Phil | Talk 13:35, 20 September 2005 (UTC)
- I'm not sure their user preferences are available to the server during the downtime, so their chosen language may not be ascertainable. But if it's technically as well as practically possible to automatically detect their language, that would be ideal (but perhaps have English as a backup on the same page, in case the automatic detection went awry?) - Mark Ryan 01:16, 21 September 2005 (UTC)
In terms of choosing languages, the languages *likely to be spoken* by a user should perhaps be taken into account. Translations of English error messages into Swedish would be a nicety, but totally un-necessary for 95% of Swedish Wikipedia users. The average Chinese user would be a completely different case.
Don't repeat the Technical Stuff over and over
Instead of repeating the (English, class="TechnicalStuff") error message once for each language, just have an #anchor to the bottom, where you just say it once. Yes, it would no longer be on the first screenful. OK, then put it at the very top, with anchors to it in each language's section. Jidanni 02:28, 8 March 2009 (UTC)