OmegaWiki – what, why, where, when, who?
Some descriptions, opinions etc. from my side.
What is UW
I suppose that there is still a problem to understand UW. UW is about avoiding double work giving the user a localised interface. It is about creating content and make it available in more than just online format. It is about one huge community that has of course its local "branches" (since this is going to be an automatic development). So a person speaking "only German" will have the user interface in German and very likely will only work on German content adding synonyms, links to the German Wikipedia, links to German texts on Wikisource, links to German parts in Commons etc. - maybe adding definitions, pronunciations, recording soundfiles, adding pictures etc.
Potential users and contributors for UW start from elementary school (don't laugh – I really think about them as well – they are our community of the future that has to cope with a more and more open – at least I hope so – market) and go up to language professionals and subject related professionals.
Maybe this for many is the most important point ... to know what is happening with the old wiktionaries. Well, I was asked if it makes sense to keep up old wiktionaries and you will be surprised about my answer: it is not up to us to decide if it makes sense or not. We are not going to say "you must close down and come over" – it is up to the communities of every single wiktionary to decide if it makes sense to "close down" or if they want to go ahead.
To my opinion it is not important to close them down – of course it would be very much appreciated if they all came over, but this needs to be done step by step (if they decide to do so). There are ways of achieving this and to a certain extent it will be an automatic process. It does not make sense to close the old wiktionaries immediately down as anyway no-one could handle the pass over of so many editors at once (most of them will need a personal introduction on how to work with UW – people to 95% don't read manuals, instructions and FAQ-lists). Many people on the small wiktionaries speak their language and at least English – so these are the ones that will help us to "explain" to the different communities. A second difficulty is that old wiktionaries have too much unstructured data.
Why Ultimate Wiktionary came up
Well, we have been talking about how to avoid double work and how to structure data for almost a year now (for me this started on 31 August 2004). People did not care about this and of course it is their right not to care about this. Then we started to talk about a solution that would make it easier to correct entries even on other wiktionaries when we find them – it would be possible, but really: who has the time to do this? Many wiktionaries copy content from en.wiktionary.org, many entrances are copied from the titles of the wikipedias where all words are capitalized as is (and if you don't know the language often you do a good thing to copy and paste all these terms, but they should then be checked by a mother tongue to see if capitalisation is correct) – just some days ago we got things right on an article on it.wiktionary.org that originally came from en.wiktionary and then was modified several times. We correct this stuff when we find them, but correcting all possible entries that derive from the same source is really a time problem. Doing this only on the it.wiktionary takes maybe 5 minutes – doing it on 10 wiktionaries (and for basic words like numbers we could even easily talk about 20 wiktionaries using the same "starting point") this would mean 50 minutes ... – so only for that UW has its very important place. There are many other things that can be read and re-read about in various mails to the lists. It would take some pages to describe really everything and I don't suppose that this is the right place to do it. (If you have specific questions, please use the discussion page.)
Gerard and policies
Often Gerard is criticised since he does things directly and does not wait for thousands of things to happen – he makes things happen ... but why? And is there really a reason to criticise him? Well for me: no, there isn't.
We always tried to involve other people in building the structure, to take over various tasks, but they did not react and so it all remained in our hands at a certain point. Well I prefer Gerard to do many communications and discussions since I personally would create much more problems. Not only because I have quite a Neapolitan temper even being German, but also because talking about UW is talking about a dream that started when I went to the language school where I had to deal with several languages (and this makes me much less democratic since UW is a goal I want to 100% achieve). When I still went to school, then there was only paper – five years ago some people still told me that it was impossible to achieve while others meant it was too ambitious – today one of the persons (or better colleagues) who contradicted me really a lot in past supports me and asks me for information – it is a dream I never gave up and now it is right in front of me ... well I'll never give it up. It is worth to fight every battle and search any way to achieve it.
So you must understand one thing: Gerard is in that position simply because no-one else really cared about what we were doing up to some weeks ago – we told and re-told things – apparently nobody listened – maybe people thought that it was impossible to do what is happening and did not want to be involved in something that could go wrong? Hmmm ... see, I am used to that: I have been told more than once that it "was" impossible – even if I was and I am still convinced that everything we want to achieve only wants to be achieved (strange sentence, I know) – we only must find the ways to reach it. And we are going to reach it – in one way or the other – I have no doubt about that.
If I hadn't my twins today I very likely had a quite well going company – but it was easy to give everything up for the kids even if it hurt a lot to see many years of struggle be cancelled with one single thought. It was a difficult moment. But even that: it is only a question of time and coincidences (if we might call them coincidences – since these only happen if you do something – if you wait for others to do your job they won't happen). Looking at what happened during the last three years now I see that "forget about the company" as a chance. Considering the way where the translation and language market is going it is likely that from only translations the company would have needed to re-brand the services – so maybe it was good to close it down, maybe the best thing I could do. See if I had the company now I would not have time to care about a dream ....
Is UW going to happen?
If one thing is sure: Ultimate Wiktionary is going to happen – there's no question for me if it is or is not going to happen – the question is: where and when is it going to happen. As for the where I would very much prefer the Wikimedia Foundation since it makes sense to include, step by step, so much work by so many dedicated people that already has been done. It makes their dedication, every added word, every corrected spelling etc. only more valuable to the world. As for the when: as soon as the software is ready and if possible starting with that 7.000.000 words where people can work on and integrating all other wiktionaries and glossaries step by step – not immediately – during the last year I had to learn that certain things cannot be forced – so I would not force anyone to go to UW.
As much as I could understand Erik is doing a real good job on this and thank God the piece of software is being developed with an outside contract – otherwise I suppose we would have even more difficulties when talking about this. So the software will be there in any case, free for anyone to use and improve.
Logos and 7.000.000 words: Gerard and SJ will remember well that initially I did not want to have them in, that I searched for any kind of reason why it would not be good for us to have them in. But like always: things don't happen by chance – there's always a bigger reason behind something.
Logos has 7.000.000 words, has a huge community of contributors (mostly colleagues, and I know many of them personally), has many resources (Verba Volant, free books etc.). These things up to now are free for use – getting them out under GFDL would be like ... well I don't have words for this ... Really when I heard about "Logos on Wikimania" I said no, don't let them go ... they are not going to give away a single word ... well they want to do it as much as I could understand from Rodrigo's presentation. They already call their resource "free" and so it is high time to have them under a free license. They really did not understand what licensing such a content means, they never thought/really cared about it and the implications before. Only thanks to the Foundation they understood what "free content" really means and that they are ready to release their contents under GFDL.
Monopolisation on the language market
Only a few weeks ago SDL, the major provider in localisation services and one of the major producers of localisation tools bought Trados – it is their way to a monopolistic translation market – they have branches anywhere in the world and the Chinese translator I normally worked with, up to some months ago worked for them. Their goal is obvious if you follow their movements: to be the only ones to be able to dictate things in localisation business. A second major player on the market, Lionbridge, is planning a commercial version of something that is quite similar to UW (at least part of it) – it is planned to be there in 2010 and even this is a tentative to monopolize the market. I suppose there will be a "who can survive longer at low rates" and "one will eat the other" situation sooner or later.
What I really don't want is a monopolisation of the localisation/translation market, but there are very few companies in the position to contrast this monopolistic direction when it comes to commercial contents/software etc.
Then yesterday, due to some conversations with Gerard and colleagues a strange thing came into mind ... why would Microsoft, that owned 20% of Trados and whose software is almost completely localised using Trados agree to sell it to SDL? So I started to search the web and really: there was an agreement between SDL and Microsoft in 2003 ... I suppose all this has been planned years ago and no-one really cares about monopolisation in this market share as it is very small compared to others.
Some links (some are in German, sorry):
(here you need to read the complete discussion, sorry)
Why Logos is important for us
Combining the Logos contents with UW would at least make sure that the monopolisation will not be as easy when talking about language professionals having to buy contents from these companies. Having a huge translation company co-operating with the Open Content/Open Source market will make sure that the monopolisation is more difficult. This will help to maintain the diversity and concurrence on the market. And that is one mayor reason for me to give Logos as much attribution as necessary. logos.wiktionary.org is not only giving them attribution for what they are doing for the free contents community, but also a way to keep things free for everyone. It is of vital importance to have such people in. If they start, others, minor ones, will probably do the same with their contents as many, not now but in some years, will understand how important Logos' step to free contents was. Logos will not only contribute in terms of words, but also in many other branches – as well as hosting the data, paying for servers and several other things as much as I understood – as for that this name is correct.
A vote for UW?
On one hand, being a completely different project that does not really want to substitute other projects without these deciding for themselves a vote should not be necessary. We are not going to change anything to the present wiktionaries if these do not agree to come over. Of course we want a link to show that a page for example was transferred to UW and to give the possibility to update things also there, just like we do with links to other Wiktionaries, Wikipedia, Commons etc. now.
If there is going to be a vote this should be done only within the different wiktionaries. It will be difficult enough to make them understand the sense of UW and that we don't threat anyone, but that we only want to show what is possible going a different way. Most Wikipedians often don't even understand what the actual wiktionaries are about ... how could they ever understand what uw is about? Of course: democracy means that everyone has a right to express a vote – but a real democratic vote can only be there if people know what they are talking about ... so like voting for the Board Members is possible only for people having at least a certain number of edits this should be the basis for such vital decisions as well. Only people who have a certain amount of edits on wiktionary really do understand what it is about and so only they can really say if this name and reasoning has a basis or not.
I would like to repeat one thing here: if you want the vote: will UW wiktionary happen or not, you should formulate it better like: should UW happen within the wikimedia projects or not since it will happen anyway (I stand for that – it is over 20 years now that I am trying to achieve it). If the vote is going to be: logos.wiktionary.org or not it should be explained that this will help to keep the market open, to give attribution to someone who already dreamt that dream and tried to achieve it (investing loads of money and time) and now is ready to hand every contents over to the Wikimedia Foundation. It is not about commercial issues we are talking here, but about a goal we have in common. (Don't forget: initially I was completely against them joining us and it cost some people hours to have me consider all points – I am not an easy one to convince, be sure.)
Well, maybe I will make some changes to this, add more notes – really for now I don't know. These are things that I needed to write down – so many things still seem to be unclear. And of course if things are not clear this creates doubts, fears and whatever ... if you have doubts and fears: by all means, please express them (if possible on the discussion page) – be sure they are not necessary. The only thing we want to achieve is free linguistic contents available online and offline for several usages like glossaries (theme specific, bilingual etc.), spellcheckers etc. We don't want to take you your projects – you will decide if you want to come over and not us.
Thank you for taking the time to read this.
So here you have a first addition to the above - 30 August 2005
Languages and Communities
Now I read a consideration about languages and communities in Ultimate Wiktionary that states that people who cannot speak English can't be part of the community.
My answer to that is: no, that's not true and I will explain why below.
Then there is that other statement that it is better to have separate language communities so that they can speak in their own language and everyone can participate. And of course that the aim is to have a lot of international co-operation in cross-languages and being more practical this is normally English.
Well: this would be desirable, but it is not happening within the Wiktionary projects – most wiktionaries really don't know what the others do and besides very few ones there's not even much information coming through the wiktionary-l.
Well, let's se how communication and communities work within UW.
There will be beer parlours for every language people want to have one in. There will be people who care about communication issues (mainly Sysops I suppose, but also other people). Now there are those local communities talking about everyday issues and then a very important theme comes along and it is really important to have it in all the other beer parlours as well. So writing for example only in Italian what does this person do? He/she writes a message and below the title there's the message "please distribute to the other beer parlours". Normally people caring about communications read all in "their beer parlour" and so the one who knows both languages takes the message and transfers it for example to the English beer parlour and adds a link to the English message (really this can be done with the help of a template) and this way also all the others will know about this. Now what is different to the actual projects: these communications simply do not exist (or hardly do exist) – it is not an automatic procedure that can involve all the Wiktionary communities, but only for those who by chance read this/that post. Like in all huge networks also in Wiktionary we will have local groups and I suppose that there will be also groups that for example focus on certain themes (like etymology, pronunciation and soundfiles, pictures or whatever). And there will very likely the "translator-beer parlours" since they use UW for work, they have other requirements than most users – there will be discussions on terminology, on which term suits best in which context etc. just like it now happens in so many mailing lists. Many of these people are not too computer literate and so they will come over step by step and they will need quite a lot of more technical information. Of course anyone can contribute to any community in whatever language he/she likes.
So it cannot be said that people who do not speak English cannot have their community – they will have it for sure, as it is the only way to go. English will like so often be a kind of a interface language as I suppose it is hard to find someone who can translate from Italian to Chinese directly or the other way round. So the Chinese beer parlour will receive its news very likely from the English one. For many minor languages where it actually does not make sense to open a whole wiktionary since the language speakers are just a few – maybe only 500 or even less can have their place as well. This is not even an option now – but within UW even this will be possible. Think about all that African languages where probably universities will be the first to co-operate. Well also considering the Logos contents: we can have material in very seldom languages from the very first beginning and so in particular this very small groups of native speakers will have something where they can start to work on, about which they can communicate and discuss – hopefully in their own language. It is much easier to integrate people for new languages if there is already something there where they can work on than having to start from scratch.
So that about communities: no fear is needed that there aren't going to be local communities – they will surely be there, because people need it and interlanguage communication will be for sure better.
I would even love to see local offline meetings where people that do not actually contribute to the Wikimedia projects are invited.