Thoughts on Wikipedia interlanguage priorities

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Some thoughts from The Cunctator on making decisions.

I really think it is most important to be clear about whether we want Wikipedia to be a single unified project (which I strongly think is the right thing to do) or if we want language/nation groups to work with as little coordination as possible.

Because if that's clear, then it's much easier to deal with individual policy decisions.

E.g. let's say we have these statements of purpose: 1) Build the universal, free encyclopedia 2) goal of comprehensiveness and neutrality 3) open, flexible, anti-ego, pro-community structure

Then we ask ourselves how do decisions match up with those priorities? Language localization is a real bear. What I'd come down on is that the majority of knowledge is not language/culture specific, but language and culture are a crucial overlay. Thus the ultimate goal for Wikipedia is to be a single consolidated resource, which allows people who want to (or can only) contribute in a particular language to do so, but encourages work on the overall non-language specific project.

Sub-policies that would flow from that would be: a) discouraging national branding of language sites (flags, etc.) b) consolidation of backend functions, from userspace to recent changes c) a rethinking of the mailing lists (it's getting to be time for Wikipedia to move to a bulletin board system). d) better cross-linking between language sites (the front-end side of b)

Part of the problem with Mav etc. bending over backward to be "fair" to other languages is that it's in the end ridiculous. Just as the United States can't pretend that it's just like Sweden, or as New York can't pretend it's Arkansas, or a CEO can't pretend he's just another employee, the English-language section of Wikipedia shouldn't pretend it's just like the French section.

And if you pay careful attention, I argue, the people who speak other languages and come from non-English countries (aside from a few juveniles or people who associate the English language with the current Bush/Blair international policies) don't desire that kind of self-abasement.

As Anthere has said, her priority is better interlinking with the English pages and vice versa, not replacing www.wikipedia.org with a "portal" page, whatever that is.

Total language neutrality is an interesting goal, but not one that should be prioritized above priority #1; and even though it falls into priority #2, it comes in conflict with other aspects of that priority.


But English is not the "CEO" or the "New York". It's just another language. (and the USA is just another country.)

Your argument seems to be:

  1. english is the best language (it's not)
  2. we can do big things to help interlanguage harmony between wikipedias. So let's not do small things too.

But then people have been saying the en->www move is too much hassle. So is it a small gesture that's meaningless, or too much of a hassle (and therefore somethng big)?

How is comparing the English wiki to New York, a CEO, or US like asserting "english is the best language"? I don't think New York is better than Arkansas, a CEO better than a mail-room employee, or the US better than Sweden. They're just bigger and more powerful.
My argument is
  1. the English wiki is the biggest and strongest
  2. We can do big and little things to help interlanguage harmony between wikipedias. So let's not do things based on a pretense that all the wikis are identical. --The Cunctator

So just because the English Wikipedia is the biggest and baddest hombre on the top of the hill makes it OK for it to continue being a bully and push-off everybody else? Even LDC is now warming to the idea of moving to en.wikipedia, albeit reluctently (being logically inclined I was very reluctant at first too -- but that same logic now tells me that it is very important to understand the feelings of non-English Wikipedians). One of the reasons why there is such a large gap between the en.wiki and the non-en.wikis is becuase almost all the attention is directed toward the en.wiki. The non-English Wikipedias will be benefited far more by the en.wiki move than the en.wiki will be harmed by it (in fact beefing-up the non-English Wikipedias will create more cross-fertilization amongst the sub-projects). Whether www.wikipedia.org is where the en.wiki Main Page is or the place of a portal for the whole project, visiters will still be one click away from actual en.wiki encyclopedia articles (under my proposal inline en: links will be under words like "Wikipedia" and "ecyclopedia" in the English version of the uber-project overview welcome message -- which would be the default). Another part of my proposal is that the Recent Canges of the Phase III wiki that will eventually be located at www.wikipedia.org will the Recent Changes for the entire encyclopedia part of the project -- most of the edits will be from en.wiki. --Maveric149

To the question at the beginning: no. One, I question the assertion that "the English Wikipedia" is a bully and pushing off everyone else. Two, I never said that even if that were the case, it would be acceptable for the English Wikipedia to continue doing so.
Rather, I'm saying we should all concentrate on the central priorities of the project, and make decisions based on those priorities, not on a false ideal of fairness. --The Cunctator
Oh? So you are the one who decides what is fair? Does the opinion of the non-English Wikipedians even count? Anyway... I rather like Brion's idea of having all Wikis under www.wikipedia.org via www.wikipedia.org/xx/. That way all wikis are on equal footing and can fully exploit the value of the www address. --Maveric149
Cunc, I don't understand how this issue is distracting us from the central priorities. What are, in your view, the priorities that this proposed change of URL will harm? -- Tarquin 13:15 Oct 15, 2002 (UTC)



If I'd done it without telling anybody (30 seconds work), a few people would have made bug reports saying "I got logged out", and maybe someone would have noticed the URL was different. --Brion VIBBER 23:17 Oct 11, 2002 (UTC)
If only you had... (and you yet may... hint hint) -- Tarquin
You might have also managed to get your developer status revoked. --The Cunctator
Bull. I for one thought there was at least a tenative agreement to go ahead with the move -- esp. after Jimbo and Larry gave their blessing. --Maveric149
Dumping the only developer who's working on getting the various languages upgraded and integrated for doing something that had been tentatively agreed to would be an excellent way to provoke additional forking. --Brion VIBBER

Personally I think leave it as it is, separate Encyclopedia for each language. Each language can look after itself, writing manually, using the English articles and structure as inspiration. Trying to turn many webs into a single web with lots of articles (each language) per node (concept) is fraught with problems. And, it's already too late for German, French etc. There are many concepts which are very important in one language (e.g. prayer 'solat' in Arabic could probably run to hundreds of sub-articles) and much less important to others. Why should that be imposed on an English speaker, since half of the nomenclature will be in Arabic anyway? The Arabic definition of prayer would assume Islamic prayer, with sidenotes for other religions, whereas the English ('International') version would be more rounded.

I am soon going to be working on internationalization efforts for Asian languages and open source for my day job, working for a semi-Government agency(despite being British, I live in Malaysia). As the value of Wikipedia grows, each country may wish to 'sponsor' its own web in terms of disk space, overheads, etc. I might try to get some Government money to 'seed' the Malay language Wikipedia, perhaps offering a competition to reward the most hardworking contributors, until it's at critical mass. Trouble is, I think Asian culture makes people likely to read, and less likely to write, people seem more worried about making mistakes or offending somebody else here, whereas Europeans and possibly Americans get taught at school to act on impulse. -- User:WillSmith on Wikipedia-EN

Er, there's a thought, maybe the users should be consolidated. Shouldn't have to register twice to work in multiple languages.

About consolidating pictures - hard to find pictures, easier to upload your own. But maybe Pics in 1 namespace could be reference in another? So articles could share pictures, but the filenames wouldn't clash? Sort of like

\[\[img-EN:mypic.jpg\]\]


"Trouble is, I think Asian culture makes people likely to read, and less likely to write, people seem more worried about making mistakes or offending somebody else here, whereas Europeans and possibly Americans get taught at school to act on impulse."

I think, the reason that English remains to be the biggest is also relate to the database designing and access to Meta - where policies will be discussed and made.
  • 我觉得你可以说亚洲文化让你觉得很喜欢读,却不喜欢写,不能代表“亚洲人们”这么觉得。就好像英语不能代表世界文化一样。
If I were you, I will say "I feel Asian culture makes me likely to read..." instead of makes "people"think so. This is exact the same reason why English could not represent world culture.
  • 你觉得你会比较担心犯错,冒犯什么人么?永远只用一种语言交流,就会永远不能消除成见。多语言维基又有什么意义开网络文化的先河呢?
The multilingual Wikipedia will be great only if it can help people cross language barrier and start to communicate.

Msscmm 14:08, 8 May 2009 (UTC)


Related: Thoughts on language integration