Wikimedia Blog/Drafts/A Survey of Esperanto Wikipedians

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This was a draft for a blog post that has since been published at https://blog.wikimedia.org/2014/07/10/survey-of-esperanto-wikipedians/ '

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A Survey of Esperanto Wikipedians

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Esperanto Wikipedia founder Chuck Smith (right) being interviewed along with Miroslav Malovec (left), Esperanto Wikipedian and founding member of Czech Wikipedia during Esperanto Wikimania 2011 in Svitavy, Czech Republic.

Esperanto Wikipedia started its journey in 2001. During the past thirteen years Esperanto Wikipedia registered a massive growth with a record 196,923 articles[1] - an editing landmark which places it in the forefront of not only other constructed languages but also many natural languages.

As a constructive language, Esperanto has been adopted out of love for its inherently uniform grammar and the idea of culturally neutral universal language by people across the globe. Thus, in the context of Esperanto Wikipedia, we find people from different parts of the world enthusiastically contributing to the most popular open source of global knowledge Wikipedia in their language.

It is within this context that I made a humble effort to survey Esperanto Wikipedians to get an overview of the editing culture of this Wikipedia and the whereabouts of its contributors. I designed a 10-point questionnaire and sent it to a number of Esperanto Wikipedians. To my good luck, the first recipient, Christian Bertin provided the Esperanto version, thus, giving the respondents with an option to respond in either Esperanto or English. I received 12 responses from Esperanto Wikipedians including responses from three admins.

Although all respondents did not disclose their geographical location, those who did hailed from Austria, Columbia, France, Portugal, Czech Republic, Spain and the United States. Three respondents were inspired by the efforts of the founding member of Esperanto Wikipedia, Chuck Smith, to promote Esperanto Wikipedia, with one respondent Miroslav Malovec sharing a close association with him. The other reasons for contributing to Esperanto Wikipedia is the love and familial association with the language.

The Esperanto Wikipedians contribute on diverse topics - from local information, transportation, writers, sports, literature, film, food,Esperanto events, Russian ethnography, American culture, geography, ornithology and other areas of biology and scientific topics. Two of the respondents Pino and Miroslav Malovec also mentioned outreach events for Esperanto Wikipedia. Miroslav Malovec listed Esperanto Wikimania 2011 in Svitavy, Czech Republic, Conference on the Application of Esperanto in Science and Technology 2012 in Modra, Slovakia and Wikitrans 2013 in Partizánske, Slovakia as events in this direction. Another Wikipedian Marcos Crammer mentioned an interesting anecdote where he attended the Conference on the Application of Esperanto in Science and Technology 2010 in Modra, Slovakia where he encountered an Esperantist who had been frustrated by the Wikipedia because of a terminological error which remained unaddressed. Marcos suggested a proposal to change the terminology and later carried out the change, which made his Esperantist friend more positive about Wikipedia.

According to Scott Starkey, an Esperanto Wikipedia admin, one major problem is that almost all Esperantists have Esperanto as a second language. Because of this, poor grammar sneaks into articles along with neologisms. A simple solution to this is that every new Esperanto Wikipedian stick to their individual ability level and also ask the community for help when needed. The best thing about the Esperanto Wikipedia group is that it is eager to help, including the possibility of the new user getting help in the native language to figure out how to say something properly in Esperanto. Scott also points out that in 2006-2007 there was some unnatural growth on this Wikipedia due to the use of bots to do automatic translations and uploads. The grammar was stilted, messy and some articles seemed to just sit there without action after creation. In 2007 the Esperanto community banned the use of bots to create articles. This slowed down article-growth, but helped the Wikipedia grow in a natural and qualitative manner. He also showed the link of the second list of "must-have" articles being worked out on Esperanto Wikipedia: https://eo.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vikipedio:Dua_listo_de_havendaj_artikoloj

The interface messages for Esperanto seem to be well translated on the Translatewiki.net. The respondents seem to be comfortable with the ease of typing on Esperanto Wikipedia, especially for Esperanto letters (Ĉ, Ĝ, Ĥ, Ĵ, Ŝ, Ŭ). The good aspect here is that a user does not have to search for "ĝ" to type "ĝi" (it); rather use the Esperanto X-system and just type gxi. The page will automatically display the word once it is saved. In case if "x", which is not an Esperanto letter is however needed to be displayed, then it should be typed twice. However, this also places a few problems - Simon Peter Hughes points out that one problem was that he once wanted to add an external link to an online Esperanto translation of "The wizard of Oz". It wasn't possible because there was a "cx" in the web address, which was automatically corrected to a c with a circumflex.Thus the problem of referencing Esperanto website addresses with "X" system needs to be looked into and addressed.

Talking about the suggestions for improving Esperanto Wikipedia two main suggestions have come in this survey - additional support for the usability of Wikidata as well as making more referenceable content accessible in Esperanto.

The best part of Esperanto Wikipedia revealed in this survey is that it is largely free from Edit-wars. Also, senior users and admins are extremely supportive and would like to extend a helping hand to all new users in understanding the language grammar as well as Wikipedia's editing rules. One is thus justified in hoping more growth on this Wikipedia because of this positive and friendly approach.

I would like to thank all Esperanto Wikipedians for the valuable input used in this Survey.

Syed Muzammiluddin, Wikipedian, Esperantist, Urdu translator of Prague Manifesto of the Movement for the International Language Esperanto

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Copyright Notes:: "File:Esperanta_Vikimanio_2011_MB13.jpg" by User:Blahma, under CC-BY-SA 3.0 Unported, from Wikimedia Commons