[Foundation-l] Fate of "Simple English"

Gregory Maxwell gmaxwell at gmail.com
Wed Feb 22 20:26:28 UTC 2006

On 2/22/06, Delirium <delirium at hackish.org> wrote:
> I can see the point of the Simple English Wikipedia, but IMO it's not
> likely to attract enough attention to be useful.
> The argument is that since so much of the world turns to English as a
> second language for information, it would be useful to have an English
> Wikipedia written in simple, easy-to-understand English, but at the same
> time we don't want to banish the use of "big words" from the normal
> English Wikipedia and require it to be written in some sort of
> lowest-common-denominator English, so instead create a separate
> Wikipedia explicitly for that purpose.
> A good idea in theory, but the problem is that very few people seem to
> want to work on such a thing.  Even people who speak English relatively
> poorly as a second language seem (based on current evidence) to prefer
> to struggle through editing the "real English Wikipedia" than to
> contribute to the simple-English one.

Simple English wikipedia makes fantastic sense as a resource for
people who do not speak English as a primary language.... and it isn't
quite as adrift as Brion made it sound, at least last I checked there
was a proposed vocabulary.

I think the most important counter is the argument "How can we expect
to make a usable Simple English, when the English Wikipedia still
lacks sold coverage of so many fairly basic subjects you would expect
to find in an encyclopedia?".    If you accept that argument it would
follow that it makes sense to shut down simple English until English
moves on to the next stage of it's existence.... better tasking what
little resources are currently going into simple English.

But it's not that simple...

At least on English Wikipedia we've been almost completely unable to
agree on what is important and focus our resources on those tasks. For
some reason (perhaps inexperience?) most people seem to believe that
'volunteer' means completely disorganized... and as a result, even
though we have an unimaginable amount of man-hours of work being put
into the project, many basic things which are considered important are
being left to rot because we're afraid of telling people what to work

I've even seen it argued that we must permit and even encourage
various unprofessional looking content on userpages in order to
attract volunteers. ... I wonder if the people making these arguments
have ever been a volunteer at a off-internet organization?  Using
volunteer labor means simple that, it doesn't mean abandoning
professional standards, accountability, or proven practices for
reaching goals. But this has been lost on English Wikipedia.

Under this current model, the impact of keeping around a bit-rotting
and infrequently edited simple English Wikipedia is no different than
the impact of the multitude of elementary school stubs which are
created and then forgotten on En.  Harmless by itself, and there no
compelling reason to discourage it since we would be unable to
effectively focus any recovered resources.

Brion, would turning off simple english recover much of *your* time?
If so I could see a case for removing it, ... but that isn't the
argument you seemed to be making.

More information about the foundation-l mailing list