[Foundation-l] Introduction to the internal workings of the language subcommittee

Jesse Martin (Pathoschild) pathoschild at gmail.com
Sun Apr 13 20:21:17 UTC 2008


Several people in the recent discussions, most recently Brian and
Dovi, have asked about how the subcommittee reaches decisions and
whether they can join to present their viewpoint. Here's a brief view
into the wonderful world of the language subcommittee. Being a
productive member of the subcommittee requires a very large investment
of continuous time and effort.

The language subcommittee operates by consensus. This means that most
proposed decisions are discussed at length, and many tend to be
compromises. Virtually every aspect of the approval policy is a
compromise between very different positions in the subcommittee.
Although it's possible to make a decision over the objections of one
member, this requires lengthy discussion to attempt a consensus, and a
complete consensus of the rest of the participating members. This is a
very time-consuming and stressful process, so that a single member can
block a decision for a long time. However, it ensures that all
viewpoints are heard and fairly represented.

The members of the subcommittee hold some significantly different
opinions on several issues, and have significantly different
priorities. As such, monthly discussion frequently outstrips many
public mailing lists, and is sometimes heated. Discussion in January
alone totaled some 20000 words.

Many discussions can be very technical, particularly those concerning
language code classification and technical accommodations for
particular languages (like sign languages). This requires research and
a good understanding of the subject at hand, and is a further drain on
time and effort.

Furthermore, after investing so much of your free time and effort on
this, you must then defend yourself from public criticism for being
slow, lazy, corrupt, arbitrary, and a sekrit cabal. When you're done
with that, you then spend more of your free time answering requesters'
questions and queries.

New members are chosen by consensus as well. Interested users tend to
desist when I explain how much fun it will be. A number of our members
are inactive; I want to ensure that new members know what they're
getting into, and won't freak out and vanish when they're approved.

All this is why GerardM said "When the only reason to become a member
of the LC is to argue a case, it makes little difference ;we can
discuss on this list as effectively". Being a member of the
subcommittee involves more than simply arguing your favourite subject.

If all that sounds fun to you, you're welcome to apply.

Yours cordially,
Jesse Plamondon-Willard (Pathoschild)

On Sun, Apr 13, 2008 at 4:59 AM, Dovi Jacobs <dovijacobs at yahoo.com> wrote:
>  >"Imagine a world in which every single human being can freely share in the
>  >sum of all knowledge. That's our commitment." The best way to inform is by
>  >using the mother tongue of people.
>  Mother tongues are the best, but providing information in one of
>  the great classical languages of Western civilization is also
>  a lovely idea for sharing the "sum of all knowledge." Probably
>  more useful than a few of the current European languages that
>  are hardly spoken as first languages anymore (not that I have
>  any objection to those either).
>  You do not need "native speakers" (mother tongue) to set up a
>  project. I had the pleasure of getting the Hebrew Wikisource
>  up and running, currently with many active contributors
>  and over 4,000 texts. Hebrew is not my "native" (mother) tongue
>  but I can contribute on a professional level. Same might be
>  said for contributors in many languages. What you need are
>  active, competent contributors, not native speakers or "mother"
>  tongue.
>  Gerard, you repeat your arguments about neologisms at length,
>  adding nothing new, and then conclude:
>  >The arguments the language committee uses are clear. They are published and
>  >they are objective. You may not like them, but they are the arguments we
>  >use. When people have issues, the arguments have to be convincing to make a
>  >difference.
>  No, Gerard. Your arguments are indeed published, but they are
>  not objective. It is *you* who have to convince the community
>  at large that your arguments are correct.
>  >We use the ISO-639-3 as a reference. You are
>  >welcome to apply for a label for reconstructed Old Greek.
>  No need, "grc" will do just fine!
>  I would like to add that I have no personal interest whatsoever
>  in grc.wikipedia.org (my Greek is rudimentary). But I do have great
>  respect for the fine contributions by others that I saw. And
>  I think that the way the arguments have been made and the process
>  has been handled need improvement.
>  I again repeat my request for information about the language
>  committee. I would like to see more voices and greater diversity
>  of opinion on it. How is its membership determined?
>  Dovi

On Sun, Apr 13, 2008 at 5:10 AM, Gerard Meijssen
<gerard.meijssen at gmail.com> wrote:
> Hoi,
>  In the language committee things are done by consensus. If you want to
>  become a member of the committee, you will find that there are things that
>  are at best a compromise. When the only reason to become a member of the LC
>  is to argue a case, it makes little difference ;we can discuss on this list
>  as effectively.
>  If you are interested in doing the work that we do in the LC, you will want
>  to know about all the esoterica that are part of understanding how languages
>  are dealt with technically, its different standards and their interaction.
>  If you do not care for that, you can implement the procedures as they are.
>  Thanks,
>      GerardM

On Sun, Apr 13, 2008 at 9:41 AM, Brian McNeil
<brian.mcneil at wikinewsie.org> wrote:
> Congratulations on responding without answering any of the points or
>  questions raised... Again.
>  This, Gerard, is you, and you alone. I am not aware of the language
>  committee appointing you as a spokesperson and you do a fine impersonation
>  of Ian Paisley as "Dr. No". I've never seen you concede a point or accept
>  anyone other than yourself has a valid argument. You assert that the basis
>  for your position is the unstated guidelines to which the language committee
>  allegedly works.
>  There was one clear and unambiguous question in the email you responded to;
>  it came in two parts, and was a repeat of an earlier query. It would be most
>  civilised to answer the question and not assert that the discussion should
>  simply continue here. The option you offer is a complete and utter waste of
>  time for everyone else on the list. I am none the wiser about how the
>  language committee operates than I was nearly a year ago when I signed up,
>  but by golly! Have I had to read a lot of messages from you that tell other
>  people they're not qualified to give input.
>  Brian McNeil

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