[Foundation-l] Preservation of cultural diversity and minority languages

Gerard Meijssen gerard.meijssen at gmail.com
Sat Feb 9 07:08:43 UTC 2008

When you consider that asking people who value, who treasure their language
have to pay for the privilege of having a Wikipedia, Wikisource or whatever
project "symbolic", then I do not care for your definition of symbolic. When
living languages, living cultures are to pay their own way, it can be argued
that they already do because they do not get much for free.

There are things that cannot be expressed in any language, languages do not
have the same terminology. With different concepts it is not possible to
express the same point of view in the same way, often it is not possible to
express a particular point of view about a different language. The true
value of our projects is not that we CAN but that we TRY to communicate
information about different cultures. The true value of our projects is that
we have so far not discriminated that much against other languages and

By exclusion of cultures and languages you lose valuable people and
insights. This type of discrimination is the result of a lack of awareness
and respect for the culture of others. If anything, it should be a goal of
the Wikimedia Foundation to preserve cultural diversity and minority
languages. It should not even be seen as a secondary goal; by making it a
secondary goal it is implied that other things come first. The reality is
that if a language is to prosper in the Wikimedia Foundation, it is for the
people that care about their language to make it happen. They do this with a
lot of energy, their energy. They do this without taking anything away from
other languages or cultures or WMF projects. You cannot make them write in
any other language because they are volunteers like you are. The only thing
you can do is make them feel not welcome any more.

It is not trivial to start a new language, a new project in the Wikimedia
Foundation. You have to really care, and you have to really make an effort
for your language, your project. When you analyse the localisation efforts
it is interesting to see that Upper Sorbian and Seeltersk do a better job
then Japanese or Turkish. When you consider the improvements in the
localisation, you will find that it is these "second class" cultures and
languages that do well. When you consider the relative merit of our
projects, the Bangla Wikipedia provides a more vital service then the
English Wikipedia. It is more vital because the Bengali Wikipedia is the
only resource that is encyclopaedic in nature; it has no peer while in
English there is the Encyclopaedia Britannica among several others. There
are "only" 170.million people that speak Bengali.

It is for these reasons that if the WMF is true to what some call the
primary objective, it should spend more on languages other then English
because the return on investment is not as good for English. When you then
state that Wikipedia is a FREE resource, it can be safely argued that this
is a secondary objective.

When you think that our new projects will fail, you must have missed that
the bar to entry has been raised considerably. The bar has been raised to
make it easier for people to *use *a project in a language. It is this
raising of the bar that prevents the request for a Turkish and Japanese
Wikiversity to be approved at this time. It is not that we expect these
projects to fail, it is just that they have to comply with the same
requirements as any other new project.

It is the language committee that has as one of its objectives to prevent
new projects from failing. Any new project will start with a substantial
level of localisation, it will have initial content and an initial
community. It is for this reason that the Incubator is such a success; when
an Incubator project does not reach sufficient maturity, it is allowed to
wait until it does.

I prefer to have a Wikimedia Foundation that is welcoming to people of all
cultures. If this is an organisation that does not feel good to you, I would
invite you to stay within your own little project and not bother or care
about these other cultures and languages. There is room enough for us all as
we are all volunteers and we all do our own thing.


On Feb 9, 2008 1:20 AM, Andrew Whitworth <wknight8111 at gmail.com> wrote:

> On Feb 8, 2008 6:24 PM, Gerard Meijssen <gerard.meijssen at gmail.com> wrote:
> > Hoi,
> > The costs you are talking about are peanuts. Small projects do not cost
> us
> > much.
> It was a symbolic point. If other organizations want to share our
> servers, they can share in our costs. If people want the WMF to be
> pursuing all sorts of secondary goals, then they should be willing to
> pay, even if the price is only a pitance.
> > What it will cost is a big blue eye for the Wikimedia Foundation
> > because its relevance will be seen as reduced. Apparantly you do not see
> > that by excluding languages you exclude the points of view that these
> > languages and their associated cultures provide.
> And you do not see that the points of view of a culture can be
> expressed in any language. We can write about aboriginal POV in
> English, or Inuit POV in Spanish. We aren't restricted to "one
> language, one world view" per project. The true value of our projects
> is that we can communicate information about a culture in many
> languages.
> > When the WMF does not want to host the less and least resourced
> languages
> > anymore, there is no need for WMF hosting. There is no need to be
> treated
> > like a beggar.  There are other organisations happy to take over any
> > community that does not feel at home anymore in the Wikimedia
> Foundation.
> > The question will be, will these communities be granted  the right of
> > departure ??? How do you think the WMF will be perceived when
> communities
> > start leaving  because they do not want to be treated as second class
> > citizens ???
> I have thought about this, and that's why I advocate that we do not
> create projects which are destined to become second class. A little
> bit of quality control at the beginning can prevent big PR disasters
> when those projects fail. In fact, if we are worrying about public
> perception of the WMF decreasing after a fork or a split, then we
> should increase our scrutiny and decrease the amount of new language
> projects we create in the first place.
> Instead of creating new projects, having them fail, and then be
> absorbed by some other nameless organization, I'm saying we
> proactively create that second organization, and task it with putting
> these small languages in the forefront. Turn small languages into the
> first-class citizens by having a foundation that caters specifically
> to them.
> --Andrew Whitworth
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