[Foundation-l] Simple Wikipedia: different projects

Milos Rancic millosh at gmail.com
Fri Jun 24 11:19:37 UTC 2011

On 06/24/2011 11:40 AM, Ray Saintonge wrote:
> On 06/22/11 1:46 PM, Milos Rancic wrote:
>> I have a friendly advice for you (and I hope that Michael and Gerard
>> wouldn't kill me because of that): If you are able to create really
>> valid community and your language is not considered as a world one (as
>> the case with Dutch is), and you really want to create Wikipedia in
>> simple language: (1) Create it inside of the main Wikipedia's
>> namespace. (2) Ask developers to install Incubator Extension when it
>> becomes a bit more mature. (3) Ask IETF for the language subtag
>> (something like "nl-simpel" or "nl-eenvoudige" or whatever you think
>> it is appropriate). (4) Ask Language committee for redirect.
>> I suppose that we would need a year or two to full implementation of
>> the Incubator Extension and redirects. I also think that no one from
>> LangCom would object such arrangement. Having the whole nl.wp
>> community behind such project is one thing, having a separate
>> community is another. If supported by nl.wp community, I wouldn't have
>> anything against not having scientific basis.
> By attaching enough bureaucratic requirements to an idea you can insure 
> that anything fails.  What is this scientific basis? No other Wikipedia 
> has had to face that challenge.  Leave it up to the people involved in a 
> simple project to develop their specifications as they go along.  
> Demanding that before they start is an effective way of blocking the 
> project before it starts. Wikipedia as a whole never achieved its 
> success by imposing such barriers on editing.
> Simple writing is more difficult than writing for a general audience. If 
> there is a small group of Dutch speakers ready to put something of the 
> sort together, preferably with a couple of educators among them, let's 
> encourage them to get on to it sooner rather than later.  If such a 
> project dies from neglect that's no big deal.  If language educators see 
> this as a viable model it may be just the thing that draws them.

The main difference between simple and natural languages is that simple
languages are not natural. They are constructed (or, more precisely,
controlled) languages with particular purpose.

So, the logical questions are: is that a valid constructed language (a
reliable and published definition is needed) and what's the purpose of
that language? Basic English and French definitions sound good (have to
check other) as the basis, and it is possible to write an encyclopedia
in those languages.

Because of the same reason why we are not able to allow encyclopedia in
pidgin languages (not to be confused with creole languages with the word
"pidgin" in their names), we are not able to allow writing encyclopedia
in COBOL, no matter how it looks like a natural language: it is not
possible to create encyclopedia in those languages. Similar would be
applied to any controlled language which doesn't have possibility to
express the full variety of contemporary knowledge. Because of the same
reason, encyclopedias in historical languages are not possible. [1]

Humans are intelligent enough to develop any language into fully
functional one. That's not a question. I am curious enough to see
encyclopedia written in COBOL, as well as contributors of Classical
Chinese and Old Church Slavonic are doing that interesting task whenever
they try to explain a thing which didn't exist in the time when those
languages were used.

I agree that there is significant difference between COBOL, Classical
Chinese and Old Church Slavonic at one side and any simple language at
the other. Encyclopedia written in the first three is of questionable
value, while the last one could be very useful.

Because of that LangCom didn't change its position in relation to the
historical languages, but in relation to the simple languages.

We could be sure that efforts for creation a project are valid if a
language could be recognized as a valid one by relevant linguist or by
community of speakers. In the case of simple language projects, there is
no community of speakers of that language as-is.

Note, also, that the project with the main purpose to be used by
children and not fully literate people is not, by its nature, an open
wiki, like any Wikimedia content project is, because: (1) they are not
likely to be able to write good definitions and good content according
to the prescribed rules; and when they are able (2) all of them tend to
develop full language. Lingua franca usage is completely other issue:
literate adult people are able to find a common ground to understand
each other and they are able to work according to the basic principles.

Then, who are the editors of our projects? Any organized group of
professionals around? I don't remember one. Simple English Wikipedia has
been built by the same volunteers of various backgrounds and inside of
the set of rules which are regularly treated as not welcoming by
professionals. The best future for a separate project in a simple
language with less than approximately 100M of speakers is to be started
by a group of teachers and then abandoned. And if we are talking about
Dutch, I would remind you that Dutch community doesn't have enough
manpower to drive Wikinews, which is hard to maintain, but it is more
general project than one intended to be driven by specific group of

Because of those reasons, I've given a straight-forward path for
creation of Simple Wikipedia in non-world-languages: Please, be
supported by your community, do the job and then we'll do the best to
meet your needs. Incubator Extension will be more and more useful for
such cases. If you followed a couple of previous discussions, that
extension is intended to be a full substitute for a full project, when
project has small community: anyone who comes to
"nl-simple.wikipedia.org" would see Simple Dutch Wikipedia as it is the
only project under that domain. I think that it is not about making
unreasonable bureaucratic requirements, but a fair offer.

Besides all of the things above, I am sure that Wikimedia Netherlands is
able to create a wiki not editable by the Internet to support a group of
teachers to create an encyclopedia in Simple Dutch; something like
"simple.wikipedia.nl" (or whatever) would be good enough. BTW, we have
similar issue because of different reasons for Native Australian
languages: It is likely that the only option for the most of those
languages is to create a set of private wikis hosted by WM AU. Wikimedia
Serbia has offered its domain and hosting for one Papuan language
(Alekano; they would get gah.wikipedia.rs) to omit regular requirements
by LangCom for the initial time and allow those people to "have their
own Wikipedia".

Bottom line is that I would personally host such projects, if no one
else is willing.

[1] That's, of course, about the present situation. When we conclude
that we've reasonably covered the most of natural languages, I would say
that we could experiment by allowing Wikimedia projects in other types
of languages, including the historical ones.

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