[Wikipedia-l] Re: One Chinese Wikipedia

Henry H. Tan-Tenn share2002nov at lomaji.com
Fri Sep 10 06:30:10 UTC 2004

Mark Williamson wrote:

> Wikipedia would be the first major website to pursue a unified zh:,
> with IBM, Microsoft, Linux, and just about everybody on the face of
> the earth having separate versions for simplified and traditional
> Chinese. To have a unified version is not workable.

Well, there's something to be said about innovation :)  Seriously, 
should this work on a technical basis, it'd be a contribution to Han 
character interoperability *at a community level*.

> It is not merely a difference in characters as perhaps some would like
> you to believe, but much more than that. It is very easy to convert
> traditional characters to simplified, but it is much trickier to do so
> vice-versa. zh: is almost completely in simplified chinese.

My limited observation does yield the impression that simplified Chinese 
is dominant (the interface not withstanding).  Whether that is due to 
the head start by Simplified editors (who jump-started zh) and/or less 
success in attracting or retaining Traditional editors, is beyond me.  I 
have heard *unconfirmed* stories of Traditional editors leaving the 
project in recent months, but the reasons aren't clear to me).

/* snip* /

> In addition, the entire user interface is in simplified. This makes it
> extremely uncomfortable for a person who uses *exclusively*
> traditional to use zh:, and it will scare many users away (as
> Laurentius admits, sie was at first scared away because of the
> dominance of simplified; for every user that comes back after being
> initially scared away by this there are perhaps 300 that never come
> back). zh-tw:, on the other hand, the last I checked, had a UI
> completely in Traditional.

I am sympathetic with this point of view.  It seems to be that zh (as is 
probably true of Wikipedia in general) has a core of well-educated 
editors.  This is likely to be a group to have had exposure to both 
scripts, in a way that is perhaps atypical of most casual Internet 
users.  The same group is likely to underestimate the difficulty 
Traditional users (and maybe vice versa) have in utilizing the 
simplified script.  Thus a unified (but Simplified-dominated) ZH will 
likely remain more of a niche project than the wildly popular EN for 
quite some time.

/* snip */

> If we are to have one dominant version, it should be traditional since
> traditional characters are much easier for a simplified user to read
> than vice-versa since they already have to learn them to read
> classical literature and such.

I still hope (as the ignorant often do?) that a technical solution could 
be found such that (1) the interface is dual-script, thus addressing the 
"scare factor" that will keep ZH a niche project, and (2) the 
Trad/Simp/Bi editors may work on the same article for each topic in a 
familiar or chosen script.

No technical solution will, of course, address the differences in 
vocabulary among Taiwan, PRC-Hong Kong, PRC-Mainland (and God forbid, 
Singapore and PRC-Macau).  The differences are sometimes considerable in 
certain technical and pop cultural fields, though they should not be 

> For example, any random 50 characters you choose in Simplified might
> map to any of 100 or so characters in Traditional chinese, as you can
> imagine this leads to a great deal of ambiguity.
> Also, Laurentius and others are trying to portray events on zh: as
> complete 100% consensus that a united version should be kept although
> this is far from the truth.
> --Jin Jun-shu (Mark Williamson)

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