[Wikipedia-l] Re: Gothic Wikipedia

Ray Saintonge saintonge at telus.net
Sun Sep 19 20:51:10 UTC 2004

Jimmy (Jimbo) Wales wrote:

> It's important for all of us to all remember that we are all
>volunteers, and "I don't feel like it" is always a valid reason for
>not doing anything at all.
I know that that has a lot to do with what I do or don't do.  Our 
richness in things to do goes beyond imagination.  For as much as I may 
do I still leave many of my own projects incomplete.  I can't say that 
I'm proud of that personal shortcoming, but it is heartening when 
someone takes up an idea of mine and develops it far beyond what I ever 
could have done.  Being aware of that makes me a little more tolerant of 
the failings of others, but not less frustrated.

>I share Tim's concerns about small wikis, and some more besides.  For
>example, we don't have a big problem with wiki spam on large busy
>wikis, but it is a problem that is only going to grow worse, and small
>wikis without active communities will be ripe targets.
The one big advantage they still have on the smaller wikis is that the 
"Recent changes" remains at a manageable size.  That makes it easier for 
the regulars to spot something out of the ordinary like spam or vandalism.

>There was a time when we tended to say yes (accidentally or otherwise)
>to just about every proposed language.  But the simple fact of the
>matter is that we've already done all the easy cases of general
>interest, and the languages that we don't have are all going to need
>some scrutiny.
The audience should be one factor in any decision.  Without an audience 
what's the point?  There are still some significant languages without a 
wiki, and with a population that could be helped. (Singhalese, Hausa, 
Navajo, Quechua are examples from four different continents.)  These 
might even be encouraged if there were an inkling of desire to participate.

>I express no opinion on Gothic; I simply don't know enough to know.
>But I do make these observations... (1) while there appear to be
>somewhere between several hundred and several thousand speakers, to my
>knowledge *none* of those speakers use Gothic as their primary
>language or would have difficulty finding encyclopedia information in
>a language that they do understand (2) therefore, this is more of a
>linguistic research matter, so I wonder if perhaps what is really
>wanted is a wikibook type of place where speakers can share texts in
>the language, write texts in the language, write textbooks to help
>others learn the language, etc.
The community that speaks a dead or artificial language needs to exist 
beyond the walls of academia or Hollywood.  There is plenty in the 
various existing projects to accomodate these languages: Grammar guides 
in Wikibooks, ancient texts in Wikisource, vocabulary entries in 
Wiktionary.  It's difficult to justify a whole encyclopedia for a dead 
or constructed language that has done none of these.  In the early days 
such a language proposal could be viewed more favorably because none of 
these other projects existed.

Scaling the overall project involves balancing two extremes.  If a 
project is too big it bureaucratizes itself.  Rules and rule-making 
become ends in themselves for some parts of the community.  The average 
contributor can't keep up with it in any kind of informed way.  There 
are frequent votes to decide questions that only affect part of the 
community, and an old-timer who has gone off to deal with topics on 
another part of the pedia comes back to his old topic to find that it 
has been flooded with rules that make no sense to him.  It becomes very 
difficult to re-open the debate in the face of a rule-bound opposition.  
New projects can offer new ways of looking at a situation; this is why I 
was moderately supportive of the new Wikispecies project.  The way 
things are done on a new project where contributors can take the risks 
necessary for original development, with a reasonable chance of 
defending those risks is what will keep the wiki complex alive and in a 
state of dynamic growth.  Proposals that impose a certain regimentation 
on an entire family of projects need to be resisted; such would be the 
case with any insistance that all Wiktionaries follow the same format 
for articles.

The other extreme that scaling must face is the premature development of 
small projects, or ones with extremely limited growth potential.  The 
idea of a separate project to deal with the chemical elements had 
limited growth potential because on a practical level the number of 
elements is finite.  In theory that list could be expanded infinitely, 
but such a prospect within our lifetimes is not at all realistic.  There 
also appear to be some efforts to create some communities based on an 
absence of effort by a small number of individuals to work together with 
others.  The recent debate over separate traditional and simplified 
chinese wikipedias is a good example of this.  Although the zh-tw 
Wikipedia was set up in error, the debate that followed did show us how 
incredibly difficult it can be to get the genie back in the bottle.  
Similar proposals have been made for separate German and Hebrew language 
Wikisources.  I can understand where in the absence of  technical 
expertise the request for a separate project for an RTL  language would 
be sensible.  The arguments for German, however, seem to focus on the 
concept of being able to work better in an environment in their own 
language.  True as that may be it reflects an unwillingness to seek 
solutions to how to work together in a multilingual environment.  The 
underlying texts in whatever language are stable, and the difficulties 
relate to meta-matters about how we discuss the treatment of those 
texts.  How do we make the texts of one language more available to the 
readers of another?  To me that is one of the fundamental questions that 
Wikisource should seek to address.   Wikisource currently has a little 
less than 4,000 articles of which maybe 100 are German language texts.  
Considering that number is affected by having Bible and Book of Mormon 
entries on a one chapter = one article basis reduces the 4,000 
significantly for independant articles.

Synchrinized side-by-side edit boxes still remain just a dream.


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