MediaWiki is the software platform for all the Wikimedia Foundation's projects and it is to support all the languages 260+ languages we currently support. Many of our projects are really successful. Wiktionary for instance is the most popular lexical resource on the Internet. Wikipedia is the most popular encyclopaedic resource on the Internet.
In order to provide quality support for all our projects and languages, it is important that we define the minimal support we can expect of MediaWiki. At this moment there are languages that are not deemed eligible by the language committee because MediaWiki does provide the necessary support. This is because we do not want to make the support situation worse.
The need for support for the small languages
Many people exclusively associate the English Wikipedia with Wikipedia and assume that when software is developed for Wikipedian it will function for all projects give or take a sprinkling of internationalisation and localisation. This is true up to a point, but the problem is that the needs of the "other" wikipedias is not considered or deemed to be hardly relevant because the largest number of people are with the Wikipedia.
An example: supporting the Babel information
The Babel information is currently implemented as templates on the bigger Wikis. All implementations are more or less the same. To bring the Babel information to a new Wikipedia is a lot of unnecessary work, unnecessary because there is a configurable Babel extension that does provide the same functionality without this hassle. The Babel extension is not used by the WMF because it is "not necessary, the templates work fine"...
An example: supporting the lingala language
The Lingala Wikipedia has a problem with particular characters in the edit mode. This has everything to do with a lack of font support for particular versions of operating systems and browsers. One solution is that everybody uses Linux, the Dejavu font and installs additional Dejavu fonts. This is however not realistic. As it is, fingers are pointed elsewhere, hacks are implemented in CSS but they do not work in Commons...
As it is, it is not clear if and to what extend the Wikimedia Foundation supports languages. There are numbers for money earmarked for the English Wikipedia, but there is no clarity on the amount of money or effort that is spend on "other" languages. To keep things in perspective, the English Wikipedia is around half of the Wikipedia traffic and consequently it is easy to argue for money and dedication can be spend on the other languages and projects.
The conversation about the strategic role for the "other" languages and projects is helped when some real numbers are produced by the WMF Office. When there are no numbers in money or time, it would already be something when activities can be named. One recent example is time spend to assess and amend the LocalisationUpdate extension another is the recent creation of 5 new projects.
Defining the need
There are problems with the support for many of our languages. Information about this is scattered and consequently it is not easy to do better. When we are to support our languages, we should look for the issues we face in supporting particular languages and address them starting with the biggest languages. It should be clear that when we ask our community to identify their language issues, we commit effort in addressing these issues. It should also be clear that there will be hard issues and soft issues. We should pick the low hanging fruit where we find them.
The need for support of other projects
Projects like Wiktionary, Wikinews, Wikibooks, Wikiversity, Wikispecies, Wikiquote, Wikisource and Commons have their own needs and problems. They have their needs. These projects are doing well but they would do better when they get their support. In many ways the pattern as used for languages can be followed:
- do we invest in them and how much do we invest
- what is the strategic value of these projects or do we WANT to invest in them and what do we hope to achieve.
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