Task force/Local language projects/Planning summary
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This page is intended to summaries those thoughts that has been discussed through the planing process but for which there has been no strategies formed or there has been disagreements on what paths to take. The idea is to collect these thoughts so that discussions that has been valuable, but not has lead to actuall strategies, not will be lost. This document could serve as starting ground for continued work, if later undertaken. If you feel that any of your thoughts hasn't been considered or you have anything to add but don't know how to make it into an actuall strategy, please add your thoughts here. Try to keep thoughts in this document self contained and structured. Also try to keep the document itself as one single running piece of information, that is, intend to make it accesible to any reader that wants to read it from begining to end without much or any earlier knowledge on the subject.
Droped proposal about a translation interface/toolkit
Translation of articles is one way in which Wikimedia projects in local languages can grow. To organize a team that translates any significant amount of articles to some or all languages would require an enormous team and amount of time. There is however things that can be done to simplify the translation process, increasing the likelyhood that anyone would volunteer to translate an article. And increasing the amount of volunteering translators by any percent would be a much more effective approach than to organize actual translation by a few translators.
Today translation of articles can be done by looking up the source of an article, locating or creating the corresponding article in the new language, copy the source from the source article to the edit box of the new article. Then actual translation as well as location and replacement of links can be done. Alternatively the source of the original article ain't copied, but instead the original article read and translated in the edit box of the new article. In each case the process puts a responsibility on the translator to handle links and formating of the article that might stop many people that are very able to translate but find the extra work of these other tasks to difficult or cumbersome.
If the process involved in translation can be simplified so as to put a minimum of other duties than actuall translation on the translator, the number of people willing to translate would probably grow. Thereby such a solution would also stimmulate the growth of smaller Wikimedia projects.
Another problem that arises when articles from large Wikipedias are translated into smaller language Wikipedias is that errors get copied. In large language Wikipedias the errors are quickly corrected but on the smaller ones it stays for a long time, because there are less people able to correct it. More effort into indicating the quality of large language articles could help translators judge the value of the article they translate.
Strategy for simplifying translation
Translation could be simplified by automating some steps of the translation process and present translators with a simpler interface. Add an option in the left menu that reads "translate" that takes anyone into a page where which language to translate into can be choosen. When the language has been choosen, let the MediaWiki software replace all links that has a corresponding links in the new language by those corresponding links, and present to the translator a source that has the least amount of markup language possible. Some simple way of toggling between the new and original article and the source of the new article might be useful. Another possible feature for the translation interface could be to incorporate some machine translation toolkit that can be used by the translator if it seems to help.
Such a solution means a small addition to the source but could have very big effects even if it just rises the number of people that translates by a small fraction. It is a solution that every Wikimedia project would benefits from, but that still require a minimum of work organized by the WMF.
Some obstacles: Even though the solution would make it easier for translators to translate articles there are some obstacles that has to be considered. What about if there allready exists an article in the language that covers the subject in a different but less extensive way? Are there ways to incorporate the information from the existing article into this. And articles that are pure translations of other articles might not even be what is wanted, maybe the content actually should have some approperiate local twist. So policies about what kind of articles that actually can be translated with this method might have to be worked out. Further, the wording of sentences might often be so different that the placement of the links might have to be rearanged. Maybe two links have to appear in opposite order and the actual text of the link might also need to be bent in another way than the automatic machine replacement of links would do. The later problems does however only require that the interface is sufficiently advanced to allow to deal with such problems.
The problem of copying of errors could be addressed by some kind of quality indicator for articles that makes it easier for translators to judge the value of a certain article. Also when a corrections is made to an article in one language there might be a good idea of having some way to notify the other articles about the change. However, the articles in different languages might have reasons to differ from each others and a notification of every change in every language may just create an irrelevant flood of such notification to all other articles. Some way of notifying other language articles about factual corrections or major changes or additions to article content might be a good idea. Could each article have a list of such corrections made in other languages, with possibilities to filter out changes made in given languages?
Note: The following proposals has considered creating a simpler editing interface in general:
The usability initiative (http://usability.wikimedia.org/wiki/Main_Page) might be an answer to this. From a local language perspective there is along the line of the bandwidth recommendation also important that such a solution takes into consideration that it should be quick to operate even on slow internet connections.
Further thoughts from the planing process
Fostering the open content movement
The open content movement is young even in countries where Wikipedias has succeeded, even more so in less developed countries. This toghether with the "expert knowledge cannot be produced by non-experts" view hinders developement of local language Wikipedias. Fostering a positive view toward this would help. The open content movement seems to agree with the philosophy of Islam (and probably most other religions too) which could help such fostering.
Translation of wiki content could help kick-start a Wikipedia. Concentrating such translation on educational/technological/computer related articles could help attract native users that are most likely to themself contribute. However, it is probably most important to translate articles that are of most relevance for people in the region of the local language. Word-by-word translation is however a painful process and concentrating on "retelling" the article content might be a more effective way of translation.
There is a translation project for Arabic Wikipedia that uses googles translation toolkit to simplify translation, but almost every sentence has to be corrected. Translation of articles made by bots or translators that ain't from the area of the local language themself are prone to concentrate translation on material that doesn't agree with interest of the local people, which makes the Wikipedia grow, but in an area that will be of no use. At http://www.translatewiki.net translation is concentrated to articles that are seen and thought to be of importance for local users.
What languages might be most important to translate into is hard to tell. There has been proposals that the official languages of the United Nations (Arabic, Chinese, English, French, Russian, and Spanish) are important languages. A wider language scope of around 40 languages could include lingua francas because they in turn could be a base for further translation. How do we judge which languages are most probalbe to make most impact if translated into?
Experienced Wikipedia editors could provide technical support to translators with knowledge in a small language that are willing to translate articles but finds it to difficult for technical reasons. Translation groups consisting of experienced Wikipedia editors, people with knowledge in a small language but from the same country as the Wikipedia editor and native speakers could provide a good ground for translation of articles. Such a group could for example consist of a Wikipedia editor, people he knows that has done voluntary work in a developing country and contacts the volunteers has in the actuall country. Such a collaboration could eventually lead to actuall knowledge production from within the area of the local language. Maybee organisations such as Engineers Without Borders (http://www.ewb-international.org/) would be willing to arange such groups as they are technology oriented and easily can learn to edit a Wikipedia, the aim of translation agrees with their knowledge spreading philosophy and they might have good contacts in developing countries.
Can well established Wikipedias help smaller Wikipedias to grow?
Successful Wikipedias could help smaller Wikipedias by providing templates, technical information, coordination of local language projects. Some positive experience from such cooperation has been found in the Russian language project ru:Википедия:Проект:Малые разделы Википедии на языках России.
However, a problem that can arise when large language Wikipedia editors try to help small language Wikipedias is that moral and value standards from the former is imposed on the later which might hinder developement. One such value can be quality, which might be among the most important for a large language Wikipedia. To much emphasis on it on a small Wikipedia can hinder its developement because the most important thing there is to get past the infliction point where the project doesn't depend on individual editors. It is important that the large language Wikipedia contributors realizes the importance of the smaller language Wikipedias for cooperation to be successful. Because when it is consider that the newbie experience is nasty for the "mature" Wikipedias and that the growth of editors is the key to the health of smaller projects, the help from larger Wikipedias could even be counter productive if these problems ain't realized and dealt with in an approperiate way.
Creating strong local communities
The strength of Wikimedia projects is their independence. When a strong local community is formed, the local wiki will develop itself. Therefore, it is first important to help the development of local communities and chapters. A local chapter will know best how to promote the local project in the local society/culture. A local project shouldn't have to invent the wheel again, so valuable advice about general project and community development should be available when asked for. This can be done by monitoring their development offering help when problems are encountered in an active (but not authoritarian) way. A short yearly report (at meta) could raise awareness of the problems and advantages of a certain project, and after every report experienced users from other projects could have the opportunity to post advice and comments.
Cooperation between different Wiki-projects at a meta
Contributors with specialist knowledge might be hindered from contributing to large language Wikipedias because the large language ain't his first language and he feels to insecure to use it. The contribution will then only benefit the small language Wikipedia and will remain in isolation because of the language barrier. Cooperation on global wikiprojects over the language borders, on a meta where experts in one subject but with many languages can join, could help pull such contributors out of isolation. Also multiple versions of the same topic in different languages are now created by each project inventing their own wheel. To bring people from different projects together can be done by giving meta a larger role in sharing experience and knowledge about community and project building. The page at meta can be the place where users from small projects can raise questions about content that can be discussed/answered by the experts of larger projects. Meta could host wiki-embassies and wikiprojects shared by multiple projects, corners where users from different projects can share information. Most contributors to meta are at the moment admins and wiki-politicians. The user type that adds content should be encouraged to join too. If a wikiproject exists at multiple projects (example: en|it|fr|pl|sv|pt|de|etc) an umbrella project page could be made at meta, where all discussions that don't exclusively have local importance should go. Meta-wikiprojects will also encourage participation in meta by the type of user that only adds content and isn't interested in wikipolitics. What here is meant by a wiki-embassy is not the thing found at many smaller projects, but a project page at meta where a local wiki presents itself (differences with other projects, what the community finds important, how they work, etc). Many wikis have different guidelines/rules, which can be confusing for a new user accustomed with another project. There should be an 'ambassador' for every project too, one (or more) user(s) to man the embassy. Their task would be to notice the local community when there are developments at meta and vice versa, and to write the yearly report.
The usefullness of coordination of such projects at a meta is however questioned, and what kind of material that would be intresting to present there is unclear. For projects undertaken by a single or a few editors the extra effort put into writting repports hardly will seem worthful to them, especially because the information has to be presented in another language than their own to be useful for others. And all projects not in the top 50 are likely to be projects where individuals may have a strong influence on a project. Anyway, some examples of data that could be of use is statistics (content/users/pages/vandalism) with some comments, local decisions/solutions about community problems.