Tuesday, July 29, 2008

"a fight nobody should win"

Google has introduced it's Knol. It allows people to write an article about a given subject. This article is per standard licensed under the CC-by license but you can change this to either CC-by-nd  or "all rights reserved".

One way of getting information out is by publishing it, and publish it some more. Now, many Wikipedia articles have great content, so why not make all this wisdom of the crowds available on Knol as well ? Well actually you cannot from a legalistic point of view. The GFDL and the CC-by-sa are incompatible with the Knol licenses. So officially you cannot share Wikipedia content in Knol.

Some people created knols using Wikipedia articles. They have been told to desist. They are.. In this whole saga that developed on the Foundation list, there was one quote that caught my attention. "Knowledge should be free, right? This is a fight nobody should win". Meaning that we have to remember what we are about; getting information to people. Now in my opinion, if a knol is licensed as CC-by an uses Wikipedia content, I would not find it a problem. When people make the information LESS free, it would be arguably be a different thing. All the rest is politics.

Monday, July 28, 2008

My Wikimania presentation; the slides

These are the slides that I used at my presentation at Wikimania in Alexandria.. There is a rumour that my presentation will become available at the Kaltura website. Until this time, I think it is best that you can at least find what I have been talking about..

NB the slides can also be found here.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Rania Al Abdullah

Google reader provided me with this lead to a story on the BBC News website. In it, the first lady of Jordan takes on many of the stereotypes about Arabs and Islam in the west and she promotes modern Islam.

I have watched many of the videos and I recommend this presentation at Zeitgeist. Queen Rania is asking YouTubers to send her stereotypes about the Arab world so that she can address them. When you look at what is already on line, I hope that you will be impressed... yes men are hairy. :)

Being back from Alexandria Egypt, I can tell you that I had no idea what to expect. Now I have two Egyptian facebook friends and I learned a lot from them. I have seen the traffic of Egypt, the library of Alexandria I saw people pray. I have been thinking about what more can be done. Queen Rania indicates that information is key, particularly information for the younger generation. I think our Wikipedias should be part of this. Wikipedia is the most popular source of encyclopaedic information and consequently it should have great information about the Arab cultures, histories and peoples.

All our Wikipedias in all of our languages do not provide good, understandable information about the other cultures that are part of our world. Often the words used are not understood... What is "supplication" or "ablution" for instance ? When the articles are written in a way that expects our readers to know these things to start with, we fail our readers. It helps when the mechanics of the daily Muslin prayers are explained, including the washing, the carpet, finding the direction to Mecca... Most people do not have the full picture, and I still include myself here.

Someone, a people can be made an enemy only when they are not known, I think that Wikipedia can help in having information available for everyone who wants to know. Given that queen Rania's project is time limited, I think that it should be complemented by good information in Wikipedia. I hope she agrees with me.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Wikimania Alexandria

Wikimania has come and gone. For me it was as good as I could expect. There were many really nice people, I stayed at the dorms, they were cheap and cheerful, I met really nice people there and we had a great impromptu party on the balcony with music blaring from the internal speakers of a laptop allowing for great conversation. 

This Wikimania was different in several ways.
  • The Bibliotheca Alexandrina co-hosted with the Wikimedia Foundation.
  • There were no hacker days; I missed them and the folks that come for them
  • Egypt is in Africa, but there were no black Africans at all this time.
  • The organisation of the WMF is more mature, it showed
  • The keynote speeches were streamed there and then and are now available for your enjoyment.
Bibliotheca Alexandrina was a revelation to me. Its building is beautiful. Its director Dr Ismail Serageldin gave two inspiring speeches. It is developing Open Source software. It is digitising Arabic documents in two shifts and it has the only copy of the Internet Archive. All in all it provides inspriation what we can do when we have the money to realise our dreams.

This was the first Wikimania without what used to be the traditional "hacker days". I do not know why they were not there, probably because nobody organised them. I missed them. It is not only that the "hackers" did not come, with them many of the people managing wiki organisations did not come as well.

I was asked what did this Wikimania bring for Africa. I had to answer nothing. There were no people from countries like Nigeria, Ghana, Ivory Coast or Uganda. This was the first Wikimania without any people from black Africa. For the Arabic world however, this Wikimania was really important a lot of publicity has been given to our projects and ideals. The early indications are that we can anticipate an increased interest resulting in many new editors.

Most if not all of the WMF staff was at Wikimania. Much of the work of the WMF is reaching out to people and other organisations, where better to do this then at our own conference. Last year the emphasis was very much only on the board, I can imagine that next year Sue will be part of what is currently the board panel Q&A.

The Bibilotheca Alexandrina proved itself as well by streaming some of the key speeches on the Internet and making them available online. This is awesome. Many more presentations have been recorded, among them the one that I gave (these are my slides). I would really appreciate to be able to see the presentations I missed.

All in all this Wikimania was for me a great success, I am ever so happy that I went, I loved what I saw. The Egyptian people I met were genuinely nice people .. It is again a tough act to follow :)

PS I promissed myself to write about Wikimania once I got home. I did get home but I fell sick. This is my first opportunity to write.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Egyptian Arabic

It is a great moment when things come together.. Today, in what was probably her last official acts as chair of the board of the Wikimedia Foundation, Anthere confirmed that Egyptian Arabic is the next language to get a Wikipedia... It is fitting that it was in Alexandria, at Wikimania and in the opening speech that the approval for the newest Wikipedia was announced.

So congratulations to the people of the Egyptian Arabic Wikipedia !!

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Monday, July 14, 2008

The srn.wikipedia

The Wikipedia in the Sranang language was created in the last batch of new projects. It does feature more then the minimum localisation, it does have a sufficiently large number of articles and people who know the language attested that the language is indeed Sranang.

To my amazement I received the request to close the srn.wikipedia down. The language is not according to how Sranang should be written, it is called insulting to the people of Suriname. A good reason to close the Wiki ? Maybe a website but a wiki can only be improved when it is online. I have asked the gentleman who complained, to fix the localisation at Betawiki and collaborate on the srn.wikipedia.org

When I looked a bit further I found to my amazement on the Wikipedia in the Dutch language problematic Babel templates for the Sranang language.. They are all wrong as they used the wrong code. The person who decided that a template was in order used the wrong codes, used text in the Dutch language and was not willing to fix it.. so I did fix the codes I do not know the language ...

In a way, I am pleased that there are people who take offence when their language is not well presented. When they take the consequence and fix things, when they lead by example it means that a project gets a life. Wikipedia is not only a place where you can express your language it is also the place where you have to express your language well. When I look at it from another perspective, with more people involved in a Wikipedia there will be more content. It will make the language more visible and in the end this is exactly what the Sranang Wikipedia needs.. I think that this is a positive development..

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Wikipedia in Afrikaans

The Wikipedia in Afrikaans, is the first Wikipedia in an African language that has passed the 10.000 number of articles. I am really happy that finally there is an African language that reached this level, I hope that many more Afican languages will be able to follow where Afrikaans is leading..



Tuesday, July 08, 2008

More statistics

Statistics are great to explain things, to show trends. When the numbers are understood, the statistics based on those numbers provide excellent value.

Nikerabbit is working on the Betawiki statistics at the moment. I do not know all the goodies he is planning, but the first batch is really interesting. Niklas has added statistics to the portals for the languages. When you look at the Dutch portal for instance, you will find under the Babel values a graph with the edits pers day over a period of a month. I think Niklas put it in a reasonable place, it gives a clue as to the recent activity for a language, and I can imagine that it helps to keep people interested.

I have also been given a static graph of the number of edits. This shows how the activity on Betawiki develops. When you compare these numbers with the well known group statistics and the group statistics in time, you get the feeling that when a language is more or less finished, the involvement in Betawiki wanes.. What you can observe is that the support for a language often happens in spurts.

Now that the Wikimedia Foundation has hired Erik Zachte to work more of his statistical magic, it will be interested to learn if he can find a relation between the localisation of MediaWiki and the number of editors, the number of readers of a project. It seems obvious, there is a lot of circumstantial evidence, but it will be really important when numbers support what is to me a conviction, a conviction that is shared by all of us here at Betawiki.

Saturday, July 05, 2008


Lingala is a language spoken in both the Democratic Republic of the Congo and in the Republic of Congo by some 2.1 million people. This language uses the Latin script for its writing and has some additional characters. Two examples are found in "nyɔ́nsɔ" and "Kɛndɛ"́. Sadly not all fonts show these characters correctly.

In order to fix this problem, in the CSS of the Lingala Wikipedia some changes have been added indicating what fonts show these characters correctly. Given that the purpose of pro
jects like Commons, Meta and Betawiki is to support all languages properly, I would suggest that it makes sense to adopt these changes on a wider scale.

Thursday, July 03, 2008

¿Hablas español?

According to Alexa, Spanish is the second language for Wikipedia considering the amount of traffic it generates. There must be MANY people who use the Spanish Wikipedia. When you look at Betawiki, there are 20 people who indicated there wish to help with the localisation of Spanish.

¿Hablas español?

We are looking for people who speak Spanish, who are willing and able to help us with the localisation of MediaWiki into Spanish. Not only the WMF extensions (41.29% ) but also the MediaWiki core messages (91.84%) are in need of attention..

When Spanish is not your "language", you may want to check out how your language is doing..

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

On the monthly Betawiki info

This month's Betawiki statistics need some explanations. The numbers are down for the "most often used 98%" category from 112 to 110. This is odd because these messages have been stable for quite some time now. It turns out that the friendly Betawiki developers have changed how they assess what goes into the numbers; the FUZZIED messages, messages that for whatever reason need attention, are no longer included and consequently the numbers are down for now.

The numbers of the MediaWiki core localisation has gone up and so did the messages for the WMF used extensions. This shows that even though there are FUZZIED messages in there as well, there is continued work done on many languages. It also shows that there is a need for more work to be done for many languages.

The Single User Logon is active, and it needs localisation on all projects in order to work really well. Localising on a local wiki is a waste of time because who can do this on the 700+ wikis of the Wikimedia Foundation ??

The aging of watching television

According to an article on Slashdot, the median age of people watching television is rising. Currently the median age for several US-American networks is 50. From a marketing point of view, the 18 to 49 is considered the most valuable one. A funny situation arises; the customers are ageing and given that the networks have a choice; do they acknowledge this trend in their programming or will they continue to program for a teeny public.

I would like to understand these numbers better;
  • Are less people watching people 
  • Are the young watching less television
  • Are the old watching more television
  • What are the people doing that do not watch television
When people move away from the television and move on to the Internet, you can still find the same way of working; I do not use Microsoft's MSN network because of its ridiculous amount of advertising. As I can typically  find interesting info elsewhere as well, I am sure that a fight will be fought about control of information on the Internet . The advertisers have no control of the web and find it hard to influence how people access information and as long as they don't, the Internet will be useful as well as informative.