Sunday, May 08, 2011

The #MediaWiki support for #Chinese should not be a hack

When you read the Chinese Wikipedia in Chinese, you have the option to read the articles in either the simplified or the traditional characters. What makes it such an excellent experience is that people can edit in the characters they are comfortable with and readers will be presented in what is their preference.

The technology used is well proven and it has been in production for quite some time. It works extremely well within the Wikimedia Foundation but outside the WMF it is not clear or obvious how to implement it.

There have been requests at Wikia for this feature and they would implement it if they know how to. At we have people localise in both traditional as well as simplified Chinese and with some additional programming it will be possible to cut the needed effort in half.

As Chinese is generating so much traffic for Wikipedia, this is a good moment to make a formal extension out of the current hack. This will make it easy to provide the quality of language support MediaWiki can support everywhere.


brion said...

As far as I know the conversions are enabled by default in MediaWiki when a site is set to a language that supports conversions (zh, sr, some others).

Is there anything in particular that needs to be set up on some sites, or do people need clearer directions on how to use the conversion override markup?

brion said...

Actually the conversion appears to be working on -- I can use the variant= query string hacks or select a Chinese script variant in my preferences (even when my personal UI language is set to English, it seems to apply the Chinese conversions to page text as it should. Yay!)

* Wikia's custom skin does not show the variant tabs, so it's not obvious that a choice is available
* depending on how shared user preferences are implemented, the variant selection may or may not remain after saving prefs on another Wikia wiki that's not Chinese. (Seems ok in a quick test, but I have my suspicions)

And of course there may be no documentation explaining how to use the -{}- stuff to force manual conversion overrides. Heck I don't even know where to find that offhand. ;)