Monday, January 30, 2012

#Wikimedia celebrating Februari 21

Every year the UN celebrates International Mother Language day. It is a moment to reflect on the many languages spoken and what we can do for their future in our society.

Some say that having a Wikipedia is one of the best ways of demonstrating the vitality of a language.  In a way it is. It is a place where a language is used to articulate all the knowledge in that language. When a subject is explained that is rather foreign to that language it is a challenge to cope. People manage by inventing new words or by borrowing from other languages.

Technically, we do need to know details about the grammar of the language, we need to know what script is used. These details are the same details that enable software developers to support a language in their application. This includes word processors, browsers. Everything you need to be active in this modern and increasingly digital world.

The Wikimedia Localisation team will host another "Office hours" on Freenode on February 21 2012 at 18.00 UTC. It will be a perfect time to discuss everything we do to support languages including web fonts, input methods, localisation. It will also be a perfect time to ask what you can do to support your language.

We want knowledgeable people to support us by being active in their "language support teams". We want them to verify what we do in MediaWiki and we want people to verify, append and amend what is known about a language in the standards like the CLDR.

Doing this for your language is what allows easy and obvious use of a language. It allows for information that is recognisable as being in your language. Helping you help your language is what we do. Helping you use your language is what we develop in MediaWiki.

Use #Mail not #Facebook

At the #Wikimedia Foundation we use open standards, free software and for what it is worth we do reach out to people using social media including Facebook. However, if you mean business, you truly want to get me to do something, Facebook does not provide me with the tooling that I need.

When you send me a message, a mail from within Facebook, I have to go into Facebook to read your message and possibly to reply. I do not have that mail in my mail environment. As a consequence I can not readily find it.

Facebook created in its mail a walled garden. I can use Facebook when I want to post some information, an opinion whatever. It is useless to me when people use it to send me mail; I cannot manage the information it contains.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

A doctor a day keeps the #Apple away

The #Wikimedia Foundation is into education. Apple is in the business of making money, preferably to the exclusion of others. Recently it proposed "new educational" tools that were supposed to make for a rich educational experience.

There is nothing wrong with providing tools that will provide students with a rich educational experience. However, when it breaks the standards that allow for the cooperation on such an experience, combine this with a EULA intended to prevent further distribution it proves rotten to the core.

For me it is clear, Apple moved completely and utterly to the dark side. The benefit of its possible superior technology is completely offset by the negative impact it has on the rest of society. Apple used to compete and do well because of its superior products and its customers were willing to pay a premium for this. By excluding cooperation and interoperability, the Wikimedia Foundation cannot sign up to what have the potential of  becoming a great educational product. It is sad that it has been poisoned by unacceptable conditions.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

#Wikipedia for free in #Africa with #Orange

Orange is the first to sign up to Wikipedia zero. Our ambition is a world in which every single human being can freely share in the sum of all knowledge. It is really awesome that the 70.4 million customers of Orange will be able to access Wikipedia in 20 countries for free on their mobile phone. They are in Botswana, Cameroon, Central African Republic, Egypt, Equatorial Guinea, Guinea Bissau, Guinea Conakry, Jordan, Ivory Coast, Kenya, Mali, Madagascar, Morocco, Niger, Senegal, Tunisia, Uganda, Niger, Senegal, Congo and Vanuatu.

Obviously, many languages are spoken in all these languages. It will be particularly interesting to learn what the effect will be on the editor community. So far, most if not all editing is done on computers. With this new potential for growing our readers, the availability of content is what will limit our growth.

These are the languages spoken in Africa, the numbers however reflect global traffic. As you can see, the existing traffic for the languages native to Africa is still really small.

For the Wikimedians interested and involved in Africa, this is the time to write content for Africa. When this content is what people read, it now has much more of a potential to really make a difference in sharing the sum of all knowledge with every human being.

Monday, January 23, 2012

#Facebook or #Google+

My mother decided not to look at her e-mail every day; it prevented her from doing things she likes more; reading a book. With so many options to procrastinate, I do not have too much time for either Facebook or Google+. I do need to follow up on news stories and to do that I use Google reader. I use it for a long time now and it works for me.

Recently the comments I used to add for people who followed me on Reader appear on Google+. This makes both Reader and Google+ more effective for me. People can share my comments and this has resulted in more people following me.

As it is easy and obvious to group people in one or more circles, I can target what to share with whom. It is not that I would not be happy to share this on Facebook, it is just that I do not care for Facebook that much. Personally I feel the same way about it my mother does about e-mail; I have better things to do.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

#Mifos in #Georgia

One of the projects at that has its own dynamic is Mifos. It does not just rely on the existing community of translators and it no longer relies on the Grameen foundation for further development. It is now developed by a community of developers with SolDevelo in Poland taking a lead role and implementing new features.

When you follow the translations for Mifos, you will find that the localisation for Georgian is well organised and largely done and that Mongolian is being started. At the same time, localisations in languages like Dutch, Hungarian, Khmer and Tagalog are doing fine.

Mifos is doing fine; its customers are asked for what they feel Mifos is lacking, there are several cloud implementations of the software and with a growing number of organisations implementing the software, more people have access to basic banking.

#Wikimedia #Netherlands #NewYear reception

The Dutch chapter organised its start of the New Year again in a Museum. What was not clear was that you had to register because there is a limit to how many people can have a tour at the same time. It was SO popular, that it was oversubscribed before this registered on most of us. The Teylers museum prepared a spectacular tour for us; it included a look at the first print of the Diderot and  d’Alembert encyclopaedia.

For the Wikipedians this is obviously a treat: seeing the first Western encyclopaedia and knowing that Wikipedia is just the latest incarnation of what started in the Enlightenment is quite awesome.

At the reception it became clear how many of the regular Wikimedians were absent. However, when several of the people present participate in the Teyler's writing challenge,  it will be proven well worth it.

Other subjects that were discussed were quite diverse as well;
  • a Geograph project for the Netherlands and combining this with the Wikimedia smartphone apps
  • statistics and whether the API data use is included
  • having pictures of persons on the Internet with or without names
  • ...
All in all a magnificent start of the year for Wikimedia Nederland.

Friday, January 20, 2012

#Testing, 123, testing, testing

Testing #MediaWiki is fun. There are many, many Wikis and they are all different. Yes, we can create tests for a plain vanilla WMF Wiki. In reality they are all different. They are different because most have their specific modifications, their own gadgets. All have the potential to fail what passed the integration tests for plain vanilla wikis.

To known this, you have to have tests in the first place and the WMF Localication team is getting to grips with the testing platforms and building the tests that enable continuous integration.

Building tests is fun. You start with software that seems to be working perfectly and the tests prove that it has issues. This may sound odd, because it is not as if the software was not tested. A test that can be automated is validated in different ways. When a browser shows characters only a little bit different when comparing output, an automated test will catch this when it compares it to what is defined as correct. In many ways, automated tests test on a lower level then what humans do.

It is just that we do not have the humans to test over and over again.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

#DBpedia supports #WikipediaBlackOut

#MediaWiki #I18N triage

Today with the English #Wikipedia blacked out, there is still enough to do for the Wiki die hards. Obviously there are more projects than just the English Wikipedia; there are Wikipedias in other languages and there are other projects like Wiktionary, Wikisource, Wikispecies, Wikibooks all deserving attention.

When you rely on language technology and when you are interested in helping with the MediaWiki language support, you may enjoy joining the I18N triage that will be on IRC at 15:00 UTC. The planning was done in advance on an etherpad and we hope / expect that many people will chime in on both the planned and maybe even with unplanned issues.

#WikipediaBlackOut for #Wikipedia

Monday, January 16, 2012

Overcoming the #Babel effect

One wonderful #Wikimedia tradition is to welcome newbies and as I am creating a lot of profiles, I am welcomed in many languages. Probably I am getting a lot of advise on what it is I am getting into, what I can do and how welcome I am to make a difference for that community.

On all my user pages I am adding Babel extension information. Not only do I indicate what languages I do speak, I also indicate that I do not speak the language that is local for that project.

Now that the Wikimedia Foundation is testing what messages send to users makes a difference, it seems obvious that a message in a language I do speak has a greater impact than a message in a language I do not know at all.

Asking for #Babel information is in a way exactly the same as asking people for their gender; it is to make sure that we address people in an appropriate way. There are plenty messages we want to share with our logged on users. Finding the best ones, translating them and using when appropriate will make me feel more appreciated, welcome and makes me more effective as well.


#Copyright is limited in time. The intention of copyright is twofold; it has always been a tool to curtail the distribution of information and it has been intended to extend the period an author can monetise exclusively a work authored by this person.

When you look at the politics of copyright, it is very much companies who insist on exorbitant measures to prevent activities they find objectionable. As they are not the beneficiaries of copyright, authors are, it places them as censors of the web; money is their objective. When you look at the track record of these companies and the organisations set up by them to do their dirty work, you find a long list of them not making payments to the authors whose rights they claim to protect. A great example are the compilation albums; the individual authors, bands almost never get what Big Content ought to pay them.

The situation is so stupid that it has been proven time and again that the people who download "illegal" music or movies are the same people who spend money buying DVD's  or going to the movies. This does not prevent this industry to insist that people are "stealing" and that they are losing money as a result.

Wikilivres is a website with a rich amount of content. It is based in Canada because the Canadian copyright laws are not as miserable as the USA laws are. The hosting has so far been done by a person, it has become too much of a burden. The hope is that the Canadian Wikimedia chapter will take over this wonderful project. It will give the Canadian chapter a reason to fight against the introduction of changes that will make the current Canadian copyright restrictions as obnoxious as the restrictions that prevail in their southern neighbour.

Translations in #SVG

Scalable Vector Graphics provide wonderful crisp illustrations that look smart in any size. Texts can be included in such graphics for instance to point to a named detail. When text is included, it scales with the image.

It is possible to include texts in multiple languages in a SVG image. For us the trick is to make these translations available in MediaWiki.

After a first stab at translations for SVG at the Toolserver, Harry Burt (User:Jarry1250) has gone one better and started writing an extension that will allow for the translation of SVG texts at Commons. To do this, Harry needed access to the Wikimedia source repository. He did get access and has written a prototype extension. He submitted a patch that allows the same SVG to be rendered in different languages, but it may take time for that to become part of MediaWiki core.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

The object of objects

The Museo del Objeto del Objeto is the latest museum that contributed pictures to Commons. This is a museum from Mexico and it is a museum about objects. Objects that are used in everyday live and particularly objects that are used in Mexico.

When you think of it, many objects that played a major role in the early parts of your life are now obsolete, they have been replaced by later iterations or just went away. Some of these objects still exist and for some, people have to guess what they were used for. A museum that saves such objects is exactly the kind of museum that has pictures that are easy to use in our Wikipedia articles buy are hard to categorise. 

The picture of the Dromedary cigarettes is the one I like best. It looks like the Camel cigarettes package and it actually has a camel in the picture. It is as wrong as the Camel package because that does show a dromedary.

Anyway, enjoy the first contribution by the Museo del Objeto del Objeto.

Friday, January 13, 2012

#EOL will update its language picker

At we support the localisation of many projects. One of them is the Encyclopedia of Life. Currently there are 2641 messages that need localisation and for several languages the localisation is almost complete.

For the EOL software it is a novelty to have one language with two scripts. It will be interesting to learn how they will deal with that in their language picker.

We have been told that they are about to update their software with additional languages. I expect Macedonian like Serbian to feature brightly. It will be cool when more languages are supported. This is a wonderful moment to take up the challenge and provide your language with a user interface in this most prestigious website.


April 9, 2005 knew the first blog post and today I celebrate blog post no 2000. At the time I announced that I would promote the good cause of the "ultimate wiktionary" now OmegaWiki and at this time it has broadened to the support of Wikis, languages and things I find relevant.

Blog post no 1000 was only two years ago and number 1500 was in Februari last year. According to Blogger there have been 211143 page views and given that my blog is also aggregated the true number of page views must be larger. What matters to me is that the message of languages and language support is getting its public.

Seven years ago, supporting other languages was not considered much of a priority; support was very much focussed on Wikipedia and European languages at that. Nowadays, language support is provided in MediaWiki itself by a development team and the support includes localisation, support for gender, plural and grammar in messages, web fonts, input methods, direction.

With the increased support for languages we are getting more and more a situation where it is almost as easy to edit MediaWiki in most languages as it is in English. It is understood that we will only reach this situation when any application uses the same building blocks for language support. Once these building blocks are defined in standards, libraries and code generators can implement them making them available to any developer for any application.

There are still plenty of challenges ahead of us.

Need a #translation workshop?

The #Wikimedia Foundation is an international organisation. Its projects are in 280+ languages and are developed by 280+ language communities. When a message is to go out to all these people. a serious amount of outreach and translation is needed.

At, the localisation of the MediaWiki software has been taking place for many years now. Lately it has gained all kinds of extra functionality that make the Translate extension it uses ready for the translation of texts. The latest work for instance is writing user help texts.

Siebrand announced a workshop targeted at developers. It may be the kind of workshop that other people are be interested in as well. Let us know if you have an interest..

Monday, January 09, 2012

Support for #gender and #plural in #JavaScript may mean refactoring code

There are all kinds of valid reasons to revisit code. Improving the design of existing code is definitely one. Often code is changed because additional code needs to be applied. Sometimes, like in the case of implementing JQuery in our JavaScript code, it leads to code that performs better and it has many additional features that are now available to use.

One of the ambitions at has been the support of GENDER and PLURAL in the messages used in JavaScript code. In order to provide such support, there is a need for functionality that provides the same functionality we have had for so long in PHP.

The JavaScript code to support GENDER and PLURAL has been written. It makes use of JQuery functionality and when the maintainers are lucky, their code already supports it. For the localisers at, the answer "the software is written in JavaScript" is no longer a valid reason not to expect messages to be changed,

Sunday, January 08, 2012

#Wikipedia #help text is written all too often

A great help text is a help. Potential problems with help texts are legion:

  • they may not exist
  • they may not reflect the current functionality
  • they may not exist in translation
  • a translation may not reflect the latest original
  • it may be badly written
    • trying to be everything to everyone
    • high on terminology low on easy words
When the help text for the WebFonts extension was written, it was written for users. Documentation <grin> that is help text for developers or implementers </grin> already existed for quite some time. What we learned was that documentation did not help the people who use it.

What we produced solves some of the issues; 
  • the original text being written in a Wiki 
  • the documentation reflects the software that is in production
  • translations are created with the Translate extension; this allows for easy maintenance when changes occur
  • translations will be shown when they exist
Help texts exists in many places. It would be good when these text are merged into the central documentation. When the functionality of MediaWiki is supported centrally, it means that developers may take an interest as well. It becomes more obvious to include "stories" where a user understands the latest functionality after reading the help text...

When we agree that help text helps, if follows that help text needs to be up to date and accurate. Writing help text in a central place and translating the help text centrally should therefore be obvious.

Supporting a #font for #Arabic

When you write about the sum of all knowledge, one thing is obvious; there will be citations from the Quran. It is expected to write these exactly as they were written down originally in Arabic and yes, you may provide a translation.

There have been recent additions to the Unicode specification that enable an exact rendering of citations. There are fonts that support these latest changes and many people do not have them.

The WebFonts extension for MediaWiki is capable of using a specific font for a specific text. Therefore it is possible to make sure that any citation from the Quran is rendered well.

The Amiri font is a font that may serve us for showing citations from the Quran. It is freely licensed and it seems very much ready for use. It may even be useful as a generic font.

Making a font that is freely licensed available as a WebFont is technically easy. However, we prefer to have input from knowledgeable people, people who are part of the language community. As there are so many languages each with their own issues, we need people to organise themselves in Language Support Teams.

At this time there is one person member of the Language Support Team for the Arabic language.

Thursday, January 05, 2012

Ask and it will be given

Stating that you can speak a language has long tradition in the Wikimedia projects. For more then 280 languages there is a Wikipedia and finding someone with whom you share a language is powerful. It helps building communities particularly for the languages that have a small footprint on our servers.

At we are always on the lookout for people who localise for a language that does not have the Babel extension localised. We do ask people to give priority to localise Babel and typically we are happy with the results.

We asked people to localise Babel for the Kirghiz and the Kongo language recently and both have been localised.

Have you checked if the Babel information is correct for your language? Do you know a language that may not have a translation for the strings indicating your proficiency in the language? Please check it out at

Wednesday, January 04, 2012

#Wikipedia Takes Ahmedabad

Mouth Freshener 1

When seventy-five people turn up on a cold day, on a working day for a photo safari, it is safe to call it a success. It is wonderful to see not only pictures of  monuments, buildings but also things like the colourful mouth freshener they use in Ahmedabad to appear on Commons.

At this precise moment 606 images have been uploaded and many more are likely to be uploaded. It is of interest that all pictures have their description in English but it is possible to add translations to the descriptions.
{{Information|description={{en|1=Ahmedabad Mouth Freshener which people are fond to eat after lunch/dinner or after taking any meal}}{{nl|1=Een Ahmedabad mondverfrisser die mensen graag eten na een maaltijd.}} 
has the following as its result:

People can write a description in any language and have it translated to English or any other language. This is quite appropriate because it starts with having the material uploaded to Commons to make it available in one of 280+ languages we support.

I wonder if any of the pictures of this photo shoot will be considered as a featured picture candidate.

Tuesday, January 03, 2012

Preferential treatment

The latest localisation rally had a twist. To qualify, the localisation for the Kiwix and the Wikipedia Mobile applications had to be completed for the language before MediaWiki messages were accepted.

Our thinking was: the most used messages are typically already complete and at this time growth of our content is very much taking place off-line or on a mobile phone.

For mobile phone use we have statistics that show a growth of 144% compared with last year December. Our support for mobile phones and the support for different writing systems on mobile phones is improving. As more people buy increasingly sophisticated mobiles, this growth may even increase.

During the localisation rally 30 additional languages were completed for Kiwix bringing the total to 65. For Wikipedia Mobile we now support 68 languages completely. We hope that our December 2011 rally sets the stage for a wonderful 2012 with even more people sharing in the sum of all knowledge.

Sunday, January 01, 2012

Happy New Year

For the last couple of years I wished everybody a happy New Year with one of the cards in SignWriting. This years card is by Valerie herself :)

My wish for her and us all is that the aspirations for bringing knowledge to the people who sign will become as much a reality as our efforts in bringing knowledge to the people who speak.

PS Yes, all the usual wishes like health, wealth and happiness to us all.