Sunday, December 31, 2006


It is the last day of the year and, it is a great moment to consider what to do in the New Year. For me the one thing that will typically make the difference is collaboration. What we aim to do with OmegaWiki will be a success when we aim to be inclusive. This will allow everyone to benefit from the mutual effort on the same data.

The economies of scale really will work to our advantage when the work on the data is shared. When people and organisations work together, tipping points will be reached that will enable the application of the data that would otherwise not be really possible.

Today I learned that it may be possible to collaborate with Logos. This would be really great; Logosdictionary is already relevant, it has a community that make the daily logosquote a rich reality. It has a children's dictionary, a conjugator and more. Truly the prospect of such a collaboration is significant, the challenge will be to make it happen.

2007 will be an interesting year .. :)

Thanks and "gelukkig nieuwjaar!"

Saturday, December 30, 2006


The Marathi Wiktionary has 121 articles. OmegaWiki has 120 expressions in Marathi. I had a look at the recent changes of the Marathi Wiktionary, it was full of changes to the MediaWiki messages. Consider, the same work was probably already done on the Marathi Wikipedia. When these updates are done in this way, people will not be able to benefit on other projects that are of interest to people that read and write Marathi.

It is really relevant that the work done on languages like Marathi count. BetaWiki was a place that functioned well, however as it was not part of the MediaWiki projects, it was ignored by some of the developers. With the inclusion of the software written for BetaWiki in the Incubator, there will be a more obvious place for the localisation of MediaWiki. It will be a place that is easy to understand for translators. The work done there will benefit all the projects where people are able to use their language for their User interface.


Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Playing a game

It is the festive season and families come together. Adults talk and kids play. The kids in my family play games, computer games. I was asked if they could use my computer to play a multi user game. I did not mind, I made them promise me that they would uninstall this game when they are done / before I am to leave.

The question; is this the type of thing that Industry considers illegal.. It must be because no money changed hands. If this is indeed illegal, where is the fun?


Lies, damned lies and statistics

There was an e-mail on the Wiktionary mailing list where a comparison was made between the English language Wiktionary and OmegaWiki. It was based on an analysis by Zdenek Broz. It compares the number of translations between the two projects.

The numbers may be right, but there is so much more to the English Wiktionary that it should not be reduced to such a numerical comparison. There is the Wikisaurus, there is a lot of etymological information, frequency lists, rhymes and most relevantly there are a lot of people who make it a great project.

It will take a lot more work before OmegaWiki can include all the information that is in en.wiktionary and it will take even more work before this information will actually be in there. I think this may happen but we do not need a competition for that. Both projects have there stong points and when we are able and willing to learn from each other it will be awesome.


Friday, December 22, 2006

A Christmas story about traditions

I really enjoyed this wonderful Christmas story. It is about centuries old traditions and about personal traditions and how they change.. I really enjoyed and want to share it with you ..

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Running in front of the pack

MediaWiki is the software used by the projects of the Wikimedia Foundation. If there is one thing MediaWiki can boast about, it is the amount of localising that has been done. There are currently projects in 250 languages and, many have been localised somehow somewhere.

The Wikimedia Foundation has a big need for money. If ever there was an organisation that took care of the money it received it is the WMF. Wikipedia has according to Alexa the 12th traffic rank at the moment and the growth of their projects is something like doubling every four to six months.

The WMF has an ongoing funding drive, they created software to manage this in Drupal. The functionality is good for some languages but for others Drupal has not been localised. Some will say: it does a good job for my language but for most languages Drupal is just not up to the task. MediaWiki is far ahead of the pack when it comes to localisation and consequently there are no tools that will support the languages that are needed by the Wikimedia Foundation.

When Drupal gets more localisation done, it will find that in the same time frame the WMF will have added more languages. There is a moral question here as well. Is it acceptable to use tools that convey an important message that do not support the languages that you need..


Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Glyphs, fonts and the need to support them

In OmegaWiki (formerly known as WiktionaryZ) we want to support all words of all languages. Some languages have scripts that are not supported by the Operating System that you use. This can be bad or it can be really bad. It is bad when you have to find and install a font. Where to get it, what does it cost. It is really bad when there is no font. It can also be extremely bad when there the glyphs have not been defined in UNICODE.

In the Wikimedia Foundation there are projects that do require another font. Khmer, Laotian come to mind. For the Ripuarian language the situation is extremely bad; there is an official orthography that defined characters that do not yet exist in UNICODE.

Today I learned about a really nice project called Dejavu. It is an open source project that works on the creation of fonts. They do good work but there is a long way to go before they will have tackled the Chinese and Indian languages.

For OmegaWiki projects like Dejavu are important because they will ease the use of those people who are interested in seeing all the information that it will contain. UNICODE and the work done by Michael Everson are as important because without the glyphs being defined they will not go into fonts and without fonts we can not have all words of all languages.


Monday, December 11, 2006

A tribute to the creator of a language

Many people are not impressed when non natural languages are mentioned.. WiktionaryZ is by its very nature more inclusive. That is to say all artificial languages with sufficient recognition will be welcome. One class of languages that WiktionaryZ will not include are programming languages.

Because of my background, I am personally very much interested in these languages too. Today, I learned from an article on the BBC-website that Grace Hopper was born 100 years ago. Rear-admiral Hopper was one of the most influential people in the development of computing. She is certainly one of my heroes.


Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Preparing for a conference

In two weeks on December 14 and 15 I will speak at a conference in Vienna. I was surprised when I was asked to speak at the Language Standards for Global Business. What is it that I can bring to the table. Yes, I proposed a Wiki for Standards at the Berlin conference and yes I am a member of the Wikimedia Foundation language sub committee and yes WiktionaryZ is a big user of standards. I am still shocked and awed that I was asked.

Now that I am getting used to the idea I find that standards were increasingly taking up my time. Standards are crucial for the projects I am involved in. When they fit a need, you do not need to explain and argue why individual choices were made, you refer to the standard. When you export data and you implement a Standard for the format like TBX, LMF or OWL, you hide the complexities of the database and you provide the export in a stable, mature way that allows people to build upon.

The problem with standards however is, that there are so many of them. Also many of the standards work cross purposes by focusing on single issues. This lead to separate standards for the Internet, for libraries all indicating languages.. This plethora of standards and requirements prevents interoperability. It also prevents the general adoption of these Standards.

As I learn more about Standards, I find myself with WiktionaryZ at the cutting edge. How to publish content for a language like Bangubangu ? As far as I know there is little or no content on the Internet at all. I am pleased now to have the Babel templates for Bangubangu. But as the content grows, how do we get the search engines to find it, it is here where appropriate Standards can make a difference.

In preparation for my presentation I have looked at other conferences and I find that many are very much driven by commercial needs. Needs that do not necessarily take into account what is in the long tail of the industry that is represented. The maturity that can be found in translations between the languages of economic power houses like America, Japan and Germany are worlds apart of the African court rooms where the defendant is lucky when he understands the judge or a witness. Here there is often no translation and the tools that are available in the translation industry are not available even for the translation of court papers.

My problem for the conference is that there is so much that I would like to address that I have to concentrate and make what I will say count. The good news is that is open for business. When people interested in standards take an interest and collaborate we may address all issues and get a better understanding what all these Standards are there for and more importantly, how they interrelate.

The challenge will be to build a community that understands that it is only collaboration that will make their Standards relevant and integrated with other Standards that are not relevant to their business


Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Another certificate but no tulip

In my living room I have a vase with tulips. Every one of these fabric tulips stands for a certificate that I earned in my computer career. To me it expresses that in order to remain up to date you have to work.

Last week I was invited to a lecture by Marshall B. Rosenberg in Rotterdam. Mr Rosenberg is credited with developing a method of communication called " non violent communication". I attended, and I got a certificate to prove it. It does not rate a tulip because there is no achievement for me yet.

In the hand out we got, there were list of feelings and needs. It was mentioned that the English language was not made to express feelings and needs, the Spanish language was mentioned as being much richer when you want to express either. When you think of it, it is not surprising when language can be intimidating. The choice and the appreciation of words makes all the difference. Like it was explained during the lecture, in order to change your language you have to be aware about what you say and how the effect is on the party that is on the receiving end of that language.

In this discussion about male domination that I mentioned in my previous post, the language used is a major contributing factor to the unease that is being felt. When people do not perceive that it is their very words that makes others feel uneasy, angry even discriminated it is very hard to come to an understanding. Yes, it may be that for some the English language is a second or even tertiary language, it does not negate the effects these words have; it is at best an explanation not an excuse. Bullets do kill, words do hurt.



On the mailing list for the English Wikipedia there were some women who articulated that a sizeable group of women feel not comfortable in the en.wikipedia community of editors. To alleviate this issue, they decided to create a community of women called Wikichix.

Angela, who is one of the best around for creating communities, set up some infrastructure including a mailing list for those interested in joining. A lively discussion started about this. Many men denied that there is a need, and that it is appropriate to have such a self help group. Several of them expressed that they feel excluded and even discriminated against. Several women including Anthere, provided graphic evidence of how women are dealt with by some of the males that think nothing of making disparaging remarks qualifying them as "jokes".

Even though it was said time and time again that this was to engage more women to become part of the Wikipedia mainstream, some people could not accept that what is good for some does not need to be an affront to others. Sadly, Anthere has now asked for the mailing list not to make use of WMF infrastructure. :(

Personally I feel it as a loss. A loss because it does not help to engage more people. A loss because it may even prevent the engagement of people who are not part of the Wikipedia community and all this because of the boorish behaviour by some.