Monday, November 07, 2011

Freely licensed fonts are ugly, now what!

The #MediaWiki WebFonts extension exists to enable people to read their language. The #Tamil fonts that were initially selected do not deserve the "beauty" prize. Many in the Tamil community are calling for better looking fonts.

The issue is that at the Wikimedia Foundation, we can only use freely licensed fonts. Consequently we are really happy that people are reaching out to the government of Tamil Nadu to make their fonts available under a free license.

At the same time people working hard to get more existing fonts ready under a free license; they are completing the fonts, they are reaching out to the developers of fonts. They are working hard to make the use of Tamil on any digital devices a reality.

In many ways, Wikipedia is a "down stream" user of the technology developed for a language, a script. As there are so many languages we can stimulate developments for instance in our "language support teams". The best results will be when technology, fonts are available under a free license. It will help us support your language and it will help any and all other applications that care to provide the internationalisation and localisation needed to make use of it.


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Michael Everson said...

Well. I've told 'em.

LOGIC said...

Its not about beautiful / ugly thing. While sane fonts gives better readability, in turn leads to more people reading more pages. Try changing en wikipedia to comic sans for a day and observe the numbers. So while the focus has to be on using free fonts, it should not compromise on using poorer fonts for the sake of using an extension with free fonts and impose them on all. I dont know why the option of opting for webfonts without default font is debated so much, when the existing free fonts are not preferred for reading.

We really need webfonts, but as a user configurable option(only for those who see boxes, and not bother others who have better readable fonts installed in their own machines) untill we get more better readable fonts under free license. I am really tired debating on this, but persisting with a hope to convince. When i loose my energy, I would close all those bugs and move on.

- Srikanth

Bala said...

Why the snark Gerard?

We are not concerned about "beauty" here. The current freely available fonts are a step back in readability for those who have fonts in the machines (which is 85-90 percent of the current userbase). We want the webfonts for the rest of the 10-15 % people and those we will be bringing in from offline through outreach and evangelism.

All we asked for is an option by which the machine installed font - with better readability - will default (for the 85%). The webfont should be used by only the 15% who have no such fonts. As srikanth points out it is like imposing comic sans on the 85% for the 15% who dont have fonts. If it isn't technically feasible say so - dont start advising and ridiculing us for our preferences and needs.

So when we come to the i18n group with requirements that suit our community, we get ridiculed in return?. Way to go.

Now i understand why the en wikinews got forked because of WMF tech team attitude. You guys seem to have forgotten, that you exist for us and not the other way around.

GerardM said...

A Wikipedia with a language in the Latin script using the Comic Sans font is not my preference. When the language is English, Dutch, German or French I will be able to read it. When I am instructed that I can have a different font or the font installed on my system, I will be happy to do so.

When I do not have a font on my system and when by default I will not get a font making it possible to see or read the text, or the instructions about fonts I am lost. This is what some people favour for their script, their language. They think it is ok when someone will not be able to see and or read the text on their project.

The first priority of any Wikimedia project is that it helps us with our aim to bring information to all the people of this world. When we gain 15% on top of our existing community, it is huge. When the existing 85% can configure their profile not to use WebFonts by default, something they only need to do once, they are well served.

When the best freely licensed font is comparable in user experience to Comic Sans, we have a best practice: {{sofixit}. Create a better font, find someone to create a better font, pay to have a better font created. All these options are available.

Let us talk about this in more details at the WikiConference India...