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The Longest Now

The Tower of Babel : normalizing language representation
Sunday August 23rd 2009, 3:27 pm
Filed under: chain-gang,international,popular demand,SJ,wikipedia

Part of a series on difficult topics from the Wikimedia community

There are some perennial projects that take more than a single barnraising to understand and plan for. One is the issue of supporting different languages equally — the world’s largest and smallest languages are both underrepresented among the projects.  While I would like to see Wikimedia become a model for the rest of the online world in this area, how a global community can provide support, bugfixes, and advice to different/new language groups is an issue for many multilingual projects.  So I offer these questions to all readers – feel free to answer them for the projects you are most familiar with.

  • What technical and other support do various language projects need to become awesome?
  • What variations are needed for projects whose main goal is language and cultural preservation?
  • What sharing of advice or practices would make starting new projects easier?
  • How can established projects help new projects with outreach, communication, and planning?

Let me offer one example of how this has been difficult to grasp within Wikimedia: discussions on the early international list were generally in English.  This led to a certain founder effect among participants, and in how the projects are today framed to the world, from elaborations of the vision to interface design.  And this has forked discussions of what language projects need – those in the language of the project, which can happen easily and fluidly among its participants and contributors, and those meta-discussions in one or two shared languages with the potential of setting Wikimedia-wide policy or affecting all projects.

As another example: non-Latin character sets, and cultural differences about editing and participation across different parts of the world, have always been part of discussions about how Wikipedia and its sister projects should advance.  Nevertheless, the early language communities drawn to the project were largely European, and issues that only affect non-Latin readers can still take a while to fix (for instance, replacements for Roman-alphabet captchas, or fixes to javascript and css layouts in corner cases).

What are your examples? What am I leaving out?  How can the global community and the Foundation better support small and underrepresented languages?  Feel free to leave links to current or historical discussions about problems and opportunities.

ICT4Dev and three-legged stools
Thursday August 20th 2009, 1:58 pm
Filed under: popular demand,Uncategorized,wikipedia

The ICT4Dev aggregators on technology and learning have been covering some excellent topics over the past few months, and doing a good job of bringing some new commenters into these discussion online.

Here is a series, part of the Educational Technology Debate, on ebooks and affordable access to [preexisting] content, featuring Dick Rowe (Olé!)and Angus Scrimgeour. People still avoid talking about building new materials from scratch – the sort of work that a skillful teacher engages in every week – which is when another leap forward will begin. But they are keen on finding ways to let interactivity and creativity improve and annotate books and class materials.

Do we need a three-legged stool? Will it balance?*  What else is missing?

* I can see a whole new series of YouTube videos based on this hook… including everything from architecture to ontologies.

Wikimedia elections : thank you! and next steps
Friday August 14th 2009, 11:20 pm
Filed under: international,metrics,SJ

The elections results are out, and I will be serving the community as a Trustee for the next two years. I am looking forward to the challenge; thank you to those who trusted me with their vote, and congratulations to Ting and Kat – it is an honor to represent the community alongside them.

Thank you also to Philippe and the elections team, and to all candidates who took time to run.  I was particularly glad to see Góngora running, as a new face in meta-affairs, and I hope to see more participation in meta discussion by active es:wp contributors.

I will help the Board be more open.  I have revived the Wikimedia meetings page for suggested agenda items – please leave your ideas and comments there, in any language.  (I know this is a tough thing to request in a monolingual blog.  Suggestions for making this blog more accessible are welcome.)  I will post my own thoughts about agenda items there in advance of future Board meetings.  One of my first efforts will be getting all foundation resolutions and policies translated into Wikimedia’s core languages.

The next one is coming up in a few weeks, during Wikimania – I don’t officially become a Board member until we meet.  I am looking forward to Wikimania, and hope to see some of you there!

I have also updated the old Wikimedia Reports page, as one way to better coordinate organize information – please help add new reports to it, and translate it into other languages.

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San Francisco: long-term exposure
Saturday August 08th 2009, 2:33 am
Filed under: Uncategorized

When you’ve been exposed to Bay area weather for too long, visiting New York can make you pull a face.  (But what is that metallic distortion in the background?)

Funny Faces SF

Sage Ross Photo Booth: Shining Happy People

Apprentices and Wikisourcerors
Thursday August 06th 2009, 8:01 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

As with being a Wikipedian, being a Wikisourceror is a mindset, a view of the world: a compulsion to make source materials freely available for cleaning up, review, annotation and translation, a sense of how they would be used in other educational works.

I have this bug, for databases and for books.  But I haven’t indulged it much — I have contributed sporadically to Wikisource, mainly tiny works in English and Nahuatl, but nothing significant.  The largest work I’ve gotten copyright release for, the Whole Earth Catalog, I haven’t managed to digitize.  So I am still an apprentice, and can not speak definitively about what it means to be a wikisourceror.  But I want to share a story about someone I met who clearly has this spirit, and has gotten his students to work together on wiki-style projects to make their classroom work available to the rest of the world.


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Patrick Farley draws the blues
Tuesday August 04th 2009, 1:10 am
Filed under: Uncategorized

Patrick Farley‘s Electric Sheep Comix are back online, with the same combination of blues, joy, nostalgia and artistry that they have always had.   The new website was launched and announced on Twitter the day I posted about them… coincidence, surely.  Roughly ten of the original comix (including most of my favorites) are reproduced in their original form — thankfully, since the Internet Archive versions I linked to earlier this week were missing some images from every story.

I recommend you start with Apocamon or Dicebox, or even Delta  Thrives when it’s put up, for a quick immersion in color and art.  But my favorites are  the Jain’s Death and the full Spiders series (only the third episode of which is currently online).

Boston police shamed in earnest
Saturday August 01st 2009, 3:56 am
Filed under: chain-gang,Too weird for fiction

When Skip Gates was arrested last week for disorderly conduct after breaking into his own home – by a policeman known for his calm demeanor who teaches racial sensitivity to other cops – the Cambridge Police could at least say they were working to protect their community.

Then the day after Globe columnist Yvonne Abraham published an article on the arrest, the Boston force found itself in a truly embarrassing spot.  Police officer, National Guard reservist, and self-proclaimed writer and English teacher Justin Barrett wrote an incredible half-coherent racist and sexist screed to a large cc: list — including his fellow officers and Abraham herself.   She responded with style:

I didn’t make it to the part where he calls me a fool and an infidel (he correctly pegged me as Catholic). And I certainly didn’t make it to the bit where he invites me to serve him hot Panamanian coffee and a warm cruller on a Sunday morning.

I wish I had gotten that far. That would have given me a good laugh.

Barrett was soon suspended from his police and reserve positions; but not before making the whole Boston Police Department hang their collective head in shame.

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