electronic brain surgery since 2001

WikiSym Part 2

So we just had lunch and are now in the second part of the first WikiSym day.

How and why Wikipedia works

The day started with an interesting Talk by Angela Beesly about how and why the Wikipedia works. Of course everyone here is alrready familar in the general working of Wikipedia, but non the less there where some interesting facts at least I wasn't aware of.

Angela gave some introduction on the aim of the Wikimedia foundation to give “free access to human knowlege for everyone”. She pointed out that this means to give this access to people who haven't internet access. This includes DVDs and CDs of Wikipedia dumps, but also printend books. As a side note she mentioned that creating these narrow topic books so far works best in the German Wikipedia ;-)

Another interesting thing she told us is the importance of the community aspects of Wikipedia. Users join the Wikipedia not only to edit articles and extending the overall knowlege but also to join certain comunities within Wikipedias context. A few interesting facts were mentioned: The english WikiPedia currently has about 2 Mio. users but only 1.3 Mio articles, which is a result of the forementioned community aspects. Another intersting thing is that Wikipedia is much more than just articles. Of all pages only 25% are real articles, the rest are things like user pages, help pages, image descriptions templates and of course discussion pages.

Despite the huge number of users, Angela said, “it's not a community of two million users” instead it is splitted in many smaller sub comunities gathering around certain topics.

The most interesting thing for me as wiki programmer was her mentioning the importance of automated bots which search for vandalism on their own to revert changes or inform users through IRC. The other interesting thing is a new feature of the English Wikipedia called “Barnstars” which are little awards users can give other users. Angela pointed out that this is a way to show that you trust other users. On my question if it is planned to extend this system to a real web-of-trust to validate or rate articles automatically she replied that this isn't planned because of the fear of cheating this system.

Open Space discussions

An important part of WikiSym is the Open Space concept. I won't go into detail how it works here - just read the Wikipedia article. I joined a nice discussion about Simplicity in Wikis and how to achieve it with Ward Cunningham and others. All protocols of the Open Space discussions are (or will be) available at the WikiSym Wiki.

Translation the Wiki-Way

This talk gave some introduction on problems with multilanguage Wikis. In general there are two ways of translation in Wikis.

The first one is “Sequential Translation”. A page is first created in a masterlanguage (usually english) and then improved until it's “finished”, then it is translated. This is usually the way of corporate websites or CMS system in general. This has some obvious disadvantages for Wikis.

The more common solution (as seen on Wikipedia) is to use “Parallel Editing”. Each language stands for it's own and is loosly interlinked. The advantage is that you don't need a masterlanguage. Unfortunately it often means each language is reinventing the wheel for the same topic.

The speaker Alain Desilets introduced a new Prototype called LizzyWiki which should help on the translation efforts when using a third way called “Incremental Just-In-Time-Translation”. It has some nice features like having a colored diff view of one language on the left and the editing box of the other language on the right making line-by-line translation dead simple. More features where shown like the addition of automatic machine trnaslation with having the original language as mouse-over hover text.

Okay enough for now. I hope to keep up with the detailed reports, but let's see how much time I'll find between all those interesting things going on…

This post was originally published on cosmocode.de
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