"Wikinews is not Wikipedia!" This is the rallying cry sometimes heard at Wikinews. Because of the wild success of Wikipedia, Wikinews has been closely scrutinized by citizen journalists and the traditional press throughout its development. In this past quarter, the community has often been compared to Wikipedia, despite being a very different project with different goals and measures.
Wikinews has grown rapidly. At the start of the year the project had editions in two languages; now it has eleven. What began as a few hundred editors has grown to over 2000 registered users competing for productivity and quality of story writing. Within the Wikimedia family the project continues to have impressive growth, with the third largest increase in registered users for the past two months, and the largest article growth rate1.
Some noteworthy events this quarter included both the German and the English editions reaching their 1000th news article. One important goal of the project is to develop an archive of historical articles which may be used as references by others, including Wikipedia2,3, as a record of world and local events.
The project continues to generate interest in the journalistic spheres; for example, the English edition was featured in articles in Business Week4 and the New York Times5 (requires registration). Critical coverage of Wikinews has been of great interest within the project, and has ranged from Simon Waldman's analysis and EditorsWeblog rebuttal to Korby Parnell's near cheerleading. Overall there is no consistency to its critical reception; some reviewers love the project, some hate it. While most have both good and bad things to say about it, it has been picked, panned, and praised.
Members of the Wikinews community have reached out to other journalism efforts as well. en:Jimmy Wales and others attended the Harvard conference Blogging, Journalism & Credibility, which led to the organization of an IRC chat conference with bloggers, asking them for input on Wikinews development priorities. A representative was invited to speak at the International Symposium on Online Journalism, and similar presentations are being contemplated for the future.
Wikinewsies continue to experiment with the project. Members of the project have created a range of software tools as well, including WeatherChecker which retrieves weather data, Wikinews Flickr License Search to search Flickr for images by license type to illustrate stories, and the Wikinewsbot for automated Wikinews content retrieval and upload.
The first English Wikinews writing contest ran for 40 days, a test of endurance which produced hundreds of articles and ended in a three-way tie. Between them, HiFlyer, Simeon, and Pingswept produced over 100 articles, on top of the dozens more produced by eight other competitors. I encourage readers from other Wikinews editions to consider the possibility of implementing similar local contests.
To be excited about a dictionary, you have to be crazy. I must confess, I am guilty as charged... Consider that you cannot understand a word you are trying to understand, if you do not already know the concept. A dictionary should offer all words for all concepts; an ideal dictionary would offer all words in all languages.
But what does this mean? There are many kinds of dictionaries. Traditional dictionaries, listing words with definitions and history; glossaries, thesauri, and translation dictionaries. Wiktionary is bold; it wants to be all of these. Under the current software, the wiktionaries in different languages all contain largely the same content — lists of words and languages. Only their definitions change from one language to the next. Wouldn't it be nice for the Wiktionary entry on a word to be available automatically in every Wiktionary language?
The ideal of a single ultimate Wiktionary for all languages is a dream for people who care about such resources. Merging the different communities is not easy. What I personally like best is that such a project would give me a place to put the glossary of botanical terms compiled by Herman Busser. Herman was a remarkable person in the Dutch cactus and succulent world who published several papers on cacti. His glossary was given to me before his death, to give it another lease on life.
Technically, this combined Wiktionary requires an extension to the m:Mediawiki software, something like the m:Wikidata project. This would allow for fields where users can select predefined values, to indicate, for instance, that a word is an English language word. Other fields might include text with wikisyntax. An implementation of Wikidata is underway, and we are slowly progressing toward such a Wiktionary.
As I write this, I am still dreaming: what would it be like if we had not just the GEMET thesaurus, but the other EU thesauri as well; would it not be grand to have a resource in Papiamento or Hopi? I wonder how many dreams will come true, and what we will dream up next once we have an ultimate Wiktionary.
A French arbitration committee was elected on March 22, 2005. This election was the result of a process begun on September 19, 2004 to decide firstly whether such a committee was needed, and secondly what its powers and rules would be.
Conflicts in 2004 had exposed the shortcomings of the French-speaking community's previous conflict resolution methods. Previously, the community had held public votes to decide upon which editors to impose sanctions. The voting periods invited personal attacks and an excessive number of vote pages. Voters would hesitate to commit to one position or the other, in the end voting for reasons of loyalty or based on actions unrelated to the one being disputed.
To make matters worse, page histories were difficult to follow, resulting in uninformed voting and subjective opinions. The atmosphere became so unpleasant for everyone that civility in the community began to collapse.
After three successive sessions discussing adoption of the policies, the arbitration committee was allowed to proceed subject to certain rules:
The committee would reserve the right to decline a request for arbitration.
The committee members, or referees, would settle individual cases rather than setting rules for behavior for the whole site. Such rules should be based on consensus within the entire community rather than the arbitration committee acting on its own.
The referees can establish and use precedence in deciding future cases as long as they provide a concise explanation of how the cases are comparable.
Wikimedia Commons was launched on September 7, 2004 as a free repository of multimedia files (including images, sounds, and video) to be used on all projects of the Wikimedia foundation. It has developed faster than any other Wikimedia project. By April 16, 2005, over 76,000 multimedia files were available, and the site had over 5,250 users, including 53 administrators and 2 bureaucrats.
Multilingualism is probably the most difficult challenge to address on the Commons. This single project directly serves the collected sites of the foundation in every language. Contributors to the Commons, from all languages, must be able to communicate with each other without language barriers becoming insurmountable obstacles. The possibility of assigning one or more categories directly to images, and of being able to visualize image labels from their category page entries, has been one early response to this problem of multilingualism in searching for files. Within the pages of the Commons site, users have developed a significant linguistic infrastructure, with the principal help pages available in some ten languages.
However, the creation of a coordination center for translations has made it possible to reduce the need for translating the various help pages. The interface for the Commons is also available in the majority of Wikipedia languages. A final revealing detail: for every fifteen English-language administrators, there are thirteen German administrators, six in French, three in Dutch, three in Polish, two in Russian, two in Swedish, and one each in Romanian, Japanese, Portuguese, Icelandic, Hebrew, Czech, Bulgarian and Belarusian.
The Commons has seen the addition of many design features to improve the ease of use of its files. The central feature of the Commons is that its files can be included directly on other Wikimedia Foundation sites without needing to copy them into the local database for each site. Another new feature is a sidebar link that displays a gallery of the most recently uploaded files, with a thumbnail of each image. A new "gallery" software library, developed for the latest version of the MediaWiki software, allows for these thumbnails to be constructed quickly.
Though the Commons exists primarily to provide a service to the other Wikimedia Foundation projects, the users of the Commons quickly implemented the kinds of tools for community interaction that one finds on the Wikipedia sites—in particular, a "café" for general conversation, and a page for voting to remove individual files. A separate mailing list and IRC channel were created (#commons.wikimedia). A specific community spirit has thus been gradually developed. This spirit is particularly well-expressed in a recent vote for high-quality images: nominations for such 'featured' images are discussed and voted upon every day. Some of these images are of great beauty, and are often the personal work of gifted Commoners. 86 images have thus been chosen so far. In these featured images one can see a sign of the vitality and originality of this project, hardly seven months old, yet already seen by some as one of the most beautiful achievements of the Wikimedia Foundation.
The Wikiquote project is a multilingual, open-content compendium of quotations. On March 25, 2005 the project reached 10,000 total articles, according to, an editor on English Wikiquote. This was 21 months since the project's start in July 2003.
As of March 31, 22 of over 70 Wikiquote languages are very active. About 4,000 user accounts have been created in total, along with many unregistered editors (as on other projects). There are currently four Wikiquote projects, English, German, French and Polish, with more than 1,000 articles; the largest being English with almost 2,700 articles. Among the top ten Wikiquotes, eight are in European languages, and two in Asian languages - Chinese and Japanese. Among the non-Latin-alphabet projects, Bulgarian is the largest, with over 500 articles.
Most Wikiquote languages focus on authors who wrote in their own language, but there are many good translations. Some Wikiquote languages, including the Japanese and English projects, show a strong inclination to reference the original text, and many quotes are accompanied by original texts. This inclination is readily observed in the extensive collections of proverbs.
Farsi training material
Farsi, or Persian (فارسی), is a language with a rich tradition that is spoken in Iran, Afghanistan and Tadzjikistan. With the influx of refugees from these countries into surrounding areas, many countries now have vibrant Farsi-speaking communities.
AdamM's Farsi teacher really liked the idea of a wiki when it was shown to her, and she was really happy when it was suggested that she put her training materials on Wikibooks.
Realizing this idea proved to be a struggle. Learning Farsi is like going back to primary school — you are learning to recognize the shapes and sounds of characters when you learn your first words. It involves learning words you may not be interested in, chosen to introduce a few characters at a time. The materials in question are being used to teach Farsi to men and women with Iranian partners who live in the Netherlands. To these people it is particularly important to speak well, as many pupils go to Iran after learning the basics to meet their new families for the first time.
All of the Farsi texts have been pronounced, recorded, and uploaded to the Commons, a process that proved to be troublesome: sound files use the naming scheme xx.word.ogg, where xx is the ISO 639 code. When this was applied to a word like برادر, you get fa-برادر.ogg. A file with this name cannot be uploaded with Firefox, cannot be saved with Audacity, and cannot be listened to with Ashampoo. You can, however, use Internet Explorer to upload such a file to Commons.
The upload functionality received a facelift while this was going on, making it possible to upload a file and add all of its categories at once, which cut down the time needed for these uploads by more than half.
As Farsi is read from right to left, it makes sense to have the Farsi material in the fa.wikibooks.org domain and not in the nl: or the en: domain. This leads to a not-so-funny problem. The symbol that indicates an external link does not move to the left in a Farsi article; instead, it obscures the first characters in a word, making it somewhat unreadable. Luckily there is a <div class="plainlinks"> style which removes this nuisance on an article-by-article basis. Depending on which browser you use, an article such as FarsiLes2 may be almost impossible to edit, even for people familiar with wiki syntax.
We currently have articles with Farsi pronunciations, and intend to add Dutch words and phrases to Wiktionary as well. This way we hope to have many functional translations, to make it easy to localize the material for students of Farsi who speak other languages. For now, please enjoy the current English-Farsi wikibook.
In January 2005 the PlanetMath Exchange project was started by Derek Williams to assist in content exchange between Wikipedia and PlanetMath, a community-based math encyclopedia begun in 2001 whose content is released under the terms of the GFDL. The project aims to enrich the content of mathematics articles on Wikipedia. Although there are currently only nine participants, nearly 500 articles from PlanetMath have been examined, and about 40% have had content merged into Wikipedia. Oleg Alexandrov has since written some scripts to help automate the process; statistics for the project are available on the statistics page.
A Japanese Wikipedian contributed an article on a landmark from his hometown, the Osezaki Lighthouse, to the Japanese Wikipedia. He found a nice photo on the web and asked the photographer if he could use it on Wikipedia. He received permission from the copyright holder and uploaded this image to Wikipedia, but forgot to add licence information to the image. When the image became a candidate to be featured on the Main Page of the Japanese Wikipedia, another Wikipedian pointed out the omission, and made him aware of the seriousness of careful copyright and licensing. He mailed the copyright holder again to explain the GFDL, and to ask him to release the image under its terms. The photographer agreed willingly. This photographer had been frequently bothered by copyright infringements, including one by an official municipality website, and he felt that these sites neglected the value of his works and his effort. The Wikipedian's request therefore impressed him greatly, and the young contributor realized how important it is to respect copyright in order to promote the project.