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What is your favourite non-Wikimedia wiki?

Someone asked me this question at LCA. To be honest I don’t spend a lot of time on non-Wikimedia wikis (assuming the one at work doesn’t count — although I am proud of how my workmates spontaneously started putting information there. My boss even edited it for the first time this week!).

One contender might be the Geek Feminism Wiki, started by Kirrily Robert a year or two ago. Every few months I will see a link to it on some mailing list and I’ll go and check it out, and some interesting or useful new content will have sprung up. Pretty much wiki as it should be.

The second one that occurred to me was Appropedia, which is partly run by a Sydneysider that I was suprised to run into at Wikimania 2007 (Taipei). Since then I’ve been keeping vague tabs on what they’re doing to see if I can pick up any good ideas or offer any tips. But I’ve only occasionally had something to add.

I finally decided on LyricWiki which, despite the somewhat dodgy legal standing (Wikimedians, try not to think too much about it, it will only bring pain) is so freaking useful and simple and _just-work_y that I can forgive it of a hundred other sins besides. If you ever try to use Google for lyrics you will notice the dozens of stupid ad- and popup-ridden sites that hide the lyrics under so much crud just trying to find them is irritating. So save yourself some pain and just jump straight to LyricWiki if you are looking for lyrics.

And now I can sleep peacefully knowing that the line after “your sex is on fire” is “Consumed with what’s to transpire”. :)

So what’s your favourite?

11 February, 2009 •

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The Future Melbourne wiki - "the city plan that anyone can edit"

Future Melbourne is a wiki I’ve been aware of for a few months now. The City of Melbourne decided to put their city plan for 2020 (replacing the one for 2010) into a publicly editable wiki for a month, as part of the public consultation process. There is a kind of summary of the project on the Future Melbourne blog, declaring it a success. There is also a short video with Mark Elliot whose company CollabForge helped the city customise and use the wiki (the wiki engine was Twiki).

I think Future Melbourne is an awesome initiative, but considering it garnered just 200 edits, it barely scratched the surface of what is possible with government-public consulting.

There seems to be an unstated assumption that people now generally understand what wikis are and how they work. I have not seen any study or survey with this kind of conclusion and until I see that, I would work off the opposite assumption. That is, I would have multiple free and highly publicised “what is a wiki? what is our wiki for? how can you use our wiki?” hands-on information sessions. To just say “come and edit our wiki” is not going to get the best response, because it assumes that the technology is familiar enough to be invisible — which it is not, even for enthusiasts. Either that or it is making the mistake of focusing on the tool instead of what can be achieved by using it (e.g. “contribute to (y)our city plan”).

The second thing which I think was not much explored was: what does an ideal wiki page look like when you are editing a city plan? Wikipedia works in terms of having one page per topic because of the NPOV (neutral point of view) policy. But asking people to form a NPOV city plan doesn’t make any sense. People can contribute by sharing their vision for what the city could be. But no individuals’ vision is more right or wrong than anyone else’s. For me, I would like Melbourne to be a cyclists’ paradise. Others may prefer a pedestrian’s paradise and still others may want a car-centric highway heaven. When we are all editing the transport policy page together, what rules can we or should we use to find a version of the page that is acceptable to all of us? Is that even possible? Or could there be multiple pages representing our individual wishes? How are they then to be understood in relation to each other and the rest of the plan? Which one is canonical?

I tend to think that neglecting this “ground rule” is not a good idea, and that with this kind of document a more simple “comment” or feedback approach may be better. You could use this in combination with allowing people to suggest new or expanded policies/goals.

I think this topic basically didn’t arise because of the low participation, but it is really something I would want to come to grips with before launching a wiki project with greater participation.

Another thing that makes me think a wiki is perhaps not the perfect tool for this is the short editing timeframe – one month. Wikis show their strengths over months and years and probably decades. For one thing the longer time scale allows for a community to develop. While in Future Melbourne’s case they had staff monitoring and responding to edits, and that’s good, certainly better than nothing, and probably the best you could hope for in a short time frame — it’s still something that reflects a top-down power structure. The reins may have been loosened a bit but they’re still ready to be snatched back up should things go awry. It wouldn’t hold a candle to a truly community-run/powered/managed wiki. You have to be in charge, have some power, to really own something, and it’s then that you become invested, engaged. It’s then that you care.

The City of Melbourne has made some bold steps but I think there are many more ahead. Once they start to be taken the relationship between government and the public will become very vibrant and interesting. And not a moment too soon, eh?

18 October, 2008 • , , ,

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Translation in Wikimedia Projects

One of the sessions I attended at Wikimania was Translation in Wikimedia Projects by Aphaia and Arria Belli. I knew Arria through Wikimedia Commons where she is a cheerful and helpful admin.

This session had two parts. In the first, Aphaia talked about the challenges in “official translation” (translating foundationwiki & official information, esp. for community elections, also Commons documentation and POTY information; software translation would have been covered by Gerard), and Arria talked about her experience in the informal “content translation”: where contributors create or improve articles by translating articles from other language projects.

This is undoubtedly a huge kind of undercurrent of activity within Wikimedia. There are no estimates anywhere about how much of this kind of work is done, how it is carried out, what role it tends to play in a young vs older project, how such material is treated by other project contributors, etc etc….

Open Translation Tools (google cache) was an event held in Zagreb, Croatia in December 2007. It was all about open source translation tools and just completely and utterly the kind of event that we (Wikimedia) should have had a presence at. We are probably – are there any other contenders? – the largest informal translation network and community on the web. Or ever in existence? There is no doubt that “the wiki way” of translating permanently unfinished works is a new era for the world of translation.

And yet we are hampered by poor tools that lead to awkward methodology relying on manual maintenance. No wonder we can’t keep track of what we’re doing.

Anyway, Arria surveyed some of Wikimedia’s “underground translators” to find out what they do, how they do it and why. I love surveys :) so here’s some of my favourite charts cherry-picked from her presentation. I think there were around 50-60 respondents in total. (Full set of questions is on meta)


How long have you been translating on Wikipedia? Well, if you’re responding to a survey on a mailing list, it’s not a surprise that you’ve been around Wikimedia for a fair while.


What languages do you translate from? Looks like roughly half of article translation is EN->other, and half is other->other or other->EN.


How do you choose the articles you translate? Most people use more than one method, and while “by interest” is unsurprisingly high, the cumulative popularity of the other reasons is good to see — that’s the “altruism bug” that Wikipedians get, where you suddenly find yourself researching and writing articles on topics you have never had an interest in, just because someone listed it on a TODO list somewhere, and you like helping tick things off. :)


Have you ever translated text in images? Nearly half said “yes” which is great. I hope all translators are aware of the excellent SVG Translate tool, which hides all the scary image-file part of the translating.


Have you translated at your real life job? About a third said yes, which is not too surprising — multilingual people are just so useful. :) It’s not clear how many of those are people employed as translators, although I’m guessing not nearly as many (if, in fact, any).

Surveying people: fun, easy, interesting and useful! Try it today. :)

Arria also showed off the Cross Lingual Wiki Engine demo screencast of TikiWiki. (It is mentioned here that they aim to extend this capability to Twiki and MediaWiki too, although I don’t know of any work that’s been done for it for MW.)

Looking to the future, I was very pleased to read this week that a MediaWiki extension called Translate is being developed. I think this will be basically for the “official translation” side of things.

Coming up in about a month, too, is WikiSym, which is having a Babel Wiki Workshop. Now if we Wikimedians don’t have some people at that, it will be quite criminal.

Some useful links for further exploration:

03 August, 2008 • , ,

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WikiNorthia

I was reading a brochure from my local council when I was surprised to find my eye drawn to the word wiki. Surely not! But there it was:

The WikiNorthia project aims to capture life in the north of Melbourne – what people are doing now, as well as what they did in the past. Using Wikis, as a social networking tool, engages people in telling their stories, gathering a rich collection of social history. Learn about Wikis and the forthcoming WikiNorthia project as part of the Talks on Moreland series.

Well, the talk was a month ago, but maybe I will give them a ring and see where it’s at. Sounds a bit similar to the iCommons iHeritage project.

Meanwhile, how cool is this library, the Yarra Plenty? Wikis, Facebook and LibraryThing – gets my vote. :)

21 November, 2007 • ,

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WikiHR - wiki developers for hire

And I’m going to steal Nick’s thunder. :) He’s started up wikihr.net which is a wiki for wiki devs and people who need wiki devs so badly that they want to hand over actual cash.

Go forth and be rich from your hobby, wiki obssessors. But remember, accept only GPL or death! :)

12 October, 2007 •

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Video: Wikis in plain English

Ever had trouble explaining to a non wikiholic just what was so cool about using wikis? Try sending them this video and see if it helps.

Although it doesn’t mention the other aspect of wikis that I consider revolutionary, which is the history tab. :)

07 October, 2007 • ,

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