19 December 2008

Scandinavian Planet Wikimedia launched

Thanks to Rob, who fixed bug 16511, the Scandinavian-language Planet Wikimedia is now a reality. I proposed the idea in all the village pumps for Scandinavian languages in November, and the idea got lots of support. Also, three Wikipedians started blogging because they liked the idea.

It is the first multi-language Planet, using the ISO 639-5 code gmq, representing North Germanic languages (also known as Scandinavian languages in the anglophone world). The interface has been translated to all Scandinavian languages with Wikipedias (yes, even Faroese), but the blog posts are shared between all languages.

I am hoping this will lead to more experience-sharing and opinion exchange between Scandinavians – we have a good coöperation already, but as with pretty much anything related to Wikipedia, it has room for improvement.

13 December 2008

Great Scandinavian news

Within just 6 hours today, the Swedish Wikipedia and the Norwegian (Bokmål) Wikipedia reached the 300.000 and 200.000 article milestones, respectively.

The Swedish Wikipedia’s 300.000th was Arvidsjaurs kyrka (nb), about the local church in Arvidsjaur. It was created at 14:23 CET.

The Norwegian (Bokmål) Wikipedia’s 200.000th article was John de Vere, 12. jarl av Oxford (en) (nl). It was created at 20:26 CET.

The Danish Wikipedia is also coming close to a big milestone; as of writing this, it has 98.700 articles. The Nynorsk Wikipedia has currently has 43.200 articles. In total, the mutually intelligible Continental Scandinavian language Wikipedias have about 641.000 articles – if they had been combined, that would have been the fourth largest Wikipedia by number of articles, below French and above Polish.

If the Insular Scandinavian language Wikipedias, Icelandic (23.500) and Faroese (3.500) had been counted, the article count would have been 668.000.

Another bit of Scandinavian news is that a Scandinavian-language Planet Wikimedia will soon be set up (only waiting for Brion *cough*), collecting blogs in Scandinavian languages on one page (and one feed). It will be located at http://gmq.planet.wikimedia.org/ (gmq is the ISO 639-5 code for North Germanic languages).

17 October 2008

Getting journalist students to Wikinews

On Wikimedia projects, author credit is only given in the history tab. For most of the projects that makes perfect sense, because pages have lots and lots of different authors coming in at different times. However, for Wikinews that is not the case. Most of the time, articles on Wikinews are written by just one person, and then copy-edited and published. Not often does a Wikinews article actually have several authors.

Now, we know there are lots and lots of journalist students out there – and from what I gather from various TV series and movies, they are all “dying” to get their name “on print”. So why not let them do that on Wikinews? It does not have to be obtrusive; a mockup of what it could look like can be found here.

With Wikinews getting coverage in Google News, student journalists will probably be even more eager to get their name out there, and more inclined to join Wikinews. Sure, it’s working for free, but it gives you publicity. And all of these students are a vast resource that could multiply Wikinews’ coverage – the way I see it, the chance is too good to miss.

16 September 2008

Store norske leksikon is opening up!

These fantastic news just got in from Eirik Newth’s blog. The national Norwegian encyclopædia Store norske leksikon will be opening its database in many different ways. It is currently a very closed paid-subscription-only service that one has to log into to use. However, as of January next year, everyone will be able to use the encyclopædia for free (as in beer).

They are opening up their service in many ways. As I said above, everyone will be able to enjoy it, but they will also allow user-generated content, approved by experts in the relevant fields. They will also allow articles in Nynorsk for the first time. For your information, the Nynorsk Wikipedia has up to now been the only contemporary encyclopædia in Nynorsk, and the only one ever online.

But that’s not all – in addition to opening their content, they will also make the software they use open source. Fantastic news.

In my opinion this is great news for the Norwegian Wikipedias – Store norske leksikon is huge, and a serious competitor. It will make us get our act together, and – most importantly – something that we can measure and compare ourselves to, and draw inspiration from. The only thing I miss is for Store norske leksikon to be released under a free license. But maybe we can do something about that?

25 August 2008

The goal of Wikinews


I’ve been thinking a bit about Wikinews lately, and about what it should aim for – what its goal should be.

I do not think Wikinews can be a serious contender to the traditional news outlets in the foreseeable future. For that there are just too few people involved with Wikinews. In an ideal world the project would have contributors everywhere, ready to write when something happens in their region. However, as we all know, this world is far from ideal.

Mainstream news is just not what makes Wikinews great – news on the Beijing Olympics and the upcoming US election I can get elsewhere, more complete and more updated.

I believe the goal of Wikinews should be what we could call “alternative” news. News that are interesting, but are not usually reported in traditional media. Stories like the one on Canadian cities wanting to ban bottled water, or the U2 fan who was ordered to destroy his CDs. I believe stories like those are the most important ones for Wikinews.

Of course, Wikinews should not stop focusing on mainstream event – they are producing a lot of good material there as well – but I believe the key to getting more readers to Wikinews is to have stories like those. Unique, interesting stories that people don’t get in their usual news &ndsah; that’s what’s crucial.

06 August 2008


Photo: Aqwis. License: CC-by-SA 2.0 DE

I am in the process of moving from Skiptvet to Trondheim, and then starting the studying year (and my studying career), so I will probably not be very available the following weeks.

03 August 2008

Dynamic menus

Dynamic menus is the latest gadget I have made, and by far the most complicated one. What it does is that it moves the sidebar menus to the top of the page, and make them into dropdown menus instead – and it’s completely CSS-driven!

The reason I made this gadget was that I was tired of the sidebar taking up valuable space that could be used for the content instead; I wanted the content part of a wiki page to have a width of 100 %, and have the interface stuff in the top and the bottom. So I made this. It is based on the Modern skin, and will look awful in other skins.

It does have some drawbacks though. It currently only works in Firefox 3.0 (with a small extra feature if you install Firefox 3.1 Alpha 1), though I will try to fix it for Opera and Safari as well (I tried fixing it for IE, but that just won’t work).

If you want to try it, you can go to Meta and turn it on in your preferences. It is also live on the Norwegian (Bokmål) Wikipedia and on Betawiki. If you want to install it on your own wiki, that is really simple as well; there are instructions in the page linked at the beginning of the blog. I hope you’ll enjoy it!

01 August 2008

Wikipedia.org reorganised

Today the top ten languages (the ones around the globe logo) on the international Wikipedia.org portal were reorganised, following a poll on Meta. The languages are now organised by their relative share of the number of visitors, rather than by the number of articles.

This has led to quite a few changes within the top ten Wikipedias themselves, but only one language was actually replaced among the ten; the Dutch Wikipedia (467 000 articles) was replaced by the newly-unblocked Chinese Wikipedia (200 000 articles), which in my opinion is quite natural.

Another result of the aforementioned poll is that the tenth Wikipedia in the list will be replaced by the one in the user’s preferred language (as set in the browser settings). This, however, needs some extra code to be implemented (you can’t just move some existing code around), so it’ll probably take some time before it is live on the site, but it will hopefully be there soon.

31 July 2008

Wiktionary in Norwegian now has 10,000 pages

EivindJ just created the 10,000th page in the Norwegian Wiktionary, making it the 38th Wiktionary to reach this milestone.

The Norwegian Wiktionary was created on 3 May 2004 (this is the oldest revision), but has not had a committed community. It has had several committed users who have expanded on it over the years, but they were usually alone, which is very difficult, and sooner or later such a user just gives up (I know, I was one of them). But now there are at least a couple of active users at the same time, and they will hopefully lay the foundations of an active and prospering community.

The 10,000th page was about the Norwegian word “dugnad”, which means almost the same as the Cherokee word “ᎦᏚᎩgadugi. “Dugnad” was named the national word of Norway [sic] by the TV series Typisk norsk in 2004, and is thus an important word to include in a Norwegian-language dictionary.

Yet another Knol blog

I guess pretty much everyone in the blogger world has already posted about Knol, but I’ll add my two cents in as well.

Ever since Knol was announced, people have seen it as a direct rival of Wikipedia. However, it uses quite a different “business model”, and way of operating. While Wikipedia uses a model where each topic has one article (don’t nitpick, I’m going somewhere with this), and people must collaborate to find the best way of representing the topic to the audience, Knol uses a very different approach, where there can be an unlimited amount of articles about the same topic, and where each article has one author. The authors may choose to open their article to collaborative editing by others, but they are always in control.

Knol’s approach is totally different from that of Wikipedia, and I believe the two projects fill different niches. Wikipedia is the place people will go to find a neutral article about a subject, while Knol is where they will go to gather different opinions about the subject.

I also believe Knol attracts a different kind of contributors than what Wikipedia does. Since Knol bases articles on author ownership, it will probably attract the kind of authors who like their names to be published, like professors who would never write on Wikipedia for a multitude of reasons. This is a very good thing, because this makes their knowledge available and accessible to people who would otherwise never be able too; and since Knol uses free license as its default license, this may just make the world a better place.

However, one of the drawbacks of Knol’s one-author-one-article approach is that it will also attract people with strong points of view, who will write very biased articles about controversial topics (or even not-so-controversial topics). But I see that Knol has a rating system in place, and hopefully this will mute the very extremist articles. But hey, maybe this will lead those POV-pushers away from Wikipedia, and stop bothering us?

29 July 2008

Wikimania recaptured

When writing this, Wikimania has been over for quite some time already, but myself I just got back from Egypt a few days ago. Egypt was a lot of fun, and of course a whole new experience for me.

So, about Wikimania itself, it is a very interesting thing. The most important aspect of a Wikimania, in my opinion, is not the lectures and the conference in itself, but the people who are involved. The best part of Wikimania is meeting and getting to know people; people you have been chatting with on IRC for several years, as well as people whose names you’ve never heard of, and who are not even active Wikimedians. This being my second Wikimania, I was also lucky to meet a lot of the people I met last year in Taipei, which was a real pleasure.

Photo: Hajor. License: GFDL / CC-by-SA 1.0

This year Wikimania was held in Bibliotheca Alexandrina, a huge and beautiful library (designed by the award-winning Norwegian architecture company Snøhetta), with a mission virtually identical to that of the Wikimedia Foundation: “To be a center of excellence in the production and dissemination of knowledge and to be a place of dialogue, learning and understanding between cultures and peoples.” It was the first Wikimania to be co-hosted by another organisation, which worked really well (at least from my participator perspective).

After a breing opening ceremony, the director of BA, Ismail Serageldin gave a talk about freedom of knowledge, entitled “New paradigms for new tomorrows”, which was really enlightening. He talked about how in the 21st century freedom of speech has become less important than freedom of knowledge; a crude summary of his talk would be that it doesn’t really matter that people can say what they want (freedom of speech) as long as nobody is able to or allowed to hear them say it (freedom of knowledge). As much as freedom of speech is a human right, freedom of knowledge should be one as well.

After the opening ceremony I went to a session entitled “Cross-cultural dialogue through Wikipedia”, by Dror Kamir; the session was about his experiences, good and bad, as an Israeli contributing to the Arabic Wikipedia. This was one of the most interesting sessions in my opinion, and an inspiring one as well.

Some of the other interesting sessions I attended was Sue Gardner and Erik Möller’s session about the Wikimedia Foundation’s operations this and next year, Philipp Birken’s session about the Flagged Revs extension and Brion Vibber’s session about MediaWiki development (all honour to him for making something very technical easily understandable and accessible for less tech-savvy people). Florence’s session about communication issues within the Wikimedia world was also very interesting and inspiring, and had lots of good points that especially chapter people, but also others, need to consider.

Group photo after the closing ceremony. Photo: Cary Bass. License: CC-by-SA 3.0

Some of the drawbacks of this year’s conference was the lack of a common gathering space (like the common room in Taipei) for people to gather and just chat when the day was over, which made it a bit difficult to come together and do something on-the-spur without planning anything; also some other criticism has been raised on wikimania-l, but much of it is stuff that was out of the organizors’ hands. All in all I think this was a great Wikimania, and I enjoyed it tremendously; I hope everyone who is curious or hesitating on whether or not to join the next one should let the benefit of the doubt have its way, and come. It is too good to miss.