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.