November 2016 African language Wikipedia update

The March update was positive, so let’s see how the various African-language Wikipedias have progressed since then. As always, this measures the number of articles, which is an imperfect metric, but it’s interesting to follow the trends.

African Language Wikipedias

Language 11/2/2011 9/5/2013 26/6/2015 5/3/2016 24/11/2016
Malagasy 3,806 45,361 79,329 81,240 82,799
Afrikaans 17,002 26,752 35,856 39,065 42,732
Swahili 21,244 25,265 29,127 32,565 34,613
Yoruba 12,174 30,585 31,068 31,172 31,483
Egyptian Arabic   10,379 14,192 14,839 15,959
Amharic 6,738 12,360 12,950 13,031 13,279
Northern Sotho 557 685 1,000 2,830 7,605
Somali 1,639 2,757 3,446 3,878 4,322
Kabyle   1,503 2,296 2,643 2,847
Lingala 1,394 2,025 2,062 2,131 2,777
Shona   1,421 2,321 2,459 2,638
Kinyarwanda   1,817 1,780 1,785 1,799
Hausa 1,345 1,360 1,400
Igbo 1,019 1,112 1,284
Kongo 1,122 1,173
Luganda 1,082
Wolof 1,116 1,161 1,023 1,044 1,058

Afrikaans continues to grow the steadily, and recently celebrated its 15th birthday. The quality of articles is high, and it’s starting to get more media attention. Which also means dealing with the kind of responses that the English Wikipedia has moved on from, such as but anyone can edit it, how can we trust it. It’s good to see the solid Afrikaans community continuing their impressive work.

Afrikaans Wikipedia's 15th birthday
The Afrikaans Wikipedia’s 15th birthday celebration in Cape Town

There’s a new edition to the 1000 club this time. Welcome Luganda, leapfrogging Wolof, which has mostly stalled since achieving the milestone

Most of the languages have continued to grow as per their previous tends, but yet again Northern Sotho is an exception, and showed the fastet growth over this period. Why is it doing so well? The overused Margaret Mead quote Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed people can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has. perhaps? It’s disputed whether she actually said it, but moving on, just how small are we talking about? In the case of Northern Sotho, there are two main champions. User:Mohau, who has single-handedly created a whopping 4916 of them, and User:Aliwal2012, who I mentioned in the March update, has created 2958 articles. These two editors are an inspiration!

South African Language Wikipedias

Language 19/11/2011 9/5/2013 26/6/2015 5/3/2016 24/11/2016
Afrikaans 20,042 26,754 35,856 39,065 42,732
Northern Sotho 557 685 1,000 2,830 7,605
Zulu 256 579 683 742 777
Tswana 240 495 503 538 615
Xhosa 125 148 356 473 576
Swati 359 364 410 412 419
Tsonga 192 240 266 352 390
Sotho 132 188 223 299 341
Venda 193 204 151 228 238
Ndebele (incubator) 12 12

Besides Afrikaans and Northern Sotho, none of the languages are showing substantial progress, but all are showing signs of life, except for Ndebele, which has stalled in the incubator. As South Africa’s smallest official language, it most reflects the struggles of many of South Africa’s languages, which while official on paper, receive little to no real support.

But there’s no need to wait for others. Hopefully the Northern Sotho example has inspired you. All it takes is sitting down and editing!

Picture from Wikimedia Commons.

Related articles

There’s a mouse in mi kitchen, what am I gonna do?


It’s useful to have some backup skills if you ever want a career change. Mine is mouse catcher. In the last month, I’ve caught 5 mice. And I mean caught. No poison, no traps. I channel my inner cat, sneak up on then, and catch them in a bucket (usually by herding them inside).

Don’t try this is the middle of the night. I’ve avoided sleeping in the lounge next to the fireplace for a while, as I hear them in the kitchen, can’t sleep, eventually furiously barge into the kitchen at about 4am, channeling not my inner cat, but my inner buffalo. The mice escape, I try to go back to bed. Repeat. And the next day I’m a sleep-deprived wreck.

No, you need to stalk them fresh and alert, usually first thing in the morning, or late evening.

I release them in a field. Not the field across the road, as I first did. Apparently mice can find their way back for more than a kilometre. So I take them for a little drive.

Mouse number five proved challenging. After catching it as easily as the others, I had it in a bucket with a book on top. I heard it desperately leaping up, as the others had done, but left it alone as I wasn’t quite ready for the drive.

I returned to find the mouse gone. The tiniest of mice had leaped many times it height, and squeezed out the tiniest of holes I’d left for air. And mice learn fast. Back the next night, now it proved much tougher to catch. The slightest breath as I stalked it and it was gone. Once or twice I had it cornered but it knew to avoid the bucket at all costs.

I heard it again. After catching four mice I thought I had them all and had scrubbed the shelves. The next day they looked like a student’s party pad again. Although I’ve never met a student that shits everywhere. And gnaws holes in the hemp. Mice love hemp. If there’s no hemp seeds, they go for the hemp powder. If there’s no hemp powder they’ll go for the chia meal. Then the chia seeds. Then they start getting desperate and go for the lucuma. The only thing that’s safe is the cacao. They will even eat cardboard rather than cacao.

With the precious hemp safely squeezed into the fridge, and the cacao of no interest, the mouse was in the shelf with my drill, screws, light bulbs. Chewing the cardboard box around the drill. I had the bucket ready, sneaked up, blocked the exits. Threw open the door. And the mouse was gone in a flash, hidden before I could see where it went. I started unpacking furiously, bucket ready for a sudden escape. Light bulbs, extension cords, screws, screwdrivers. No sign of the mouse. It could only be in place. I peeked into the drill box. And there it was. I had to move fast – the box wasn’t that secure, with all the chewing the mouse had been up to.

Mouse shit everywhere. Pasta packets strewn open. The temptation to switch the drill on didn’t even cross my mind…

If driving while texting, or having sex, is dangerous, it doesn’t come close to driving while trying to keep in a mouse in a drill box with many holes. The thought of it chewing through the car didn’t appeal, so the mouse was not escaping again. Luckily it was late at night, and the slightly wobbly driving didn’t cause any accidents. The mouse raced off into the field, hopefully to meet up with the rest of the little hooligans.

It’s been two days. I may even sleep in the lounge tonight. The cupboards are half scrubbed, though I doubt I’d pass any kitchen health inspections. Hopefully that’s the end of them…

Picture from Wikimedia Commons

Before the Flood

Today I watched Before the Flood with Dorje. The film is currently freely available on National Geographic’s Youtube channel. Of course I’ve talked to him about climate change, meat eating, pollution etc, but it’s different seeing it presented visually, and it seemed to have much more of an impact on him. Words alone will struggle to convey the scale of fossil fuel-related destruction of the tar sands, tropical forests, coral reefs.

The documentary has attracted some criticism from those who feel it didn’t go far enough (see this review on Treehugger), that Di Caprio was too deferential as he met various political and other leaders, that his criticism should have been stronger.

But I think he got the balance right between laying out how critical the situation is, and optimism that there’s still hope to turn things around. Without that optimism, there will be no personal action.

Outrage and personal attacks are never persuasive. All they do is posture for those already in the in-group, pushing away everyone else.

As Dorje jokingly said, “it’s your [adults] fault everything is messed up”. Sadly it’s no joke, and the consequences fall on his generation.

Related posts:
Global warming and the sun
Climate change: am I a sheeple?
Technology and the environtment
Climate change

Bumbling round Bergen

Norway is not a welcoming country. Not when the bottled water is on sale for R60, or the quotes for the taxi from Oslo airport to the city centre start at R2400. I can also splurge on a fancy limo for R14000. Maybe choosing the cheap flight and arriving in Oslo after midnight wasn’t such a good idea after all.

I finally make it to my accommodation. Having failed to find a couchsurfer (another reason not to arrive after midnight), I look away as I hand over my credit card. Punch in my pin and hope my transaction doesn’t send the rand into freefall again. With impeccable timing, the finance minister has been charged with fraud, sending the currency plummeting 3.5% the day before. With the Euro, I can neatly pretend R1 equals 1 Euro (it’s actually 15 to 1), and everything looks a bargain. In Norway, that trick doesn’t work, as it’s about 2 to 1, and prices still seem outrageous even without doubling.

The person at the counter asks me if I want bedding. “Er, bedding?” I ask. Yes, the hotel room comes without bedding. OK, the place is a bit of a dive, but it doesn’t include bedding? “Er, yes, I suppose…” That’s a further R92, thanks to the infernal machine showing me the price in rands.

There was a review saying the place looked like a mental asylum. Online reviews, eh, always exaggerating.

The place looks like a mental asylum. The lift doesn’t work, and I find myself staggering up I forget how many flights of stairs, and in a long corridor, white walls, no windows, with poky doors. I expect to see bars on them, but am too tired to look. I find my room, am too tired to even put on the duvet cover, and collapse down to sleep.

A good lesson in why “order by price, lowest first” isn’t always a good idea when choosing accommodation.

What I looked like after arriving in Oslo
I wish I looked as good as this after arriving in Oslo

I plan to stay in Oslo one or two days, and then catch the train to Bergen. I even have a couchsurfer from later in the evening after he gets back from work. Which means I get to check out, and wander around the city hauling my bags around. I came to Europe for work, and politely made sure I had a clean pair of underpants for every day, but now I’m tempted to burn the lot so that I can travel light.

I wander through the botanical gardens. It’s autumn, and everything looks like I did the night before. I carry on to the train station. There are lots of beggars. I wonder about the viability of setting up a proxy beggar, and sending the daily earnings back home. Probably eradicate poverty in Cape Town.

Looking online before, there are regular trains from Oslo to Bergen. I come across the train station, and decide to buy a ticket there. It turns out there’s a train strike, with limited trains and most of them full. The only option in my timeframe is the very next one, leaving in about an hour. I quickly message my couchsurfer, book accommodation for Bergen (again, I have a couchsurfer, but not for the next two nights) and settle down to enjoy the ride.

Each time I travel, I fantasise about meeting some gorgeous stranger. It doesn’t help that a friend did just this on a flight to Cape Town, ended up showing her around the whole week, and is now married to her.

On the 12-hour overnight flight to Amsterdam, I was seated next to a gorgeous stranger. Who promptly went to sleep. She woke up about 2am, just as I was hoping to fall asleep myself. She started rummaging around for her iphone. This went on the whole night, and it didn’t help that she got up about 6 or 7 times too (I was in the middle seat, she by the window). After a miserable sleepless night, she finally accused me of stealing her iphone and demanded to search my bags. I let her search my bag (all the while hoping it hadn’t slipped into my shoe or something). She didn’t find it. She wanted me to ask the equally grumpy, sleepless passenger next to me whether he’d taken it. I decided to rather ask him to get up, so that we could both get out of her way and she could search for her iphone properly. The stewards came to see what was happening.

“Is this yours?” the passenger behind helpfully asked, showing her the iphone that had slipped to the seat behind.

Happily she got her iphone back. Unhappily I was more of a wreck than usual on arrival. No, we’re not getting married.

The train from Bergen to Olso is apparently one of the most beautiful train trips in the world. I sit down next to a gorgeous stranger. But she has the window seat and is blocking my view. Soon the seat in front is free, and I move there to look at the view. Just as we start ascending, and I start to see snow on the hills, the gloom descends, and I can’t see anything. Thanks to the late departure, most of the trip will be overnight, and I’ll miss the views. I move back to the gorgeous stranger. She likes the pictures of Cape Town. She gets off at the next stop.

I arrive in Bergen. It’s late again. At least the place I’m staying at is walkable from the station.

It’s a self-service checkin. Enter your booking code. Enter your credit card. Aargh, not again, can’t the machines here stop showing me the price in Rands! I punch in the pin. The machine spits out my keycard, and flashes out a whole bunch of information. I’m tired, I want to go sleep. Wait, my room number?! Was it 420? 402? I enter the keycard in the main doors. Red light. A note pasted to the door says “you may have to enter your card a few times before getting a green light). I enter it again. Red light. And again. About 15 times later I’m starting to get a wild look in my eyes and am wondering how strong the door is. Luckily I’m saved from a night in Bergen prison by someone else coming in, telling me I need to remove the card quickly, rather than wait for the light.

At least the lift works, and room 402 turns out to be correct. But disaster, what’s the wifi password!? Perhaps that was also on the bunch of info I didn’t read. I really must stop arriving late at night as a zombie. I go downstairs to find someone. Except I can’t get downstairs because I can’t find the lift. I remember coming through a door into a passage, but which door? There are lots, and they all look the same! At least everything is not all white this time. I try a few, all locked. Eventually I find the stairs, find someone who can give me the wifi password, and, concentrating carefully to remember my room number, the wifi password and where I came in, make it back, and settle in for the night.

I can’t sleep, with the infernal racket the fridge is making. I get up to switch it off.

The next morning I awaken, looking up at the hills surrounding this beautiful town. A deep, contented breath as I feel relaxed at last. And step into a huge puddle formed from the fridge defrosting onto the floor. Shortly after I get a reminder about the work I promised to finish up after Amsterdam, and haven’t got around to yet. The hills call to me as the day passes, distractedly punching the keyboard.

My couchsurfer cancels. I get to extend my stay, and hand over my credit card again. I start to get worried about my cards getting blocked before I’ve even bought my return ticket to Amsterdam. I look at flight tickets. I find the cheapest ticket, one I’d briefly researched before. Click book. Wait! There’s an 11-hour stopover somewhere. I may as well walk. What about direct flights? Oh god, no. I feel like crawling into a ball and whimpering when I see the price.

It rains 240 days a year in Bergen, and once set an impressive record of 85 days of rain in a row. My kind of town.

And then there’s the fjords. I sit down to write some landscape love poetry.

Ah, the fjords

A good start, a little rusty, but I can feel this coming back to me.

The beautiful fjords, bellisimo, belle

Or is it bellisima and beau? What gender is a fjord anyway? Hmm, this isn’t really poetry, is it. I’ll skip the poetry.

Anyway, Slartibartfast deserves his award for the fjords. If you get a chance, go see some!

Revisiting Patreon

In March 2015 I started a series, 30 Artists in 30 Days, where the plan was to find 30 artists to support on Patreon. The 30-days part ended up being a little loose. Read that post first if you haven’t already.

It’s been about 18 month since then, and I thought I’d go back and see how Patreon is working out for those artists.

Here’s the list:

Active means has posted on Patreon since June 2016.

Artist Current Status Mar 2015 Sep 2016
Nate Maingard Active 153 $1343 269 $1309
Amanda Palmer Active 3935 $29,193.25 8,317 $33,080
Cyra Morgan Inactive 22 $140 25 $139
Julia Nunes Active 504 $2,010.84 531 $1,424
Dan Newbie Inactive 16 $43 21 $49
George Aguirre Inactive 16 $221 removed
Okori Active 13 $50.50 23 $68
Walt Ribeiro Inactive 28 $158.11 removed
TimH Active 53 $844.35 55 $968
Peter Yuen Active 47 $558 78 $838
Peter Blanchard Active 14 $251 18 $177
The DarkSide Active 1 $1 1 $1
Raina Rose Active ?? ?? 62 $198
James O’Deorain Inactive ?? ?? removed
Caitlin de Ville Inactive ?? ?? 61 $336
Danielle Ate the Sandwich Active 181 $1,011.85 193 $693
Nika Harper Active 302 $1,918.41 194 $877
Scott Bradlee Active 955 $3,427.59 620 $1316
Lauren O’Connell Inactive 342 $1,463.68 357 $1,193
Ana Free Active 75 $445.00 53 $390
Sean Osborn Inactive 3 $31.00 5 $37
David Sides Inactive 5 $9 4 $7
Cyrille Aimee Active 79 $705 152 $1,125
Phil J Active 9 $34 9 $40
Tony Lucca Active 178 $1,373.00 165 $1,003
Christopher Bill Active 48 $287.50 47 $98
Walk Off the Earth Active 1448 $15,805.50 1,287 $9,512
Taylor Davis Active 370 $1,857.00 412 $1,707
Unwoman Active 293 $593.61 399 $751
Gabby Young Active 40 $226.00 51 $260

Like Wikipedia, the concept behind Patreon seems to me like one those things the internet was designed for. Freeing up artists from the middlemen so that they can interact and earn directly from their audience.

So I was quite surprised to see that the majority have seen a reduction in their Patreon income, some quite substantially. A few no longer have Patreon accounts. Only 12 of the 30 have seen an increase. Most have fewer patrons, but even some with more patreons are earning less – so the average pledge has come down. I can’t really see a good reason for this. Patreon’s site was exploited in in October 2015, and perhaps this had an effect, frightening people off. But Patreon’s still getting good press, and still seems to be attracting new artists, so it’s a pity and a mystery to me that artists have not been able to grow their income in a way many would have hoped.

Related posts:
* 30 Artists in 30 Days

Wikipedia and systemic bias

Systemic Bias
A while ago, I noticed a comment on the talk page of one of the Wikipedia editors that I follow. An article he had created was nominated for speedy deletion.

Speedy deletion is the kind of thing reserved for articles about my pet cat, my high school teacher, the rock band I’ve started in my my basement that will be performing its first gig soon, the brilliant new open source content management system I wrote last night. In other words, articles that are uncontroversially deemed to be a waste of space.

The editor, Bobby Shabangu, has created many articles, almost exclusively African content, on the English Wikipedia, as well as the Swati Wikipedia. He’s on the board of Wikimedia South Africa. So, unlikely to add an article about his rock band then.

I took a look at the article. It was on David Tlale, a South African fashion designer. At the time (and it’s still the case as I write), the article was very short, a stub, but had a couple of good references.

In no way was it worthy of nomination for speedy deletion.

But it’s the kind of situation African editors routinely face. Whenever African content is added, the chances of it being nominated for deletion are high. In many cases, the editor is at fault, having not provided sufficient references, but in many cases it’s simply a case of systemic bias. Wikipedia recognises this (there’s a whole article on the issue, and how to tackle it), but that doesn’t help minimise the impact. At any gathering of African editors, there’s almost always much grumbling about the latest rejected content, a sharing of war stories. Another member of the South African board says he no longer contributes to the English Wikipedia for this very reason. And undoubtedly, if you’re able to contribute in another language, it’s far more rewarding to see your contributions gratefully accepted rather than viewed suspiciously.

I started editing in 2002/2003. At the time, the English Wikipedia was a giant blank page. It wasn’t hard to find a new article to create. The city of Durban? The Springbok rugby team? Kaizer Chiefs? Lawrence Ferlinghetti? Walter Sisulu? The Pan-Africanist Congress? I created the articles for all of these and more, and many articles were in a far worse state than Bobby’s once I submitted them. References? Pfft, too much trouble, who needs them.

Today, the English Wikipedia is a very different beast, the criteria are far more stringent, and it’s no longer possible to find such low-hanging fruit to create. But Wikipedia still severely under-represents African content.

Because I happened to spot, Bobby’s article I could remove it from consideration for speedy deletion. But shortly after it was nominated for deletion, which involves more energy spent justifying an article’s existence.

If I had faced the obstacles new editors face today, if my new articles were continually rejected, deemed unworthy, and I had to spend all my energy in fighting to keep them, I can safely say I wouldn’t still be editing 13 years later.

Let’s go back to David Tlale. Let’s imagine he was an American fashion designer. He’s had articles published about him in the New York Times and the Washington Post. His work has appeared at the New Fashion Week and the Paris Fashion Week. Would his article be seen as the equivalent of one about my pet rabbit?

Of course not.

Systemic bias doesn’t imply that administrators nominating African content for deletion are malicious, out to sabotage the project. No, I’m sure they are well meaning, and having to deal with a constant stream of rubbish contributions must test one’s patience, so when they see another article about someone they don’t recognise, when because of their background they can’t quickly tell the difference between references from South Africa’s largest media companies and various personal blogs, the outcome is not too surprising.

So what can be done about it?

Since I’ve been editing for so long, I’ve been granted the “autopatrolled” right. This means any new article I create is listed as “reviewed”, and is far less likely to attract the attention of a trigger-happy administrator editor looking to delete it.

At today’s Wikimedia South Africa board meeting, I proposed that we identify various experienced, trusted editors, and nominate them to receive the autopatrolled right. Most editors don’t know it exists, or don’t want to go through the red tape of applying and justifying themselves. This won’t help new editors, but it will help retain experienced editors who’re consistently beaten down by the opposition they face.

Let’s see how it goes!

Related posts:
* Wikimedia South Africa Workshop
* March 2016 African language Wikipedia update

26000 runners and a walker

While about 11 000 people decided to run 56km this morning, and another 16 000 took it easy with the half-marathon, I decided it was perfect weather to cover a little less distance than that, and go for a walk on the mountains.

Silvermine (pre-fire)

27 000+ people were blocking the route I planned to go, so I ended up walking near Silvermine. Walking is a great mood-enhancer if I’m in a bad mood, and what I most want to do if I’m feeling good, so there’s never a bad time to go. Like most of us, I don’t always end up doing what I want to and I haven’t done much recently, although the summer heat where all I’ve wanted to do was curl up under a cold shower didn’t help. But, the first autumn cold front made perfect weather.

I took Dorje sometime in 2014, and it was a wonderfully windy day, hanging on to the beacon in the maelstrom as the clouds poured by, occasionally revealing the sun, or the view below.

But that pales compared to the wind today. For most of the route, the wind was moderate, but it picked up in the afternoon, and coming back I took a detour to the lookout point over Hout Bay. As I got closer, sand started blasting my face, and I had to cover my eyes. As I reached the lookout point, I could barely stay upright. The wind was thudding into me, a brief moment of calm, and then raging with all the fury it could muster. I tried using some rusty tai chi to stand rooted on a rock, but just couldn’t keep balanced. I love Cape Town’s wind, but this was too much even for me, and I’m sure the runners are happy it was much milder in the morning!

Luckily the wind was blowing from the sea, otherwise I would probably be spending the night half way down the cliff face.

Coming back down past Silvermine Dam, unsurprisingly deserted, the water was the wildest I’ve seen, the wind was blowing the water over the dam wall, and any swimmers would have risked being dashed by the waves against the wall.

If I’m not too stiff after oiling my walking rust, I may just do it all again tomorrow!

Image from Wikipedia

March 2016 African language Wikipedia update

My feeds have been full with Dumi editing up a storm on the Xitstonga Wikipedia recently, as well as helping the Ndebele Wikipedia into the incubator. Ndebele is the only South African official language without a Wikipedia, and it’s great to see this hole being plugged. So, it’s time for another African language Wikipedia update. The usual disclaimer that this only takes into account number of articles, an imperfect metric, as not all articles are equal. This article is in a far healthier state than this one, for example.

But as an indicator of trends and activity, it’s as good as any, so let’s see what been happening:

African Language Wikipedias

Language 11/2/2011 13/4/2012 9/5/2013 17/6/2014 26/6/2015 5/3/2016
Malagasy 3,806 36,767 45,361 47,144 79,329 81,240
Afrikaans 17,002 22,115 26,752 31,756 35,856 39,065
Swahili 21,244 23,481 25,265 26,349 29,127 32,565
Yoruba 12,174 29,894 30,585 30,910 31,068 31,172
Egyptian Arabic   8,433 10,379 12,440 14,192 14,839
Amharic 6,738 11,572 12,360 15,968 12,950 13,031
Somali 1,639 2,354 2,757 3,646 3,446 3,878
Northern Sotho 557 566 685 691 1,000 2,830
Kabyle     1,503 1,876 2,296 2,643
Shona     1,421 2,077 2,321 2,459
Lingala 1,394 1,816 2,025 2,077 2,062 2,131
Kinyarwanda   1,501 1,817 1,832 1,780 1,785
Hausa 1,345 1,360
Kongo 1,122
Igbo 1,019 1,112
Wolof 1,116 1,814 1,161 1,201 1,023 1,044

Afrikaans as always continues to show steady growth, and while at times growth in other languages has spiked for a short while, Afrikaans has shown steady, consistent progress, and most of its articles are high quality as well.

Swahili too shows steady growth, and has passed Yoruba, which was the beneficiary of a brief spike.

Most dramatic has been been Northern Sotho, which is the most recent official language of South Africa to get a Wikipedia, and which only recently broke the 1000 article barrier. It has now surged past seven other languages, with 2830 articles. Much of this growth (a whopping 1544 new articles) is down to User:Aliwal2012, a hospital pharmacist living in Lady Grey who’s also extremely active on the Afrikaans Wikipedia, and modestly contributes to the English Wikipedia as well. Modest is a relative term, since in spite of being around for about decade less than me, and English only being their third most active language, they’ve still created more new articles in English than I have!

A great example of the impact one person can have, made more visible by it being in a language that has little content.

Kabyle, a language spoken mostly in northern Algeria, as well as France, has also shown some growth, passing Shona.

Kongo, spoken in the DRC, Republic of Congo and Angola, has now also broken 1000 articles and is a new edition on the list, and Kikuyu is knocking on the door as well.

Exciting to see new languages and bursts of activity, with only a few being relatively stagnant.

On to the South African languages specifically:

South African Language Wikipedias

Language 19/11/2011 13/4/2012 9/5/2013 17/6/2014 26/6/2015 5/3/2016
Afrikaans 20,042 22,115 26,754 31,756 35,856 39,065
Northern Sotho 557 566 685 691 1,000 2,830
Zulu 256 483 579 630 683 742
Tswana 240 490 495 510 503 538
Xhosa 125 136 148 333 356 473
Swati 359 361 364 400 410 412
Tsonga 192 193 240 303 266 352
Sotho 132 145 188 197 223 299
Venda 193 190 204 209 151 228
Ndebele (incubator) 12

The results here are particularly pleasing, as with the exception of Swati, all the languages are showing activity. As Northern Sotho and Xitsonga, have shown, one person can make a substantial impact.

Anecdotally, some of the of this activity may be down to the content translation tool – it’s great to see a useful tool put to use by the community.

This has probably been the most optimistic report since I started these a number of years ago. Long may it continue, as we get closer to a world where each human can freely share in the sum of all knowledge.

Related articles

Image from Wikimedia Commons

Trust Us, We’re a Payment Gateway

A friend told me today about an experience of attempting to book a flight on His credit card wasn’t working, but there was an option for bank transfer (EFT), so he chose that.

The EFT option used SID, a payment option promising secure EFT transactions. All good so far, so he followed the link.

The SID window asked him to enter his bank account login details… You know, the kind you’re constantly warned about to never give to anyone and never to enter on any other site except your banks.

I couldn’t believe that this is actually what happened (perhaps the friend had missed his morning coffee), so I checked it for myself. Looking into SID’s documentation, they claim to be externally verified, not to store the login details, and to use the bank’s own security system. But yes, you are asked to enter your bank account login details in their window.

I’ve got no reason to doubt that SID does what it says, but the methodology seems hopelessly flawed.

Let’s say I start a new payment system called SAD. At the same time I launch my casino website, relying on trusted SAD security. I state clearly that SAD uses the bank’s own security systems, and doesn’t store any of the login credentials. Totally secure!

The transaction succeeds, and the customer has a credit to spend on my casino site. They spend many happy hours on my casino website, winning up a storm, and dreaming of their new Tesla. For some reason the cashout option isn’t working today, but check back soon…

Some time later, they decide to check their bank balance, and find, to their horror, it’s all gone. They immediately phone their bank. Perhaps the conversation goes something like this:

HORRIFIED CUSTOMER: There’s a transaction clearing out my entire balance! It wasn’t me! The transaction needs to be reversed!

BANK: Hmm, our records indicate you logged in from internet banking, and transferred the money out. When was the last time you remember logging in?

HC: Er, I logged in to and made a R50 transfer to their account from my bank account, using the safe and secure SAD system.

BANK: OK, no problem, we’re refunding the money now, apologies for the mistake.

Or perhaps not…

Perhaps the bank, in their charming and professional manner, laughs you off the phone and tells you you’re and idiot for giving your login details to another site.

Merchants asking customers to trust them, assuring them that their bank details are secure, is a recipe for disaster. Just don’t do it.

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Image from Wikimedia Commons

Learning Man and the Talent Exchange

I’ve just come back from Learning Man festival, held on a farm just outside Riviersonderend.

The festival describes itself as a call to co-create a great social experiment in community resilience, focusing on Experimenting with Off Grid Living, Adventures in Freedom, Learning skills for an empowered life and Using Our own Economy.

Learning Man continues until after New Year, and I’m back early, not because I didn’t enjoy it, but mainly because it was too hot. If anything will make me emigrate to New Zealand, it’s not to see hobbits, it’s because (for now at least) it’s usually a lot cooler there. There was a river to swim in, and ample showers, but mostly I spent the time feeling too hot. Since today was 40° in Cape Town, I’m very happy not to have been roasting out there today.

Besides the heat, I need to up my camping game. The tents next to me included such must-haves as:

  • misting spray to keep cool
  • outside lights to guide the way back at night (after my first after-dark return was spent bumbling around in the dark with all sense of direction gone)
  • blow-up mattress (I used the sleeping bag as a mattress)
  • camping chairs
  • food (I had the bright idea of fasting while I was there and taking only a box of chia meal along for emergencies. Not so easy when all around are cooking and inviting you to eat with them)
  • bug repellent (I’ve come back having provided much sustenance for the local insects)

So, I was hot, not particularly comfortable, and missing Dorje who didn’t come with.

The festival is highly child-friendly. Dorje has many advantages over my childhood, but one of the ways he’s worse off is in rarely experiencing the freedom to roam without supervision, and the festival would have been perfect for this.

As the name suggests, one of the main purposes of the festival was learning, and there were numerous interesting talks and demonstrations on offer, such as How to build a compost-heated water system, Fire walking, Money alternatives – crypto-currencies and community exchanges, Sacred economy: The re-emergence of the collaborative commons and peer production as a viable economical model, Conduism and Channeling with the Ancient Shamanic Plant Medicine Iboga. There’s a longer list at Learning Man website, and there were also a number of spontaneous offerings, such as a couple’s discussion on their experiences with polyamory.

The festival was used as an opportunity to boost the Talent Exchange – all offerings at the festival needed to be either gifted, exchanged, or exchanged for Talents. There’s been a burst of new offerings as a result, but the concept was also challenged, as some of the participants objected to being “forced to join a website”, or “expected to sell things in order to earn Talents”. The discussions were animated, some misunderstandings were cleared up, and once again the Talent Exchanged proved a great way to introduce many financial concepts to people.

The festival is still ongoing, but it’s been an interesting experiment in bringing different communities together. Many of the people that attend the Space of Love events, based on the Anastasia books, were there. Those gatherings are usually much more contained and intimate, and there seemed to be differing expectations of the levels of participation, volunteering, and so on. Similarly, it’s likely there’ll be a big influx just for the New Years party,which may change the dynamic some more.

There was a police visit during the festival. I’m not sure if it was for a drugs raid, but they would have been highly disappointed at the findings (I didn’t even see any alcohol while I was there), and seeing child-friendly areas of the festival where not even smoking cigarettes was permitted.

It’s been a worthwhile experiment, and hopefully will continue to develop in future years.

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