A Wikipedia ban and the wisdom of a 5-year old

I’m sure many people enjoyed an outrageous weekend. Going to a strip club, drinking too much, behaving outrageously and then getting banned from ever returning. That sort of thing.

My version involved almost getting banned from Wikipedia. Technically I’d broken a fundamental Wikipedia rule, reverting an article three times. Since I’m absolutely passionate about the goals of the foundation, which begin Imagine a world in which every single human being can freely share in the sum of all knowledge, getting banned would be rather sad. The fact that my version of the article was much better than the alternative version wouldn’t have helped my defence!

Skipping forward to Sunday evening, Dorje, in the midst of winning at all costs, said something along the lines of I’m so full of love I love everybody, even baddies.

Wikipedia has a principle of assuming good faith. This very powerful principle implements the idea that by treating people well, they’re likely to treat you well. So, when a user makes a contribution that you deem is not constructive, instead of assuming that they’re an agent of the Illuminati out to corrupt Wikipedia, or some nutter who cons the gullible with their snake oil product, one can work with them. Perhaps the edit was a mistake, or perhaps they are simply well-meaning but not really seeing a perspective beyond their own.

After Dorje’s comments, I thought back to my weekend’s Wikipedia interactions, and loving the baddie I’d been bumping heads with. To my mind s/he was arrogant, aggressive and rude. Except that picturing somone in your mind as arrogant, aggressive and rude is hardly assuming good faith, or conducive to spreading the love. So, I returned, ready to try make peace with this person, even if I couldn’t agree.

I found, to my surprise, that many of their edits were generally constructive, and that I had been in the wrong. In my picturing them as a baddie, I’d overlooked their constructive contributions, and had once even reverted a constructive contribution of there’s under an assumption that it was no good. Since they were perhaps tired, stressed, or picturing me as a baddie too, we’d both been bumping heads, looking at the worst of each other’s activities.

Thanks to Dorje’s contribution, I’m humbled, and for now, all is peaceful again.

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The state of Wikimedia projects in South African and Africa – Dec 2008

I took a look at the South African language Wikimedia projects again today, to see whether there’s been much progress since May.

Wikipedia – number of articles

Language 1/10/2007 10/11/2007 9/12/2007 1/5/2008 16/12/2008
Afrikaans 8374 8608 8731 9679 11 285
Zulu 107 109 121 141 182
Tsonga 10 16 37 71 150
Swati 56 66 76 116 146
Venda 43 80 101 112 120
Xhosa 66 80 88 100 109
Tswana 40 41 43 66 102
Sotho 43 44 43 53 68
Northern Sotho* 0 0 0 230 301
Ndebele 0 0 0 0 0

* – incubator

The Afrikaans Wikipedia continues to develop well, shooting past the 10 000 milestone, and has a strong community. The quality of the articles tends to be quite high as well, as there’s a preference in the community for quality over quantity.

Otherwise, Tsonga has also had some momentum recently. Last year it was the smallest of the official South African language Wikipedias, while now it’s up to 3rd, and closing in on Zulu.

The Northern Sotho project is still in the Incubator, and not an official project, although it seems to be doing quite well there, and would be second behind Afrikaans if it were an official project. Getting out of incubator status seems unlikely though, as the requirements have changed since the early free-for-all, and an active community, as currently interpreted, seems to set the bar a bit high.

With the low level of activity, statistics can be easily skewed by one or two contributers. The Tsonga Wikipedia has benefited from a particularly active contributor, while the Venda Wikipedia, which was the 3rd South African language to reach the milestone of 100 articles, has seen only 19 new articles in the last year.

Wiktionary – number of entries

Language 9/12/2007 1/5/2008 16/12/2008
Afrikaans 9312 11 168 13 036
Sotho 1381 1383 1383
Tsonga 166 347 347
Zulu 102 102 124
Swati 31 41 46
Tswana 0 0 22
Xhosa 11 11 Closed

The Afrikaans Wiktionary continues to thrive, and a Tswana Wiktionary has sprung, or rather, crawled, into existence, but everything else really has ground to a halt. The Xhosa project has been closed due to lack of activity, and moved to the Incubator.

Wikipedia – African languages

Language 1/1/2007 16/12/2008
Afrikaans 6149 11 285
Swahili 2980 7807
Yoruba 517 6246
Amharic 742 3251
Lingala 292 1074

Afrikaans remains the largest African language Wikipedia (and 79th largest overall), remaining comfortably ahead of Swahili. At 2007’s growth rate, Swahili looked likely to pass Afrikaans this year, but 2008 has seen new momentum for Afrikaans. Yoruba though has seen rapid growth, and since Jan 2007, there have been more new articles in Yoruba than in any other African language. Amharic and Lingala are the only other African languages with more than 1000 articles.

It may seem like we’re a long way from achieving the dream of a world in which every single human being can freely share in the sum of all knowledge. But, perhaps, if we consider that of all the many years of human history, just 3 short years ago, an instant between the ticking of the galactic clock, most of these projects didn’t even exist, we’ll realise we’re doing quite well.

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