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The question is whether MeatballWiki is a MultilingualWiki, or an EnglishOnlyWiki?.

As is argued on MultilingualWiki, creating a wiki for every language has drawbacks, too. We have to go through benefits and drawbacks point by point -- if we do not, then there is nothing to be learnt from this discussion. And then we need to add what we learnt to MultilingualWiki.

Benefits and Problems

Benefit: Bigger Community. If we can reach more people because content is available in more languages, we get a bigger MindShare?, more PeerReview, and we stimulate those amongst us that speak several langauges (EnablingCreativity).

Problem: Namespace. Sometimes a page name is useful for several languages, so it will attract contributions in various languages. Compare WebLog vs. CarnetWeb where the page name did was different and DebianGNULinux?, where the page name was the same.

Danger: Fragmentation. There is a potential danger that the language groups do not overlap, and thus we do not really get a bigger community, but two communities instead. But note that if we create another meatball in another language, then fragmentation is assured, whilst a multilingual wiki only has the potential to fragment.

Problem: Recent Changes Degradation. We may assume that only a small group of members is interested in both (all) languages. For all others RecentChanges will contain "foreign language noise" that will make participation less fun and less efficient.


It seems to me that the worst case scenario for not splitting is just as bad as creating Meatball offshoots: Community Fragmentation. What remains is the namespace problem and the bigger community benefit. -- AlexSchroeder

I think the best case scenario is making the architecture match the forces. Our problem right now is that the architecture we have does not work well with mixed languages. Our strength is that we are very good at reshaping the architecture, and our power is that we can. -- SunirShah

Selected Quotes

Editor's Note: It's critical to understand when reading the below that there are two French communities being discussed. One is the French Meatballers; these people share (more or less) our values and direction. The other is the French WebLoggers (frogloggers). They do not share our language nor our values and direction, but we'd both like to interact with each other. Some of the issues mentioned are really problems of welding two disparate communities together, not just two disparate languages.

This discussion started on another page and was moved here. The selected statements try to hilight various aspects of a multilingual community. Feel free to add new statements, or move statements and discussion to their own pages.

I'm not entirely sure that we need a French version. -- SunirShah

I wrote this page in French because I'm french and like to read info in French. -- ArnaudFontaine

I don't really like to navigate through a language mix in one and the same wiki. Why not start a French MeatballWiki instead? I like how they did the internationalisation in Wikipedia. -- DavidAndel

When I find a page in a language I don't understand on a multi-language wiki/site/anything, I just think "Hey ! it's a cool place with people from everywhere !" and I ask the author if he can write, at least a summary in English. -- ArnaudFontaine

Not being able to read the content means that it becomes noise for the mostly English speaking/reading wikizens at this wiki. -- MarkDilley

We have not considered what impact changing MeatballWiki to be a MultilingualWiki would have at all. For now, the site is English, as that is a) my language, and b) the technical language of the Internet. -- SunirShah

Is MultilingualWiki the next challenge for MeatballWiki? -- ArnaudFontaine

If we want to get maximum feedback and collaboration, we have to use English. -- HelmutLeitner

Wikis are made by the community, not merely by individual users. How do you connect people writing in separate languages? Using an disparate languages violates OpenProcess. -- SunirShah

You always have the RightToLeave and form your own community and we have our expectation to stay because we have invested our effort into this space. That is the simplest solution, and we can link together using InterWiki. -- SunirShah

The second simplest solution is to just write in disparate languages. This strategy disrupts the very reason you are attracted to this place: the community here. -- SunirShah

Separate communities can converge at a higher level. For instance, each culture in Toronto has its own community embedded in the city of Toronto, in turn embedded in Southern Ontario, then Ontario, then English Canada, then Canada, then North America, then the Western Bloc, eventually culminating in the GlobalVillage. -- SunirShah

One solution would be to limit non-English discussions to chitchat between similarly spoken individuals (ThreadMode), projects that are intrinsically bound to a certain language (e.g. FrogLog), and translations of DocumentMode (e.g. CarnetWeb), while the rest is considered the wider public and should be in the public language English. -- SunirShah

Another is to just let MeatballWiki become multilingual, hoping that multilingual individuals will transfer knowledge and values across boundaries. -- SunirShah

Another is to rely on TechnologySolutions like machine translation. -- SunirShah

Some people in the microcommunity LangueFrançaise (like me) could prefer to speak French on their HomePage. -- ChristopheDucamp

Maybe invite any French speakers to add [fr] in the Summary field? -- ChristopheDucamp

I'd like to connect the two with TwinPages eventually if you're game, and seek other ways to unify the two spaces. -- SunirShah

I think the goal is to carry our ideas such as SoftSecurity into other areas, such as the French blogging community. So being close to them is a good thing. The problem is that we have little peer review of the French community by the English community. In order to be just one community, we need more interaction. Therefore, eventhough I acknowledge that we still have problems to solve, splitting the wiki is a step in the wrong direction. -- AlexSchroeder


Please keep the discussion on Meatball. I think the question of language in online communities is very much on-topic. -- AlexSchroeder

Hi Alex, you mean the conversation we could have on TwinPages ! I really need some help in english. Awaiting some help [here] :)) -- ChristopheDucamp

I do not understand -- do you want to continue the discussion on MultilingualWiki, TwinPages, or on haloscan.com? For me, moving the discussion away from Meatball would be very bad. -- AlexSchroeder

I don't want to move Alex. If you read the comment, the intention of haloscan was just used to invite any french people to come and express here... (in english). Alex, I'm still awaiting help from some francophone resources with better skills to produce a good discussion ;). Be sure I try to do my best to understand InterWiki... Why do you consider InterWiki as a "cheap" solution ? For the liliputian community of [french "wikistes"] it could be a simple and effective way to open some bridges with MeatBall ? Ready to [learn] and open the discussion about the syncrhonization of the 2 pages (WebLog and CarnetWeb) on the page you prefer : TwinPages ? CarnetWeb ? ;). -- ChristopheDucamp

Ah. I misunderstood, then. I thought *I* was supposed to help you, and I did not understand the problem. And as to "cheap" -- this means not only "bon marché", it also means that the solution is very simple: It takes very little effort to get started, but it needs manual linking. ManualLinking is not a bad thing. -- AlexSchroeder

How about BarnRaising a MultilingualWiki (for all languages) and the multilingual pages here would be mostly about that task? -- Anon

The benefits of a MultilingualWiki probably depend on the proportion of the users who speak the alternative languages. How to gauge this, I don't know. My feeling is that unless there is an especially high proportion of multilingual users, a true MultilingualWiki (i.e. with a large proportion of active pages either containing different languages or being mirrored in other languages) would do more harm than good, mainly in terms of increasing the amount of noise for single-language users (this is an important effect; increased noise makes clarity and refactoring harder).

But maybe we do have a large proportion of multilingual users here, so maybe a MultilingualWiki would be appropriate here. I only speak English, so that's where my bias lies. I guess if MeatBall were to go full-out multilingual, it would be mainly English, German, and French, right?

Even if a full MultilingualWiki isn't the way to go, there's no need to be dogmatic. A few other language pages or comments here and there are fine. My feeling is that it's best to have each page be almost entirely in one language, and to maybe have pages that are entirely in other languages, but not to mix languages in one page. I think having comments in multiple languages on one page would cause trouble with refactoring. I think that for a single-language wiki with exceptions a short tag in the summary field for alternate-language pages (as people are doing now) is sufficient to keep down RecentChanges "other language" noise.

For a true MultilingualWiki, though, this is probably insufficient to keep things managable. Certainly, as Sunir (and the page MultilingualWiki) have suggested, there are possible software improvements that could make other language pages (or even paragraphs) effectively invisible to those who don't speak the language. This would probably be the best solution for a true MultilingualWiki, but it may take a little coding work -- one question that should be asked beforehand is, would anyone have the time to do this?

-- BayleShanks

See my comment in Goals Discussion on MultilingualWiki. I think it's important to distinguish whether we want many different-language versions of a wiki bound together, or whether we want multilingual dialog. I think that unless the vast majority of contributors (weighted by frequency) are fluent in the same multiple languages, MeatBall should have the first and actively avoid the second. I think that the case is that we do not in fact have the requisite vast majority (but I'm not certain of this -- I think if we do have it, it is more likely to be in German, though, not in French).

In this case, I think we should avoid having multiple languages on the same page. We should construct other language versions of pages, but only insofar as we have the software capability to keep them segregated. I think the easiest way to do this currently is by setting up other-language mirror wikis connected by InterWiki links. Eventually after someone writes the software improvements to allow RecentChanges filtering by languages (but not before) we could copy all of these mirror wikis back into a single wiki.

There is no need to be dogmatic, though. A few pages (esp. homepages) in other languages and a few comments here and there won't kill anyone.

-- BayleShanks

I think we should support the French subcommunity here on usemod.com. After thinking about it, it's an excellent opportunity to develop multicultural solutions as many of us (including me) speak French and we have a strong French subcommunity. The third community could be German, but I think we should wait for that after the French community is settled as I don't speak German (yet), and I think I'm personally going to have to do a lot of work to make this happen. -- SunirShah

I thought all educated people were supposed to be able to speak at least two languages. Mi pensis ke cxiuj kleraj homoj devas paroli du lingvojn. Ich denke dass jeden intellektuelle leute müssen zwei Sprache sprechen. Pienso que las personas en universidades necesitan hablar m'as que dos idiomas. Even if they speak/write them badly, like me. --ChuckSmith (who is not a fan of "English only")

As I have wikied previously, I am for using Meatball to create a truly multilingual wiki, maybe it remains on meatball, maybe not. But I feel like once we make the decision to move from English only, we can't say, English and French only, or English, French and German only. We need to be able to integrate other languages. -- MarkDilley (must have missed the memo that all educated people should be able to speak at least two languages.)

My point wasn't to make it only English and French. My point was to make it first English and French since French seems like the easiest next language. -- SunirShah

For your information, the PhpWiki community also have a discussion about MultilingualWiki on PhpWiki:MultiLingualWiki. -- ArnaudFontaine

Language or Style Difference?

This discussion also started on another page....

This is really about nothing, isn't it? -- SunirShah

It is about something : a french funny word for web bar with wireless access from where you can edit your wiki pages, for exemple. If you think that LangueFrançaise is "really about nothing", up to you :) -- ArnaudFontaine

I think Sunir is asking two things: 1. Is this on topic? 2. Is this a shallow page? The StyleGuide says that we should prevent shallow pages -- pages with little content, or boring content, or just a simple definition. For WisTro to be interesting, it should probably contain some thoughts on why people want to go there, whether you meet other net.people there, what the effect on the online community is, etc.

And Sunir is perhaps concerned about the tendency of the French pages to be just chat -- not even ThreadMode about a topic, but a lot of "Hello!" -- "Please read this on that page." -- "I must update my blog." This may be true, because most of the French pages are HomePages. So it is perhaps just a misconception. If it were true, this is not because the pages are in French. This is because the style on these pages is different. Perhaps this is a style difference between traditional Meatball Wiki and Blog Community. That would also be an interesting topic to explore. -- AlexSchroeder.

Arnaud, it seems that every time we interact, you reduce the situation to one-dimensional language politics. This confrontational position has forced us to define policies like MeatballLanguage well before the time when we need to do this. Christophe was doing well enough introducing the FrogLog people to MeatballWiki and matching the blog culture with the wiki culture without swamping the community here. However, this simple diplomatic introduction has been pushed too early, well before the two cultures have adapted.

This site is meant for community leaders. The goal of the community leader is to look out for the benefit of the community. In this situation, we have two communities that are negotiating how they will interact, which means community leaders such as Christophe and MeatBall have to look out for the benefit of both groups. This means that Christophe has requested that the FrogLoggers take it easy, respecting the existing site here, and that the Meatball community is working on ways of crossing the language barrier. Indeed, it should show you the strength of Meatball that so many people have stepped forward to resolve this issue, and that's because we're all community leaders.

There are several points here to note. First, you're a blogger, and therefore not accustomed to wikis and possibly even online communities in general. The first rule of netiquette is lurk before you leap, as you might know. You have been ignoring our CommunityExpectations and the StyleGuide. Second, your one-dimensional view of the world is paranoid, and we DefendAgainstParanoia here because we AssumeGoodFaith. We are not all evil, robotic American imperialist pig dogs hell-bent on destroying the French language. Third, I find this reduction personally annoying because I am Canadian.

So, basically, I'm asking you to chill out and take things slowly. We have lots of time to work things out, and it seems you guys have yet to learn how to think "wiki" before we get into the trickier arguments about language. Please, please AssumeGoodFaith before beating us over the head with language issues. I agree with Alex, though, that the root problem is that you guys are blog people and we are wiki people. This always happens whenever blog people attempt to come to MeatballWiki, but that's because bloggers are not community leaders, but mere webheads. And ultimately I don't think the FrogLog people will fit in well with MeatballWiki simply because you are not community leaders, really, and therefore I think it would serve you guys best to set up your own wiki to play with. -- SunirShah

Ok Sunir, I didn't want things going this way ... the "one-dimensional language point of view" was a kind of running gag. Nothing serious, even if it asked the question about MultilingualWiki. I apologize. As you guess, the "one-dimensional view of the world" is bounded to the first "one-dimensional" stuff. So, no, I don't think you're all "robotic American imperialist pig dogs" :) You don't really think we french are frogs, do you ?

I don't agree with you when you say I've been ignoring the CommunityExpectations and the StyleGuide, but well ... I might have hurted you, I might be wrong, you're probably right and, once again I apologize, maybe I should tag some of my quotes with a kind of "<troll>" marker :)

About your first assumption, no, I'm not a blogger at all, I don't have a blog and don't like blogs. I've been using wikis for years and even running wikis. But yes, you and Alex are right on a point about blog ... I think a kind of WikiWebLog as I describe them in french on CarnetWiki can be good community tool to experiment ... and ok, I won't experiment here :) (I set up CraoWiki for this).

About your third assumption, I'm no leader because I refuse to be a leader as I don't like community based on a model with a leader ... and it's not because Christophe asked me to come talking here that I'm in the FrogLog community. I just have links with them. I believe in links more than in leaders (maybe my paranoid "one-dimensional view of the world" ;) ...).

Alex is right when he wrote that "the style on these pages is different" ... but the difference in the style comes (well ... that's my point of view on this topic) from the difference between anglo saxon and french culture more than from any MeatBall vs Blog stuff.

Well ... this can be endless :) Sorry for my bad style here ;) -- ArnaudFontaine

A Short Question

What do you mean precisely by "Community Leader" ? What community is implied (wikis, real-life communities, ...) ? -- EmmanuelBizieau

The people producing pages in a minority language on any given wiki should indicate that. A simple space-delimited suffix is all we need. It doesn't require any code and doesn't mess with the title as a prefix would. Searching for titles with "_french" returns all the french pages. Consider this a request from someone tired of finding pages he can't read on Meatball.

It's better to separate the pages into two 'spaces' that are, nonetheless, strongly connected. Then searches on the French side only operate on French pages.

Could we imagine one day having a french dedicated NameSpace for LangueFrançaise or PageAccueil ? Imho, an EspaceNom could be interesting to be tested to avoid any future inconvenience and if we want to have a future small "LaLève de Grange" on meatballwiki coming from some french wikistes :-) For the moment, I'll try to do my best in using minor edits. Not really convinced in the WikiNow that a suffix like "_french" could be nice for our future LinkPattern or CommunityWiki:LangageLien to be built on mb. -- ChristopheDucamp

... Snipped from RecentChanges

(Here) in RecentChanges the occurence of french language is reducing readability, is there any feasible way to avoid this?

After ChristopheDucamp has correctly moved my remark (above) to here and having read this page, I clearly want to express, that I'm not capable of imagining pages that look like this:

Nun fügen wir eine Zeile in deutscher Sprache ein, damit Deutsch nicht zusammen mit Französisch untergeht.

Meaning - loosely translated: MeatballWiki is not about saving the french language from extinction. This is off topic. If the use of the french language (or any other aside of the current american- or british-english) here in MeatballWiki would _particularly_ be helpful in pursuing the aims of MeatballWiki, it could certainly make sense. (Guest, or better: visitor) oh, forgot something..

Personally not being a 'specialist' of social wiki-processes I was trying to give an example of how this wiki may be in real danger due to the use of more than one language several times now (excepting a solution like on Wikipedia, where - ideally - a translation of the whole thing is available in different languages). Some may follow this point of view, some may not. In any case, those who dont't follow may end up with nothing. I'm not connected too much to MeatballWiki, but found interest which did'nt cease yet. It is something very interesting. To warn again about the use of (how many?) different languages _and_ the use of especially conspicious long summaries, I'm summing up again with an especially long summary in the german language. Please understand. (Guest, or better: visitor)

Repeatedly thinking about this language-issue, one technical solution (if not already proposed or considered) for those interested in a common platform (which necessitates a common language) could be to automatically collect the pages written in other languages, mark them internally and display a link somewheres on top of each page for each available 'foreign' representation. Thus, those liking to read their preferred language only would always find their way. One major manual job would then be to relate the various page-titles to each other _at the start_ of such a measure. Pages who wouldn't find an equivalent still would be found 'inside' the structure of the particular language 'domain'.

The namespace-problem could probably only be solved by the rule first come, first served. In my opinion fragmentation can't be prevented. Those interested in the common platform would contribute in english. Think of it, which fragment would be really missing then in MeatballWiki? Recent Changes degradation was solved by this measure, since this would be presented separately for each language.

(Please excuse for my non-technical language, Guest, or..)

LangueFrançaise | MultilingualWiki



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