David Madore's WebLog: Wikipedia

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[Pas de traduction française de cette entrée, mais suivez quand même ce lien vers la Wikipédia en français.]

For those who haven't heard about it, the Wikipedia is a free on-line collaborative encyclopedia project. Basically, the idea is that anyone can write, or edit, any article about anything (that's what a Wiki is all about) and one just “hopes” that there will be only a limited amount of vandalism (such as gratuitously deleting or defacing articles, obnoxious content spamming and so on) — which really means that hosts of volunteers spend an awful amount of time repairing damages, but since the full editorial history of every article (with all changes made to it) is kept it isn't an utterly impossible task to repair acts of vandalism. Just as any kind of material found on the Web in general, entries in the Wikipedia should be treated with a grain of salt and a healthy dose of caution (and criticism), but in general one will find it surprisingly accurate and highly useful.

Today I've done my first bit of writing for the Wikipedia which wasn't entirely unimportant: I've opened up a Wikipedia account for me (which isn't necessary even to edit an article but it's highly recommended if one expects to be doing anything remotely serious: for example, this means anyone can track all the editing I've done), and I've worked a bit on the article on schemes and created one on the Éléments de géométrie algébrique. There's a lot of work that I could put into this, and I don't know how far I'll have the patience to go.

The really nice thing about the Wikipedia is how flexible and powerful the interface is: editing an article is as simple as clicking on a link at the bottom of the page, and seeing the history of changes made to the page is also that simple; nearly everything in the Wikipedia is a Wiki page in itself — to discuss with other users/editors, one simply edits a “talk” page. The two things I really don't like are, number one, the kind of markup that is being used, and, number two, the way i18n (that's “internationalization”) was done. The markup uses a lot of strange conventions that are hard to remember. As for i18n, it is obtained by making every language version of Wikipedia almost completely independent from the others (so the French Wikipedia, incidentally called the Wikipédia with an acute accent, is quite distinct from the English Wikipedia or the German Wikipedia and so on: even user accounts are not shared between them!). It is possible to add links on an article pointing to alternate versions in other languages, but that is all (and the links aren't even automatically created both ways), and of course people forget to do so. I'm not sure what a good system would be, but this one certainly isn't (at least it should be easy to establish correspondences between languages without actually writing an article, so as to let users “fall back” to a second language if the first language article isn't available, and it should also be possible to view changes made to all languages versions, so as to make it possible for translators to keep track when changes are being made back and forth). I really don't think I'll have the patience to translate into French the math stuff I'll write in English.

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