Are there still mountains beyond the 3rd Wikipedia ridgeline?

That was the question Tuku Tiway Sayuen asked in his Wikimania presentation about the Sakizaya community. The tribes of Hualien City warned against venturing beyond the third ridgeline in the west – it was said that dangers awaited there. However, when climbing the mountain of Wikipedia, what Sayuen and his community found were not dangers but friends and allies. They found people on the same mission of strengthening their languages, and conserving and sharing their indigenous knowledge.

Foto by Matt Chang
Looking north towards Hualien Plain and Central Mountain Range from Lingding on the Coast Mountain Range. CC BY 2.0, from Wikimedia Commons.

Supporting those that already support

The Wikimedia projects are amazing tools for making indigenous languages and knowledge available online, for example as seen in Cambodia and in India . The tools are freely available and they are managed by a global movement passionate about sharing knowledge. Being widely used by many people already, they have many advantages. However, reaching that point where a new language version of Wikipedia becomes a useful tool for a small language, might just feel like a challenging venture into unknown territories.

The Telegram group Wikimedia Language Diversity is a great resource for support for new and semi-new Wikimedians and Wikipedians. The Wikimedia Language Diversity Hub is built on the foundation of this group. While the group have insights and knowledge, passion and dedication to the small languages and to the Wikimedia movement, the members have expressed a need for more support when supporting the new language versions. Documentation on the conversations can be found on Meta.

Movement Strategy Grant project

While the goal is clear (Making Wikimedia-projects more accessible to the new language versions), we needed to decide where and how to start. What we wanted to know was “What challenges or barriers are perceived as the most difficult by the contributors to small-language Wikipedia versions?”. To answer that question we are now interviewing contributors to 13 different language versions of Wikipedia. At Wikimania we presented our results so far

Language communities to be interviewed as part of the Langauge Diversity Hub research project.

Technological support as the first priority- or?

One of our assumptions before the research started was that there would be technological barriers. We know that both the incubator and many small language Wikipedia versions have room for improvement, and we know that as a hub we can improve them. We are still hoping that the conversations will give us some direction to where it is a good idea to start. Interestingly enough though, from the first few interviews we have reviewed, there has not been a mention for better technology, but rather for more courses and more support in growing the local community. 

We look forward to finding out if this is the general opinion from the communities, and if we will be able to find a clear direction for technological improvements from the conversations. We will of course continue to work for improving the technology, but this is a valuable reminder of the importance of the people of Wikipedia. The Wikimedia movement has not grown because of a few great leaders, it has grown and it continues to grow because of the many good contributors.

We want to hear from you too

Several people contacted us after the Wikimania-presentation, wanting to share something or to know more about the project. We would like to give all of you the chance to share your experiences and your thoughts with us. Even though this is not a part of our planned research project, it will add perspectives to the findings and support the direction of future projects. You can share your experiences and thoughts by filling out this form.

Do you want to get involved?

We encourage everyone with an interest in language diveristy in the Wikimedia movement to get in touch with us. You can sign up on Meta, use the Movement Strategy Forum or contact members from the steering committee for more information on how to get involved. We look forward to hearing from you!

A collage of four signpost seen at the Mount Afadjato, Ghana.
Encouraging signposts along the trail of Mount Afadjato, the highest mountain in Ghana. The three small photos are taken by User:Blaq dynamite, the large image by User:Ace Shogun, all with Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 4.0, found on Wikimedia Commons.