Five ways to enrich Wiktionary

Since 2010, I’ve been contributing to the Malagasy Wiktionary.
It has become a habit now: every month, every week, every day, and almost every morning and evening, I turn on the web browser to check what’s going on on Wiktionary, and what I can do to add further content.
Some days, I get so interested in adding some pieces of information that I feel like writing a program to add it in the next hours.
And some days, I don’t feel like contributing, and them I’m just looking at the recent changes to check if pages have been vandalised in my absence, or if some pages have been fixed by other users.
Still there are several ways to contribute to Wiktionary. Here are five of them:
(1) Write pages manually. This is the most basic yet most tedious work to do. This is how everyone start, and this will is how most of us will contribute probably for the next 30 years. In 2045, Wiktionary or even Wikipedia in its current form will probably become obsolete or be self-editing.
Before this happens, you’ve got to put in a lot of work. Still, you can increase your efficiency by learning to write code, then:
(2) Write a program that writes pages that you may need to fix. Simple, since the last three years, I’ve been concentrating on how to do this. But as time passes a lot of pages get created, and even with a lot rate of error, you end up with thousands of pages of potentially wrong information. OK, but you also end up with even more pages with correct information. Coupled with synonyms dictionary and advanced NLP you can have it write definitions of words that can’t be translated directly to the target language.
(3) Write a program that reads newspapers to find the words to be created. With a very complete dictionary it gets difficult to find missing words. You won’t have the will to read dozens of newspaper articles every day, so have a program read them for you and find all missing words for you. After that, write a program to detect all compound words and add them to the Wiktionary if you feel like it. The next-level of this kind program would be an almost-real-time word scraper which analyses text flow for e.g. Twitter and lists all missing words at the end of the day.
Learning to code is one thing, but adding information and know what piece of information to add are two different things. Whenever you have an idea, or interesting lexicographic datasets under your eyes, get to code and add those bits of information to the Wiktionary. Do so in compliance with copyright laws.
(4) Navigate through dictionaries and add exotic words. Passionate about word etymology? Are you learning a language? Do the words not exist in Wiktionary? Feel free to add them. Always do so in compliance with copyright laws. Compiling several dictionaries and definitions may be attributed as original work but never do verbatim copy of word definitions. I did this one time and almost get sued because of a complaint of a copyright owner. If you feel you’re good enough in AI and NLP, write a program to reformulate and translate the sentences.
Code is strong, code is powerful. It requires a lot of time to write good one. It requires a lot of time to become good at coding, and not everyone feels like learning it. So what to do?
(5) Contribute to your native language Wiktionary. English put apart, Wiktionary is written in 170 different languages. A huge number of them have below 100,000 pages. Malagasy, my native tongue, has 3.75 million only thanks to my efforts in trying to create the biggest dictionary in Malagasy that has ever existed. If your native language is English, get interested in other languages and add new words in them, be it at the English Wiktionary or elsewhere. What, you are not passionate about languages? Add obscure English slang terms then.

African language Wikimedia projects summary

A few months ago I wrote an article which summarises my history on the Malagasy Wiktionary, and more generally my history on Malagasy language Wikimedia projects.
I am back here to write a short summary recapitulating the current progression of African language WMF projects. In this article you’ll learn about the current stage of African language projects and their trend.
In terms of community size, the biggest African-language community is the Afrikaans language Wikipedia community; followed by Egyptian Arabic speaking community and Swahili speaking community.
If we look closer to the statistics. The award goes to the Afrikaans language Wikipedia community which has 7 to 8 very active contributors (performing more than 100 edits per month).
The Egyptian Arabic Wikipedia community counts 2-3 very active contributors, which is big for an African language but very small comparing to Standard Arabic community counting more than twenty times more active users (83 very active users in June 2013), most of them being Egyptian contributors.
About Swahili, the number of very active users is one to two. On a 2-year term, this number can be averaged to 1. But the number of active users (i.e. making more than 5 edits per month) is 9 in average, which is a fine thing for a language that is spoken in countries where internet access is quite hard.
These numbers were obviously averaged from July 2011 to June 2013, so it smoothes short-term variations.
In terms of raw article size, the biggest African language Wikimedia project is the Malagasy Wiktionary – which currently counts 2.5 million articles, only smaller than English and bigger than French! – , the Malagasy Wikipedia (40,000+ articles) and the Yoruba Wikipedia (30,000+ articles), followed by the Afrikaans and the Swahili language Wikipedias (respectively 27,000+ and 25,000+ articles).
The Malagasy Wiktionary balecame very big for reasons you can read here, the Malagasy Wikipedia is big thanks to geography articles (~20,000 articles) and celestial objects (~8,000 articles); the Yoruba Wikipedia is made big by articles about people and also celestial objects (~15,000 objects).
Many Wikimedians who consult the statistics should know that the number of content pages does not determine the quality or the comprehensiveness of an encyclopedia. Judging wikis by article count is like judging a book by the appearance of its cover. And many book readers and critics know that looking at the cover is not enough to judge a novel. Here, by its raw size, the Malagasy language dominate in the two biggest projects (Wikipedia and Wiktionary) but that doesn’t mean it has a very active community.
To judge about the quality, comprehensiveness and completeness of the articles of such wikis, it is better to dive into this kind of statistics where scores are given by the absence/presence of vital articles and the size (number of characters) of such articles (if they exist). That kind of statistics are better than article count and page depth which can be inflated by the use of bot and the generation of tons of non-article pages (talk pages, subpages, redirects…).
According to the List of Wikipedias by sample of articles, the best scored African language Wikipedia is the Afrikaans Wikipedia, which ranks 58th and the Swahili Wikipedia (79th) followed by Egyptian Arabic, Yoruba and Somali Wikipedias. Malagasy Wikipedia is quite far behind and ranks 155th which is only higher than Lingala (161st), Wolof (175th) and Shona (187th) Wikipedias having less than 5,000 articles. Which means article count is only the cover of the book and thus some efforts have to be done there to make Malagasy Wikipedia more comprehensive.
What about the trend?
Less than a year ago, some Wikipedias found a way to grow in number of article thanks to species databases. The first ones I saw to grow this way are Winaray and Cebuano Wikipedias. Winaray Wikipedia gained 100,000 articles primarily thanks to low quality geography stubs (consisting in one or two sentences), and secondarily thanks to articles about species, animal and vegetal ones, making it to have 510,000 articles. Cebuano has more than decupled in article count within the last 50 weeks, from 40,000 to more than 500,000 articles. This mania of creating article about species has propagated to Swedish and Dutch Wikipedia which has recently surpassed the German Wikipedia, and in response to that, the latter Wikipedia seemed to have boycotted the Dutch Wikipedia, by deleting the link to the Dutch Wikipedia in the German language Wikipedia main page.
Now let’s write about the growth trend of African language Wikimedia projects. First off, let’s talk about Wikipedias, then Wiktionaries and finally other «minor» Wikimedia projects.

Wikipedia language edition

Current article count

Growth (in 300 days) (1)

Malagasy

40,619

+2,415

Yoruba

30,624

+582

Afrikaans

27,801

+3,928

Swahili

25,368

+1,232

Amharic

12,722

+1,015

Egyptian Arabic

10,764

+1,939

Somali

2,830

+383

Lingala

2,035

+118

Kinyarwanda

1,816

+7

Kabyle

1,517

+778

Wolof

1,172

+49

Kongo

826

+135

Northern Sotho

688

Igbo

739

+44

Zulu

586

+22

Setswana

496

–1

Bambara

392

+6

Siswati

368

+6

Ewe

302

+12

Hausa

291

+17

Oromo

276

+36

Tigrinya

259

+2

Tsonga

250

+7

Sango

204

+17

Kirundi

192

+8

Sesotho

189

+44

Akan

179

+17

Fulfude

166

+12

Luganda

166

–2

Twi

157

+12

Chamorro

157

+6

Xhosa

151

+10

(1) Calculated following this site, data retrieved in July 26th 2013.
On Wikipedia, the growth is slow comparing to other languages spoken in developped countries, where Internet access is easy and unexpensive to the normal citizen. The African language with the biggest community grows at approximately 5,000 articles per year, which is fairly high comparing to Swahili which growth is almost twice lower. If the current trend continues, the Afrikaans Wikipedia will surpass the Yoruba language Wikipedia next year, and the Malagasy Wikipedia in the next 2 years, as the two current biggest Wikipedias are stagnating in article growth.
On smaller Wikipedias, the trend is positive, though slow. All open Wikipedias have more than 100 articles.
The biggest of them is the Malagasy Wiktionary which has its growth kept by the use of Bot-Jagwar. Owned by myself, Bot-Jagwar runs from the Cloud, so it works regardless my computer and my internet connection’s healths. Thanks to it, the Malagasy Wiktionary gains 300 to 500 content pages daily. Automations eases many things in many ways, but automated processes can fail. So I have to keep an eye not only on the source code but also to entries generated thanks to that source code.
African language Wikipedias are slowly but surely gaining articles as time passes. There seems to be a moratorium in closing African language Wikipedias, and this is fine because languages mainly spoken in developping countries need time to develop a community. Furthermore, the official language in these countries, especially African ones, are very often not the local language.

Kurzweil Curve showing growth of computing power. It shows that all human brains can be simulated by 2050.
Kurzweil Curve showing growth of computing power. It shows that all human brains can be simulated by 2050. What about having billions of “virtual” contributors on Wikipedia in 2050? Source (kraxinglogic.com)

An increase of bot-made articles (which constitute nowadays 20% of articles created in Wikipedia) can indicate that in a near future, perhaps in 25 or 30 years, a bot will be able to write article like humans do. This is because Ray Kurzweil predicts the ability to simulate the human brain to be possible in twelve years and that current computers’ calculation power were supercomputers’ in the 1990s.
What about me? Well, it’s been a while since my last big article on the Malagasy Wikipedia. And according to the list of Wikipedias by sample of article, several hundreds of article needed in all Wikipedias are missing, so my first goal for Wikipedia is to fill these gaps, slowly but yet surely. I prefer contributing about geography, but as I am the only contributor of the Wiki, I have to fill gaps a bit everywhere : Biography, Chemistry, Sports, etc. At that pace, I can barely create three or four articles per day. At that pace, I can fill the 1,000 articles that every Wikipedia should have list whithin the year.
It’s been a while since the last time I blogged in Malagasy, So this article will be followed by a Malagasy language article. Perhaps a translation of this one, perhaps a new one.
Useful resources
To read further about what’s mentioned here.

  1. The law of Accelerating Returns by Kurzweil
  2. http://www.wikistatistics.net for all statistics about Wikimedia projects

[polldaddy poll=7298306]

African language Wikimedia projects

At this time, no African language Wikipedia has passed the hundred thousandth article. This is certainly due to the domination of European language Wikipedias and the relevance of their articles throughout the Internet : Almost all of EU official language (except Maltese) counts more than 40,000 articles. The greatest European language Wikipedia is English, as THE international language and the fact that it is very widespread. As consequence, that language has very detailed information about almost everything ; where other Wikipedia have stubs and quite often nothing. This makes a vicious circle that make English language more and more favorised. Despite that fact, the gap Between English and other language Wikipedias has been reduced, but in favour of other Indo-european language : 56% of all articles in Wikimedia projects are written still in an Indo-european language.

The problem with African language is that they have almost no official recognition and are not used as official language in many, many countries of Africa, which rather uses French or English or Arabic language instead. In second, there is almost nothing which allow local African language to spread over the Net : many african languages have no normalised written form. But I am going away of my subject, and will write about this later.

Situation of African language Wikipedias

So what about African language Wikipedias? Malagasy and Yoruba languages are the first, recently passing over Swahili and Afrikaans, the dominant African Wikipedias since the opening of African language Wikipedias. The third following African Swahili is Amharic, which has passed quite recently the 10,000th article.

OK, it looks good, but let’s have a look closer. Inside Malagasy Wikipedia, there is only one, but a very, very active user : in less than four years of contribution, he has shown more than 30,000 articles alone? Is he a Wikipedia “no-lifer”? Actually not. He uses his bot : Bot-Jagwar to create tons and ton of article about cities of all around the world :France, Brazil, Madagascar, etc. These articles give a general and statistical facts about the citites. A bot is not yet able to redact, huh?

Situation of African language Wiktionaries

About Wiktionary, it is the same figure as in Wikipedia : Malagasy language is strongly dominating. But here, the Malagasy Wikipedia counts about 1.4 million entries, which is almost one hundred times the greatest African-language Wiktionary in the project. This was made in only less thant 18 months, which means that many hundred thousands of entries are created over there almost every month, which is physically as well as statistically impossible due to the “widespreadness” of Malagasy language and due to the number of active users of the Wiktionary : it is turning arount 18, which means that each of these active users have written more than 100,000 pages in that time laps : which is simply impossible.

The fact is that there is only one user (or more exactly, one bot) doing all these edits: Bot-Jagwar. This bot has performed more than 5 million edits in less than 20 months and is now the most active “user” of the whole Wikimedia Projects, and has made itself more than 70% of the total edits of the Malagasy Wiktionary. This is what we call a “Bottionary” (I have seen this word somewhere, but don’t know exactly where… Google is made for that, if you know what I mean)

Situation of African language Wikibooks

About Wikibooks, African languages, even of European origin, are not very advanced. The most advanced of African language si Afrikaans with 50 chapters, followed by Malagasy with 32 chapters, Swahili with 12 and Bamamankan with only 7 chapters. There is no doubt that Wikibooks is a hard project to develop, and a less interesting one than other projects such as Wiktionary or Wikipedia. But this shows that Afrikaans language is dominating the African-language Wikimedia projects ; and very often but never always, Swahili.