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

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My story on the Malagasy Wiktionary

It’s been a while since the last article I wrote on this blog. This article is about the mass adding content on the Malagasy Wiktionary. The object of this post is to provide some explanations on why and how the Malagasy Wiktionary has become so big.
But first, allow me to introduce myself. My nickame on all Wikimedia projects is Jagwar. I am a Wikimedia contributor since August 2008, and I am going to be 20 years old soon. I speak Malagasy as mother tongue, French as a second language and English as a foreign language (soon the third language, since it is not quite perfect yet…).
When I discovered perfectly randomly Malagasy language, the wiki was virtually dead, with no one adding interesting content, and an active community mainly constituted by non native speakers. Without any knowledge of the rules of the wiki, with almost no knowledge of how to correctly write Malagasy, I began an article. It grew up to 20,000 characters, making it to be the biggest page of the wiki at that time. Bust infortunately (or fortunately, for the sake of readers), a non-native speaker administrator spotted the lack of notability of the article, leading it to be deleted.
I could leave the wiki, as tens of hours of work had literally vanished of the wiki… But I didn’t, I still cannot figure out why, but deeper in my mind, a little voice told me to continue contributing. At that time, the Malagasy Wikipedia counted 550 articles, maybe less, but not more.
So I continued on this way for a while. To help me in my task I wrote to potential volunteers. These people didn’t see the point to contribute to a wiki in their mother tongue: either they were unable to spell correctly Malagasy words, or they didn’t have time enough to do good work; while others required money to start contributing (times are hard in Madagascar, I know), and even with money, I am not sure these ones will stay long once the money paid.
In October 2008, I discovered Malagasy Wiktionary. At the beginning I actually didn’t know what to do out there, so I continued to work on the Malagasy Wikipedia just to become more skilled and used to write Malagasy.
In July 2009, I was on vacation to my fatherland: Madagascar. I have taken this occasion to learn deeplier the written Malagasy language, though my means were quite limited: reading newspapers, the Bible (I am christian), watching news broadcasts on TV as well as on Radio… I almost forget French (!), though it was present almost everywhere as second official language.
When back to France, I have decided to incite potential volunteers that are able to write to contribute on the Malagasy language Wikimedia projects: but you know, Madagascar was in crisis and people sometimes asked for money to contribute: other blamed me on my spelling mistakes, and others simply ignore the request. I had less and less time to dedicate to the projects and I have no money to give this way. One day, I decided that I couldn’t wait anymore for someone to arrive: the progress of my skills in Malagasy, in programming languages, and the promise of a very busy future (inducing a chronical lack of time) mentally forced me to do something, to do something for my mother tongue, even a tiny little thing.
In 2010, when I could write in my mother tongue without too much spelling mistakes, I started to write bots. Once they are written, I ran them at the very full speed: fifty thousand edits per day: that was the pace, the normal pace. At the beginning it was the importation of foreign language wikis from other wikis, and it consisted mainly in importing verb forms, first through an import form, and after through a script that copy-pastes other wikis’ content pages to the Malagasy Wiktionary equivalent page. I went slightly at the beginning, but I did it more and more often, till the wiki got 200,000 content pages. On these possible coyright-infringing importations, I received a warning from a user that almost got his mother tongue wiki closed due to the creation of thousands of useless pages.
In 2011, I got mad: after discovering the astonishing easiness of Volapük, I wrote a script to upload the word forms of that language. At full speed – i.e around 50,000 edits per day – three weeks were required to make the Malagasy Wiktionary the third biggest Wiktionary of the world. But months passed, and no one, absolutely no one, did contribute: one day on the wiki, the number of active users dropped to two, for a wiki that contains 1,19 million content pages (in comparison, the German Wikipedia which had a comparable article count, didn’t count less than 25,000 active users) !
On July of the same year, a new script has been written. That script allowed to create translations based on foreign language entries. With that script, up to 5,000 articles were created, and they mainly concern lemmata entries. Just a few weeks later, the import of all Malagaasy words has been completed. But its repercussion on article count was not visible due to the mass deletion of Volapük language entries. Why this mass deletion? Because many entries seemed to be wrong as they are not conjugation of verbs, but nouns (-.-‘), so the decision is taken to delete them all to re-create them later, with a better quality if possible. Since then, my activity on the Malagasy Wikipedia is put in brackets to dedicate my whole wiki time to the renovation of the Malagasy Wiktionary.
During the summer vacation, I took the time to restructure the Malagasy Wiktionary. The article, category structure were inspired by the structure of the French Wiktionary: use of template for languages, parts of speech, allowed the Malagasy Wiktionary entries to be automatically categorised through the use of templates. Time passed and the routine started to install.
One night, I discovered an online Malagasy monolingual dictionary. Having no idea about the copyrightability of the content (the copyright seemed to apply only on design), I decided to reuse the content on that dictionary to complete the entries on the Malagasy Wiktionary. The problem arrived just a few weeks later, when I received a mail from a Wikimedia Foundation staff member. P. Beaudette. In its mail, he asked me the origin of the malagasy language entries, I answered they were from various bilingual dictionaries, and the online monolingual dictionary… An copyright infringement investigation was led and my bot was blocked during the whole processus. At the end of it, I was told by the staff member to remove the 30,000 entries that infringe the original dictionary’s copyright, which was done.
After this copyright infringement episode, I decided to orient my contribution in adding Malagasy language content to other wikis. But before that, I did some work on the Fijian and Tagalog Wiktionaries, that was more or less appreciated… There was in particular an IP address checking my contributions on the Fijian and Tagalog Wiktionaries. This IP told me to stop mass-adding content to these languages of which I speak no word. I ceased to work on both wikis a few weeks later, as the work is finished.
But this mass-adding content, especially in language I didn’t speak at all, seemed to annoy people that have decided to discuss about the case on MetaWiki forum. No concluding results was given, and things were as they were before.
With most of the hard work being removed, with a behaviour that has been reproved by many users, I decided to take a break of indefinite duration. It actually lasted 5 months, during which I tried to work on my written Malagasy outside Wikimedia projects. The progression of my skills, spelling as well as programming skills, were honourable, allowing me to go back again and make the Malagasy Wikimedia projects, and especially the Malagasy Wiktionary, evolve again. In July 2012, I built a new tool that allows me to know the non-exising entries/pages on the Malagasy wiktionary by consulting the daily online newspapers. Only two newspapers are currently supported, because of their use of RSS feeds. But the ability to make the script read non-RSS supporting websites is coming soon.
In September, I have developped a new, improved translation retriever that allows the script to get all translations of all languages on a given page (the previous version could only translate one language at once), which almost decuples the translation harvest. This function is embedded in a XML dump reader that ampifies the efficiency of the script: fast translation retrieving and no requirement to be connected to the server while processing. Done every month, the dump processing and uploading make the wiki to gain more than 100,000 lemmata in a few months. These lemmata may have translation errors, but it is low enough not to be taken in consideration (<1%). Hardest cases can be resolved by a single check on the source wiki (which is indicated by a template).
In October, I have thought about building a bot that completes a task as scheduled by a parameter file. This is particularly useful for maintaining list of wikis up-to-date. Currently, the pace at which the list of Wikis on the Malagasy Wiktionary is four times a day, i.e every six hours.
At the end of January 2013, I thought about a more efficient use of the translation retriever that I wrote a few months ago. Then comes the IRC bot: it retrieves in real time all the edits made on selected wikis and does its possible to translate the latter entry in Malagasy,  in real time! The first time it was developped, it only used the traditional translation retriever, but later, on March, it also features a basic entry processor that allows the IRC bot to also translate entries in foreign languages into Malagasy, using the same dictionary. This latter version of the IRC bot is currently in use, and it creates hundreds of entries and content pages on the Malagasy Wiktionary everyday. I have no precise idea about the error rate but I am pretty sure it is less than 5%. The positive side of the bot is its ability to keep the pace when several edits are made in a minute, nevertheless, as it requires to be online and to be connected to Wikimedia servers, the processing frequency is limited to one page per second. Something is being thought on allowing the bot to process more pages.