Thanks for sharing your thoughts, @Mautpreller. I'll provide more detail about the different points you mention:
How do you know which languages the users were interested in? Did you ask them?
Yes. We have tested the feature in different stages and contexts: we tested initial prototypes, the developed feature supporting interlanguage links and also its use for language selection in Content Translation. When recruiting users for our research sessions we asked for the languages they know to get a diverse group of testers. In some tests we proposed some specific languages including some of those they know and in other tests we just ask them to look for their languages in general.
This is a misguided assumption. Why shouldn't they want to see if there are other sources, or pictures, than in their own language?
Note that I wrote that "users not speaking Italian won't be likely to go and read the Italian Wikipedia version". I'm aware that there are many other activities where it makes sense to visit versions of an article in a language you don't understand. However, I think that cross-language navigation to read content is an important enough scenario to provide some better support for it.
Instead of simply improving the search for the language versions, you prefer to tell the users what "they want". Top-down instead of bottom-up, patronizing instead of empowerment.
I don't understand this point. The languages that are surfaced do not came from "us", but they come mainly from the users themselves in different ways:
- The main criteria for surfacing languages is the explicit previous choices the user does. Each time the user navigates across languages, the user is selecting the languages that will appear next time.
- The languages of the user browser are also considered. Those languages are selected by the user directly (through configuration) or implicitly (by installing a specific language version of their browser and keeping the defaults).
- The user Babel box is considered also as an indicator of the languages the user knows. This is aded by users in their user pages to communicate the languages they speak.
- Each wiki can configure some relevant languages to be considered. This is a community decision, and it was already happening with the old system where some communities showed related languages on top of the list.
- When there are no other clues, geolocation is used based on the language information on CLDR, which is a crowdsourced language-related repository where everyone can contribute to.
- Finally there are several other low priority criteria that came from the article content (e.g., being a featured article) or in the case of the lack of the above based on statistics on the most spoken languages.
In contrast to the previous situation where languages that appear at the top of a long list are based on the ISO code, I think the current approach takes much more user input into account for them to make a choice.