We're finally reaching the initial outreach phase. Even though it was highly antecipated by me, it is still quite unsettling. As we approach the moment to put to practice everything I have learned and thought about, I begin to notice the weight of my responsability as an Outreachy intern and I am quite nervous about it. One of the questions going through my mind now is: how much room for failure do I have? Even better: how can I actually measure success or failure?
Anyway, let's talk about strategies.
Punctual, immediate, but effective: Translathon and Translation Rally
One month ago, as I asked about good initiatives made towards translation efforts and Benoît mentioned Translation marathons. Here are some tasks about them on Phabricator: phab:T91108, phab:T132468. Related pages on translatewiki: translatewiki:Project:VisualEditor/2015 Translathon.
The number of people that worked on them is remarkable and the progress they made, impressive.
Since one of the ways to promote values and good initiatives in Wikimedia projects is publishing a blog post, I decided to take a look into what was written about translations in the last seven years or so. One post caught my attention: A translation rally invites volunteers to localize technical messages for MediaWiki software. According to it, they had a financial incentive: they divided 450 EUR between those translators who met the goal, with a 50 EUR bonus for the person with more translations. As translatewiki:Project:Rally-2015-05 states, 27 people participated and the bounty was 21.74 EUR per person.
Of course, this is not a long-term fix to the translation problem. But it is a fine solution to accomplish short-term goals and brings the community together. For now, I am considering planning one, but this needs to be discussed with Johan and Benoît first.
I began to interview some FLOSS translators and noticed their motives to contribute are more or less the same:
- They want to improve the translation. They spotted some mistakes and wanted to make it better.
- They believe knowledge and technology should be more accessible.
Motive #2 is especially good for Wikimedia Foundation since one of its core values is open knowledge. And here is how things need to be framed so people relate the benefit of translated user guides with open knowledge: when more people are able to understand the tools they are using, more people are able to contribute.
Call for translators
I mentioned yesterday I am interviewing translators but I did not state why and how. My bad.
I am trying to calibrate my expectations and plans for this phase with experiences from other people. I am making a call for volunteer translators on Twitter and on Mastodon to ask them about their motives, why they volunteered (or are still volunteering) and what they think are some of the greatest barriers for newcomers. After reading logs. documentation and knowing more about the history of Wikimedia Foundation and its projects, I, of course, have some hypotheses. But it's a good general practice to speak with others and see how closer I am to the truth.
I didn't make this last month because a lot of people were inactive due the holidays and I thought it was better to have my own opinions before asking for external insight. Therefore, I wanted to avoid being influenced, as Benoît warned me some people tend to be quite passionate about their point of view.
I considered making a survey (and I am still open to this option) but for now, it's been quite effective to have conversations with translators directly. People who work with translations are really diverse and talking to them is giving me the opportunity to understand some nuances. I also thought about using the Translators mailing list to make the same call since I noticed people work on other projects but I am not sure if it's a good idea.
Notes from my interviews with translators: Day 1 and 2
Respondent: EN-NO translator.
Background: Had a small translation business. Today, translates FLOSS projects as a hobby.
- Started translating some years ago. Their first contributions were made on a project that isn't open-source. Over time, as a FLOSS user, ended up contributing with other projects.
- Encouragement for first steps: "So many open source projects have bad translations. I wanted to fix that."
- Motivation: "Making FLOSS accessible to a wider spectrum of users."
Respondent: EN-PT-BR translator.
Background: FOSS user first, started contributing translating softwares they use.
- Encouragement for first steps: Again, fixing bad translations. "Because of this I am used to using everything in English, but I know it's a privilege. It's inaccessible for a lot of people [to use softwares in English] and their access gets compromised [because of bad translations] (I mean, when there are translations, right?). When I noticed I could contribute as a translator, I didn't hesitate".
- Barriers for newcomers: They said using GitHub directly is complicated and praised solutions involving web-based applications.
- Attribution and recognition is an important aspect for them.
Respondent: Professional translator and reviewer.
Background: Voluntarily translated an article for an advisor one time but never thought about doing it again under other circumstances.
- Why? "I think I thought it wouldn't make a difference for people".
- This is one of my concerns. People need a reason that resonates with their values. I've been thinking about this for quite a while — why should people worry about translating user guides? Why people look for them in first place? Who uses them?
- They were keen to contribute with Wikipedia but never actually did. I asked if they thought it was a hostile environment and if this played a role in never effectively contributing. They said no, what really affected them was their insecurities. They were afraid of writing something wrong and ending up being a disturbance.
- This reminded me of Benoît's presentation and my own anxiety as I marked commons:Commons:Structured data/About for translation in my training. I feel like the fact that anyone is capable of editing wikis is often framed as downside when it can be a benefit. "It is a wiki". Errors can be fixed, bad content can be improved. There are not only two options (success or failure) and maybe we need to make a better work reassuring people about this — especially newcomers.
- "I remember that, when I tried to understand how to begin contributing, I found the environment a bit confusing. It wasn't a intuitive plaftform".
- This isn't new. When I did a preliminary survey last year as I applying for Outreachy, some respondents told me the same thing. This is also something both my mentors are aware since I mentioned it a couple of times in past meetings.
- I asked: "What can be done to welcome better those who want to help?". They answered: "Creating tutorials, moreover with videos, showing step by step [of how to contribute]. (...) It's really tiring to read extensive documentation. We usually think it's going to be easier and more practical — get there, log in and just translate things or contribute with content in our mother tongue already."
- Here is a really interesting question: are we producing user guides the right way — the way users want?
Respondent: Senior lecturer.
Background: Volunteer translations for UN and NGOs (punctual contributions).
- Involvement with translation: Was a kind of liaison for UN at a university in New York, met a person who assigned them to do a gig as a volunteer interpreter in an event. This person put them in contact with NGOs, for whom they provided translations for a while.
- First motivations for doing this: Meeting new people, networking, having the opportunity to test their skills with foreign languages.
- Later discovered UN has a site for volunteer translations and signed up. Worked in some punctual requests. Later, helped a student strike in Canada and now is assisting a educational project in Montreal.
- Motivation now: "I think I do this for my ideals rather than networking" since they don't work professionally with translations.
- Do you think that making this type of work had a positive impact in your professional life? "I think so. Not much for my resumé or for the perception of possible employers (I don't think they care in my case) but I think this experience changed the way I see the institutions I worked (...) it's also good to have experience in a field a little different from mine." If needed, they said, they can prove they have experience as a translator.
- UN online volunteering has a system in which you sign up with a basic profile. You were rated and you can rated your experience as well. Their platform also issued certificates.
- "The accessibility aspect [of translation] needs to be brought to light. I think this is a good argument to motivate people." Having the opportunity to make something important accessible in other language is important to them.
Analysing data from pageviews
Benoît showed me Pageview Analysis today when I asked him about data concerning user guides. I am positive this is going to help me answer some questions:
- What are the most popular user guides?
- What do they have in common?
- What are the least popular ones?
How could this information be helpful, you may ask. Here are my answers:
- Pointing out which pages need more priority based on their popularity.
- Helping me identify who usually looks for information on user guides (editors, admins?).
Thoughts on promotion
It might be a good idea to...
- ... talk about open knowledge and how Wikimedia projects help this happen. (Though it is ideology heavy, may not be the best for a wider approach)
- ... explain what MediaWiki is and why it's important.
- ... speak about the importance of user guides.
- ... cite projects of impact to help people understand who they are helping?
Other important ideas:
- The contribution process is easy once you get used to it. And it's fun!
- "It is a wiki", people don't need to be afraid of contributing or making mistakes. Nothing is permanent.
- If you have a good understand of English and is interested in contributing to FOSS, it's a great and accessible way to begin doing so. (Programming related contributions usually cause more distress on newcomers)
Notes from my interviews with translators: Day 3
Respondent: Professional translator.
Background: Began with general translation from 2011 to 2013; works with audiovisual content since then. As a volunteer, works on subtitles for YouTube channels.
- What makes you dedicate time to volunteer translation since you already work with it professionally? "The importance of the content those channels create, especially to the Brazilian public. (...) The more people with access to this kind of content, the better. It's good to feel I can play a role to make it happen."
- "I didn't encountered any barriers to do volunteer work, but I think this need is not well publicized."
- "I think projects and products need to make people aware of their needs. Another possibility [for promotion] is engaging with translators communities, but I understand this kind of spaces and groups end up hidden in the internet."
- Mentioned Abrates (Brazilian Association of Translators).
Respondent: EN-HI translator.
Background: Active contributor in FOSS projects since last year.
- Motivation: "I want my country to receive equal opportunity to online content, that's why." (+ Attribution/recognition)
- Contributed with coding as well.
- Contributing using git was also said to be difficult, especially when you are a newcomer.
- Believes small projects are a better opportunity to newcomers than big ones. Reason: better support, fast response, approval of changes are quickier.
- An active and supportive community is considered to be important.
Revisiting "What motivates Wikipedians?"
I decided to read again all the articles and texts I gathered about volunteering and contributing to FOSS projects. And once again, one of the most relevant reads was "What motivates Wikipedians?". It was really interesting to re-read this after speding a month working with Wikimedia Foundation.
Here is something I've forgotten and it's really relevant (I even forgot to mention this on my project proposal, I can't believe it!):
"Fun motivation is a case where there is both high ranking of the motivation and a strong, significant correlation between motivation and contribution levels, and therefore it would make sense for organizers of user-generated content outlets to focus marketing, recruitment, and retention efforts by highlighting the fun aspects of contributing."
This leads me towards organizing a Translathon. I suspect the fact it was a fun activity made people get more involved and produce such great results.
Another interesting thing:
"One area to explore is women’s contribution to Wikipedia. Women represent only 7.3% of the survey respondents, and therefore most of the analysis of the differences between men and women responses is not statistically significant. Some differences, however, seem to be apparent: women are relatively newer to Wikipedia contribution (1.77 vs. 2.34 years of contribution, on average) and spend more time contributing (11.46 vs. 8.02 hours a week, on average). The latter difference cannot be explained by the former, as no correlation was found between experience and contribution. This may suggest that as more women become Wikipedia contributors, average contribution levels increases."
I was talking with an intern from Debian about this and she suggested taking this route and looking for groups for minorities in technology to help us. That's actually one of the reasons I chose to interview translators rather than survey: I am connecting with people. I am listening to their stories. I am aware a small number of people can make a difference. As we ended our conversations, a lot of them offered their help. This is, in my opinion, way more precious than lots of data and no human interaction.
Maybe I am having more fun than I imagined messing around with pageviews stats. I admit I made some mistakes which led me to waste some time asking myself (and my mentors) what was going on but I guess it's all part of the process of learning.
I know this is not new because it's the reason I'm here but the data on pageviews is actually really reassuring to me because it shows how much attention those pages need. Of course, Help:Contents in English gets visited way more than those in other languages, there's a massive difference between those statistics. We are talking about 100+ times more.
Frankly, having such a great difference between them actually works in our favor. It makes it more clear that we need help.
Notes from my interviews with translators: Day 4
Respondent: PT-BR translator.
Background: Debian translator.
- Began to contribute because they were a user for some years and wanted to thank the community somehow.
- Finding out where/how to contribute.
- Knowing the project's workflow.
- Never had formal training. Watched some talks made by people from the translation team and voiced their doubts through their mailing list.
- What makes they stay: Debian has a clear purpose. The community behind the project. The satisfaction when you contribute to the project's improvement.
- What things FOSS projects need to improve to recruit more contributors? "I believe most [FOSS] projects doesn't make it explicit the ways you can contribute to them, even those roles that involve programming. In Debian, a lot of people begin to contribute through translations because the workflow is simplier [and] doesn't require much dedicated time. I see in other projects that yes, translation is often the gateway [for new contributors]."
Respondent: PT-BR translator.
Background: Translation in a bunch of projects, most known are GNU.org, GNOME and Translation Project.
- Began contributing with software packaging. Noticed one of the softwares they packaged, PCSX2, didn't have a PT-BR translation. Ended up working on its translation and got involved with other projects like GNOME, GNU.org and Translation Project.
- "What most encouraged me to translate those softwares was [the fact that] they were softwares I used (or, at least, I had interest in their cause) and a translation wasn't available or incomplete. As I saw that translations was something with I could contribute, I began to get more involved to improve that situation."
- "I encountered multiple difficulties [at first]. The most simple of them was finding the best translation to each technical term in [their] specific context - this gets easier as soon you get more experienced. The lack of active people in the communities was also something that hampared [my progress] at certain point, because it was difficult to know what was the best form to act in accordance to the team's [work] culture, it makes it difficult to know whether I am following the right procedures to contribute to the project."
- "Another problem that I consider to be a impacting factor was incomplete documentation or without the proper focus. I dealt with a lot of doubts other translation also had and this would be easily solved with the documentation of frequently asked questions. I am also not very good at documenting things so this is something I can't help with."
- Didn't have formal training. "I got my knowledge from experience (trial and error), following mailing lists, searching in the web for past e-mails (for instance, LPD-BR had really interesting discussions about standardization) and occasionaly talking to other people."
- Contributing to FOSS projects have a positive impact in their professional life. "... the practice of writing bug reports taught me, in work, to describe problems with [more information] and more proper details, more clearly and objectively, as well as suggesting a solution." They also told me about how this type of contribution helped them understand better other softwares and its functionalities.
- "[Translation] might be the most accessible way to contribute, but it depends of some things. If the person doesn't have the ability to/interest in coding, look for bugs or contributing as a designer, yes, it's a good way. Even if they don't know English, they can help looking for grammatical errors and bringing attention to them."
How to welcome newcomers
- "I believe that a potential contributor meets a community looking for information that directs them to the best and correct way to contribute according to the community terms and, for that, this contributor needs to understand what are the procedures, URLs, terminologies, translation principles, etc." So, to welcome a newcomer, you need: (1) proper documentation and/or (2) a welcoming and active community (ideally both).
- "Short instructive videos, coupled with written documentation, would be a great way to reach more potential contributors."
- "Having active and welcoming members of the community willing to answer questions [from newcomers], in my opinion, is the best way to welcome new contributors."
Biggest challenges in FOSS translation
- Finding a good contribution system. "The more difficult and 'geek' to the translator to participate, the bigger the filter of contribution." In other words, the dropout rate increases as the difficulty for contribution increases.
- Incomplete or outdated documentation. According to them, people tend to look for information before asking for help so they aren't seen as a "help vampire". Outdated documentation leaves the impression of abandoned work. If documentation doesn't address the most important subjects or is superficial, you may end up with more questions than answers.
- Lack of coordenation of the translation efforts. Efforts in less important parts of the project or that makes people translate the same things over and over again end up disturbing those translation efforts. "Especially if a translation is made incorrectly" (whether the term is translated wrong or the translation doesn't properly express the idea), "without review or proper direction".
- Bad internationalization (or lack of).
I finally had a meeting with both Benoît and Johan again. It was really important to voice my concerns and fears and be reassured about what is the nature of my internship: research.
I ended up asking Benoît some questions about Translathons. He said that:
- Translathons usually took place next to a Wikimania to take advantage of the advertising and the aura of the event.
- It takes a lot of effort to organize one. Also, it takes more than one person to do it.
- They didn't make more of those because they don't have the time nedeed.
This made me rule out Translathons as a strategy. It might be effective in short periods of time, but I should focus my efforts on things that weren't done yet.
After some consideration, I ended up with a plan to test in the next weeks. But before talking about it, I need to write about what I am doing since yesterday afternoon.
Mediawiki.org's Documentation page states that "Help:Contents is the entry point for wiki user help at Mediawiki.org". Therefore, I decided to focus on it in User:Contraexemplo/Outreachy/Outreach strategies. According to the Topview Analysis, Help:Contents (also known as Public Domain User Manual) is frequently one of the ten most accessed pages on Mediawiki.org. However, as I stated before, this same page in other languages usually gets 100+ times less accesses.
I started taking a look into how much of the pages linked on Help:Contents are translated to the 23 languages that the most active wiki communities speak. Interestingly, as I compared this with Pageviews Analysis, for languages that the User Manual is most translated, the number of accesses increases. It's possible to observe this behavior happening with, for instance, Help:Contents/zh, Help:Contents/ru and Help:Contents/de.
This is, of course, a good thing.
Framing translations as an easy start
A way to find new translators is promoting ways of contribution.
People who are interested in contributing to FOSS projects -- especially those from underrepresented groups -- tend to be afraid of making their first contribution. They fear:
- Messing up with something and ending up disturbing the workflow.
- Not being welcome.
- Not being able to contribute.
For those who are bilingual, translation is the easiest way to contribute. The workflow is easy to understand and, for example, you don't feel pressured the same way when you are creating or editing original content in Wikipedia.
At first I thought about translation and computer science students, but I think a different way to approach this would be reaching out groups that promote the inclusion of underrepresented minorities in tech since:
- I am an Outreachy intern and this is a good legacy to leave here.
- It's a well known fact that women and other minorities are also a minority in wiki projects. This could be a good way to encourage them to contribute.
But how can I promote this?
A blog post
I talked to Benoît and Johan about making a post promoting my research and making a call for contributors. Johan suggested that I talked with someone responsible for the Wikimedia blog and ended up connecting me with Ed Erhart. I sent him an e-mail talking about my idea today, after finishing collecting data from pages fom the Public Domain User Manual. Since I think that e-mail is a good summary of my idea, I'll paste it here:
(1) I want to voice the need of translations for user guides, making explicit why this important for the Wikimedia movement.
There are a lot of posts about Content Translation talking about milestones, initiatives encouraging people to take part in it, importance. But — please correct me if I am wrong —, the most recent instance of talking about technical translation was this post published almost three years ago. In my opinion, this subject could be explored more.
(2) I also want to present Translation contributions as a good and easier way to start contributing as a newcomer.
How to contribute is also one of the most accessed pages on Mediawiki.org and Translations is one of the easiest ways of contribution for newcomers listed there. I believe FOSS projects need to make more effort to promote ways of contribution and a blog post talking about it could be a good approach.
My report is almost six days late. I will focus my efforts tomorrow in writing it and analyzing the data I gathered until now. I will probably use Python to help me out with this so if I end up coding anything, I will make it available somewhere.
Fourth bi-weekly report
I finally published my fourth report! Here it is:
- English version: Talking about the fear of failure
- Brazilian Portuguese version: Falando sobre o medo do fracasso
I admit I delayed writing it on purpose. It was scheduled for January 4 but by then I did not have anything meaningful to share. I also wanted to talk to Johan and Benoît first before publicizing my next steps since we are in this together and they have a say in what I do.
After our meeting on Monday, I thought it would be more apropriate to share the first part of my findings next week, on January 18, and talk about my conflicts and fear of failure now. That subject was on my mind constantly, making me anxious and worried about the future of my internship in the last few days. To be honest, I was really afraid I would get to the point of giving up. I was really glad to have a conversation about this with them and I think their tips may help others as well.
- Received a response from Ed and answered his e-mail as well. He liked the post idea, so this is probably going somewhere. Phabricator task.
- Received a response from Niklas. Going to read in depth soon, since he pointed out some parts of the documentation, but I am pretty satisfied with the answers I got and I will write down my notes about it as soon as possible.
- Sent an e-mail to Outreachy organizers as they are probably aware of lots of groups and initiatives around the world that promote first-time contributions and the inclusion of underrepresented groups in tech.
- Decided to use NumPy to help me analyze the data I gathered about the Public Domain User Manual. While this is going to take some time (I am not extremely familiar with NumPy so I'll read through their documentation to get what I need), I think that information is absolutely relevant for my internship.
Interesting read of the day
Saw some people talking about this article and ended up reading it: Why isn't open source hot among computer science students? It lists some interesting things we could use to bring awareness of FOSS projects (and Wikimedia projects in particular) to university students:
- "Contributing to open source projects cultivates an awareness of how tools and languages piece together in a way that even individual projects cannot. Moreover, open source is an exercise in coordination and collaboration, building students’ professional skills in communication, teamwork, and problem-solving."
- "A few respondents said they were intimidated by open source projects, unsure of where to contribute, or fearful of stunting project progress." Imposter Syndrome disclaimer was cited as a solution to help newcomers overcome their fear.
- "Only five of the 26 respondents I surveyed thought that open and proprietary software organizations were considered equal in prestige. (...) Another problem may be that young programmers are not aware of the open source software they interact with every day. (...) College students, who often rush to download syllabus-specified software to complete class assignments, may be unaware of which software is open source. This makes open source seem more foreign than it is." This is also really interesting.
- I remember my first contact with a person openly advocating for FOSS was with a professor who used SciLab to introduce Mechanical Engineering undergrads to "applied programming" and LibreOffice to receive assignments. Later, I went to my first Flisol and everything just made sense. But before all of that, everything related to software and technology had this "magical aura" and I thought that only proprietary software existed.
January 11 & 12
Yesterday (January 11) wasn't really productive. I ended up sleeping less of 4 hours due to a renovation preparation happening from 10 PM to 2 AM. This caused me to feel unwell throughout the day. And today (January 12), it turned out I have a cold as well. Now, it's not the first time I get sick as an Outreachy intern -- I ended up with food poisoning after I returned from my trip on December 18 but I worked throughout the week nevertherless. But looking back, that was a mistake since I feel that it really delayed my recover. So I am trying to respect my limits this time and decided to take it easy, focusing on two activities:
Learning to do data analysis
I found a couple of NumPy lessons on Dataquest under the Data Analyst Path and so far it's being a good experience. I am pretty familiar with Python -- I did a number of experiments with it when I learned it last year, but as I was learning it on a class and assignments needed to be handed out quick, I admit I didn't had the time to produce the most efficient and beautiful code I could've written. I am making an effort to do it now.
Basically, I am going to transform the tables I have in .csv files. It will make it easier to handle the data and produce results with it. Then, I will try to answer the following questions:
- How much of the User Manual has been translated to each language?
- Which language has more content translated to it?
- Which language has less content translated to it?
And if I am lucky, I would like to try to answer this particular question:
- How does the number of pageviews relates to the completion porcentage of each language?
This may seem like I am wasting energy and time on something useless or not so relevant to my internship, but I feel like having this data is necessary to understand user behaviour. If the answer to the last question I wrote is "the more you translate the more people read user guides in their native language" (as I suspect since I see this happening with, for instance, Help:Contents/zh), this is a good argument to explore in my Wikimedia blog post.
New laptop & Arch Linux installation
This is kind of off-topic, but it is an important aspect of working with computers and my experience with remote work.
As you may know, I am visually impaired. And in the last few months, I have been feeling increasingly unsatisfied with the way I usually use GNU/Linux. Here is my reasoning:
- When I use accessibility settings, a lot of UIs break or simply ignore them.
- This disturbs my workflow and makes me sit in front on my laptop in uncomfortable positions just to read what the screen is displaying. This causes me to hurt my left elbow (which ends up supporting most of my body weight) and my back.
As a fellow disabled pointed out, doing this weekly for long hours will end up opening some wounds (pressure ulcers) in my left elbow. And as you may expect, I got extremely worried about it. I needed to find a way to sit better and also accommodate my needs.
I am also having some problems with my current laptop: It is quite old (getting to the 7 year mark), part of its structure is broken and/or not working the way it should. It was a good piece of tech when I got it but now that I am working 40 hrs/week on it, it is showing that it won't endure hard use for much longer.
After thinking for a long time, I decided the best investment I could do with my first Outreachy payment was buying a new laptop. I got one on December 30 and it arrived on Monday. And instead of continuing to use Antergos, I decided to go full Arch Linux and use a terminal emulator most of the time. So yesterday and today, I also have been:
- Switching from my old computer to the new one.
- Installing and configuring Arch Linux.
- Experiencing a great increase of the quality of my workflow.
(Note: Talk about Arch Linux documentation when responding Johan's e-mail about Sandra's question. It is really that good -- and they even use MediaWiki!)
Hopefully, next week I will be feeling better and ready to return to my normal work routine.
Deliverables of the week
After some discussion today with my mentors, these are my goals for the week:
- Reaching out at least five organizations, initiatives and/or groups.
- Writing the Wikimedia blog post and submitting it to review and approval.
- Writing my fifth bi-weekly report.
- Publishing the Public Domain User Manual data analysis.
- Finishing writing and organizing Outreach strategies and Suspected problems & possible solutions.
Yet another update about the Indirect outreach
Ok, I am quite excited because I heard back from the coordinator of the Translation degree from the university I visited in December last year (related past notes: Trip to next state, Indirect outreach update).
I showed them how a contribution log looks like. While they said it is pretty difficult to understand what it means (and in a ideal situation, a certificate stating what the student did and for how long), they also stated that it could be possible to use it as validation for extracurricular hours if we could include a explanation on it.
Well, this is a great middle ground (or, at least, a good short term solution to the problem). I asked them to explain better what they meant. Hopefully this is something that could be easily implemented before the end of the initial outreach phase (either as a software implementation or as a recommendation for universities of how to read the logs and understand wiki contributions).
They said that to determine what are the best translation practices, we need to take into account things like:
- The organization's values and goals
- Standardization of language and formatting.
They also suggested we could work together to define best practices for Wikimedia projects. I will explore this path further and see what we can do for sure.
Finding the correct strategy
Recollection: our target groups
In my daily notes of December, Johan and I defined three different groups to target:
- Those with no involvement with FOSS (as user and/or contributor) and no involvement with translations.
- Those with involvement with FOSS (and/or technical knowledge).
- Those with involvement with translations.
Small but important detail: groups (2) and (3) are not mutually exclusive.
How to find them?
- Mailing lists.
- Groups, initiatives, events.
- Social networks.
- Mouth to mouth promotion.
What can we use?
- Text. But this usually retains a small number of people depending where you promote it. (Note: this is already being written)
- Images giving a quick summary. In social networks this usually performs better. People tend to read them more than texts. This is going to be done as soon as I finish the text. (Note: need to ask Johan and Benoît about this.)
- Videos. Depending on where you put them, they can be annoying, of course. But they are also useful to pass on information as quickly as possible. (This is harder to do but could work).
Talking about technical translations
Questions I need to answer equally to all three groups
- What is MediaWiki?
- Why is it important?
- How can I help?
- MediaWiki is the software that makes projects like Wikipedia possible.
- Therefore, helping MediaWiki user guides to become more accessible to speakers of different languages has a positive impact in all wiki projects. Translating user guides means helping out thousands of thousands of volunteers making their work right.
- Brief explanation of the translation process.
Questions that need proper framing:
- Why should I be a volunteer?
- It's easy. In one hour you can help greatly with the translation of a single page and make big a difference to the Wikimedia movement. (-> may appeal to all three)
- It's rewarding and fun. It's a great way to put your fluency in a foreign language to a test, expand your vocabulary and knowledge. (-> may appeal to all three)
- It's a good and easy way to make your first contribution to a FOSS project. (-> may appeal only to those with FOSS involvement)
Update on progress
Spent the day exploring NumPy. Tomorrow I will publish my Public Domain User Manual data analysis and talk about which pages and languages need more attention.
Outreach focus of the next nine days
My focus now are non-wikimedians. So I elected five places to look for them:
- FFLCH (from the University of Sao Paulo - USP): part of the USP focused on humanities.
- LinuxChix (as suggested by Maddog).
- Mulheres na Tecnologia (MNT): initiative to connect women in technology.
- FL (from the Federal University of Goias - UFG): part of the UFG focused on studies of foreign languages.
- Projeto ADAs (from the Federal University of Goias): initiative to encourage women to work in technology.
Note: Local outreach only, focusing on Brazilian Portuguese and Spanish. Other languages and international outreach need a bit more of planning.
- Need to finish writing the blog post and create the images I want to share first.
- Contacted Sulamita Garcia, the woman that was behind the Brazilian chapter. Awaiting response.
- Contacted Marcia, a member of the initiative I met on Forum Goiano de Software Livre (FGSL). Awaiting reponse.
- Sent an e-mail that wasn't answered in December. I'll have to go there in person.
- I will have to go there in person as well since my contact attempts were also unsuccesseful.
Other ideas to pursue
- Contacting other projects associated with the Meninas Digitais initiative (Digital Girls) from the Sociedade Brasileira de Computação (Brazilian Society of Computing).
- Contacting undergrads directly through student initiatives (for instance, student unions, which here we call "centros acadêmicos").
Electing priority languages
One of the subjects of a conversation I had with Benoît and Johan today was about languages that lack translators but don't need as much attention as others (such as Scandinavian languages and Indian languages; Swedish, for instance). This is due to, basically, a high rate of people who usually are bilingual. In addition to my User Manual data analysis (I'm almost finishing it! I will present it on my bi-weekly report tomorrow), I will actually need resources about this to decide better which languages I should focus on more than others.
Another problem we have are languages like Turkish: Turkey's government has banned the access to Wikimedia websites. Even though it really needs translation efforts, this kind of situation makes it difficult to reach out native speakers.
I will test some strategies in Brazil first and then I will try to apply them internationally. This will help me measure things like:
- Application easiness.
Another thing I want to test is how many students are willing to volunteer without earning a certificate. This will either strengthen or weaken the idea of implementing this on Wikimedia projects.
Blog post basis
I am struggling to put some ideas together so I thought it would be a good idea to write down my thoughts here. They are not necessarily what I am going to write but may reflect what message I want to convey.
What is the value of knowledge if you:
- don't put it to practice?
- don't share it with anyone?
- don't find a way to make it transcend the ephemeral nature of your own existence?
There are thousands of papers and texts and articles exploring the philosophical aspects of knowledge. We could go on for centuries. But here is something that have always bothered me: In Brazil, people talk too much about how transforming knowledge is, its capability of changing realities and improving people's life, but still restrict the access to it. Professors that will make it difficult to students to learn the subject they are teaching because they fear their students will overcome them, scientific journals that will make public universities pay to access articles funded with public money, politicians try to hide facts, news.
Capitalism criticisms aside, I have always been certain a lot of people are afraid of how powerful knowledge is. They are afraid of being surpassed. They are afraid of being ignored. They are afraid of the scrutiny.
But why does this have to be a bad thing? Why expect the worse in people when we can build much better things together?
My main motivations to pursue an internship with the Wikimedia Foundation were:
- the flourishing community.
- the belief in open knowledge and collaboration.
- the development of tools to fight back.
I had no idea of the extension of the Wikimedia projects when I got here. Everyday, as I read more about Wikimedia Foundation history, its initiatives and projects, I got more and more fascinated. Wikimedia is way more than just "the non-profit organization responsible for Wikipedia", as I usually present them to people who ask with whom have I been working with. And here is where technical translations enter.
To make all of this possible, you need a software that works nicely, user interfaces that welcome contributors well and documentation to help them figure out how to create content properly. But, as obvious as it may seem, making it available in English only is not enough.
Public Domain User Manual data analysis
At the time I am writing this is 6 PM in Brazil and unfortunately I didn't publish my fifth bi-weekly report in time. The good news, however, is that I am almost finishing transcribing my data analysis! I spent the afternoon organizing the data and I am happy to report that this is helping me understand better where to focus my attention and now I am feeling I am getting somewhere.
Talked with a lot of people today about populations that are bilingual! Turns out that finding statistics on how much people are bilingual is quite hard (as imagined) but it is possible to have an idea of which languages I should prioritize by looking at other resources.
Here is an example a person used to explain that to me: Irish as a language is alive today because Irish people wish to preserve this aspect of their culture. However, it is not heavily used for other purposes. They usually choose to speak English.
So where can I find answers to my questions? In papers talking about bilingual education, for instance. One of the people I talked to even sent me some and said he is available to help if needed. So I think I'm in the right path.
Wikimedia blog post
It took a while but it's finally done. However, I totally forgot about timezones and end up submitting it way too late. I didn't understand how busy Johan and Benoît (and others) would be next week but that's on me. And hey, it's ok. It means I need to improve my communication with them. It means that I need to plan my days better. Live and learn.
I was going to follow the reasoning I wrote about yesterday when I had the idea of explaining why is documentation important. It occurred me that many people might not even know what documentation is. So I tried to explain the process that leads software developers to write it, while talking about how it improves contributions and user-developers communication. It is way more subtle than my original idea, and consequently sounds (to me) more mature and sensible.
On contacting initiatives that work with minorities
Honestly, this isn't working as I wanted. I got some responses but nothing that I could really use. I don't think that, right now, this is will be the best strategy. So I am going to focus on universities from now on.
There are two ways to reach them:
- Through official means (talking with people involved in administrative roles).
- Non-official means (talking directly with students through social networks and unions).
My attempts on using the first strategy worked with Universidade Federal de Uberlândia (UFU). The coordinator of the Translation degree and I have been talking with each other for almost a month now. He has given me a lot of userful information so far (already registered on my daily notes) and offered to promote technical translations there. But as a professor, he wants to involve other professors that may take interest in this and that is probably going to happen later in February or March. Since this is going to take some time (and most of people who are in administrative roles tend to be more bureaucratic), I need to try other strategies. I need to talk with students directly.
I don't know how education is structured outside Brazil, but here universities aren't the only way to pursue higher education. There are technical schools (the biggest are called Federal Institutes) which offer technical degrees (and, lately, graduation courses as well). I studied in both of them. Federal Institute students might be easier to reach but they aren't organized in the same way. Most coordinators, in my experience, talk with students through non-official means (as a Facebook group, for instance) so usually students don't respond contacts through email. I will need to find someone from inside to reach them.
Universities are a little more organized and predictable. Things like Facebook groups are usually students' initiatives; official announcements are delivered by email through mailing lists in which students need to opt-out to stop receiving them. Academic units generally also have a mailing list of their own. So I have some fronts to explore:
- Talking to those who take care of mailing lists digests.
- Look for students in social networks.
- Chatting with student unions.
I believe I need to be more assertive. That's why I thought about creating promotional images to help me convey the message. I was also struggling to find a good way to express my thoughts but after writing that Wikimedia blog post, I now have a good idea on how to do it. I was almost in the right track when I wrote the "Finding the right strategy" section.
What does work?
Mentioning Wikipedia is the right approach in my opinion. People instantly make an association with open knowledge and are usually hooked (I tested this a few times with non-tech people and it works amazingly even if they don't know a thing about open knowledge). They just know Wikipedia is that website where you go when you don't know the answer to something or want to know more about something.
That explanation on why we need documentation and why it needs to be translated was also really on point. I need to come up with a short version for that.
Wasn't this about the Help namespace?
I am oversimplifying user guides talking about Help:Contents on purpose to not confuse people too much. It would be kind of difficult to explain Namespaces and how Help is the namespace for user guides (I am still learning to track them all). Instead, I am hoping that directing them to translate the Public Domain User Manual will hopefully make them curious and make them read about and understand some of those concepts.
Some questions to my mentors
- Is my essay good? Was that a good approach?
- I was reading the Trademark policy page and this caught my attention: "You may use the marks consistent with our mission to educate people about the Wikimedia sites and to recruit new contributors, as long as you make it clear that you do not work for the Wikimedia Foundation. You can create educational material or banners to decorate a public fair stand or to publicize an edit-a-thon."
- While I am not part of the Wikimedia Foundation. I am providing services for the Wikimedia Foundation through a contract with the Software Freedom Conservancy and I will be creating and promoting those images for that purpose. What should I do?
Thoughts on comparing translation stats between FOSS projects
I started writing a paragraph talking about tendencies and norms in FOSS and a note by Benoît reminded me to be really careful with what I state.
First and foremost, it is absolutely difficult to make comparisons because every project has different approaches on tools to use and what to translate, making it almost impossible to make a direct comparison. Most projects only focus on UI translations, and having working with both UIs and documentation translations, I know how different their workflows and translation processes are.
Defining what is user guides for other projects can be quite hard and time-demanding. For Mozilla Firefox, for instance, Support is the main hub for user guides. But comparing their stats with ours can also be tricky: things like public perception and popularity certainly influence their success. Firefox is a popular broswer most people know and use, MediaWiki is a software that serves wiki projects and that's something a lot of people non familiar with the Wikimedia movement or outside of it never think about.
Couple of updates
- It seems that I can't escape from using Facebook myself. I don't have an account because of principles but I am willing to make one for the sake of my internship. I talked with the Athletic Association related to the degree in Linguistics in my university and they were REALLY welcoming! They encouraged me to promote technical translation and ask for help if I need any in their Facebook groups. That's a good sign!
- I will follow this strategy with other universities as well.
- Emailed the department responsible for publishing news in my university's website and newspaper. Awaiting response.
- My university's Language School will reopen next week. I am planning on going there in person. I will also pay a visit to other academic units from my university.
- The main reason I want to talk to people involved with administrative matters is that I want them to consider volunteering in Wikimedia projects as extracurricular activities students can use (we are required to comply with a certain number of hours of them). Different universities have different policies about this and while not having a certificate might work with UFU, I am not so sure if it could work here.
January 25 & 26
I've been spending time sending some emails and awaiting for response. Classes in a lot of universities will begin mainly in the next weeks (most are focused on new students' enrollment now that the process of entry in higher education is near its ending), so I believe I will get some answers soon.
Meanwhile, since Benoît will take a while to edit his videocast on the Translate extension, I've been writing a script for a couple of educational videos I want to make. They should cover the following aspects:
- What is the Wikimedia movement, MediaWiki and their relation to Wikipedia.
- I've been spending some time reading meta:Grants:IdeaLab/Inspire, watching their first workshop and looking for ideas similar to mine.
- It worries me the low percentage of people that knows Wikipedia, but as I stated on my phab:T185700, the group that most likely know Wikipedia in Brazil is made of people in higher education, either they love it or hate it.
- Why volunteer?
- I mentioned some of my ideas, but didn't wrote that here I believe it's important to have a sense of humour and highlight things like easiness and fun.
- How to help.
- I need to direct them to the right pages and resources and be clear about how things work (translatewiki is for interfaces, mediawiki.org is for documentation, etc).
- Quick introduction to the Translate extension.
- How contributions are registered, how to access them.
Making the call
What is the easier way to find other English speakers? Talking to them directly in this language, of course.
At first, I was inclined to create materials to be translated in the 23 most active languages. However, here we are not looking for any kind of volunteer: we are trying to recruit translators. Since the source text will always be in English, it makes sense to focus recruitment efforts in English written materials, especially if they are static text. So, this morning, I created the two folders presented on the right of this notes, inspired by Wikimedia Foundation's presentation template.
I created to versions to accommodate any social media needs: while some social networks are more prone to squared images, others prefer other formats.
Suggested companion text
Interested in helping out? Go to meta:Meta:Babylon/Translations for more information on translations on Wikimedia projects.
Doesn't know what you should translate first? Take a look at Help:Contents, the entry point for wiki user help at Mediawiki.org.
Any other questions? Contact Anna e só, the Outreachy intern responsible for this campaign, on Twitter (@contraexemplo), MediaWiki (User:Contraexemplo) or by email (email@example.com).