Communications in the Wikimedia movement

Sad clown (Melissa Wiese CC BY SA)

Today I read another complaint in German language Wikipedia about the Wikimedia Foundation. Someone said that he found many of the candidates to the WMF board incompetent, and that he had candidated himself if he was capable of that difficult commercial English they use at the Foundation.

One might put this on the pile of easy reproaches: leaning back, let the others work and take responsibility, and complain that ‘I was not informed sufficiently’. But this sorrow has a true and honest ground. For a non native speaker of English, or even a native, it is difficult to follow discussions on Meta Wiki or the Foundation mailing lists. The language there

  • is full of colourful colloquialisms, nice for the natives, terrible for the rest
  • delivers a lot of Wikimedia jargon which you have to learn separately for every language
  • often contains an aggressive tone

When the Foundation asks volunteers to translate something, then the texts are not always as comprehensive and concise as they should and could be.

In theory, the Wikipedia language versions have ‘ambassadors’ who are supposed to link the national or ethnic level with the international level. In practice, this hardly happens because the ambassadorship is non-binding, it bears no obligation. People put their names on the list and then forget about it.

Such a position, a contact person for a single language version, should be assigned by the concerning community, maybe by vote. And it must be clear to the ambassador what people expect from him: translating the most important messages from the Wikimedia blog, giving feedback from the community to the international level.

It should be obvious by now that the pure wiki way does not work.


New statistics for Wikipedia

Erik Zachte, chief manager for statistic of Wikimedia Foundation, published corrected numbers. The main problem was webcrawlers from the United States of America. These are programs searching the web for new sites and pages; when they hit a page, it looks to the statistics as if a human visitor has summoned that page. Erik now fixed that, thanks!

This has quite some repercussions for the maps I have made based on the statistics (Europe, Arabian countries, Arabic). Some items:

  • In general, the United States and English appear now less prominent in the statistics.
  • Previously, it seemed that 21 percent of the viewers of Wikipedia in Hungarian came from the US. This dropped to 0,6 percent.
  • It looked as if in the Netherlands and Sweden the Wikipedias both in the national language and in English have for about as many viewers. Now that has changed, too: Dutch and Swedish have a share of roughly 55% each, and English roughly 35%.

Still, we see in many cases an increase of the share for English, e.g. in Austria from 14.5% to 18.3% in the years 2009/2010.

The main conclusions remain the same: Most people look up in the Wikipedia edition of their native tongue, and if they don’t find anything, they go to Wikipedia in English. Third languages hardly play a role.

The Wikipedia map of Arabic

Recently, this blog presented a related map about Arabic Wikipedia: How many Wikipedia page views in a country go to Arabic. The map above shows it the other way around: The page views of Arabic Wikipedia are divided into these countries.

Most page views come from Saudi-Arabia, second comes Egypt, third are the United States of America. (The latter may be caused by technical factors.) A good place here does not necessarily mean that most viewers live in these countries because fewer people might read more (make more page views) in richer countries. In general, this map does not show a totally different picture than the previous.

The Wikipedia countries and language version map of Arabia


This is a map (pdf-version) based on the numbers published by Erik Zachte, statistics manager of Wikimedia Foundation. It answers to the question which language versions of Wikipedia are mostly visited in a specific country.

Similar to the map of Europe, we see that only a small number of languages is relevant. In all of these countries, where Arabic Wikipedia is visited according to the statistics, English has an important role. In none of these countries Arabic Wikipedia is dominant, while in some European languages the national language version is. It should be noted that a part of the success of English is caused by the fact that in some Arabic countries internet is used especially by foreign residents of North American or European origin.

Very clearly we become aware of French colonial past, mostly in North Western Africa. In countries such as Morocco French Wikipedia even has more significance than English. One of the most important languages in the region is Hebrew (or Ivrit) due to the economic and democratic status of Israel. In general, people in the countries on this map visit Wikipedia much less than in Europe. While Germany has a share of the global total of 7.3%, Israel’s is 0.4% and Djibouti’s only 0.002%.

Update: See also the map about where the page views come from.

The Wikipedia country and language version map of Europe


This is a map (pdf-version) based on the numbers published by Erik Zachte, statistics manager of Wikimedia Foundation. It answers to the question which language versions of Wikipedia are mostly visited in a specific country.

At first glance there is no obvious pattern in the map. Still, the countries can be divided into four groups:

* English hegemony

* National hegemony

* Dual hegemony

* Mixed situation

In a number of countries, especially on the Balkans, English is the most read Wikipedia language. In others, there is a national or official language that champions the field, for example in France and Poland. (In the case of Britain, English and the national language are the same.) The third major group consists of the countries where English and the national language both share the hegemonic role (the Netherlands, Norway, Hungary).

The last group, ‘mixed’, contains only a small number of countries, most prominent Belgium and Switzerland, to a certain degree also Bosnia & Hercegovina. These are ethnically/linguistically mixed countries.

Usually, languages learned at school or languages of neighbouring countries do not play a notable role. An exception is Italian in Albania; other cases such as Polish in Lithuania can be explained with ethnic minorities.

The conclusion: Europeans primarily consult the Wikipedia language version in their native language. If that version is weak (and also depending on other factors), they consult the English version.