News and notes
"Cease and desist", World Trade Organization says to Wikivoyage; could WikiLang be the next WMF project?
Wikivoyage needs a new logo
The Wikivoyage and World Trade Organization logos.
On 31 May, the Wikimedia Foundation's Legal and Community Advocacy team announced that the Wikivoyage logo would have to be replaced, because it has become the subject of a cease-and-desist letter from the World Trade Organization (WTO).
The logo dispute comes as another entry in Wikivoyage's colorful history. Wikitravel, as it was then known, was created in 2003. When it was acquired by Internet Brands in 2006, the German-language contributors decided to fork, creating the original Wikivoyage. Wikitravel continued unabated until 2012, when frustrated editors decided to fork the site again, rejoining Wikivoyage and moving under the WMF's umbrella. These maneuvers set the stage for a dramatic scene when Internet Brands sued two prominent volunteers who were in favor of the move. When those matters were settled and the initial technical infrastructure was set in place, Wikivoyage was formally relaunched, with its sites covering nine languages, on 15 January.
The current Wikivoyage logo was decided on in a two-round community vote in November and December last year. 41 options were put forward in round one. The winner was then subjected to 24 variations for the second round before being chosen.
While Wikivoyage's logo is derived from the logo for the Italian Wikipedia's Transportation WikiProject, perceived similarities to other logos were brought up during the selection process, albeit jokingly; these suggestions ranged from the original Wikitravel logo to the logos for the WTO and for BBC World News.
The WMF promptly reviewed the community's selection and decided that while there were some shared traits, there were "significant enough differences between the designs and the markets the two organizations occupied for both logos to co-exist" (in the words of Legal Counsel Michelle Paulson). Unfortunately for all involved, this did not occur, and the WTO gave the WMF a deadline of 31 July to change Wikivoyage's logo. This was later extended to 31 August as a result of Paulson's discussions with the WTO's representatives.
A related Wikimedia-l mailing list discussion revolved around whether to legally fight the WTO's move. The WMF said in its original statement that while they see "significant differences" in the two logos, "such arguments are not guaranteed to win if we were to legally oppose this request because there are also some substantial similarities." The WMF's legal team calculated that such a risky fight, coupled with the current logo's age (less than six months) and brand recognition (low), would not be worth the potential gains. Nearly all of the community members there agreed with the WMF's view. English Wikipedia editor Craig Franklin stated in two emails that "Asking the Foundation to play chicken with the lawyers of a major international organisation over a trademark claim on a relatively new and easily replaced logo of ours does not offer a very good risk/reward ratio... / ... [While] the WMF [could be] victorious in court on this sort of issue, the expense would be enormous and the legal team's time is much better spent on things other than fighting battles over non-core principles with international organisations."
Some on-wiki discussion concerning the logo change is taking place on Meta, the global coordinating website for the Wikimedia movement, and a proposed timeline for selecting a new logo has been published.
WikiLang: a new WMF project?
Together, the eight countries in red contain more than 50% of the world's languages. The areas in blue are the most linguistically diverse, underlying the world's vulnerability to linguistic extinction.
In a chilling parallel to the precipitous loss of biodiversity on the planet, globalization
is threatening the survival of many of the world's six to seven thousand languages. Geographical isolation is no longer offering the protection it did historically, and speakers of regional and minority languages are increasingly unable to compete with those who speak dominant languages. The scientific consensus
is that 50–90% of these small languages will disappear
by 2100. National Geographic
that a language dies every 14 days.
A proposal on Meta aims to help combat this loss of rich human cultural identity. The idea is to form a new sister project, called WikiLang. Given a tagline of "the free language resources project" by User:Zylbath—the designer and principal advocate of the proposal, WikiLang's objective is to document, record, share, and teach as many languages as possible. It would also strongly support language revitalization.
WikiLang differs from Wiktionaries in its main goal: Wiktionaries attempt to document lexical items—word definitions—while the WikiLang would aim to move beyond this, to document and become a rich resource for both languages that have already become extinct, and those that are under threat. WikiLang aims to be a multilingual, interwiki bridge between the development processes of Wikipedia, Wiktionary, Wikiversity and Wikibooks, by providing a centralized source of documentation about all languages—both lexical and grammatical—that could be expanded on in many useful ways.
Going, going, gone ... the rich panoply of North American language families that used to exist, and in some cases are hanging on against all odds.
WikiLang has received opposition from proponents of the similarly themed OmegaWiki
, who are currently attempting to have the Wikimedia Foundation adopt it. OmegaWiki is a multilingual dictionary that aims to "describe all words of all languages with definitions in all languages." While this is very similar to Wiktionary, there are plans to turn OmegaWiki into a Wikidata
for the various language Wiktionaries. There are also several other online projects aiming to fill WikiLang's proposed niche. As such, User:ZeaForUs
has said that WikiLang should not reinvent the wheel
, while several others have wondered just why we should expend effort in reviving or at least recording these languages. The actual benefits are varied—from specific medical remedies derived from plants unknown to non-native speakers, to saving small cultures, to possible future historical investigations (saving records of the languages would prevent problems like those surrounding the Minoan civilization
's Linear A
On the other side, User:Amqui defended WikiLang against OmegaWiki, stating that "one point of Wikilang is to make it easy for all languages (even dead ones) to have a place to develop a project", though he admitted his support to add the latter as a WMF wiki. There have also been proposals to merge the two ideas: Kipmaster, the current maintainer of OmegaWiki, underlined the differences in scope (which are, as Ypnypn put it, "OmegaWiki is about words, while WikiLang ... is more about languages"), but believes that there may be enough shared qualities for a merger if they cannot join as separate projects. However, users have come out against his base assumption.
The ultimate destination of both proposals is still unknown. WikiLang has not been put to a community-wide vote yet, and while the OmegaWiki request for comment enjoys strong support, there has been no official word from the Foundation.
- Wikinewsie news: The Wikinewsie Group, which is applying to become a thematic organization, has published its first newsletter.
- Quarterly review: The mid-year review of the Wikipedia Education Program is available on Meta.