Wikipedia talk:Project charter

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Discussion moved here from Wikipedia:Simple talk on 23 June 2006 by Cromwellt.

Currently this project lacks a clear direction, and many editors are working towards different things, and while improving one area making things more difficult for other possible aims of this project.

The main ideas editors have for this project are:

  • For learners of English in non-English speaking countries
  • For a 'bridge' between Wikipedias, a place where the articles are easier to translate
  • For schools to use as either an information resource or a class project
  • For people with learning difficulties or similar problems

Personally, I do not mind being part of a multifunctional Wikipedia, but I think that we should put an equal focus on it's possible usage in schools and for people with learning difficulties as we do on the English learners and translators.

At the moment, we are deleting 'non-core' articles, which may be useful to some people perhaps with learning difficulties or in class projects in schools. The aim of the Wikipedia project is create the sum of all human knowledge, which cannot be achieved if we continue to delete non-core articles. Of course, core articles should take priority and editors should be encouraged to create these until all articles on the list have been created and are of an agreed standard of quality.

Also, we need a firm standard for article simplification, as articles currently vary wildly in their level of simplification. People do not know what to expect here. We must establish a standard which suits all the ideas we agree to follow.

Basically, we need to discuss where we want this project to go and whether the focus should remain on English learners. Can we be a multifunctional wiki? I think we need to find a way of working that doesn't close off certain options. Archer7 18:46, 23 February 2006 (UTC)

_ _ Without taking a position on e.g. restriction to the core articles, i want to argue for a different focus from those Archer7 seems to consider. IMO the focus is clear, in saying "Simple English", and describing that in terms of vocabulary. If there is reason to restrict topics, IMO it would have to be bcz the editors available are insufficient to do more articles well; it certainly is obvious that the editing pool is orders of magnitude smaller than that of en:.
_ _ I am reminded of en:Jean Redpath, and her sharp-edged joke about American reactions -- despite her perfect comprehension of the standard American accent -- to her heavy Scottish one: she could almost hear Yanks saying inside their heads, "I'm having trouble understanding her; I'd better speak LOUDLY and s-l-o-w-l-y." Which is to say, "Since I'm not getting it, the problem must be that she is deaf and stupid."
_ _ My point is that lumping together all the users whose English passive vocabulary is limited, and trying to serve them with one tool is both offensive and futile. We don't get to choose our user population, we get to choose our tools for serving them, and we have done that: we restrict the vocabulary of simple: articles. That doesn't mean acting as if they have the intelligence of the "typical" developmentally handicapped, or the sophistication and experience of the "typical" school child, it just means that complicated ideas need to be explained in a way that uses more words to substitute for less common ones, or defines them in much the same way you would explain "en:isotopic enrichment" or "en:Grimm's law" or "en:sangha" or "en:anti-foundationalism" to your physician or the rocket-scientist next door.
  1. Assisting ESL learning is probably the thing that simple: can do best with a limited editor corps.
  2. The biggest question is whether it can in practice do anything well enough to be worth doing it, if the task of making a complete 'pedia in simple English is taken seriously.
  3. A "bridge" from en: to other Wikipedias, with articles that are easier to translate, is probably indistinguishable from a fairly complete simple-English WP. But that's a one-way bridge; turning simple-English articles (translated by native speakers of other languages) into brilliant en: articles is a prosaic copy-editing task suited to most native English speakers, and putting those translations straight into en: presents no problem.
  4. Writing for comprehensibility to school children is not one task because each grade has a different level of what its students will typically comprehend; BTW, grasping what those levels are is a job for professionals, not for any but a tiny fraction of WP editors. But it's not even one task per grade or per group of a few grades: for each age group, there are multiple proposed standards of "suitability" for that group. (E.g., we should never forget the period when contraception information was seized in the U.S. under obscenity laws.) En: has, IMO wisely, refused to write to any standards other than NPoV, verifiability, and notability, not only because it's in the spirit of information being free, but also because those are the only standards that wouldn't shatter WP into dozens of vaguely defined standards, being edited by inadequate fragments of the editor corps. IMO school-kids' WPs are non-starters.
  5. Writing "for people with learning difficulties or similar problems" actually has a reassuring vagueness to it, that suggests to me some awareness of how easily we could go beyond our depth. Under developmental problems there anomalies inevitable from the time of conception, and those arising in utero from gene-copying errors, maternal nutrition, drugs and other toxins, or infections, or at birth form either physical trauma or delayed oxygen supply. Similar problems anywhere after birth include cerebral trauma; overt disease, toxins, and anoxia again; strokes; and slow degenerative diseases. Those are just causes, and the effects have many dimensions and degrees, and the professionals capable of distinguishing and dealing with them are even more highly trained than with "typical" students. The en: that suits 1 or 2 above will suit some of them, but we've no hope of serving the special needs of the vast bulk of the rest.
    --Jerzyt 09:26, 27 February 2006 (UTC)
I see what you mean, but by establishing a firm standard for simplification we could target specific school groups while still assisting with ESL and other things. I think that working out that standard would be the best step at the moment, taking into account the various possible uses of this wiki when working that out. Make the standard so it doesn't cut anything out. Archer7 20:12, 9 March 2006 (UTC)
Target users
I mentioned when a discussion on project direction was first thought of that I would love to be involved in such a discussion, and I don't want to disappoint anyone, so here I am. :) I must admit, though, that Archer7's statement about non-core articles represents my ideas pretty well too, even though we seem to disagree on who the project's target audience should be. My take on whom we should be serving is that our main target users should be people whose alternate language is English. Translators, schools, children, and the mentally handicapped can all find these articles useful, since they should be written in easy-to-understand English with a limited vocabulary, but because we are focusing on an EAL (English as an additional language) audience, we can write simple articles about geodesics and cosmology, which, while hopefully accessible to all, are not exactly at the top of an average ten-year-old's reading list, for example. I think that a Wikipedia for English learners was the original idea that sparked Simple English Wikipedia, while the other ideas for possible users came later, because they might find the same things useful. Therefore I think we should stick with that idea. Maybe this is putting Archer7's point another way. We shouldn't exclude anyone (since we can't anyway, as Jerzy said), but if we make a certain audience our target audience, that will give us a basis for how simple the articles should be. I just think that audience should be mainly EAL learners.
Non-core articles
In regard to non-core articles (which was one of the main reasons I was interested in joining this discussion), I think it is a great idea to focus on core articles until we grow larger (say 10k articles, with the famous 1000 complete and in good condition), but as I have mentioned repeatedly on RfD, this does not mean we should try to force all editors to only work on those articles or that we should delete any and every article not related to the core. We should encourage them to work on core articles, but if they choose to do valid work on something else, like, say, Pikachu, we should not stop them, block them, ban them, or delete their article.
Simple English Wiktionary
I apologize if this section is rather long, and I acknowledge that some users likely do not want to spend their precious Wikitime reading my thoughts, but please take the time to read this paragraph and respond, because this is the most important one to me out of the three.
Another aspect of project direction is this project’s relation (if any) to Simple English Wiktionary (which we are also currently discussing at Wikipedia talk:Simple English Wikipedia). In my opinion, SEWikt could be a very useful resource for Simple English Wikipedia, in the same way that English Wiktionary is useful to the English Wikipedia. Currently, there are many articles here that are simply dictionary definitions, which have no possibility of being expanded to encyclopedia articles. They are dictionary definitions by content, not by length: a long article on the word over is still not encyclopedic, but it could be great for a dictionary (though perhaps it would require some reformatting), while a very short article on the Rhine river is still not dictionary material, while it is a perfect stub for an encyclopedia. One of the tenets of Wikipedia has always been that it is not a dictionary. Since Simple English Wiktionary exists, I think we have no reason to make ourselves an exception. We should move those dictionary definitions to SEWiktionary, where we should also generally link. Perhaps having definitions here would make sense if there were no SEWiktionary, or if it were difficult to link to, or if it had different goals from those of SEWikipedia, but there is no reason to keep dictionary material in an encyclopedia when there is a perfectly good dictionary waiting for that information, which is extremely easy to link to, and which even shares the goals here. English Wiktionary, which we generally link to at the moment, does not share our goals and uses difficult words and grammar to define things, which makes it only valuable to more advanced or knowledgeable users (many of which go straight to English Wikipedia). Despite that, it is not a bad idea to link there for those few, but I also highly recommend linking to Simple English Wiktionary, where definitions are simpler and the goals of Simple English Wikipedia are shared.
At the very least, those who do not see the value of Simple English Wiktionary should not prevent and actively oppose the efforts of those who do see its value, whether those efforts are in linking and moving, or promoting and inviting through policy. An example of inviting through policy would be saying on Wikipedia:Simple English Wikipedia to add new word definitions/descriptions to SEWikt (at least as an alternative) rather than here. Netoholic, I'm not stopping you from linking to English Wiktionary, so why are you stopping me from linking to Simple English Wiktionary? If it exists, why not use it? If it ends up being deleted, the links should be easy to remove. Deprecating a potentially valuable resource only does harm, and those who oppose it are fighting against a good and logical thing. --Cromwellt|talk 22:11, 12 March 2006 (UTC)
I like the idea of the Simple English Wiktionary. Without it, this Wikipedia would be a confusing combination of terms and encyclopedic content, and we wouldn't be providing a clear and consistent experience for our visitors. When they click on a word in an article, are they going to see an encyclopedia article or a dictionary definition? Should they have to wonder? I've made a little template that might be useful here, and I'd appreciate any feedback on it. To provide visitors with a clear and consistent way to determine if the link they are going to click will take them to encyclopedic content or a dictionary definition, we could use the {{define|word}} template, which simply places a green dotted border beneath the term to be defined, like this: Template:Define. What do you think? Adam Newbold 14:02, 24 March 2006 (UTC)
Interesting idea, Adam. However, any link to a different project already shows up in a different color like this, so I should already be obvious when it is a link to the SEWiktionary (or somewhere else, at least) and when it is a link to another article here. But if you want to use that template, go right ahead. If you are looking for something to make the difference more visible it could be useful, but I would pick a color other than light green, like dark green (if it is light enough to easily tell it from black), purple, or cyan. --Cromwellt|talk 15:16, 30 March 2006 (UTC)

If this section is still the project direction, SE Wikipedia was actually started at the request of English teachers I think for their students. That is why I focus so heavily on schools, there is a need for it. Archer7 23:14, 12 March 2006 (UTC)

Yes, this is still under Project direction. Sorry for the confusion. --Cromwellt|talk 04:00, 13 March 2006 (UTC)
I didn't know that English teachers were the spark for SEWikipedia. That puts a slightly different slant on things, but I still think our focus should be on EAL learners, since that focus would assume articles that are not at child-level or mentally-impaired-level and that can discuss complex concepts, but in simple language that secondary target groups can still find useful. I agree with Archer7 that determining a particular level of simplification would be a good idea, whoever our target group turns out to be. I normally try to follow my vague idea of what simple English is (guided in part by the BE850 and the BE1500), while also following Blockinblox's rule of "don't write anything you wouldn't want to read yourself," but some sort of official standard (or at least guideline) would be good to have. --Cromwellt|talk 23:40, 19 March 2006 (UTC)

Since no one but Archer7 has answered any of my comments, I assume that it is because they were TLDR (too long, didn't read). Therefore, to try to kickstart more discussion on this topic, I'll give a very short version of them here:

  1. I think this Wikipedia should focus mainly but not exclusively on English learners rather than students or translators or children.
  2. I think valid non-core articles should be kept.
  3. I think editors should be encouraged to work on core articles, but not required to.
  4. I think that we should move unexpandable definitions to Simple English Wiktionary.
  5. I think we should link to Simple English Wiktionary, whether or not we link to English Wiktionary.
  6. I think those who do not see the value of Simple English Wiktionary should not actively oppose the efforts of those who do.

Please comment. It would be extremely helpful if we could have enough comments/involvement to reach a consensus and create some official policies and guidelines. I would particularly like to hear the opinions of Netoholic, since he/she represents the opposition to most of these ideas. A conversation is not very useful if all sides are not represented. --Cromwellt|talk 23:40, 19 March 2006 (UTC)

Here are my opinions:

  1. I agree that the main focus should be those learning English (as a foreign language). This implies that we should not seek to take articles out just because the subject does not qualify as a valid resource for learners of the language. The focus can also be as a help for translators who do not grasp (the possibly complex) English article, and want a simpler version here.
  2. No non-spam/non-test article should be deleted, unless it can be merged into another article.
  3. We need more (active) contributors, possibly also with skilled experience in something. I have edited articles about medicine, but I am no doctor. From this, errors very probably were introduced.
  4. You cannot tell how people learn English, therefore classifying articles into core and non-core is dangerous. A skilled physicist or medical doctor will have a different need than someone guiding tourists through the sights of (Insert Favorite Country here). Hence, the article considered important will be different. Not all English learners are adolescents either. My grandma learnt English when she was over 70..
  5. You know my opinion about wiktionary (no use atm, wastes resources we do not have). Hoever, if you feel obliged to put work into it, I wont hinder you)
  6. And last but not least, next milestone is 10k (quality) articles.

-- Eptalon 13:37, 20 March 2006 (UTC)

It appears that we are all more or less agreeing. I really think Netoholic should comment here, not only because he is most of the opposition, but also because I have seen articles being deleted with the reason 'non-core' while this discussion was still continuing. I can't see those articles to judge myself, but it sounds like our bureaucrat is not taking enough notice of the community. Netoholic, please correct me! Archer7 19:02, 20 March 2006 (UTC)
    • Now I have admin priviledges, I can see that it was just one article, and everyone makes mistakes, including bureacrats. Archer7 16:10, 28 March 2006 (UTC)

Some of my observations (most are 'for the time being'--when our article base and especially the number of active editors increases substantially my opinions are likely to change):

  • I don't see much conflict in trying to serve the 4 types of readers listed at the beginning of this section. As long as articles are written simply, but not childish or condescending (hand washing comes dangerously close--probably would be better as part of a hygiene article), they should serve a wide variety of users.
  • I'd prefer to see zero-tolerance of any work on fictional characters from modern pop culture. Perhaps with an exception of tolerance for the few characters that are well known outside of their "universe", which most of our present fictional characters' articles fall under (eg Yoda, Kermit the Frog); ie Pikachu is in (barely), but Bulbasaur is definately out.
  • I'd prefer to see modern pop culture fictional works (and especially computer and video games) STRONGLY discouraged, with possible exceptions of tolerance for a small subset, such as the small number of comp/video games that were truly ground-breaking such as Pong, Doom, and SimCity, or for movies placed in a solid framework showing notability, etc., and providing a useful context, like Slgrandson's AFI list based articles.
  • I'd like to see zero-tolerance of modern pop culture related microstubs. I was one of many that chastized Lucky6.9 for marking them for deletion on EN, but here we just don't have the editor resources to put up with a bunch of "Joe plays Chuck on Joe's Funtime Hour" or "Big Bob's Killzone is a first-person shooter game"-type micro-/nanostubs.
  • Ideally I'd like to see things like music album info contained in the band article (which itself should be discourage, along with most pop culture topics), and ball players contained in a bigger 'bucket' (in a team article or a 'name of sport players' article, if at all. But, in practicality we again lack the editor resources to do the merge/redirs that would necessitate. I personally probably wouldn't be inclined to delete them, but can certainly empathize with doing so.
  • In principle I support links to both Simple and EN Wiktionaries.

That's what I can come up with at the moment. Freshstart 04:31, 22 March 2006 (UTC)

While I personally agree with many of the points mentioned above, I think that much is lost in the details. Thinking about the project in a relatively high-level way, it seems to me that the goal of Simple should be to provide quality content in a consistent and meaningful way to those who can benefit from the use of Simple English—and that's it. Imposing too many rules and being too nit-picky about the content only hurts morale and discourages would-be contributors. The emphasis should not be on what is included in this wiki, but how it is shared. If we all focus on writing and editing in good, Simple English, then the project will succeed on its own merits. We shouldn't waste time arguing over which rock bands are notable enough to warrant articles of their own. Adam Newbold 16:21, 24 March 2006 (UTC)

I think I understand your point, but I would argue that someone whose primary interest is solely in articles on modern pop-culture topics will NOT contribute to core articles, so 'driving them away' doesn't seem that much of a loss, and if, for example, their 'band member' articles keep getting merge/redir'ed back into the band articles, they won't feel as slighted if the Simple article requirements are stated up-front. I see EN as drifting ever closer to becoming everything2.com, and want to keep Simple from following that route. If Simple starts heading in that direction, I guess I will have to find an entirely new hobby--I'm a 'top 60' contributor on EN, but have stopped editing there because of the lack of limits--I don't want to have to leave here for the same reasons. Freshstart 07:27, 25 March 2006 (UTC)
I'm quite shocked that an editor would suggest that driving away anyone who is well-intentioned could ever be acceptable. Furthermore, I may be new around here but I don't see why this wiki shouldn't have a simple English version of every article on the English wiki. My understanding is that this is a wiki to inform and educate children and adults of limited English, not a playground for refugees from EN. --Kingboyk 11:49, 25 March 2006 (UTC)
And as for lengthy debates over 'notability' of various modern pop-culture items, I agree; we don't have the resources to get bogged down in that. I'd rather see ZERO modern pop-culture refs, but if we want to include some, make it dependent on them winning a Grammy Award, BAFTA Award, or a similarly vaunted, national award, in either their country of origin or greatest popularity--easy to quantify/measure and thus not open to debate. Freshstart 07:36, 25 March 2006 (UTC)
And finally (I hope), I do NOT see our mission as primarily 'teaching' people the English language. I see Simple's mission as providing a bridge for many types of people to move from EN to ?? lang, and for people who have some Eng knowledge, but, for whatever reason, do NOT want to 'Learn' English. Among other things, the people I know that DO want to learn English will use EN, as they want ot be challenged. Freshstart 07:46, 25 March 2006 (UTC)
I have to disagree with Freshstart on a few points. I agree with Kingboyk that we should never drive away anyone except trolls, and people who work on pop-culture topics do not by definition fit in that category. Pop culture is part of culture and life and therefore should be covered in all wikipedias. If something is actually non-notable (like many microstubs on video games), we can delete it on that basis, but not just because it happens to fall into a particular category. With zero tolerance on pop culture topics, you cut out the vast majority of literature, including Shakespeare's works, as well as articles on fictional characters like Sherlock Holmes, and movies like Citizen Kane. The idea of including exceptions when in a context of their importance is not good enough. Building exceptions into rules leads quickly to instruction creep. Non-notability and what Wikipedia is not must be only the criteria for exclusion, because anything more and we cut out things that have a place here.
I think that SEWikipedia is much farther from Everything2 than EWikipedia, and that whether or not we include these types of articles we do not currently have the smallest danger of becoming Everything2. I guess overall I agree with Adam Newbold that we should not have too many rules. That is a principle which is mirrored in parenting and good teaching practice also (not that I think that we should be teaching English here: we are making an encyclopedia, but it may help learners): make few rules, but make them good ones. As for editor resources, I don't see that as a problem: If microstubs are created on non-notable topics (like the third level of Keene 5), they will eventually get deleted, but in the meantime they don't hurt anything, and we already have our core-article focus so the percentage of core articles will increase regardless, avoiding the "we're giving readers a bad image" issue. Notability debates are part of the nature of the beast (so to speak), but they should generally take place on RfD, which in most cases should be final.
In spite of all this, I consider Freshstart to be a very valuable contributor who always acts in good faith (including these things I disagree with), and driving him away is the last thing I want to do. Whatever happens with policy and pop culture topics, I hope you stick around, Freshstart.
Here is the TLDR version:
  1. Let's not drive away editors.
  2. Pop culture is important and microstubs don't hurt anything before they're deleted for non-notability.
  3. Built-in exceptions = instruction creep. We should not have too many rules.
  4. Non-notability and What Wikipedia is not should be our only criteria for exclusion.
  5. Notability debates are inevitable, but they should stay on RfD.
  6. I hope Freshstart stays in any case.
--Cromwellt|talk 16:11, 30 March 2006 (UTC)
As an example of the problem of lack of limits at EN, less than half of the [Image:] calls are for actual article content images (and that count was from before the 'userbox' explosion).
Ironically, however, it's actually an extreme LIMIT that has me most pissed at EN at the moment: en:Wikipedia_talk:Manual_of_Style_(pronunciation)#Why_not_allow_approximate_.27pro-NUN.27_in_addition_to_IPA.3F.
Requiring people to learn a new "alphabet", and spend potentially costly download time to display it, to learn how to pronounce everyday words, seems quite retentively elitist to me. Freshstart 03:05, 31 March 2006 (UTC)

Now we have heard from several people, but still nothing from Netoholic. We would really like to hear your opinion, Netoholic.

On a different topic, the dicdef problem still hasn't been addressed, and I think it is directly related to project direction. I think dictionary definitions should go on SEWiktionary, which is currently approaching 400 entries. Wikipedia is NOT a dictionary, not even Simple English Wikipedia. --Cromwellt|talk 18:49, 28 April 2006 (UTC)

Sorry to adjunct this at the end, but I'm not sure where to butt in. :]
I definitely think that Simple Wikipedia should not be targeted at children, nor those with mental difficulties. I've found that "for kids" stuff is almost always condescending and insulting to the intended reader. I've also noticed that many of the articles here have a conscending tone as well, at least in the way I perceive them. True, I'm not learning English, but I know that in the languages I'm learning, I don't want to be talked down to; I want straight-forward, clear sentence structure, and words I know or can easily look up. As for people who "really want to learn" using en.wp, I've been taking French for over six years and I can speak it rather well, but fr.wp confuses the heck out of me. I can talk to the people in #wikipedia-fr fine, so it's not my French, it's just that encyclopedia entries are not easy to read, most of all not for foreign speakers.
So I'm probably being overly wordy, but I think we should have a concentrated effort to make articles clear and neutral. POV is everywhere because it's easy to slip in when diction is limited. So.. yes.. that's what I think. Thanks for reading. --Keitei 19:40, 28 April 2006 (UTC)
Hi Keitei, you're comments are in exactly the right place. Good points, and I agree with you. Children and people with mental difficulties may find this wiki useful (not to mention translators), but as I mentioned above, learners should be our main focus, IMO. --Cromwellt|talk 22:06, 28 April 2006 (UTC)
Now that we seem to have general consensus, how about we move this discussion to Wikipedia talk:Project direction where we can also host any further discussion on the topic? Obviously, more opinions will be welcome. Then on the corresponding article page, we can work to formulate a general statement of our purpose and direction, maybe even making a guideline out of it if that seems to fit. If there are no objections in a few days, I'll make the move, if someone doesn't beat me to it. --Cromwellt|talk|contris 02:25, 29 May 2006 (UTC)