Thursday, September 27, 2007

Better Firefox, and a free makeover

I'm still halfway with a toe in poet-y land where everything is made of words and reality is very thin. It's like swimming around in beautiful chaos! I love getting into that state of mind.

At the same time I'm messing about with techie things and it's been a sort of cleanup week for me, as if it's even more important for me to establish Order in the midst of my poety chaos.

I got fed up with my 8000+ emails in my Thunderbird inbox. I switched from using Pine about a year ago. And don't get me started on how hard it was to get me even to the Pine level. I was very conservative and grumpy about it! Dammit, mm was good enough for me in 1989 and it was good enough for me in 1999! Anyway, my Thunderbird filters stopped working, and my inbox got goddamned huge. At times it has hit 20K. Finally, I gave up. I moved everything to a totally lame "2007 Inbox" folder. Voila! I'm at 0! As new flows in, I'll construct new filters. And if I feel especially virtuous, I'll go bulldozing through those 8000 old-inbox messages and put them away in logical places.

Search in Thunderbird still gives me hives. It starts searching the earliest emails first, and since I imported everything since 2003, holy hell it takes a long time to find the thing I filed away somewhere last month! Chug chug chug twiddle twiddle... sigh...

Still, it's been pretty decent so far. I'm happy with it, though still wondering if I would be better off sending everything first to Gmail and then forwarding it on. Then I'd have it all two places without having to deal with IMAP.

My sister passed me a link today to some mozilla forum discussion about a bug with Firefox, Flash, and Ajax. Yeah I had KIND OF NOTICED. Ready to throw my computer out the window over here if it hangs one more time while I'm surfing around, hanging and chugging up my CPU without rhyme or reason. The links were all to PC/Ajax bug discussions, but here I am running FF with "Activity Monitor" up, because running top in a term window just makes the cpu usage problem worse, but with Activity Monitor I can sometimes kill Firefox before my whole machine crashes and I have to hard restart.

A few poking-around searches and I got to this repository of Firefox builds including ones for Intel Macs. So far I haven't crashed today... huzzah. What will happen? Will it delight my heart? Will it bear all the weight I pile upon its back?

I've been using Desktop Manager (inspired by Skud). With this I can set up many different desktops and rotate between them, which is perfect! It's rad! It's not totally reliable but that doesn't matter. I miss my old techie jobs where I would have 3 machines; a Mac, a PC, and an old Sun server. It felt like having a fabulous command center to swivel about and have all different junk set up on each computer. Plus on the Sun I'd have XWindow and 4 different desktops where I did all the real work. Anyway, now I have one small laptop, plus Desktop Manager. It's nifty. At first I was mildly annoyed that I couldn't get "move this window to Desktop 3" to work. Then I figured out I could just minimize it, go to 3 with a keystroke, and re open those windows with Quicksilver, which is relatively painless -- I can train my hands to do it, like playing the piano. Mousing and trackpads suck because you can't get that finger memory really working.

Mmmmm, Quicksilver. It haunts me. I am only scratching the surface of its beautifulness. It makes me so happy. It's elegant! It feels like a powerful beast waiting to be tamed and taught tricks! So far I only really use it to switch and open apps. But, if I wanted to make some more nifty productivity stuff, Quicksilver is probably where I'd start. Danny babbled a bit to me about writing Applescripts to do various things. Applescript has never appealed to me. Maybe.

Meanwhile, at work yesterday Pete showed me YubNub so I'm in command line/ keystroke heaven. Now I can command-K up to the toolbar and I've got a bazillion useful shortcuts predefined.

You'd think that's enough new stuff. But I have all these nagging projects. I spent some time at 7am this morning dicking around with me and Laura's Mediawiki install which has had annoying blanking and nonsense-insertion vandal attacks lately. As I looked around on the net I came across an article by WikiAngela that made great sense. I agree, it is better to leave a wiki open to anonymous edits! Then I came across Bad Behavior, a blacklist/whitelist application that I could certainly use on some blogs as well. Finally I ended up reading an incredibly useful article, Blocking Spam in Mediawiki. I did a bunch of it while Laura and I knitted our brows over permissions and group problems on the server. (Note: ConfirmEdit.php has a bug which breaks when it gets urls with a trailing backslash.) Oh man! Thank you for that excellent, brief, practical guide. Even if I cracked up hysterically laughing at your Orgasmosocialism page... OMG. Somehow "destroying the patriarchal institution of marriage and monogamy" was left off this dude's list of the utopia which eliminates all social and political barriers to "the development of intimate relationships between consenting parties".

Then I spent most of the rest of the day actually working. No really! It's not just that my coworkers might read this! Except for when I went out for pie and bacon and the Bad Ass Mama's Coffee Hour! I can prove it because finally this is up on SourceForge. I need to wrassle the ginormous release notes and bug fixes into a more news-like blog post and announcement for email lists. But it is nice to have it more or less out there for consumption. Yesterday I was melting down at the thought that I was stuck. But actually it was very very almost done, and things were fine. Why always with the last minute tearing out of my hair. I wish I hadn't spazzed about it! At least not in front of people.

I leave you with this final, snarky, juicy thought as a reward for reading all the way to the end of this post. On a wonderful mailing list that I love dearly that shall not be named there was a long serious thread about this article on a nerd auction. The Washington State University LUG is auctioning themselves off at a Nerd Auction, to sorority girls, offering to fix their computers in exchange for a makeover. I cannot wait for the video. My god. I mean I am going to buy a plane ticket and quickly join the WSULUG. A lightning-smart hot chick in a pink sweater will buy me, and I will fix her computer. I will totally impress her with Quicksilver and Yubnub. Then, the (mutual) makeover, with a lot of giggling. Hey! Why not just sleep over in the sorority house? Geek slumber party! They'll all end up with funny colored hair and will start wearing Leatherman tools on their belts, while I'll come out of it all dishevelled, with lipstick all over my shoulders and a kick ass pedicure. Screw you nerds I am stealin all ur wimminz...

And then afterwards when all the ditzy sorority girls naturally reject the pale weedy glasses-taped-together nerd boys, I will be around the next day to comfort I'd get the action from repressed, desperate nerds too. What a great setup!

"You can buy a nerd and he'll fix your computer, help you with stats homework, or if you're really adventurous, take you to dinner!"

My actual answer to that is unprintable and many-leveled and includes a snarling declaration of the actual meaning of Adventure.

No, seriously. The whole idea is kind of funny and yet pisses me off big time. I love the comment from this WSU mom of a geek daughter:

Do a search on world of warcraft and you will be loaded with girls who have no idea that WSU has great computer science department with a sense of bizarre humor.
Hell, if you had had a booth showing your online programs (assuming) for the stuff she does (which I don't Maya, etc.,etc., she might take an interest in her mother's old school. Or maybe you are all Alliance and not Horde. Or are you all waiting for Halo 3. She lives on Newegg and is building her latest and greatest computer as we speak and would never ever join a sorority.

What a taunt! Hahaha!

Seriously again, the auction PR stunt plays up the very stereotypes they are trying to fight. Another comment points out,
Seriously, people, you wonder why you need this much press to get a woman to come within 10 feet of your sorry selves? This brings back every sexist or otherwise slimy incident I experienced studying engineering. . .

I have to agree, although I love ridiculous fun and can see that this LUG thought it was playing with stereotypes, not playing them up. I wish them success in that goal. And, presuming human decency from the bulk of them, I understand the lure of the spectacle and of publicity and of a joke. However, the impression I get is also that as a woman I am expected by their department's culture to laugh and go along with degrading stereotypes of my gender.

But, I hope that the end result is that the CS department asks women why they don't enter or stick with CS as a major, and listens to the answers, and acts on that. Or, they could go read the many studies which address exactly that question. How about this one by Ellen Spertus, Why Are There So Few Female Computer Scientists? . How about reading She's Such a Geek, a book of fabulous essays by geeky women, in which nearly every essay explains the barriers and annoyances we face. Or this paper by Tracy Camp, The Incredible Shrinking Pipeline. There are a zillion more.

Maybe if they paint the Computer Science Dept. building pink? That might help?

I wonder what they do to encourage racial minorities to enroll... "Nerds" fix your computer, and you teach them to... what? What race and stereotype spring to your mind? Think that event would happen? No? Then why is this one okay?

Despite everything I have ever experienced and said about geek culture and gender, here is the key. I still expect geeks to be better than this. My techno utopia has got some basic feminism in it and so do a lot of other people's.

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Monday, September 24, 2007

Long poems last for a long time

Lately, poetry is all coming in floaty long phrases. It's all endless stretching introductions full of commas. I think it's because I'm in a beginning, and don't have the clarity to send down a full stop sort of root into where I'm going with the language and ideas. I need a whole day to travel and think very thinkily, to figure that out. The ocean is often too distracting. I write poetry best when I'm pulled over by the side of the road, after having thought out phrases and rhythm and a holistic vision in my head to the sound of the highway.

I worked more on the very long Homeric Hymn that has been around for a couple of years. Its first part is good, and I can see the 2nd and 3rd bits aren't going to match it no matter how long I wait for lightning to strike 3 times. That's okay. I can detach from the desire for it to all be as good as the best bit. There, the long unhinging of the first section rambles into personal memory. I can't match Steve Arntsen's sustained visions, often 20 minutes of digression and glory.

That might be true for the new long poems, that they will be a little bit about personal memory. There is one about the moon landing and another about spaceflight and mistakes; another called Information Manifesto that makes me especially happy. The other thing holding me back is that I can't quite figure out where they go in relation to others; are they part of Mother Frankenstein or are they something else and something new? That can be such an illusion, as so many people's careful arrangement of poems into books is pointless. It's only worth it to care if there is driving unity behind it and not just "the poems that i wrote sort of together in time." Meanwhile, the manuscript of artless is just sitting around. At this point, fuck it, I thought I'd put out a tiny book at a time, like Woodbird Jazzophone, keep Tollbooth Press alive, and fuck the idea of books. Of all of it, artless is the only one important to keep together bookishly, because it is a deliberate series and I thought it out as one thing with structure.

I hauled out my Alta booklets lately and went looking online for another that I had seen in the New York Poetry House library - and found it. I have always liked the stolid bulldozer of her in Burn This Memorize Yourself. And I got a new Maureen Owen book and again pulled out old ones (as I have rearranged my library and excavated through piles and piles of books, weeding and shelving and shedding an entire piano's worth of worthlessness, to make room for Oblomovka). Lucky find, and lucky remembrance, also from my trip to New York last year with its unsatisfactory visit to the Bowery Poetry Club -- but there, in a lonely shelf of used books that were utter crap that I laughed at with qatipay by my side, I found Untapped Maps and was riveted to the spot till I had finished the book (with some sort of Erotic Poetry Happening happening all around me). Reading Owen was horrifying because until then I felt pleasantly maverick. I read AE later and realized so many things in common, leaps of thought and language in parallel, similar tracks. The relationship built across time and unreality! So that's horrifying, understand, yet beautiful and made me cry with happiness because I feel less alone (as a poet). The beautiful similarities to the long and short airy eddies from Elvira Hernandez -- I would like to send Owen my translations -- and then spinning off into curls of density -- and then her moments of solidness ringing true as, say, Piercy's don't for me. The thought that I might be thought to copy her upsets me. At least it is better than people drivelling about "the female Ginsberg" not that I don't love it but WTF... as if.

But that moment holding the battered 20 year old copy of Untapped Maps in my hands was beautiful also if you think of all the small books that are to some extent neglected and you might think what's the point, or where do they go, or are they dead. No! They might be lighthouses in the fog, and a distant in time person will hold them and cry a little with relief that not all poetry is damned boringly all the same as all the other poetry of its time. As I felt with some of the issues of Alcatraz and especially Wanda Coleman's stuff in there. Think of the mountain, the dead weight, of awfully dull magazines! Think how nice it will be when some future poet-eating woman cradles your quite unexpectedly excellent little book in her hands. Send out those time travellers!

I do think of Greg Hall and how much he would (and might already) dig this crazy chick, certain phrases in particular are very Dirty Greggie, and I want to call him up and get back in touch and send him a xeroxed sheaf with coffee cup stains added accidentally on purpose.

Meanwhile! I'm very excited that a friend introduced me to Maureen Alsop, another translator of Juana de Ibarbourou! I have around 100 poems of Ibarbourou's, translated in varying degrees of done-ness. Maureen and I had both tackled the Diaria de una isleña, a long prose poem in umpteen sections; one of Ibarbourou's later works, I think from 1968 or 1969. The arc of Ibarbourou's writing over her lifetime went from those pantheic exultations, almost-sonnety droplets published in 1919, to her sonnets on Biblical characters, and prayers of the 30s as if to atone; to forays into the surreal in the 40s and 50s, and then grey complex elegies, mad-eyed and Norn-like, in the 1960s and 1970s. Maureen's and my separate translations of Diary of an Islander felt complementary, and I hope we carry out our collaboration by the sea, and merge versions over endless cups of strong tea and the solace of knowing someone else has loved and inhabited the words we've loved by the act of translation.

That's what's going on with my poetry and translations; it's been a while since I've said. The translations of some of Carmen Berenguer's poems from A media asta aren't out yet; publishing is always slow; maybe the magazine's in difficulty? Maybe the difficult typography of that flag poem broke their souls! I hope it comes out soon. No one took my translations of Nestor Perlongher; so again, screw it, I'll publish them myself in little booklets; I know they're good and compelling and there is no magic validation needed of some other half-assed clique to rubberstamp it good. Get it out into the world and move on.

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Friday, September 14, 2007

A culture of free as in free beer, trust, and ethical payment

The other day I was checking out the developer preview of Songbird's music player, and had a few ideas. Right now you can use it like a browser, reading blogs and downloading mp3s from those blogs. In about 5 minutes I had found great music from búscate un novio and fuck me i'm twee (I've been listening to a lot of girly pop/punk lately.)

I'd really love to change the whole model of music distribution. Rather than buying the rights to do whatever I like with a song, I'd like to download it and listen to it without feeling like a criminal. I'd like it to be licensed under Creative Commons in some sensible way. And then I'd like my music players to include a tip jar.

If I like a song, I'll tip the artist, or the consortium of artists, or whoever does their distribution. For example, I'd like a guarantee that the original artist gets a particular percentage of the tip. Even if I knew they would get 50%, that would make me more likely to tip than I'd be if I had zero information.

Skyrocketing downloads, as music consumers felt the confidence that they weren't doing anything illegal, would fuel the music industry. We'd tip a song, or an artist, more than once. When I made a mix CD for someone and put my favorite song on it, I might tip again. Over the many years of listening to a song, I might tip its creator many times... generating more money for the creator, and for anyone in the middle like Songbird could be, than a simple "pay 99 cents for it" model.

I'd see in my music player that I'd tipped 3 times for a particular song or album. I could sort my music on paid-for or not, which would encourage me to want to pay more artists and feel good about my own habits.

Further, I could earn a reputation as an ethical consumer. My own profile -- on Songbird, or on some public site -- maybe on a badge I stuck on my blogs -- could proclaim that I've tipped musical artists 1052 times, or dollars worth of tips, in the last 5 years.

This information could build relationships between consumer and artist, or label or consortium. Kathleen Hanna would know that I'm her loyal fan to the tune of $30 over several years, and might send me announcements, concert information, free stuff, tshirts, or free new music.

This might also avoid the morass of micropayments. Create small payment structures for specific industries, instead of a grand scheme of people passing around the same .001th of a cent whenever they read a web page.

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Friday, September 07, 2007

Talking with the city about ramps

After I sent a bit of an email blast to everyone in the city government I could think of who might be able to help, I got a super nice response. A city technician, Charlie, called me and left voicemail; I called him back and we met half an hour later outside my house. There could not be a nicer, more competent-seeming person. It was very reassuring.

We walked around and looked at the main obstacles to places I go often: the grocery store, the school, and my path to the train station. With 6-7 curb cuts, it would be workable. There was a large locust tree in the way of one ramp location. Charlie, who is also something of an arborist, said that the tree was around 5 years from dying anyway; it is split in a way that means a main branch should come off, and its core is dead. So it might should be cut down anyway. Still, losing a tree makes me sad.

I learned many other interesting things from Charlie as we walked (and rolled) the route and discussed tangential things like the city's history, street names, clues to former land use and the evolution of streetscapes.

The curb cuts cost the city about $5000 each.

As of last year, the standard curb ramp is a wide diagonal, heading both directions. It has texture to warn visually impaired people that a slope is about to happen. It has those yellow bumps at the edge to warn that you're about to be in the street. The texture also directs where the diagonal is, so you know not to go out into the exact middle of both intersections, but to choose one or the other. Behind the ramp, across the sidewalk, there will also be a sort of raised back curb, which signals the sidewalk's edge.

I found some excellent guidelines here on the Department of Transportation federal government site. It's especially good at explaining the different needs of different people; how power vs. manual wheelchairs have conflicting requirements that also conflict with cane/walker/crutch users and visually impaired people. It has a very cool table of best practices for access. Also, the illustrations of dismayed wheelchair users in section 7.3.7, Change of grade, are quite funny.

The streets Charlie and I looked at are fairly old. It is not a "Centennial" neighborhood quite, but I think more like the teens... My own house I believe was started in 1910. The many resurfacings since then mean that the street is raised in the middle from the curb and gutter, so the ramp construction will take the crown and gutter slope into account.

Charlie mentioned my other request for a stop sign, and said that Traffic and Engineering might take a while with that, so he would have his crew construct a base for it in the ramp, and put a cone over the base. If the stop sign doesn't happen, they grind down the base and fill it in. If they don't do that prep work, then someone will "drill a hole in my ramp" and possibly weaken it structurally.

Not to mention Charlie's other mission of training rednecks not to do u-turns on the curb ramps and not to use them as driveways. The weight and the sheering force does major structural damage! Now you know. It would never occur to me to do a U-turn onto a sidewalk. I did not ask about skateboarders...

The city contracts its sidewalk construction and repair out to a company called J & J. They have to have a certain amount of work to be done before the contractors will come and do it all in a batch. This had a particular name, but I have forgotten it. The contractors are in the neighborhood now, working, so might be able to do this; but might need to schedule it in October instead and to do that Charlie will likely have to find another batch of work to go with it. I am sure there's no shortage of things to be done.

The money for this comes from a pool of money for ADA improvements that the federal government gives to the city each year. I don't know how much there is total. Charlie described a project he was on that provided sidewalk access from Edgewood Road all the way to the Senior Center on Roosevelt. Not bad!

The alleys on my block also limit access to the main road behind our block, Jefferson. It is actually quite funny because there are very nice ramps and crosswalks all on Jefferson, but they lead you up onto a section of sidewalk that ends in a giant curb at the alleyway. I am not going to worry too much about the alleys. If I want to use the mailbox at that corner, I will drive to it or go across the street and down the block and across the street again.

Charlie and I also discussed the driveway slope. That is something I could pay half of and the city would pay half, to fix. For now I am thinking to just put a big heavy board there as a temporary fix so that my car will stop bottoming out and so that I can get down the driveway in my wheelchair.

Then we went into discussion of trees and City Trees. The city used to recommend crepe myrtles, and then banned them, and now doesn't mind them again, but since they push up the sidewalks the same as a big shade tree, they recommend you just go with the big shade tree. It helps houses be more energy efficient and it makes the city nicer for everyone. Big trees need 6 feet of planting space between the curb and sidewalk, and medium ones need 5. Our planting strip is narrow; about 2.5 feet. So, on streets like ours, the city does the 50/50 cost split, creates a sort of bump or bend in the sidewalk, moving the sidewalk closer up towards the house. The right of way is actually much greater than most people think, so, about 5 feet into our front yard is actually public land or right-of-way.

That was about 1 hour of my morning, and I took another hour to write it up. Time well spent.

I am very relieved that I don't have to fight harder for this. Also, I was grateful not to have to explain myself, the ADA, my medical status, or anything else, to Charlie, who took my right to use the public sidewalks as a given. What a great public employee and great person to work with.

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Thursday, September 06, 2007

Apple store sued over ADA issues

Wow, I wonder why sue Apple in particular? Because most of these same things have happened to me in ... well... pretty much every single store or public place I've been in.

ON the other hand I was unusually ticked off at the Apple Store in Palo Alto a few weeks ago. A "genius" was trying to fix my computer and I was insisting on trying to watch (as, if not using a wheelchair, I would normally do.) Another employee came by and told him he could pull out a little stand from the side of the counter. He complained.. .and they argued about it in front of me without talking to me. She showed him how to pull out the counter, and I started helping her do it and set it up. The dude acted put out. Then, at some point, he needed to plug into an ethernet cable because part of the problem was that my wireless software wasn't working. And he couldn't manage to find a cable long enough to reach to the little pull-out desk extension that I could see from my wheelchair. So we fought about that for a while, I went behind the counter and craned my neck and was rudely kicked out by a manager who said it was against store policy. When I tried during the *next* problem to come up that day to get him to pull the wheelchair accessible desk out again, he refused because it was inconvenient for him and blocked the way.

I am routinely in elevators with inaccessible buttons, or have to put up with someone else's humiliating fussing over their wires or chairs or boxes stacked in a hallway to the bathroom... and so is every other disabled person I've ever talked with.

This bit made me laugh, "they were unable to reach products or service desks at the retail shop". This is also true nearly everywhere. I accept that part and will just ask for help if I need it.

This part made me happy:

"The women said they are more interested in changing the store to better accommodate their disabilities than punishing the Cupertino-based company"

Well, yeah. And sometimes you have to push it, and sue, or bring down the law in any way possible, or change doesn't happen. That's how we got the ADA and equal-access laws in the first place.

Politely talking to a manager doesn't always work. Picketing doesn't either. Using the law might. It is legitimate activism.

So I respect their lawsuit and wish them luck.

But wait. Read the comments on the article. Check this one out:

"First, it seems unlikely that a company as astute as Apple typically is would miss something this important. They do have blinders, but not usually like that. " That's so annoying. Oh, well, it's impossible to imagine that some poor yobs in a retail store, even a nice new fancy one downtown for a slick computer company, might be rude and discriminatory. Or that there are flaws in the ADA compliance in the building or the store setup, such as the wheelchair buttons or inevitable boxes in the hallway to the bathroom.

Bah. Screw them... no, sue them. Until they shape up. The disabled protesters who occupied the SF Federal Building 20 years ago didn't do it just for fun... they did it so we can use the law to change things.

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Wiki Wednesday's talk on Wiktionary and multilingual collaboration

crossposted from my blog at

September's Bay Area Wiki Wednesday featured Betsy Megas, a mechanical engineer and Wiktionary administrator, known in the wikiverse as Dvortygirl. She's a Wiki Wednesday regular and spoke at Wikimania 2006. In her talk, she gave us a ton of information on the history of Wiktionary, a tour of its interesting features, and thoughts on possible future directions for this worldwide, massively multilingual collaboration.

Betsy started by explaining the difference between Wikipedia and Wiktionary. Wikipedia's goal is to capture all the knowledge in the world. Except for dictionary definitions! Wiktionary's modest goal is to include all words in all languages. While an encyclopedia article is about a subject, a dictionary definition is about a word.

But what is a dictionary? Betsy went to a library to browse dictionary collections. Some dictionaries focus on types of words: cliches, law, saints, nonsexist language. Others center around types of content: rhymes, usage, etymology, visual information. Others are dictionaries of translation. Wiktionary, because it's not paper, is searchable, unlimited by size; it can evolve; and it has strong ties to people who edit it, and to communities of its editors.

Wiktionary content includes audio pronunciations, definitions, etymologies, metadata such as a word's frequency in English according to all the text on Project Gutenberg; pictures (such as this great photo illustrating the concept of "train wreck"); and videos attached to a word, for example, videos of how to express a word in American Sign Language. It also includes translations.

We went off on a few speculations to future directions for Wiktionary, Wikipedia, and perhaps the entire web. What if links knew why they were linked? For example, why is "Lima" linked to "Peru"? Betsy thinks that we are missing out on a lot of metadata that could be quite useful. And for Wiktionary specifically, what if we had categories that were structured around the functionality of a word, for example, its part of speech?

Betsy then went on to sketch out basic entry layout - which is different in different languages, but which for English is referred to as WT:ELE. She explains the problem of Wiktionary as "We have structured data, and no structure". This is a problem and a feature of many wikis!

Wiktionary has many tools to help with the tension between structure and structurelessness. It heavily relies on entry templates, which fill a regular wikitext entry box with something like this:



# {{substub}}

*Add verifiable references here to show where you found the word in use.

Other useful tools depend mostly on automated detection of problems, relying on human beings to do the cleanup by hand. For example, Connel MacKenzie wrote a bot to list potentially messed-up second level article headers, but a person checks each link by hand to do the gardening.

Structurelessness or being structure-light can be a problem for sensible reuse of Wiktionary content. Other dictionary projects such as Onelook and Ninjawords have used content from Wiktionary, but ran into difficulties with their imports. Is Wiktionary content reusable? Yes, but barely.

Somewhere in the mix, we also discussed WT:CFI (Criteria for Inclusion) and WT:RFV (Requests for Verification).

But then, the truly fascinating stuff about translation and multilingual collaboration. Words, or definitions, exist in many places. For example, we might have an English word defined in the English Wiktionary and the Spanish Wiccionario, and then a Spanish equivalent of that word also defined in both places. So, a single word (or definition, or lexeme) can potentially exist in a matrix of all the 2000+ languages which currently have Wiktionaries (or the 6000-7000+ known living languages) squared.

For a taste of how the Wiktionary community has dealt with that level of complexity, take a look at the English entry for the word "board". About halfway down the page, there's a section titled "Translations", with javascript show/hide toggles off to the right hand side of the page. There are many meanings for the English word, including "piece of wood" and "committee". If I show the translations for board meaning a piece of wood, many other languages are listed, with the word in that language as a link. The Dutch word for "piece of wood" is listed as "plank", and if I click that word I get to the English Wiktionary's entry for plank (which, so far, does not list itself as Dutch, but as English and Swedish.) I also noted that the noun form and the verb form of "board" have different sections to show the translations.

Ariel, another Wikipedia and Wiktionary editor and admin, showed us a bit of the guts of the translation template. The page looks like this:


But the code behind it, which you can see if you click to edit the page, looks like this, all on one line (I have added artificial line breaks to protect the width of your browser window)}:

nbsp;({{{tr}}})}}{{#switch:{{{3|}}}|f|m|mf|n|c|nm= {{{{{3}}}}}|
}}{{#switch:{{{4|}}}|s|p= {{{{{4}}}}}|}}

Fortunately, this template has a lovely Talk page which explains everything.

We all sat around marvelling at the extent of language, and the ambition of the multilingual Wiktionary projects. The scope of OmegaWiki was impressive. As Betsy and Ariel demonstrated its editing interface for structured multilingual data, I got a bit scared, though! Maybe a good future step for OmegaWiki contributions could be to build a friendlier editing UI on top of what sounds like a very nice and solid database structure.

We also took a brief tour of and its forums, which Wordreference editors go through to update the content of its translation dictionaries.

I'm a literary translator, and publish mostly my English translations of Spanish poetry; so I'm a dictionary geek. In order to translate one poem, I might end up in the underbelly of Stanford library, poring over regional dictionaries from 1930s Argentina, as well as browsing online for clues to past and current usage of just a few words in that poem. Wiktionary is a translator's dream — or will be, over time and as more people contribute. I noted as I surfed during Betsy's talk that the Spanish Wiktionary has a core of only 15 or so die-hard contributors. So, with only a little bit of sustained effort, one person could make a substantial difference in a particular language.

The guy who is scanning the OED and who works for the Internet Archive talked about that as an interesting scanning problem. We told him that Kragen has also worked on a similar project. The IA guy, whose name I didn't catch, described his goals of comparing his OCR version to the not-copy-protected first CD version of the second edition.

At some point, someone brought up ideas about structuring and web forms. I have forgotten the exact question, but Betsy's answer was hilariously understated: "I think that the structure of languages is substantially more complex."

Chris Dent brought up some interesting ideas as we closed out the evening. What is a wiki? When we talk about Wikipedia or Wiktionary or most other wiki software implementations, really we're just talking about "the web". And what he thinks wiki originally meant and still means is a particular kind of tight close collaboration. As I understand it, he was saying that possibly we overstate wiki-ness as "editability" when really the whole web is "editable". I thought about this some more. We say we are "editing a page" but really we are creating a copy of the old one, swapping it to the same url, and making our changes. The old page still exists. So for the general web, we can't click on a page to "edit" it, but we can make our own page and reference back to the "old" page, which is essentially the same thing as what most wiki software does; but at a different pace and with different tools and ease of entry/editing. So his point is that wiki-ness is about evolving collaborative narratives. I'm not really sure where to go with that idea, but it was cool to think about and I was inspired by the idea that the entire web, really, has a big button on it that says "Edit This Page".

As is often the case, we had low attendance, but a great speaker and unusually good group discussion. I'm happy with only 10 people being there, if they're the right people. And yet I feel that many people are missing out on this great event. Betsy's going to give me her slides and an audio recording for this month, but next month I will try to get a videocamera and record the entire event. If any actual videobloggers would like to come and do the recording, I'd love it.

Also, tune in next week, or September 16, for the San Francisco Wikipedia/Mediawiki meetup!

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