Just this goy...

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Otourly's blog entry translated to English:

A circular irrigation water distributor in Taketa, Oita Prefecture, Japan.Water distribution at Taketa in Japan - public domain - Picture by Tsutsui Mizuki - And it make me curiously think about wikimedia commons' logo...
When we speak about Wikimedia Commons to Wikipedians, not natively anglophone in particular, they say Wikimedia Commons is good but too English-centric, so they use it only for essentials. But, the search tool of the site is too English as well so that it is really difficult for a non-English speaker to find what he is searching for. Briefly, an English search request on Commons will be generally more precise and find more matches than an equivalent request in French.

The true problem is not the English, because there must be a common language to link all the projects, but the problem is the categories.

To explain: the categories on commons are very complicated for someone who is not at ease with English. Often this person will only add one category (one of the main aims of the media collection) or even none to files they upload, leaving the confirmed contributors to clear up according to their English level. And I can assure you that it takes time, and sometimes these contributors would rather take photos, uploading photos, write descriptions, or revert some vandalism... I sometimes wonder how many confirmed contributors have less than 5% of their edit count fixing categorization...

Often my uploads define the categories that I will fill, correct, and, in a word, improve. There is meanwhile a tree view of the Commons Categories that I follow thanks to a little javascript code, created by [[User:Chphe]] called [[SuiviCat.js]]; a French name and as a consequence not a lot used on this anglophone project. I still remember when I requested the adaptation of SuiviCat for Commons...

In fact if we have a look outside the Wikimedia Foundation, I mean on other media websites (such as FlickR), the category system is often replaced by a tag system. Tags are useful, quick, simple... but tend toward disorder, in particular with homonyms. Wrong path, so back to our beloved categories.

In fact categories, to definitively solve the problem, should ideally be 100% multilingual. But this require sysops who are multilingual too. Otherwise vandalisms in Hindi could certainly be more difficult to detect... At the moment its seems to be an unattainable Utopia, but fully multilingual categories would have a big advantage; this could reconcile the different contributors of Wikipedias, Wiktionaries, Wikibooks, Wikinews...

Wikimedia Commons would became a truly international project, the research would be more usable by everybody. For all Wikipedias, each contributor would understand categories and subjects of the media... Besides, often it is the categories alone which best describe a file. For the good reason that not everyone is named Otourly, and as a consequence not everyone everyone links to Wikipedia in the Commons descriptions. Worst, sometimes there is only a minimal description, which does not describe it very optimally.

But it is not the fault of the English language, I must admit it... If we have a look this file for example : [[File:Church_of_the_Nativity_of_the_Theotokos_(Gora_Pnevits)_05.jpg]] only the title and the category are understandable for someone who has only few notions of English. There is no link to Wikipedia in the description which could help us to know what it is exactly.

But reconciling Wikipedia and Commons is possible, anyway, the [[Projet Monuments historiques]] is a good example; who better than French people to take photographs, sort them, geolocalize them (or just geolocalize categories) and offer historical monuments in France to everybody? It is true that these files on Wikimedia Commons are often only described in French, but they are mainly well categorized.

Monday, August 23, 2010

This blog entry is for Danny Pickle.

You signally failed to ask "Why the hell do you think anything related to humans you can sense is free culture?" I'm guessing you just decided to dismiss me and the whole conversation as a troll, unless you went to bed mid-discussion.

Like telling everyone to refuse to use proprietary software in developing free culture - as though this would suddenly make the proprietary hardware irrelevant. Oh, sorry, I shouldn't expect consistency even though you do.

The Suzuki recorder's shape is trademarked. Did you know that? Its exact ratios, decorative elements, are a corporate asset. And if I composed a jingle on it, slapped some free license acceptable to FSF on the tune and published it far and wide on the internet, the tune would be free culture. The tool has no influence on the product - I could use the instrument to write a melody for the piano, or even a Bede-esque poem composed of tone phrases.

It would be free culture, even though it undoubtedly would be influenced by Pachelbel's Canon in D, Queen's More of that Jazz (Youtube), and Joplin's Pleasant Moments. Its derivation from these intellectual properties - for that is what they are, whether or not currently protected by copyright law - has nothing to do with whether it is free culture. The idea that something is not free simply because of some artificial legal proscription is small-minded and just as artificial as the law cited.

As a digression, in the mid-90's in the USA it was illegal to "desecrate" any of the thousands of minute-man statues the US military dotted about the country's university campuses wherever they happened to have have a reserve officer training program. At the time there was a wave of protest on campuses against allowing the programs standing in accredited schools which had anti-discrimination policies - the US military clearly discriminates on the basis of gender and sexual orientation. Time after time activists requested permits to hold demonstrations in front of ROTC offices, and were turned down.

Rather than follow the rules, I and friends posted a notice in the paper of our celebration to be held in front of the ROTC offices. We then went down and enjoyed an afternoon of diversity, including dressing the statue up in a nice dress, while the ROTC students mustered at the side of the field. After the festivities died down, we cleaned everything up and went home, and sent out thank you notes to the CO and the University.

The cogent element of the event should be clear: we did not assume we needed permission to gather, to dress up (without causing permanent harm) the statue, or to carefully record our actions and then distribute the pictures/tapes - all of which the law clearly proscribed.

If you haven't gotten my point, I should probably be more blunt: there is no way any cultural item can avoid influencing its audience. Just as all video games are, in a sense, derivatives of pong, so every major software or artistic or hardware development has illegitimate offspring in the eyes of the law if literally and exactly enforced. But it would be impossible to prevent every infringement, especially if everyone just ignored an untenable legal position and just did it.

Trying to define what is free relative to an illegitimate legal standard is far more harmful than refusing to accept that illegitimate legal standard in the first place.

About Me

Owned by Njørđson, a Cape Dory 25D.