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Submissions/A Review of Google Translation project in Tamil Wikipedia: Role of voluntarism, free and organically evolved community in ensuring quality of Wikipedia

From Wikimania 2010 • Gdańsk, Poland • July 9-11, 2010


This is an open submission for Wikimania 2010.

Title of the submission

A Review of Google Translation project in Tamil Wikipedia: Role of voluntarism, free and organically evolved community in ensuring quality of Wikipedia

Type of submission (workshop, tutorial, panel, presentation)


Author of the submission

A. Ravishankar

E-mail address or username (if username, please confirm email address in Special:Preferences)

Username: ravidreams email: ravidreams at gmail dot com

Country of origin


Affiliation, if any (organization, company etc.)


Personal homepage or blog


Power point presentation of the talk (in PDF)


Abstract (please use no less than 300 words to describe your proposal)

Google has been running a program to increase Wikipedia content in Arabic, Indic languages, and Swahili through its translation software. Tamil Wikipedia is in touch with Google (India) to refine this program so this can be a pilot study to implement for other Indic language Wikipedias.

The presentation will cover two broad sections:

Section 1


  • channels (conf call, emails, online chat, online shared docs, spreadsheets, wiki, direct tutorial sessions)
  • co-ordinators on all three sides : Google, Wiki Community and the translation teams.
  • important policy decisions arrived at by usual wiki method based on inputs from co-ordinators.
  • Section process for articles to be translated.
  • Rating and feedback process for translated articles.
  • Consultation with Indian language Wikipedians and members of Wikimedia Foundation.
  • Issues in this program and how we are dealing with it.
    • Philosophical (paid editing, "practical meatpuppetry", impersonal, payment terms non-aligned with Wikipedia goals, quantity rewarded over quality, etc.)
    • Technical (links to suffixed forms, non-imported templates and images, distortion not known to translator as they don't use the wiki interface, replacing existing articles..)
    • Implementation (translation quality, constraint due to line-by-line translation requirement, etc.)

Section 2

Philosophical questions

  • Is paid editing against Wikipedia principles or spirit?
  • Google's motivation for the project?
  • Regular Wikipedians Vs Paid translators: User - > User interaction has changed to User - > Company - > Translation team interaction. Can the users act as a group?
  • Do paid translators contribute out of free will (choice of articles, translation style, work load, tool for translation etc.,) ? How important is volunteerism and a free community to ensure the growth, quality and integrity of a project?
  • Use of a translation kit is not wrong per se. But the kit is partly responsible for many of the issues. Should the articles be translated by hand or a tool be used?
  • Local Wikipedias need / should not be a copy of English Wikipedia. Some en wiki articles have factual errors and bias. Especially, articles on culture, politics etc., may not have a local point of view. Is it good to translate them as it is? A paid translator can hardly be expected or allowed to correct them.
  • Style of English and Style of Indian languages are quite different. Since the translation is done through the kit, we can see literal translations resulting in a dry or artificial style in the local language. Considering the power of Wikipedia and Internet in general, this can harm the nature of the local language in the long run.
  • Lack of moral ownership and responsibility to improve quality for an article created by paid translation.
Track (People and Community/Knowledge and Collaboration/Infrastructure)

People and Community

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Slides or further information (optional)

If this presentation is accepted, please schedule it after Submissions/Google translation

Interested attendees

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  1. Mayooranathan 16:29, 20 May 2010 (UTC)[reply]
  2. Aphaia 17:03, 20 May 2010 (UTC)[reply]
  3. Tinucherian 06:42, 21 May 2010 (UTC)[reply]
  4. Gurubrahma 18:41, 21 May 2010 (UTC)[reply]
  5. Siebrand 10:39, 30 May 2010 (UTC)[reply]
  6. Drbug 21:30, 30 May 2010 (UTC) (Upon notification.)[reply]
  7. aprabhala 14:31, 31 May 2010 (UTC)[reply]
  8. Kocio 12:54, 2 June 2010 (UTC)[reply]
  9. Arjunaraoc 04:04, 3 June 2010 (UTC)[reply]
  10. El Ágora 04:49, 25 June 2010 (UTC)[reply]
  11. Yupik 17:58, 26 June 2010 (UTC)[reply]
  12. Jon Harald Søby 18:22, 26 June 2010 (UTC)[reply]