User:OhanaUnited/Sister Projects Interview/Wikisource

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Sister Projects Interview: Wikisource

By OhanaUnited, 31 March, 2008

This is the first of a series of interviews about Wikimedia Foundation sister projects. The aim is to help Wikipedia editors understand these projects, with the hopes that more will be interested in participating. (We are still looking for interviewees for Wiktionary, Wikiquote, Wikispecies, and Wikinews. You can find more details on this page.)

This week, we're very fortunate to have BirgitteSB, who is a bureaucrat at Wikisource, to discuss that project.


Can you describe what Wikisource is? What is its history? Any aims and objectives?

Wikisource is a library of free-content artistic and intellectual writings. Wikisource began more like Commons, with all languages together, but eventually split off into separate subdomains as Wikipedia did. However, Wikisource subdomains are often broader than Wikipedias. The English subdomain hosts texts in languages that would be inappropriate on the English Wikipedia, such as Old and Middle English as well as Scots dialect. Since Wikisource presents texts as they were published, there is no need to make some of the finer distinctions that the Wikipedias do. Wikisource aims to stand out from other similar collections online by the use of wikilinks to give context and background information. Wikilinks allow information to link to Wikipedia articles or Wikitionary entries without being as obtrusive as margin notes, nor as difficult to follow as footnotes. And those who just want the straight text can more easily ignore wikilinks.

An example of how wikilinks can be used on Wikisource is Fuzzy-Wuzzy, which was one my first projects when joining Wikisource. My intention with the wikilinks was to offer the background information that a reader of the Scots Observer in 1890 would have likely known. Of course a good portion readers today will instantly understand what is meant by the "Khyber Hills" and the reference to "Tommy", but there will also be people who do not understand the significance of either, and I doubt a significant number of modern readers would realize "Martinis" refer to a type of rifle rather than a drink from the wordplay in the poem. The beauty of wikilinks is that I can provide adequate information for the completely uninformed reader without annoying the military history buff with footnotes full of information he would find simplistic but can't avoid reading. However, Wikisource is generally far from the most sophisticated work of collaborating with the authors of Wikipedia articles to make this all more subtle. Currently, work is mostly focused on getting the texts themselves set-up on the wiki and proofread.

I felt that Wikisource is a mix of both Wikibooks and Wikiquote. So how is Wikisource different from these 2 projects?

Wikibooks is about creating new texts while Wikisource is only interested in previously existing texts. Contributors to Wikibooks are true authors while at Wikisource contributors are more like traditional editors. Wikisource does not create new content. Wikiquote on the other doesn't have complete texts at all, but short excerpts. Wikisource requires texts to be presented as they were published and doesn't allow excerpting or heavy editing by contributors.

Follow-up question: So if I want to read the manuscripts of Beethoven during his last few years when he had gone completely deaf, that would be in the scope of Wikisource?

It would definitely be within the scope of Wikisource. However sheet music is currently a technological issue. Brion is not implementing the lilypond extension for any Wikimedia wiki due to security problems and there is no real alternative for editing sheet music on a wiki. Hopefully this will be resolved in the future. If anyone has creative ideas on how transcribe such a manuscript they would certainly be welcome to work on this, but I don't think someone coming to Wikisource and asking how to add sheet music would find many answers.

Ok, I'm a newcomer to Wikisource. What can I write?

Well, we don't write things like Wikipedia does. There is not much of a place for writing new material at Wikisource.

However a new contributor would be welcome to transcribe texts onto Wikisource. You could add works entirely new to the wiki; this week's collaboration is on the works of Karl Marx. Or you could help with continuing the transcription of works in progress, like The New Student's Reference Work. Some of the more recent texts are set up with the ProofreadPage extension which turns the transcription task into more of a proofreading task from OCR. While many of us are excited to be using this to work off djvu files from Commons, it is a big transition for the project with more logistical issues than you might imagine. Other texts needing proofreading can be found at Wikisource:Proofreading. Besides these options there is always a place for the creation of new translations.

Also some of the texts need image extractions done from the files of scanned pages. For the more expert contributor there is also the wikilinking that gives Wikisource texts that added value not found in similar projects across the Internet. So there are lots of tasks that go into producing Wikisource texts even without original writing!

What are some of the tasks done by administrators?

Besides the obvious tasks like deleting pages and blocking vandals, I think administrators tend to take on the task of looking for potential problems and finding answers to questions such as "Is this newcomer formatting things properly and choosing the correct names?", "Do these new texts have any copyright concerns?", or "Do we have the information of who translated this edition?". Researching copyright seems to be a good part of the role at times. But I think everyone has a slightly different experience in what they focus on.

On Wikipedia we have "Featured Article" to show its best selection of articles. Is there similar scheme for Wikisource?

We have a featured text that appears on the Main Page monthly instead of daily. The most difficult requirement for featured texts is a high level of proofreading. Although they can be opposed for style issues as well.

Being one of the smaller sister projects (comparing to others such as commons or meta), does the project have any plans to encourage more people registering and contributing?

Of course I have only been talking about the English subdomain of Wikisource. Meta and Commons are not divided among languages and Meta is actually smaller by some measurements.

I would welcome anyone wishing to contribute to Wikisource, but there is no sort of organized effort to round up people. Anyone who is interested, but is not sure where to start, can leave a note at Wikisource:Scriptorium or join the #wikisource IRC channel.