Wikipedia and the spanish language
I find Wikipedia amazing, since it’s birth it always caught my eye, and made me surf over thousands of links reading about the most unthinkable articles. Yet I usually browse the english Wikipedia, mainly it’s because of the amount of articles (4,870,481 vs 1,179,132) , but also there is something about the content quality that makes me trust it more compared to spanish wikipedia.
Obvious technical restriction
It’s no wonder that in the latin-speaking world technological breach is way bigger than in the anglo-speaking world, also our introduction to the internet came years after the mainstream usage in those other countries thus our online communities are less developed. This ensures less contributors/moderators in our wikipedia pages, which many times go unattended for long periods of time. This impacts the quality of the content in obvious way.
We latins are more hot-headed, our history made us that way and even our language not only reflects but also encourages this. It’s really easy to feel tempted to make a political statement while writing an article in spanish than in english, and this is seen and abused in many cases. I remember finding a page about the Argentine town Cutral-Co which was pretty much a political statement in it’s entirety, mention the dreaded presidency of Carlos Menem as a “dictatorship” which is completely innacurate. It’s really hard to make the case for political/historical objectivity on controversial cases like that, specially when it feels like you’re playing devil’s advocate by defending people you don’t really like.
Now as I visit the same page again, I find the innacuracies removed but the article still stenchs of a political dennounce. I wonder if this is going to be fixed in the long run or it’s just our way to do things, political objectivity it’s not the strongest piece on our rethoric arsenal, and I don’t see a way to change that. Perhaps we don’t even have to change that.
NPOV and spanish
As I said before, spanish is a language which allows one to chip-in many politically charged statements and it’s easy to feel compelled to do so, in many cases to do something like that in english we have to append an entire new sentence, and makes us even feel dumb as we write it (since it makes some subjects seem off-topic). I think spanish it’s doomed to ve a non-NPOV language just because of it’s flexibility and richness in emotional expressions. It’s just damn hard to make a case for objectivity when half your sentences might trigger someone’s else reaction. I don’t think I know a way to make spanish statements more objective, perhaps the answer lies on copying the style of technical writing and specially scientific papers (altought my lack of knowledge on the latter makes me wonder if they don’t also struggle with the language just like me)
I made this analogy a while ago, spanish and english feel to me like Ruby and Go. Ruby is a really expressive programming language, you can create rich DSLs easily, and sometimes writing a class or module feels like you’re writing a poem. Meanwhile Go feels concise and to the point, you write one-way-to-read programs, there is no ambiguity and even the compiler acts like a grammar-nazi who forces you to write it in the way it likes it.
Some people love one of this ways, I actually like them both for different reasons as I like both english and spanish for different reasons. English lets me take a short cut to the point, it allows me to express logical points of view, it allows no ambiguity, but it falls short when trying to convey emotions. Writing a letter in english feels like robotic and extremely fake for me, as writing software documentation or specification in spanish feels overly convoluted and innacurate.
I don’t really know if I’ve ever grow accustomed to the way that spanish wikipedia does things, I’m surely should put more effort on my part and even trying contribute my small knowledge to it. My personal opinion is that english wikipedia and spanish wikipedia will always be very different beasts, with very different purposes, even if spanish wikipedia catches up with content quantity and quality with it’s english counterpart.
Sobre el autor
Juan Francisco Giménez Silva es un programador, entusiasta del software libre, literatura y cultura libre en general.