[Mediawiki-i18n] [Wikitech-l] Special:Version and i18n & l10n

MinuteElectron minuteelectron at googlemail.com
Thu Jul 3 21:03:26 UTC 2008

Jack Phoenix wrote:
> (cc'd to mediawiki-i18n mailing list too)
> In r30349, Raymond fixed bug 10365 (
> https://bugzilla.wikimedia.org/show_bug.cgi?id=10365), allowing
> Special:Version to be localized. However, I am not sure how smart an idea
> that was, since nowadays almost every extension has a description message.
> Why so?
> Firstly, let's have a look at WikiTextLoggedInOut extension (
> http://svn.wikimedia.org/viewvc/mediawiki/trunk/extensions/WikiTextLoggedInOut/).
> It is a simple parser hook extension from Wikia I added on 30th of June to
> the SVN repository. It adds two parser hooks that show different output to
> the user depending on his/her login status. How simple is that? Well, it has
> a description message too. It is a simple parser hook tag that does not need
> i18n at all, unlike special page extensions and such do.

A description message for such an extension would be quite useful, it 
could list what the two parser functions are and provide brief 
information about what it is used for - this makes it possible for an 
end user to discover what a given parser function does if they encounter 
one while editing.  Even if the extension had a page on MediaWiki.org 
they are rarely translated, providing a localized description on 
Special:Version allows users who are unable to comprehend English to 
know what the parser function does and to find out quickly - maximizing 

> Secondly, some extensions, such as the above-mentioned WikiTextLoggedInOut
> have only one message... the description message. Now, with the i18n file
> being added, the extension's i18n gets loaded on every pageload if the page
> has the extension tag. I am relatively sure that it slows things down. Maybe
> only a few milliseconds, but the point is that it can be avoided.

One could say this about almost anything, and is not really a valid 
argument.  Sure, it could be avoided, but if it provides a desirable 
feature (which this certainly is, otherwise it wouldn't have been 
implemented) then I don't see why it should be removed.

> Thirdly, what if the original developer wants or needs to change the
> extension description, upon adding or removing some features? That's right,
> some languages would see old messages with incorrect information while some
> other languages might have correct info. And users might end up trying to
> use a removed feature, which would obviously cause them frustration. After
> all, you cannot demand that volunteer translators do translations 24 hours
> per day. In fact, we already have several developers continuously working on
> i18n, desperately trying to keep them in sync - resources that would be much
> better spent on developing new functionality and fixing bugs.

When the developer changes the message they could remove all translated 
versions of it (I know, more hassle, but this could be automated), doing 
so would void this issue.  In any case some description even if it is 
slightly inaccurate could be more useful than not having one at all; 
you'd also be surprised at how quickly stuff gets translated.

> I have heard an interesting argument in favor of description messages: that
> they allow the wiki users to know what features are installed and what they
> can use. Now, I don't think that's true. The local help pages are for
> documentation and so are the extension pages on MediaWiki.org. If something
> should be done, the local admins/sysadmins should create a help page about
> the feature or announce it and maybe point the users to MediaWiki.org for
> more information if they don't create a help page or such.

Maybe they could, but this again adds more work for the end users that 
could easily be avoided by the current method - MediaWiki.org is also 
very sketchy about most things and difficult for the average user to 
navigate.  Description messages are also more well translated than pages 
on MediaWiki.org making them more useful for this purpose.

> I have spoken to several fellow MediaWiki / extension developers, some
> native English speakers and some are not, but most of them seem to agree
> that the localization of Special:Version is "i18n gone bad". I have to agree
> with them, as description messages do not provide anything useful for users
> or developers - having, for example, the words "MWSearch plugin" in 39
> different languages (
> http://svn.wikimedia.org/viewvc/mediawiki/trunk/extensions/MWSearch/MWSearch.i18n.php?revision=36271&view=markup)
> is probably one of the most pathological examples. These extension
> description messages just cause extra stress for MediaWiki and the servers
> running MediaWiki. In the past, you could always find at least one English
> page on the wiki, no matter what its content language was - Special:Version.
> Now you have to add ?uselang=en to see the 'correct' version of the page.

On the contrary, they do provide useful information for users of the 
wiki (at least the ones that are well thought out do).  You are free to 
change and description message you think is inadequate, so your example 
could easily be fixed.  Can you also explain why an English page on any 
wiki is needed, I don't see why?

> Another interesting and related point is the addition of core 'blank' page
> in r36856 (http://svn.wikimedia.org/viewvc/mediawiki?view=rev&revision=36856)
> by Domas. He added the blank special page as a baseline to profile startup
> times. He used to use Special:Version for profiling, but since it's
> overloaded with useless i18n crap now, it is no longer effective.

I don't think labeling it "crap" is a very fair comment. Special:Version 
was never intended as a profile baseline, that just came as a 
side-effect of its original incarnation; Special:Version already had 
extra stuff which made it inaccurate as a baseline anyway even before 
its i18n being introduced.

> If there is something that should be translated in Special:Version, it most
> certainly is not extension descriptions. It is the license text. And to
> avoid legal issues, it should have a hardcoded English string, for example,
> "The English version of the license can be found here" or something. As a
> user, I would like to know my legal rights rather than of what parts the
> software is made of.

You are free to do this, as of yet obviously no one has felt a pressing 
need to change this.

> I believe that the description message / localization of Special:Version
> does more harm than it does good, plus it is pointless (as Rob Church
> correctly pointed out in his initial reaction:
> https://bugzilla.wikimedia.org/show_bug.cgi?id=10365#c1). I would request
> that this would be removed from core.

And many would disagree with having it removed.

I would also like to apologize for my earlier outburst, this was unfair 
of me and I should have known better.


More information about the Mediawiki-i18n mailing list