My biggest problem with Wikipedia


Summary: You can’t partition a web site’s users into discrete groups by language.

I don’t worry much about Wikipedia’s objectivity or reliability — no sources (especially not newspapers or Britannica) are objective or reliable, and at least Wikipedia preserves its conflicts and controversies in comments and edit history — but I do have one bit problem with the project: WHY THE *^%*& DON”T THEY HAVE SINGLE-SIGNON?

I usually edit in English, but I can also make at least minor contributions to Wikipedia in French, German, Spanish, Italian, and Latin, and sometimes also contribute to Wikimedia. Every one of those requires me to create a separate account! It is absurd that my username and password for en.wikipedia.org won’t work for fr.wikipedia.org.

Don’t make this mistake with your own webapps, kids. Lots of people in the world are comfortable working in more than one language, even if they’re not fluent in all. It’s good to make a site available in more than one language, but don’t expect language to partition your users into discrete groups. Don’t lock them into a single language with a cookie, or limit their accounts to one language domain — multilingualism is extremely common around the world, even in the U.S. (how many American users would want to be able to use a site in English and Spanish if given the opportunity?)

About David Megginson

Scholar, tech guy, Canuck, open-source/data/information zealot, urban pedestrian, language geek, tea drinker, pater familias, red tory, amateur musician, private pilot.
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