Friday, July 20, 2012

Spanish & Portuguese Wikipedia - a starting point

As regular readers of this blog knows, we are on week one of the Wikipedia World project.  We have groups formed for English, Russian, Spanish, Portuguese, Korean, Turkish, French and German.  Hopefully in the next couple weeks we will have doubled that number.

I asked several of the groups if they would give me their opinion of skepticism and science topics on Wikipedia this moment in their language.

Nix Dorf sprang to the challenge and supplied us with a lot of information about what the Portuguese and Spanish pages look like.  I'm really shocked about some of these pages, homeopathy in particular.  The last 10:23 campaign was  global, the videos created can easily be cited on the homeopathy page, we just need volunteers to help out.

The following is guest editorial by Nix, he asked me to correct his grammar, but I'm not touching a word.


Portuguese presence in Wikipedia as whole.
Nowadays Portuguese speakers are around 240 million native speakers in the World. Roughly 180 Million are Brazilians and the rest are mainly Portuguese, Angolan, Mozambicans and some other nations. But the bulk internet traffic comes from Brazil and Portugal, which are the most industrialized countries in this language. Brazil has about 81 million active Internet users, which make them the 5th nation in the world by user access. Portugal has 5.5 million more users.[3]

Portuguese isn't wide spread as English and Spanish. Portuguese is 6th most spoken language. But Portuguese Wikipedia has more than 742,000 [4] articles which is larger than WP in Chinese, Hindi-Urundu and Arabic which have a larger speakers base.
Considering that Spanish WP has approximately 900,000 articles while having roughly 400 million native speakers (it is the 2nd or 3rd most widespread language in the world [5]). That makes Portuguese to have a higher speakers/articles ratio, if that is really a valid way of measure anything. I’m just guessing based on the WP data available. But it looks like that the more industrialized the countries that speak a given language the more WP articles they seem to have. So my conclusion is that’s why German, Japanese and French have much more articles per speakers than Hindi or Chinese. But this doesn’t explain why Polish speakers have 900,000 articles with 40 million native speakers.

No language even compare to the amount of articles available in English. Even so English is not the most spoken language in the world as the number of native speakers; there are lots of people that have English as its second language and most English speaking countries are very industrialized too. On top of that USA is a well-known leader on all that happens online.
Skeptical presence on Portuguese Wikipedia.
In general the articles for uncontroversial subjects are often fine. The ones that are Brazil specific can be very rich, while depending on the subject attention, some other articles may vary a lot on how well written Portuguese articles are compared to the English ones. Usually you see some few claims that are ungrounded or biased like it is on other languages, but the fact is that Portuguese Wikipedia probably may not have as much editors as needed to keep it 100% clean (I guess no language really can claim to have it).

But when we get to evolution, homeopathy, religion, skeptics then it gets worse. Let’s go to a few examples.

The Randi article is very bad, compared to the English version. When I was changing it, I couldn’t resist and had to change Randi's picture itself. The former one wasn’t very nice and it had no bio info (birthdate, birth place, etc).

When you go to other skeptics, they don't even appear. I was unable to get individual bio pages on Penn and Teller for instance (there is a draft article for “Penn & Teller” together[1]). Even HBO used to air Penn & Teller Bullshit! on Brazil’s cable.
Michael Shermer[8] and Adam Savage[6] are just drafts. I would say that Mythbusters is a well-known show, at least in Brazil and I would guess in Portugal too, since the show itself has a decent page. Joe Nickell doesn’t even have a page.

Evolution pages have some discussions and back and forth reversals on ID and some had been blocked for edition sometimes. But the pages aren’t much biased. But they certainly should be improved.
Homeopathy page[9] cites for example a Word Health Organization "publication" called "Homeopathy: review and analysis of reports on controlled clinical trials" that was a draft from 2005 that was never published (I believe that this report was heavily criticized by an article on The Lancet and never made a respectful scientific Journal [2]). Even though it is still there as a favorable point towards Homeopathy, while it is not even cited on the Spanish and English WP versions. The article is listed as a medical especially, and not as an alternative medicine. So the article doesn’t seems to be very pro Homeopathy but is too soft into criticize it in my opinion. And it barely mentions Randi, what a shame!

To be honest, the article on skepticism itself is very poorly written and in my opinion it is has some bias towards the skepticism. If we plan to keep ourselves unbiased we may have to pay attention and fix this kind of bias too. It requires lots of discipline to be actually “fair and balanced”.

My personal pet peeves are the Articles on Spiritualism. With more than 3 million followers it is a big religion in Brazil. One of the most important icons was very famous woo woo called Chico Xavier[10], that is called by Wikipedia as a medium (not a supposed medium) and is very mild on criticism, while almost states that he was the true thing. When you compare these spiritualist articles with Shermer’s, and Randi’s you realize how big are the challenges that we may face.

Spanish Wikipedia as whole.
Spanish is the second (or 3rd) most spoken language in the world. It is hard to state that something is the biggest, tallest, or whatever in the world because it depends on so many variables, like native speakers, or national interests, or on different census criteria, estimates, etc. But even though Spanish is very important and is growing as a second language to many, especially in US. It is hard to compare, but while Chinese Mandarin and Hindi-Urdu are spoken by lots of people, they are mainly spoken on their original countries while Spanish is the dominant language in the American continent. Due the Spanish dominium on the seas during the Spanish conquests during the XVI century it got very spread.
The main nations on Spanish by internet millions of users are Mexico (31), Spain (30), Colombia (16), Argentina (14), Peru (10), Venezuela (9) and Chile (7)[3]. With all the Spanish speaking nations it may add up to approximately 120 million. This is a low number if you compare it to more than 400 million native speakers[5]. To give you an idea, Japanese native speakers are about 123 million (almost all on Japan) while there are 102 million native users[5]. Once again I’m working with the data available on Wikipedia and those numbers can vary. But, Japan has an 80% of the population as Internet, while several Spanish speaking nations are on underdeveloped countries.
Spanish Wikipedia has more than 900,000[4] articles and on uncontroversial articles it seems pretty fine. It looks to have a richer content if you compare it with the Portuguese WP, but less detail than the English version.
Skeptical presence on Spanish Wikipedia
The Article about evolution seems to be very complete and balanced and discussions and reversals are frequent, but not as frequent as the ones that I have seen on the Portuguese version. It lacks of a Evidence of Common Decent as we have for the Portuguese version. This subject is treated inside of the evolution[11]. This section needs to become an article and be expanded.
I’ve got the impression that the majority of the Spanish speaking countries are Catholic, which doesn’t require a belief on a literal truth of the bible, so perhaps the fundamentalists on those countries aren’t so willing to attack evolution. But my native Spanish speaking fellows might better comment on that.
Even the Article on James Randi[12] is much better than the Portuguese version; it still needs lots of dedication and effort to be brought to the English standard. It lacks of references and citations. The article on Penn and Teller is very simple, almost a draft. Penn Jillette doesn’t have an article while Teller[13] has one draft for some reason.
Michael Shermer [14] is pretty decent, but needs to be expanded.
The Article on Creationism has been edited and vandalized frequently on the last year. [15]
The article on Skepticism is really good, broken down in religious, philosophical, ecological and scientific types of skepticism. [16]
You can find pages for Ann Druyan , Harry Houdini, Susan Blackmore, Robert Todd Caroll, while Joe Nickell is missing. Most of the articles need some expansion and they are often drafts.
The article on Homeopathy[17] is pretty good, providing lots of valuable information and it takes the scientific side. It lacks of some of Randi’s confrontations, I would expand on that.
It seems that some battle has been taken place on the Talk and history pages. The article is protected from anonymous edition.
In my opinion it looks like that the greater number of editors is making the Spanish version better than the Portuguese one. Since I’m not a frequent Spanish Wikipedia visitor, I may be wrong. But some of the problematic pages on the Portuguese version aren’t with the same problems on the Spanish ones. The main issue is lack good information about skeptics.