Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Simple English Wiktionary

About five and a half years ago, I started contributing to the Simple English Wiktionary project. I wanted a good collection of definitions and examples for use in EAP classes, and I didn't want to be tiptoeing around copyright issues.

Why would I do this? There are already some great dictionaries for English language learners (ELLs). My favourite is the Longman Dictionary of Contemporary English, but it's covered by copyright. English Wiktionary is also very good, and it's copyright free, but it's generally not appropriate for ELLs. I could have just put together my own materials, but I thought I might as well make my work widely available, since the government pays much of my salary, and I hoped that by doing so I would be able to draw in like minded people and benefit from their contributions.



Unfortunately, the project has never engendered the level of collaboration I had hoped for. There have been wonderful editors (thanks, Tygrrr!), and the project has gown to include over 17,000 entries, but it's really the work of a small handful of people. As of today, I have made 12,001 edits on the project and I think it would be fair to say that I have added the bulk of the substance: the definitions and examples. Only eight people have made more than 1,000 edits, and though I appreciate every effort, the quality of the contributions has typically been poor: they were either not clear or not simple. And the examples sentences often failed to exemplify.

I still think the project has value. After all, it currently gets about 11,000 page views per day. Not everyone values it though. In the time I've been there, we've fought off a number of closure attempts.

But I'm tired. It's no fun working on it mostly alone. Before, I used to believe that if only it grew to a certain size, we'd attract more good editors. In fact, it's been the opposite. Most of the major contributors have drifted away over the years, and I'm left here feeling a bit like the Onceler.

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