To section "Structure of phrasebooks": How about an optional 4th entry that links to a sound file where a native speaker says the appropriate frase? Ok, that's a lot of work, but at least we could take it up into the specification.
Hmm. I'm not averse to this, and it's a pretty good idea. My main problem would be that the sound file wouldn't show up, obviously, in the printed version. -- Evan 13:26, 16 Oct 2003 (PDT)
Concerning sound files, you can see sound files in action at the Romanian phrasebook. I think it's very important to have these, since they really take advantage of what the web can do.
So, it's great to exercise the Web. But, it's also important to maintain printable versions of things. They're both goals, and we need to balance them.
Let's say this: the pseudo-pronunciation stuff is mandatory -- it has to be there -- but the sound files are optional. I'll do some work on the MediaWiki software so that media links are hidden when the printable version is shown (the click here to hear the blah blah blah stuff). I'd also like some help working on the neutrality of medium guideline to make sure that we do this right. This is a bigger subject than just sound files for phrasebooks -- I'd like to get a little Wikiocracy going. -- Evan 05:55, 13 Nov 2003 (PST)
What century are you living in Evan, you seem to be obsessed with being able to print stuff out, have u never heard of cellphones with net access, wireless pda's, internet cafes, laptops. I definitely agree that printing the occasional page out is handy, but its so inflexible. Hyperlinks, soundfiles pictures these are the sort of things that make a web based travel guide more useful than a plain printed guide. The license you have chosen for this site makes it sound like you are just doing it to collate loads of free content and then make money at the end of it by publishing travel guide books when you have collected enough data. It all sounds highly suspect to me, and I for one will not be contributing anything to this sordid effort.
Anon - 13 November 2003
Anon -- I'm sorry that you don't agree with what's going on on Wikitravel, and that you won't contribute. I'll try to respond to your points, and may try to integrate this into the FAQ or somewhere else to try to prevent this misunderstanding again.
I think that creating a Web-based travel guide is great. Our primary goals include having Web access to travel information. However, there are vast parts of the globe where Web access for travelers is scarce or non-existent. Even when you do have Web access, a printed article with restaurant and hotel listings can be much more useful for a traveler than a Web page that you have to copy hand-written notes from, or a teensy-weensy cell phone screen. When you're standing on a train platform or in a square in a town you don't know, it's a lot easier to refer to a back-pocket printout than to have to go find an Internet cafe or try to figure out WiFi connectivity. In fact, the printout would probably help you find the Internet cafe you need!
The fact is, most people today use the printed page for travel guides, and I don't think the technology is usable or ubiquitous enough for that to change in the near future. Like hundreds of thousands of other travelers, I for one rarely go somewhere I don't know without a printed guidebook in my backpack to give me info when I needed it. I have yet to use a Macromedia Flash movie as my primary travel guide. (That said, I do like the idea of having off-line access to travel info on my PDA; I hope we'll have that enabled soon with the Offline Reader Expedition.)
Where I have problems with multimedia content is when we concentrate a lot of effort into content that will be useful for one or the other output format but not both. I don't think Web-only content is good for readers, just as I don't think Wikitravel content done entirely in PostScript or PDFs or something -- although much cleaner for printing -- would be useful for people on the Web. It's easy to forget the fact that printed output is one of our goals, especially since almost everyone's interface to Wikitravel content is through the Web (for now, at least). I tend to be the one to remind people of it. Thus my preoccupation with the printed page. By the way, I don't even own a printer.
As to using Wikitravel content for publishing travel guide books: so what if I did? You could too! I would love for anyone to publish Wikitravel guides in book form. I think that would be great. Because all the information is copyleft, anyone could do it. Then we'd all have up-to-date guides, and they'd probably be really cheap, too -- publishers would have to compete on price, since if they made expensive books, someone else would just come in and produce a cheaper one.
With respect to the license: Wikitravel was inspired by Wikipedia, which uses the GNU Free Documentation License. We also use the software they've developed over the last few years, which is under the General Public License, for which I for one am immensely grateful. Given that, Maj and I didn't think it would be respectful to the spirit of that project, or fair to people contributing to Wikitravel, to have any kind of license that wasn't copyleft. The GFDL is optimized for large works of text, and is really a hassle for travel guides of a few pages or more (see Why Wikitravel isn't GFDL for details). That's why Wikitravel uses the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike instead. It's about as close to the GFDL as we could get in spirit, with the minimum effort for distributing small travel guides. (Note: distributing small travel guides in electronic form has the same problems with the GFDL!)
That all said, I do have a selfish interest in the work that's done on Wikitravel. I love to travel, and I want good, cheap, up-to-date and reliable travel guides when I do. If that's a crime, I'm guilty. You're all working just so I can have the best hotel info when I go to Avignon. Muahahahaha! Soon all the travel adventure in the world will be MINE, all MINE! -- Evan 19:15, 12 Nov 2003 (PST)
So, one of the things we need for phrasebooks is to write each phrase in English, in the target language (like French), and in that kind of pseudo-phonetic language used in phrasebooks since time immemorial:
Bonjour. (bawng ZHOO)
This will be a lot easier to do if we have some kind of standardized phoneticization for words in other languages. Of course, there's several phonetic alphabets out (such as SAMPA and IPA) that would probably be the most strictly correct, but really off-putting for the casual traveller. After all, we're not trying to train experts, here -- just let some poor traveller order a cup of coffee or call the cops.
So, I'm wondering: does anyone know of a standard pseudo-phonetic writing system for English readers? -- Evan 14:05, 30 Oct 2003 (PST)
I spent some time googling for this. It turns out it exists. Myriads of them. All different. Unfortunately, most of them are completely unusable for anything but their stated purpose, which is to teach english. If we should adopt some universal phonetic spelling, it should at the very least be able to encode all european languages, be intuitive to read, and limited to ASCII, or at least what can be expressed using the A-Z and the dead-keys on the keyboard.
Furthermore, it should not convey too much information either, as the purpose is to be understood, not to be correct. IPA and it's ASCII variations result in complete information overload. Unfortunately, english is the worst possible starting point (possibly with the exception of french) of all european languages for a phonetic writing system. I suggest that we either do it ad-hoc, or define our own, which is what every other pocket dictionary seems to do.
I have the idea that there will be a lot of non-Anglophone users of wikitravel (like there are a lot of non-Anglophone users of travel books in English). So it would be nice to add some more nationalities (not only American, British, Canadian, ..). Maybe not in the list itself, but in a seperate part (of the phrasebooks). I'll start this idea a little bit in the Dutch phrasebook. Guaka 14:52, 12 Nov 2003 (PST)
Urgh. There being, what, a couple of hundred different countries in the world, that will add an awful lot to the phrasebooks. -- Evan 17:35, 12 Nov 2003 (PST)
If it's needed (but I doubt it) we can link to this site. The links in the different columns go to articles that (will) have those names translated into a zillion languages. DhDh 13:47, 13 Nov 2003 (PST)
"Because the same language can be used in multiple countries (for example, Spanish or Arabic), phrasebooks in Wikitravel will be separate articles from country, city or regional articles. Those articles can link to the appropriate phrasebook for local languages, and may also include small micro-phrasebooks for local deviations. For example, the article for Quebec would link to the French phrasebook, but might also include some variations for Quebecois French. "
That sounds like a pain to have to integrate the micro-phrasebook on the Quebec page with a larger vocabulary, especially on a printout. If I leave the printout as is, I have to look in two places when I want to use a word or phrase to see whether there is a local exception. Otherwise, I have prepare the pages ahead of time by hand-copying the words/phrases or physically cutting out the substitute words/phrases (with scissors, not a mouse) and pasting them (with glue) onto the main vocabulary (where they may subsequently fall off).
It would be much better to use the computer's ability to filter content to achieve an improved printout.
It could be handled with an extension to Wiki code. A possible example for the Spanish phrasebook (with nonsense words):
There would also be a link on the page for each country covered by the vocabulary. So, if you clicked the Venezuela link you would see:
outside Mexico, Argentina, Chile, Peru: cecece
If you clicked on the Argentina link you would see:
If you find the localization markings unwieldly, you could just mark them with a warning symbol so people with printouts know they have to go back to the phrasebook if they spontaneously decide to go to another country.:
Of course, any word or phase with no regional markings would show normally:
This would also work for languages that have differences between a male speaker and a female speaker, using "male" or "female" in place of country name.
I don't know whether this would be easy to program. It would, however, be flexible and printer friendly, and a lot easier to use than splitting the vocabulary between a phrasebook and an article.
This concept could even extend to the destination pages. For instance, someone only interested in budget accomodations could hide moderate and expensive ones, saving paper.