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Rethink the "Recent additions" group in Translate and translatewiki
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Description

TL;DR: The "Recent additions" message group probably does more harm than good. The blue "Translate" button on TwnMainPage should probably lead to something else and not to "Recent additions".


Lately I've been feeling increasingly uncomfortable about the "Recent additions" message group. Especially in translatewiki, but possibly in other wikis, too. However, in this description I'll mostly focus on how this problem manifests itself in translatewiki; see the comment in the end about other wikis.

@Pginer-WMF can possibly recall the design logic behind designing things this way in TUX and TwnMainPage, but if I try to guess what was the reason for creating "Recent additions", it was probably to show regular users what are the new things to translate into their language. It sounds sensible, but there are two practical issues:

  1. translatewiki has a lot of different and dissimilar projects. All the new translatable messages from all the projects appear in Recent additions. Different translators have different interests. For example, I am mostly interested in MediaWiki and other message groups related to Wikimedia, while someone else can be interested in Freecol or in OpenStreetMap. But everyone sees everything, so it's not so useful. I, as an experienced translator, solve this by manually curating a list of direct URLs to projects that interest me the most on my user page, and I practically never look at Recent additions.
  2. Almost every day I help new translators into various languages to start translating, find important messages, use correct terminology, etc. These are always people who are developing Wikipedia, Wiktionary, and Wikidata in their languages (and occasionally OpenStreetMap). I follow their contributions and I very frequently notice that they translate all kinds of messages in Blockly, OpenStreetMap, BlueSpice, and other things that are not related to Wikimedia projects. What is common to these messages is that they were recently added.

The first problem is not so harmful, because experienced editors like me find ways to work efficiently. It does show, however, that the page probably doesn't serve its purpose for experienced editors. It can, theoretically, be useful for people who translate into languages with very high translation statistics in all projects, but there are very few of those (French, German, Dutch, Macedonian, and not much more), and the people who work on them probably have other ways to find what they want to work on (I certainly do, but research may find something else). In practice, I suspect that it's not really useful for anyone.

The second problem is more harmful, however. It's not bad to localize various projects, but it's better to focus on particular things that help people's goals. If some people's goal is to have a complete localization of OpenStreetMap, "Recent additions" shouldn't get in the way with messages from Semantic MediaWiki and Blockly. If someone wants to set up a new Wikipedia, then they shouldn't invest effort in BlueSpice and Freecol. And so on.

I don't have comprehensive numbers behind this, but I see this literally every day: translators to very small languages work on messages from Blockly or obscure MediaWiki extensions. I sometimes ask them why do they do it, and every single time I find out that what they really wanted to do is to improve the localization of Wikipedia or the OpenStreetMap website in their language.

My guess is that these inexperienced translators arrive to "Recent additions" because they log in, go to the translatewiki main page, and click the big blue "Translate" button next to their avatar, which automatically takes them to "Recent additions". (If there are other ways that bring people to "Recent additions" except the blue button on the main page, please tell me what they are.)

Some day there should be real design work to improve this workflow. Till then, one very simple thing I can recommend for improving the situation is to change that big blue button in TwnMainPage so that it will lead to some other place and not to "Recent additions". The easiest target I can think of is the latest project that the translator worked on. This can be probably done by saving the latest group URL parameter from Special:Translate in a preference or a cookie. If it has no value, it should show the project selector.

For more comprehensive improvements, I can think of adding a feature to maintain a personal list of preferred projects and show Recent additions from these projects and not from all the message groups and translatable messages. There can possibly be other major design changes, but that will require a real design project, and this can probably wait.


This problem probably affects other wikis, too, such as Meta and mediawiki.org. I sometimes see people contributing minor translations to random recently created translatable pages. I'm not sure what brings them to "Recent additions", however; there's no such big blue button there as in translatewiki.

Even though I translate pages on Meta occasionally, I usually know which particular pages I want to work on and how to find them, and I don't work on priority projects there. There are, however, people who do work on such things and maybe want to bring translators there efficiently. One such group I can immediately think of is the WMF's Community relation specialists (@Elitre, @Trizek-WMF, @Johan), but there are probably others. If you think that there can be better ways to get people to find current important projects (other than mailing lists, TranslationNotifications, and manual talk page messages to known translators), please bring up your ideas and experience. (And feel free to unsubscribe if it doesn't interest you!)

Event Timeline

(If there are other ways that bring people to "Recent additions" except the blue button on the main page, please tell me what they are.)

[…]

This problem probably affects other wikis, too, such as Meta and mediawiki.org. I sometimes see people contributing minor translations to random recently created translatable pages. I'm not sure what brings them to "Recent additions", however; there's no such big blue button there as in translatewiki.

Directly going to Special:Translate, without providing any specific translation target. This works on any wiki, not just translatewiki.net. (And, of course, another possibility is that someone deliberately chooses this group.)

(If there are other ways that bring people to "Recent additions" except the blue button on the main page, please tell me what they are.)

[…]

This problem probably affects other wikis, too, such as Meta and mediawiki.org. I sometimes see people contributing minor translations to random recently created translatable pages. I'm not sure what brings them to "Recent additions", however; there's no such big blue button there as in translatewiki.

Directly going to Special:Translate, without providing any specific translation target. This works on any wiki, not just translatewiki.net. (And, of course, another possibility is that someone deliberately chooses this group.)

Sure, but do people actually do that? I am a power user, so I sometimes manually type Special:Translate, but even I don't do it so often. I'd say it's more likely that there's a link or button in some highly visible place that leads there, but I don't what that place is.

There are some links to it on mediawiki.org, although probably none of them as prominent as the translatewiki.net one.

A simple change would be to change the button to link to Special:LanguageStats (like we do with the link in the sidebar).

Hey Amir, thanks for the tag. Just letting you know that between people being OoO and our virtual offsite it may take us a bit longer than usual to get our eyes on this -. please accept our apologies in advance.