Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Launching a French poll on the Image Filter

My latest post on the Image Filter has met a significant reception on It is currently doing the headlines of the Kurier (a kind of german counterpart to the french Wikimag), along with the post of Achim Raschka, Iberty and Sue Gardner.

This flattering mention has attracted a consistent germanic frequentation on what used to be a franco-centric blog. Such a reception is a telltale sign of a germanophone eager to know the positions of other wikipedias and wikimedian projects on this touchy matter. For instance, Anneke Wolf confided that :

Ich denke, es bleibt abzuwarten, ob dies eine "deutsche" Frage bleiben wird / I believe that it remains uncertain whether this german matter will stay german.

Consequently, I decided to act and, preferentially, to act quickly. There are two kind of polls on the French Wikipedia. Both have their good points and specificities. The Prise de décision (literally Decision-Making) has immediate effects on the encyclopedic structure and organization : whatever is decided is immediately implemented. Yet, launching a Prise de décision is not an easy task. You have to accept to undertake a very long road. Sometimes, when issues are really touchy (like the Contestation of Admins' status), the process can take a whole year. The Sondage (literally Poll survey) can be set up very quickly by anyone, on any purpose. It does not entail any effective appliance of the proposal. It gives nevertheless a clear picture of the francophone community's opinion — exactly the kind of information I wanted to highlight.

A few hours ago, I accordingly launched a sondage on the following issue : do you want the Image Filter to be implemented of ?

It's way too soon to give any definitive comments about it (the poll is to end in one week). Yet, the issue seems to be of interest : more than 35 wikipedians already expressed their opinions. There is currently a clear opposition to the Image Filter (about 70%). However the support is unnegligible, clearly stronger than on the german poll (about 25% vs. only 14 %).

Significantly, the debate mainly bares on the effectivity of the Image Filter. The opponents finds it to be a usine à gaz (untranslatable expression which can be rendered by a Kafkaesque mechanism) :

A technical solution cannot solve a societal problem (Popo le chien) / Usine à gaz, does not respond to any problem (…) brings a good deal of worrying more than solving (Lena) / If the German had the vulva, we had many articles concerning the IIId Reich, which brought the same kind of questioning (…) We are on a generalist encyclopedia, there is no way to protect some kind of readership rather than another (Sammyday).

On the other side, the proponents have two main statements. The first one shrinks the effective range of the Image Filter : it's only a gadget.

It's a common gadget. Would someone have the idea to suppress the gadget which alter the alphabetical order of the interwikis (one more attempt of the american imperialists that want to appear first) (Moyg) / The problem is not technical, as we offer a technology one can switch off (Xfigpower)

The second one questions the very use of poll to set up the matter : editors are invited to express their opinions, but what about readers ? Are they not the main benefactors of the Image Filter ? Why should their choices be overlooked by editors ?

Drifting from this initial observation, a debate on the French Village Pump came to flush merely philosophical questions : do we write an encyclopedia to be read or to give an honest (and amoral) account of reality ? I think I will end this post on such a deep alternative — so that my international audience will leave their reading with some food for their thoughts…

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