Pat Gunn (dachte) wrote,
Pat Gunn

Province and Central

After my migraine went away, I had a very nice evening. Ma Provence always has amazing food, and is probably the most expensive place at which I'll occasionally eat. Unlike most places, at Ma Provence I have had multiple "the best XXXX" experiences with various types of food. I sometimes wonder exactly which Provence/Commune of France Ma Provence's title refers to - "Provincial" is supposed to mean that non-Parisian culture/traditions/etc are represented. OTOH, it may just be a name in this instance.

On foundation-l, another explosive discussion is happening on the topic of single-signon (SSO), a planned technical feature that will require policy changes if implemented. The idea is that for all WMF projects, from the various language Wikipedia to meta (a central collaboration wiki), commons (central storage of media), wikibooks, and all the rest, having global accounts where when one logs in one place one is logged in everywhere would be very useful. This is a great idea when described in the abstract, but there are issues when it comes to the different languages and writing systems involved. Japanese users, for example, naturally have usernames written in Hiragana/Katakana/Kanji, meaning their usernames are unintelligible and indistinguishable from each other to western eyes. The first point is not a major concern - people regularly make references in their username to books and TV shows most people are unfamiliar with (my username of Improv, despite what y'all might think, is actually a reference to Lotus Improv, an old spreadsheet for NeXTStep). The latter is a serious issue for the community though - if the username is illegible (and indistinguishable from other similar names, e.g. two chinese characters), people lose the ability to remember other people they work with, greatly hampering a functional society. Presently, the English Wikipedia has a policy to make people rename accounts they have that are written in non-Latin8 characters - this policy is threatened by SSO. Personally, I'm tempted to say that the community damage will be severe enough that SSO is not worth implementing if it is not reworked. One possible solution would be to allow SSO to have one central account with local distinct usernames on each language Wiki - this would be a solution for 95% of the users with only a moderate increased complexity. It would obviously not work for multilingual-by-nature Wikis like Meta and Commons, but I think it would be "good enough". In our rush to be multilingual-friendly (a very good intention, by the way), I don't think we should sacrifice proper functioning of communities by giving up desirable features of usernames-as-we-know-them. Fortunately, I'm not the only person to have this idea - hopefully this (or another equally good solution) will be accepted. In any case, it's pretty clear that languages are difficult.

Lightly on that topic, I regret that the computing community didn't, as a whole, make a great leap towards adopting UCS-4 as a standard encoding format for everything. There is enormous utility (to programmers, at least) in always knowing the precise relation between the byte-length and character-length of a string -- I consider it very unfortunate that the current solution prevents random seeking (even if we get a space-savings). But then (as the amd64-fhs standard and the DST revamping show us), I am not in charge of the world. :)

I find it interesting how, when I want to transliterate things in English into Japanese, I am generally inclined to split English consonant clusters by inserting "う" (makes a "oo" sound similar to the Russian "у") or consonants with that sound as their pair. Why that vowel? I don't know. It almost suggests that my way of thinking about language suggests a Abugida. Writing systems are things I've always liked playing with...


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