Communicating effectively: Wikimedia needs clear language now

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Communicating effectively: Wikimedia needs clear language now

Tom Morris-5
Since Wikipedia started in 2001, great effort has been put into
ensuring that it is readable, clear and understandable by visitors.
Good Wikipedia writing is clear, concise, comprehensive and
consistent. Excellent Wikipedia writing is, according to English
Wikipedia's featured article criteria, "engaging, even brilliant, and
of a professional standard". Wikipedia editors work hard to remove
buzzwords, unnecessary jargon, peacock terms, marketing-speak, weasel
words and other similar clutter from their work.

And it's not just Wikipedia: all of the Wikimedia projects aspire to
write clearly, neutrally and factually. English Wikinews says simply:
"Write to be easily understood, to make reading easier."

Sadly, documents and communication from the Foundation, from chapters,
from board members and so on often fall far short of these sentiments.

There are certain places where it is to be expected that communication
won't necessarily be clear: I wouldn't expect a non-programmer to be
able to understand some of the discussions on Bugzilla or
mediawiki.org, but the Foundation's monthly report is something
editors should be able to understand.

From January 2012, under Global development's list of department highlights...

"India program: Six outreach workshops in January in partnership with
the community as part of an effort to increase outreach and improve
conversion to editing"

An outreach workshop... to increase outreach. Is that a workshop to
train editors on how to do outreach? Or is it a workshop for newbies
teaching them how to edit? Enquiring minds want to know.

Later on in the same document: "We concluded an exercise on distilling
learnings from all Indic communities and started the process of
seeding ideas with communities."

I was bold and changed "learnings" to "lessons". What is a learning?
How does one distill a learning? And "seeding ideas with communities"?
The idea, presumably, is the soil, into which one puts each different
community. I have no idea what this is supposed to mean.

This one is a howler from a subpage of the movement roles discussion:

"At the same time, for Wikimedia to adopt the best of the Olympic
movement would probably raise the bar on accountabilities for chapters
and other organizations"

Accountabilities, plural? I can understand accountability, the state
of being accountable to another. But I have no idea what
accountabilities are. Can you collect them like Pokémon cards? And how
would one raise the bar on accountabilities? Would that mean some
accountabilities can't quite reach the bar? (Also, the idea that we
could learn anything about accountability, singular or plural, from
the Olympics strikes me as hilarious given the extensive history of
corruption at the IOC.)

If you search on Meta, it is possible to find lots and lots of other
documents from the Foundation filled with corporate lingo. Projects
are 'scoped', and there is a list of 'deliverables' -- not just any
deliverables but 'specific deliverables' -- along with 'next steps' to
deliver, err, those deliverables while 'going forward'.

I can't be the only one who reads these things and whose brain stalls
or goes into reverse. There have been numerous things where I've had
to ask Foundation contacts to explain things in clear and simple
language to me. I don't think I'm particularly stupid or uninformed.
Nor do I think that the people who write in the manner I've described
do it consciously. But we do need to fix it. If well-educated,
informed native English speakers struggle with learnings and
accountabilities and so on, what about those who don't natively speak
English? When people see sloppy, buzzword-driven language, they wonder
if this reflects sloppy, buzzword-driven thinking, or perhaps
obfuscation. Clear writing signals the opposite: clear thinking and
transparency.

I'm not suggesting we all need to write as if we're editing Simple
English Wikipedia. But just cut out the buzzwords and write plainly
and straightforwardly like the best writing on Wikipedia.

What can be done about this?

There seem to be two possible solutions to this problem: one involves
hiring a dominatrix with a linguistics degree to wander the San
Francisco office with handcuffs, a bullwhip, a number of live gerbils
and plentiful supplies of superglue, and given free reign to enforce
the rules in whatever way she deems fit. The other, which involves far
fewer embarrassing carpet stains, is to empower the community to fix
these problems. Have a nice little leaderboard on Meta, and encourage
community members to be bold, fix up bad writing, bad grammar and
buzzwords. Reward their efforts with barnstars and the occasional
thank you messages on talk pages.

Commit to clear writing by adopting a policy of "copyediting almost
always welcome" for chapter wikis, Foundation documents and as close
to everything as possible. There are volunteers in the movement who
happily spend hour after hour copyediting on Wikipedia and Wikinews
and Wikibooks and so on. Give them the opportunity to fix up the
language used by the Foundation and the chapters.

Remember: how can community members support and become more deeply
involved with the work of the chapters and the Foundation if they
can't understand what you are saying?

--
Tom Morris
<http://tommorris.org/>

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Re: Communicating effectively: Wikimedia needs clear language now

Steven Walling
On Sat, Feb 18, 2012 at 9:27 AM, Tom Morris <[hidden email]> wrote:

> Commit to clear writing by adopting a policy of "copyediting almost
> always welcome" for chapter wikis, Foundation documents and as close
> to everything as possible. There are volunteers in the movement who
> happily spend hour after hour copyediting on Wikipedia and Wikinews
> and Wikibooks and so on. Give them the opportunity to fix up the
> language used by the Foundation and the chapters.
>
> Remember: how can community members support and become more deeply
> involved with the work of the chapters and the Foundation if they
> can't understand what you are saying?
>

First Tom, thank you for the constructive suggestions all around. If
everybody came forward with criticisms that also included options for
fixing things in a simple way, then Foundation-l would be a lot happier
place.

The only possible hitch I see in the idea to welcome more copyediting in
public documents is that, unlike say the Wikipedia article about cars or
the Simpsons or what have you, writing about Foundation work usually
involves describing things a volunteer doesn't know about unless they were
a part of doing the job. I don't mean they don't have the capability to
understand, just that if you're working on something that is not common
knowledge, how is it possible for random folks who come along to clarify
the language? There are no reliable sources to go read and cite, because
it's original research. ;-)

Seems like a Catch-22 to me: documents about what we do at the Foundation
are sometimes not plainly understandable, and yet you can't make them
understandable unless you know what it is you're supposed to be describing.

Best regards,

Steven
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Re: Communicating effectively: Wikimedia needs clear language now

Amir E. Aharoni
2012/2/18 Steven Walling <[hidden email]>:
> Seems like a Catch-22 to me: documents about what we do at the Foundation
> are sometimes not plainly understandable, and yet you can't make them
> understandable unless you know what it is you're supposed to be describing.

It doesn't have to be based on external sources like an article, but
it should be readable.

If somebody doesn't understand a publication and doesn't hesitate to
ask for a clarification, that's already progress.

Thank you, Tom, for writing that email!

--
Amir Elisha Aharoni · אָמִיר אֱלִישָׁע אַהֲרוֹנִי
http://aharoni.wordpress.com
‪“We're living in pieces,
I want to live in peace.” – T. Moore‬

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Re: Communicating effectively: Wikimedia needs clear language now

Tilman Bayer
In reply to this post by Tom Morris-5
Hi Tom,

On Sat, Feb 18, 2012 at 6:27 PM, Tom Morris <[hidden email]> wrote:

> Since Wikipedia started in 2001, great effort has been put into
> ensuring that it is readable, clear and understandable by visitors.
> Good Wikipedia writing is clear, concise, comprehensive and
> consistent. Excellent Wikipedia writing is, according to English
> Wikipedia's featured article criteria, "engaging, even brilliant, and
> of a professional standard". Wikipedia editors work hard to remove
> buzzwords, unnecessary jargon, peacock terms, marketing-speak, weasel
> words and other similar clutter from their work.
>
> And it's not just Wikipedia: all of the Wikimedia projects aspire to
> write clearly, neutrally and factually. English Wikinews says simply:
> "Write to be easily understood, to make reading easier."
>
> Sadly, documents and communication from the Foundation, from chapters,
> from board members and so on often fall far short of these sentiments.
>
> There are certain places where it is to be expected that communication
> won't necessarily be clear: I wouldn't expect a non-programmer to be
> able to understand some of the discussions on Bugzilla or
> mediawiki.org, but the Foundation's monthly report is something
> editors should be able to understand.
>
> From January 2012, under Global development's list of department highlights...
>
> "India program: Six outreach workshops in January in partnership with
> the community as part of an effort to increase outreach and improve
> conversion to editing"
>
> An outreach workshop... to increase outreach.
The style may be less than elegant, but isn't it entirely sensible
that if you undertake a larger effort to increase outreach, you carry
out, well, outreach workshops alongside other things?

> Is that a workshop to
> train editors on how to do outreach? Or is it a workshop for newbies
> teaching them how to edit? Enquiring minds want to know.
Fair enough - but it seems to me not so much a question of style than
one regarding level of detail. Remember that you are talking about the
"highlights" for that section, i.e. telegram-style headlines which
summarize more extensive information from below (in this case the
"India Programs" subsection), and that the monthly WMF report, which
synthesizes the work of over 100 employees and contractors, is already
TLDR for many readers - which was one reason for introducing the
separate https://meta.wikimedia.org/wiki/Wikimedia_Highlights .
Having said that, I think that a link to
https://meta.wikimedia.org/wiki/India_Program/Outreach_Programs/Outreach_Sessions
might have been useful here.

>
> Later on in the same document: "We concluded an exercise on distilling
> learnings from all Indic communities and started the process of
> seeding ideas with communities."
>
> I was bold and changed "learnings" to "lessons". What is a learning?
See https://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/learning#Noun , #3 (which cites a
quote from a New York Times article for that usage). It's not my
personal favorite word either, but honestly, I can think of worse
examples for opaque corporate lingo.

> How does one distill a learning?
Again, Wiktionary to the rescue
(https://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/distill ): "to distill" can be used in
the general sense of "to extract the essence of". So I imagine that to
distill a learning, one sifts through a large amount of information to
extract a relevant insight. How  that was done in this particular case
is, again, a valid question, but once more, the concern would be more
about level of detail than about the style of writing.

> And "seeding ideas with communities"?
> The idea, presumably, is the soil, into which one puts each different
> community. I have no idea what this is supposed to mean.
>
> This one is a howler from a subpage of the movement roles discussion:
>
> "At the same time, for Wikimedia to adopt the best of the Olympic
> movement would probably raise the bar on accountabilities for chapters
> and other organizations"
>
> Accountabilities, plural? I can understand accountability, the state
> of being accountable to another. But I have no idea what
> accountabilities are. Can you collect them like Pokémon cards? And how
> would one raise the bar on accountabilities? Would that mean some
> accountabilities can't quite reach the bar? (Also, the idea that we
> could learn anything about accountability, singular or plural, from
> the Olympics strikes me as hilarious given the extensive history of
> corruption at the IOC.)
>
> If you search on Meta, it is possible to find lots and lots of other
> documents from the Foundation filled with corporate lingo. Projects
> are 'scoped', and there is a list of 'deliverables' -- not just any
> deliverables but 'specific deliverables' -- along with 'next steps' to
> deliver, err, those deliverables while 'going forward'.
>
> I can't be the only one who reads these things and whose brain stalls
> or goes into reverse. There have been numerous things where I've had
> to ask Foundation contacts to explain things in clear and simple
> language to me. I don't think I'm particularly stupid or uninformed.
> Nor do I think that the people who write in the manner I've described
> do it consciously. But we do need to fix it. If well-educated,
> informed native English speakers struggle with learnings and
> accountabilities and so on, what about those who don't natively speak
> English? When people see sloppy, buzzword-driven language, they wonder
> if this reflects sloppy, buzzword-driven thinking, or perhaps
> obfuscation. Clear writing signals the opposite: clear thinking and
> transparency.
>
> I'm not suggesting we all need to write as if we're editing Simple
> English Wikipedia. But just cut out the buzzwords and write plainly
> and straightforwardly like the best writing on Wikipedia.
>
> What can be done about this?
>
> There seem to be two possible solutions to this problem: one involves
> hiring a dominatrix with a linguistics degree to wander the San
> Francisco office with handcuffs, a bullwhip, a number of live gerbils
> and plentiful supplies of superglue, and given free reign to enforce
> the rules in whatever way she deems fit.

Minus the sexual fantasies, a lot of this is already going on at the
Foundation. Among the various communications people who help
Foundation employees/contractors to inform the community and the
public about their work, by reviewing and editing reports or blog
posts before they are published, there are in fact longtime
Wikipedians like our Technical Communications Manager Guillaume (cf.
https://meta.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?title=Wikimedia_Blog/Guidelines&diff=next&oldid=2651649#No_puffing
) and myself (whose edit summaries on Wikipedia frequently include
links to [[WP:PEACOCK]] ;). I'm not saying there is no room for
improvement, but there is a lot of that stuff which doesn't make it
into the published versions that you see.

> The other, which involves far
> fewer embarrassing carpet stains, is to empower the community to fix
> these problems. Have a nice little leaderboard on Meta, and encourage
> community members to be bold, fix up bad writing, bad grammar and
> buzzwords. Reward their efforts with barnstars and the occasional
> thank you messages on talk pages.
>
> Commit to clear writing by adopting a policy of "copyediting almost
> always welcome" for chapter wikis, Foundation documents and as close
> to everything as possible.

You mean something like the conspicuous notice saying "You are more
than welcome to edit this report for the purposes of usefulness,
presentation, etc" that has been included on the top of each of the
Foundation's monthly reports on Meta for almost two years now
(https://meta.wikimedia.org/wiki/Wikimedia_Foundation_Report,_April_2010
) ?

> There are volunteers in the movement who
> happily spend hour after hour copyediting on Wikipedia and Wikinews
> and Wikibooks and so on. Give them the opportunity to fix up the
> language used by the Foundation and the chapters.

As exemplified above, for many texts published by the Foundation, this
opportunity is already there (even those on Meta which do not carry
that explicit invitation are on a wiki for a reason). And even on the
closed Foundation wiki, many volunteers have editing rights and help
out with exactly the sort of thing you describe (example from this
week: https://wikimediafoundation.org/wiki/Draft/Staff_titles ).

So I think it is more about motivating volunteers to take up this
opportunity, rather than creating it. In fact, let me use the occasion
and thank the volunteers who have copyedited or corrected the WMF
monthly reports on Meta since I took over the task of publishing them
in August, who include Tony1, Graham87, Ainali, Peteforsyth, Mike
Peel, Jeremyb, Rich Farmbrough, Akaniji  and yourself.

>
> Remember: how can community members support and become more deeply
> involved with the work of the chapters and the Foundation if they
> can't understand what you are saying?
>

While I don't find all of your examples convincing, I fully endorse
your goal in general and am in fact grateful for your email for
entirely selfish reasons: It has the potential to facilitate my work a
bit by providing valuable ammunition ;)

> --
> Tom Morris
> <http://tommorris.org/>
>
> _______________________________________________
> foundation-l mailing list
> [hidden email]
> Unsubscribe: https://lists.wikimedia.org/mailman/listinfo/foundation-l



--
Tilman Bayer
Movement Communications
Wikimedia Foundation
IRC (Freenode): HaeB

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Re: Communicating effectively: Wikimedia needs clear language now

Oliver Keyes-4
On 18 February 2012 22:33, Tilman Bayer <[hidden email]> wrote:

> Hi Tom,
>
> On Sat, Feb 18, 2012 at 6:27 PM, Tom Morris <[hidden email]> wrote:
> > Since Wikipedia started in 2001, great effort has been put into
> > ensuring that it is readable, clear and understandable by visitors.
> > Good Wikipedia writing is clear, concise, comprehensive and
> > consistent. Excellent Wikipedia writing is, according to English
> > Wikipedia's featured article criteria, "engaging, even brilliant, and
> > of a professional standard". Wikipedia editors work hard to remove
> > buzzwords, unnecessary jargon, peacock terms, marketing-speak, weasel
> > words and other similar clutter from their work.
> >
> > And it's not just Wikipedia: all of the Wikimedia projects aspire to
> > write clearly, neutrally and factually. English Wikinews says simply:
> > "Write to be easily understood, to make reading easier."
> >
> > Sadly, documents and communication from the Foundation, from chapters,
> > from board members and so on often fall far short of these sentiments.
> >
> > There are certain places where it is to be expected that communication
> > won't necessarily be clear: I wouldn't expect a non-programmer to be
> > able to understand some of the discussions on Bugzilla or
> > mediawiki.org, but the Foundation's monthly report is something
> > editors should be able to understand.
> >
> > From January 2012, under Global development's list of department
> highlights...
> >
> > "India program: Six outreach workshops in January in partnership with
> > the community as part of an effort to increase outreach and improve
> > conversion to editing"
> >
> > An outreach workshop... to increase outreach.
> The style may be less than elegant, but isn't it entirely sensible
> that if you undertake a larger effort to increase outreach, you carry
> out, well, outreach workshops alongside other things?--
>

It's perfectly sensible; I believe what tom means is that if you're
undertaking a larger effort to increase outreach, it is fairly clear what
the workshops that are part of that effort are aiming to achieve. It could
have been phrased as "Six workshops were held in January in partnership
with the community as part of..."

Oliver Keyes
Community Liaison, Product Development
Wikimedia Foundation
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Re: Communicating effectively: Wikimedia needs clear language now

Stu West-2
In reply to this post by Tom Morris-5
On Feb 18, 2012, at 6:27 PM, Tom Morris wrote:

> Accountabilities, plural? I can understand accountability, the state
> of being accountable to another. But I have no idea what
> accountabilities are. Can you collect them like Pokémon cards?

I want a set of those cards.  No, I need a set of those cards.  No no, I will do or pay just about anything for a set of those cards.  ;-)

===========================
Stu West
WMF Board Treasurer
 and Accountability Aficionado
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Re: Communicating effectively: Wikimedia needs clear language now

Chris Keating-2
In reply to this post by Tom Morris-5
I'd recommend George Orwell's essay on "Politics and the English
Language". It's one of the most persuasive arguments to use clear
language I've read.

http://www.mtholyoke.edu/acad/intrel/orwell46.htm

We're a multi-lingual movement, and this makes clear English even more
important. If something is unclear to a native speaker, it's even more
difficult for someone who has English as a second or third language.

Chris

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Re: Communicating effectively: Wikimedia needs clear language now

Thierry Coudray
>
> We're a multi-lingual movement, and this makes clear English even more
> important. If something is unclear to a native speaker, it's even more
> difficult for someone who has English as a second or third language.
>

I confirm.
Its quite difficult for a non fluent english speaker to be involved in the
international wikimedia movement even if I understand that we need a lingua
franca and this lingua franca is english.
But please do not complicate their life for example by using American or
British locutions (or explain it if use).

Thierry
who still not have found a good translation in French for accountability  :)



2012/2/19 Chris Keating <[hidden email]>

> I'd recommend George Orwell's essay on "Politics and the English
> Language". It's one of the most persuasive arguments to use clear
> language I've read.
>
> http://www.mtholyoke.edu/acad/intrel/orwell46.htm
>
> We're a multi-lingual movement, and this makes clear English even more
> important. If something is unclear to a native speaker, it's even more
> difficult for someone who has English as a second or third language.
>
> Chris
>
> _______________________________________________
> foundation-l mailing list
> [hidden email]
> Unsubscribe: https://lists.wikimedia.org/mailman/listinfo/foundation-l
>



--
Thierry Coudray
Administrateur - Trésorier
Wikimédia France <http://www.wikimedia.fr/>
Mob. 06.82.85.84.40
http://blog.wikimedia.fr/
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Re: Communicating effectively: Wikimedia needs clear language now

Tom Morris-5
On 19 February 2012 10:21, Thierry Coudray <[hidden email]> wrote:

>>
>> We're a multi-lingual movement, and this makes clear English even more
>> important. If something is unclear to a native speaker, it's even more
>> difficult for someone who has English as a second or third language.
>>
>
> I confirm.
> Its quite difficult for a non fluent english speaker to be involved in the
> international wikimedia movement even if I understand that we need a lingua
> franca and this lingua franca is english.
> But please do not complicate their life for example by using American or
> British locutions (or explain it if use).
>

Just to clarify: the issue I raised isn't about American or British
terms. I'd argue that UK/US (and Canada, Australia, NZ etc.)
differences isn't really a major issue with Foundation/Chapter
communications. A few of the Foundation-isms (Sue's "On-passing") are
probably down to spending too much time in California. (And I do hope
Wikimedia UK doesn't start using phrases like "Tally ho, chaps!" in
their documents...)

Mostly though, thanks to the Internet and multinational corporations,
godawful business jargon crosses all national borders. Words and
phrases like 'onboarding', 'stakeholders', 'mission statements',
'platforms', 'proactive', 'sectors' and pretty much anything
'strategic', for instance.

To see the difference, consider:

Wikipedia is the leading player in the online reference sector and
provide a revolutionary cloud-based 'encyclopedia as a service'.
Thanks to the visionary utilization of our key strategic software
assets, we deliver value-add to our stakeholders by enabling them to
modify, shape and determine the future of the resource by modification
of key text assets.

vs.

Wikipedia is an encyclopedia on the Internet that anybody can edit.

--
Tom Morris
<http://tommorris.org/>

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Re: Communicating effectively: Wikimedia needs clear language now

Marc-Andre
In reply to this post by Thierry Coudray
On 19/02/2012 5:21 AM, Thierry Coudray wrote:
> Thierry
> who still not have found a good translation in French for accountability  :)

You probably want "/imputabilité/"  :-)

-- Coren / Marc

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Re: Communicating effectively: Wikimedia needs clear language now

Ziko van Dijk-2
In reply to this post by Tom Morris-5
Dear Tom,

I couldn't agree more. And I remember that I understand Amir's blog
entries quite well, in sharp opposition to some other WMF technical
guys' blog entries...

A copy-editor with an eye for newbies, non techies, non native
speakers of English etc. would be a great idea.

Kind regards
Ziko

2012/2/18 Tom Morris <[hidden email]>:

> Since Wikipedia started in 2001, great effort has been put into
> ensuring that it is readable, clear and understandable by visitors.
> Good Wikipedia writing is clear, concise, comprehensive and
> consistent. Excellent Wikipedia writing is, according to English
> Wikipedia's featured article criteria, "engaging, even brilliant, and
> of a professional standard". Wikipedia editors work hard to remove
> buzzwords, unnecessary jargon, peacock terms, marketing-speak, weasel
> words and other similar clutter from their work.
>
> And it's not just Wikipedia: all of the Wikimedia projects aspire to
> write clearly, neutrally and factually. English Wikinews says simply:
> "Write to be easily understood, to make reading easier."
>
> Sadly, documents and communication from the Foundation, from chapters,
> from board members and so on often fall far short of these sentiments.
>
> There are certain places where it is to be expected that communication
> won't necessarily be clear: I wouldn't expect a non-programmer to be
> able to understand some of the discussions on Bugzilla or
> mediawiki.org, but the Foundation's monthly report is something
> editors should be able to understand.
>
> From January 2012, under Global development's list of department highlights...
>
> "India program: Six outreach workshops in January in partnership with
> the community as part of an effort to increase outreach and improve
> conversion to editing"
>
> An outreach workshop... to increase outreach. Is that a workshop to
> train editors on how to do outreach? Or is it a workshop for newbies
> teaching them how to edit? Enquiring minds want to know.
>
> Later on in the same document: "We concluded an exercise on distilling
> learnings from all Indic communities and started the process of
> seeding ideas with communities."
>
> I was bold and changed "learnings" to "lessons". What is a learning?
> How does one distill a learning? And "seeding ideas with communities"?
> The idea, presumably, is the soil, into which one puts each different
> community. I have no idea what this is supposed to mean.
>
> This one is a howler from a subpage of the movement roles discussion:
>
> "At the same time, for Wikimedia to adopt the best of the Olympic
> movement would probably raise the bar on accountabilities for chapters
> and other organizations"
>
> Accountabilities, plural? I can understand accountability, the state
> of being accountable to another. But I have no idea what
> accountabilities are. Can you collect them like Pokémon cards? And how
> would one raise the bar on accountabilities? Would that mean some
> accountabilities can't quite reach the bar? (Also, the idea that we
> could learn anything about accountability, singular or plural, from
> the Olympics strikes me as hilarious given the extensive history of
> corruption at the IOC.)
>
> If you search on Meta, it is possible to find lots and lots of other
> documents from the Foundation filled with corporate lingo. Projects
> are 'scoped', and there is a list of 'deliverables' -- not just any
> deliverables but 'specific deliverables' -- along with 'next steps' to
> deliver, err, those deliverables while 'going forward'.
>
> I can't be the only one who reads these things and whose brain stalls
> or goes into reverse. There have been numerous things where I've had
> to ask Foundation contacts to explain things in clear and simple
> language to me. I don't think I'm particularly stupid or uninformed.
> Nor do I think that the people who write in the manner I've described
> do it consciously. But we do need to fix it. If well-educated,
> informed native English speakers struggle with learnings and
> accountabilities and so on, what about those who don't natively speak
> English? When people see sloppy, buzzword-driven language, they wonder
> if this reflects sloppy, buzzword-driven thinking, or perhaps
> obfuscation. Clear writing signals the opposite: clear thinking and
> transparency.
>
> I'm not suggesting we all need to write as if we're editing Simple
> English Wikipedia. But just cut out the buzzwords and write plainly
> and straightforwardly like the best writing on Wikipedia.
>
> What can be done about this?
>
> There seem to be two possible solutions to this problem: one involves
> hiring a dominatrix with a linguistics degree to wander the San
> Francisco office with handcuffs, a bullwhip, a number of live gerbils
> and plentiful supplies of superglue, and given free reign to enforce
> the rules in whatever way she deems fit. The other, which involves far
> fewer embarrassing carpet stains, is to empower the community to fix
> these problems. Have a nice little leaderboard on Meta, and encourage
> community members to be bold, fix up bad writing, bad grammar and
> buzzwords. Reward their efforts with barnstars and the occasional
> thank you messages on talk pages.
>
> Commit to clear writing by adopting a policy of "copyediting almost
> always welcome" for chapter wikis, Foundation documents and as close
> to everything as possible. There are volunteers in the movement who
> happily spend hour after hour copyediting on Wikipedia and Wikinews
> and Wikibooks and so on. Give them the opportunity to fix up the
> language used by the Foundation and the chapters.
>
> Remember: how can community members support and become more deeply
> involved with the work of the chapters and the Foundation if they
> can't understand what you are saying?
>
> --
> Tom Morris
> <http://tommorris.org/>
>
> _______________________________________________
> foundation-l mailing list
> [hidden email]
> Unsubscribe: https://lists.wikimedia.org/mailman/listinfo/foundation-l



--

-----------------------------------------------------------
Vereniging Wikimedia Nederland
dr. Ziko van Dijk, voorzitter
http://wmnederland.nl/
-----------------------------------------------------------

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Re: Communicating effectively: Wikimedia needs clear language now

Erik Moeller-4
In reply to this post by Tom Morris-5
On Sun, Feb 19, 2012 at 3:16 AM, Tom Morris <[hidden email]> wrote:

> Mostly though, thanks to the Internet and multinational corporations,
> godawful business jargon crosses all national borders. Words and
> phrases like 'onboarding', 'stakeholders', 'mission statements',
> 'platforms', 'proactive', 'sectors' and pretty much anything
> 'strategic', for instance.

Terms like "strategy", "mission statement" and "stakeholder" have
concrete organizational meaning. Yes, they are also often used as part
of marketing copy or organizational copy in ways that are unhelpful,
because people who aren't good writers feel the need to plug holes by
picking from the shared vocabulary of organization-speak. That doesn't
make them meaningless, anymore than the fact that every idiot has an
opinion on quantum physics makes quantum physics meaningless.

Where I agree with you: It's the job of any writer to make their
message accessible and understandable, where possible by using plain
language. It's probably good to maintain a healthy degree of prejudice
against "organizational jargon", just because it is so prevalent and
often used poorly.

However, organizational development and management are serious human
endeavors that merit open-mindedness and willingness to discover and
learn on the reader's part just as much as they merit clarity and
brevity on the writer's or speaker's part. Being simplistic about the
"corporate world" is no more charming or noble than is ignorance about
any other field.

--
Erik Möller
VP of Engineering and Product Development, Wikimedia Foundation

Support Free Knowledge: https://wikimediafoundation.org/wiki/Donate

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Re: Communicating effectively: Wikimedia needs clear language now

Ilario Valdelli
On Wed, Feb 22, 2012 at 4:19 AM, Erik Moeller <[hidden email]> wrote:

> On Sun, Feb 19, 2012 at 3:16 AM, Tom Morris <[hidden email]> wrote:
>
>> Mostly though, thanks to the Internet and multinational corporations,
>> godawful business jargon crosses all national borders. Words and
>> phrases like 'onboarding', 'stakeholders', 'mission statements',
>> 'platforms', 'proactive', 'sectors' and pretty much anything
>> 'strategic', for instance.
>
> Terms like "strategy", "mission statement" and "stakeholder" have
> concrete organizational meaning. Yes, they are also often used as part
> of marketing copy or organizational copy in ways that are unhelpful,
> because people who aren't good writers feel the need to plug holes by
> picking from the shared vocabulary of organization-speak. That doesn't
> make them meaningless, anymore than the fact that every idiot has an
> opinion on quantum physics makes quantum physics meaningless.
>

I work in an airline company and for a person coming from outside it
could be a real nightmare to speak about airline questions because the
environment is really full of "technical questions" and
"abbreviations".

For me it has been hard at the start because it was frequent to use
"ERP" for "Emergency Response Plan" but for me it was "Enterprise
Resource Planning".

A good compromise could be to create a "company dictionary" in order
to help all persons to use the same words to define the same concepts
and to help new persons to be part of the discussions.

This solution solves a lot of conflicts and helps the communication.

In Wikimedia environment the real problem is that anyone tries to
translate some technical words connected with some legal systems and
sometimes these words are peculiarities of these systems and could not
have a corresponding in others.

For instance in Paris I have looked in the word "entitlement" which
seems to be connected with the US system's of NGOs but has no
correspondent in the European legal systems (and sometimes it could
"illegal" in some countries).

Ilario

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Re: Communicating effectively: Wikimedia needs clear language now

Thomas Morton
In reply to this post by Erik Moeller-4
>
> > Mostly though, thanks to the Internet and multinational corporations,
> > godawful business jargon crosses all national borders. Words and
> > phrases like 'onboarding', 'stakeholders', 'mission statements',
> > 'platforms', 'proactive', 'sectors' and pretty much anything
> > 'strategic', for instance.
>
> Terms like "strategy", "mission statement" and "stakeholder" have
> concrete organizational meaning. Yes, they are also often used as part
> of marketing copy or organizational copy in ways that are unhelpful,
> because people who aren't good writers feel the need to plug holes by
> picking from the shared vocabulary of organization-speak. That doesn't
> make them meaningless, anymore than the fact that every idiot has an
> opinion on quantum physics makes quantum physics meaningless.
>

This might be my jaded view as an engineer who came later to corporate
environments/management but... when I first got trained in business
practices my initial thought was "hold on, this is common sense packaged up
to make it look more complicated and smarter". Since then nothing has
changed that perception. I think such terminology, and indeed most of the
business practices/jargons, are stagnant, limiting, inaccessible etc.

I have experience of how difficult this can make communication. For
example, stakeholder analysis and requirements engineering; these were all
things I was explicitly doing before in my technical capacity. But in
simple language, that anyone non-technical (i.e. manager) could follow. But
add a layer of "corporate" and you have to follow these set layouts, set
terminology - none of which is necessarily obvious to the layman. And at
the end you have a longer document with wasteful overthinking that is less
accessible to untrained individuals.

To me it has always come across as an elitist terminology (and if you track
back to the origins it does originate from the need for management to speak
a different, superior, language to the grunts) that focuses on making a)
work look smarter and b) cover ones ass.

I think the more agile approaches will grow in adoption over the coming
years, even in large corporations, and are certainly worth considering.


> Where I agree with you: It's the job of any writer to make their
> message accessible and understandable, where possible by using plain
> language. It's probably good to maintain a healthy degree of prejudice
> against "organizational jargon", just because it is so prevalent and
> often used poorly.
>
> However, organizational development and management are serious human
> endeavors that merit open-mindedness and willingness to discover and
> learn on the reader's part just as much as they merit clarity and
> brevity on the writer's or speaker's part. Being simplistic about the
> "corporate world" is no more charming or noble than is ignorance about
> any other field.


I think when communicating to the outside world, businesses use jargon to
stop consumers digging too much into their actions and decision making
process (this is my perception from inside a company that does use such
jargon). They also use it to make things sound "smart". Not necessarily in
a malicious way - that is just how it is trained.

When communicating with the public, as a charity, I think it is critical
the WMF should make the extra step to communicate in simple language.
Rather than asking them to meet you half way. I mean, I agree that
encouraging open-mindedness is a good thing. But there are better ways to
do it than wrap public communication up in jargon.

You talk about clarity and brevity as well; it is my perception (again from
having to write press releases with such nonsense in them) that the jargon
simply removes any clarity you had and sacrifices understanding for
brevity-as-less-words.

I think this is becoming obvious to those interested in business
development - with the advent of much leaner business processes (piloted by
web firms and startups!).

As a multi-lingual, social minded movement, the Foundation should be at the
forefront of accessible business, not in the middle :)

Tom
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Re: Communicating effectively: Wikimedia needs clear language now

MZMcBride-2
In reply to this post by Erik Moeller-4
Erik Moeller wrote:

> On Sun, Feb 19, 2012 at 3:16 AM, Tom Morris <[hidden email]> wrote:
>> Mostly though, thanks to the Internet and multinational corporations,
>> godawful business jargon crosses all national borders. Words and
>> phrases like 'onboarding', 'stakeholders', 'mission statements',
>> 'platforms', 'proactive', 'sectors' and pretty much anything
>> 'strategic', for instance.
>
> Terms like "strategy", "mission statement" and "stakeholder" have
> concrete organizational meaning. Yes, they are also often used as part
> of marketing copy or organizational copy in ways that are unhelpful,
> because people who aren't good writers feel the need to plug holes by
> picking from the shared vocabulary of organization-speak. That doesn't
> make them meaningless, anymore than the fact that every idiot has an
> opinion on quantum physics makes quantum physics meaningless.

That's just your guilt talking. You've been as big an offender in this area
as anyone. I can't be the only person who remembers that there's an entire
"Strategic Planning" wiki. Anyone interested in a broad sampling of bullshit
language need look no further. :-)

> However, organizational development and management are serious human
> endeavors that merit open-mindedness and willingness to discover and
> learn on the reader's part just as much as they merit clarity and
> brevity on the writer's or speaker's part. Being simplistic about the
> "corporate world" is no more charming or noble than is ignorance about
> any other field.

Applying corporate jargon to a non-profit, or worse, to the wiki model, has
expectedly poor results.

MZMcBride



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Re: Communicating effectively: Wikimedia needs clear language now

Mike Christie
On Wed, Feb 22, 2012 at 8:40 AM, MZMcBride <[hidden email]> wrote:

> Erik Moeller wrote:
>  > Terms like "strategy", "mission statement" and "stakeholder" have
> > concrete organizational meaning. Yes, they are also often used as part
> > of marketing copy or organizational copy in ways that are unhelpful,
> > because people who aren't good writers feel the need to plug holes by
> > picking from the shared vocabulary of organization-speak. That doesn't
> > make them meaningless, anymore than the fact that every idiot has an
> > opinion on quantum physics makes quantum physics meaningless.
>
> That's just your guilt talking. You've been as big an offender in this area
> as anyone. I can't be the only person who remembers that there's an entire
> "Strategic Planning" wiki. Anyone interested in a broad sampling of
> bullshit
> language need look no further. :-)


Adding a smiley to an insult doesn't make it any less an insult.  I think
there are ways to make this argument more politely.

Mike

>
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