November 30 CX Update: New Template Editor

Content Translation is getting a major new feature: Completely re-written support for templates. It was in design, testing and development since June 2016, and the first version of this feature was released today, Wednesday November 30 to Wikipedia in Catalan and Hebrew, and tomorrow, December 1st to Wikipedia in all languages.

The goal of this new feature is to make it easy to translate the templates across languages.

We want to give more control to all the people who use the Content Translation feature directly or are affected by it: translators, other editors of articles that were created as translations, and template maintainers.

Templates are used heavily in all Wikimedia projects. When Content Translation’s development started in 2014, the developers gave it very basic template support. Templates that used a whole paragraph, such as infoboxes and long quotations, were usually skipped completely. Shorter templates inside paragraphs, such as references, unit conversions, quotes in other languages, “citation needed”, etc., were adapted to a corresponding template in the target language when possible, or substituted with wiki syntax.

While this was useful for the creation of much more than 100,000 new articles in a lot of languages, this was far from perfect. It was confusing that infoboxes and whole paragraphs of quotations were not shown during the translation, and they had to be inserted manually after creating the first version of the translated article. References were frequently adapted incorrectly and inserted a lot of hard-to-maintain wiki syntax.

We now start to address this issue by letting translators choose what to do with each template. No templates are silently ignored now, so infoboxes and all other templates are shown in the source article column during the translation. When clicking on a template, a card on the sidebar will let the translator choose what to with the template. It’s possible to skip a template entirely (“Skip template”) or to insert the wiki syntax of the template as it appears in the original language (“Keep original template”). If an equivalent template is available in the target language, it will be possible to insert it, and edit the parameters one by one (“Use equivalent template”).

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The template editor, while translating the article Shalom Meir Tower from English into Catalan. All the parameter names are shown, and can be added one by one. After adding all the needed parameters, close the editor and the template will be shown.

If the equivalent templates have the same parameter names, their values will be copied automatically. If the parameter names are different, but the template in the target language has TemplateData defined with names of parameters and aliases that are the same as the parameter names in the source language, they can also be adapted automatically. You can read more about TemplateData at mediawiki.org.

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The template, inserted after translation. Notice that the template is rendered during the translation and the differences between the design in the different languages are easy to see.

Wikis have people who develop and maintain the templates in them. This is also an opportunity for all wikis—large, medium, and small—to take a look at their templates and improve them. Here are several things that can be done:

  • Add TemplateData (link: https://www.mediawiki.org/wiki/Help:TemplateData) to templates that don’t have it yet. This will allow Content Translation and Visual Editor to show template insertion and editing forms where all the parameters are displayed conveniently.
  • Consider adding aliases for template parameter names that correspond to parameters in wikis in other languages from which articles are frequently translated into your language. You can see from which languages articles are translated most often into yours by going to the page Special:CXStats in your wiki.
  • Consider making the types of parameter more similar across languages. For example, in some languages images are provided as complete file links (e.g. “ {{Infobox person|image=[[File:Sophie Kowalevski.jpg|thumb|300px|Sofia Kovalevskaya, 1880]]}}”) and others have separate parameters for file name, size and caption (e.g. {{Infobox person|name=Sofia Kovalevskaya|image=Sophie Kowalevski.jpg|image_size=300|caption=Sofia Kovalevskaya, 1880}}). Making the parameter structure similar to the structure in the language from which articles are often translated will make the work considerably more efficient for translators and article maintainers.

As noted earlier, this is only the first release of this feature. Templates on Wikimedia projects are very diverse, and while the developers tested the new template editor with many templates in many languages, it is impossible for us to test it with all the different templates—there are just too many of them. Because of this, it may be impossible to adapt some templates at first. As always, we’d love to hear from you about templates that can’t be adapted, and about other bugs. We nevertheless believe that this feature is already an improvement over the way that templates were handled till today, and we are continuing the development to make template translation easier and more efficient based on your input.

You can read more about the design and the development of this feature, as well as details for its future improvements in Phabricator task T139332.

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