PanLex at WikidataCon 2019


November 20, 2019 ||
Speaker Ben Yang in front of slide displaying PanLex logo.

Ben Yang at WikidataCon 2019. (Image by Pierre-Selim Huard)

On October 25, 02019, PanLex was honored to present the first keynote speech at WikidataCon in Berlin, Germany. As our representative, I was excited to share PanLex’s ideas about the importance of linguistic diversity and lexical data’s role in helping to preserve that diversity with the staff, volunteers, and users of Wikidata.

The Wikidata audience was wonderfully receptive to PanLex’s mission and work. A significant portion of the talks and workshops at the conference were on how Wikidata can help underserved, minority, and indigenous language communities, so the ground was ripe for discussions of how our respective missions aligned.

Wikidata’s expansion into lexical data

Wikidata has recently begun a project to expand their scope to collect lexical data, which made an excellent jumping-off point for a sharing of skills and discussions of potential collaboration.

At the conference, PanLex’s experience in the handling of massively multilingual lexical data, the development of inferred-translation algorithms, and the vast amount of lexical data we have collected over the last 13 years were seen as great potential assets to Wikidata’s lexical data project. Likewise, Wikidata’s experience in developing crowdsourced public platforms and communities for data gathering could greatly assist PanLex in achieving one of our own long-term goals—creating a platform for user-contributed lexical data to be added to the PanLex Database.

WikidataCon was also a great learning experience for me. I was delighted to learn about the sheer depth of the data Wikidata has already collected, some of the ingenious tools Wikidata editors have created, and fascinating use cases. For example, editors in India have been mapping the coordinates of every public hospital in their country and making that data publicly available through Wikidata, which allows individuals to easily find their nearest hospital.

I was pleasantly surprised to discover that during my keynote, some audience members had been editing Wikidata, and I had joined the ranks of Noam Chomsky (Q9049), Pāṇini (Q189725), and Oscar the Grouch (Q2663574) in that a Wikidata item was assigned to me, Q72268157, complete with Benjamīns Jangs, the Latvian translation of my name.

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