Volapük is one of those lovely constructed languages which has made it into the 100K list on our multilingual Wikipedia portal. Of course, this is due to some bot imports of census and map information. It’s all fair – the English Wikipedia also bot-generated tens of thousands of “articles” in its early history. It does raise the question whether a freetext wiki is really a good way to maintain such data.

Over at OmegaWiki, we’re experimenting with adding structured data to the multilingual concept entities we call “DefinedMeanings”. A DefinedMeaning can be accessed using any synonym or translation associated with it. An example is the DefinedMeaning Denmark. If you expand the “Annotation” section, you’ll see information such as the countries Denmark borders on, its capital, or currency.

But there’s more to it than meets the eye: the fact that a country can border on another one is expressed by giving a DefinedMeaning a class membership. The class “state” defines what relationships an entity of this type can posses. In this way we define an ontology.

Note that if you log in and change your UI language, all the names will be automatically translated, if translations are available, as each relation type is a DefinedMeaning in its own right. OmegaWiki also supports free-text annotation and hyperlinks. We’ll add more attribute types as we need them.

What does that have to do with the Volapük Wikipedia? Well, OmegaWiki is the kind of technology you could build upon to maintain a central repository of the almanac data that was imported. Then, with some additional development, you could generate infoboxes with fully translated labels directly from OmegaWiki. And, within the free-text Wikipedia, you could focus on writing actual encyclopedia articles that reference this data.

Note that OmegaWiki is not alone in the semantic wiki space. Semantic MediaWiki adds data structure by enriching the wiki syntax itself. Freebase is a closed-source free-content “database of everything.” I’m not interested in closed source technology, but I like a lot of what I see in Semantic MediaWiki, and I expect that the technologies will converge in the end, if only conceptually.