Minh’s Notes

Human-readable chicken scratch

Minh Nguyễn
October 16th, 2005



Today I made it onto the homepage of a major Vietnamese newspaper, Tuổi Trẻ (the name means “Youth”). One of their reporters interviewed me (via e-mail) for a story about the Vietnamese Wikipedia a few weeks ago, but I hadn’t heard from them since, so I thought maybe the story didn’t make it. This afternoon, though, one of my colleagues at Wikipedia pointed me to the article, which pretty much paraphrases our user pages and shortens the project’s name to simply “Wiki”. Well, that’s what people think of when they hear “wiki” these days anyways.

I wouldn’t flatter myself to think that I’ve become a celebrity of any sort – that’s the thing I least want. But hopefully the article gave the Vietnamese Wikipedia some much-needed publicity. Within the past 24 hours, we’ve gotten over 50 new registered users, much more than usual. I can’t wait until that translates into more high-quality articles.

Woah, the number of new users has swelled! Well over 100 people have created accounts at the Vietnamese Wikipedia within the past day, and that number keeps going up every minute!


  1. Hi Minh,
    I don't wish my comment to appear here. But I do wish to let you know, that for quite a lot of people using wikipedia, the pages in the Viet section don't display correctly. Because although the articles in Vietnamese are typed using Unicode OK, the main 2 fonts used for displaying, 'serif' and 'sans-serif', are not Unicode compatible. Just like here, I just had a look at your style sheet [styles-site.css] for this blog : it's a mess! How can you display your name NGUYỄN when you use the 'Trebuchet MS' font which is not Unicode compatible?
    Below, what it says, is: use 'trebuchet ms', but if not found, then use Verdana, if still not found then use helvetica, and so on... so what happens when the 'Trebuchet MS' font is found on my PC by my browser, i.e. MSIE6??? all Vietnamese accented letters are displayed as square-boxes... unreadable!

    /* Vicksburg (theme-vicksburg.css) */
    /* basic page elements */
    font-family: 'trebuchet ms', verdana, helvetica, arial, sans-serif;
    font-size: 12px;

    Sure enough I don't hold you accountable for not knowing the technical CSS rules. Anyway, there is no point in mixing Unicode and non-Unicode fonts. 'trebuchet ms', helvetica, sans-serif are all 3 non-Unicode fonts - thus cannot be used for displaying Vietnamese.
    Back to Wikipedia. Remember only this: Most visitors cannot read your Vietnamese pages, because the font used for displaying is improper! Can you see this with Wikipedia's webmaster so that the style sheet is modified? Thanks a lot!
    Please visit my current 2 workpages:

  2. Johannjs, I should first point out that this is the default stylesheet included with Movable Type, the CMS that I use to manage the site. Someday I might replace it with an original design, like I did before I upgraded to version 3.2.

    I realize that my name doesn’t display properly in Internet Explorer, but at this point, enough of my readers are using more adequate browsers like Firefox and Safari that I don’t have to worry about IE’s lack of font switching support anymore.

    Trebuchet MS, Helvetica, and Verdana are all Unicode-compliant fonts, by the way. They might not support every Vietnamese letter (such as “ễ”), but they still do follow the Unicode standard.

    Using your logic, I would argue that none of the fonts on your computer are Unicode fonts – Unicode presently includes 95,174 characters, and not even the Code 2001 font comes close to covering it all.

    Even if you had such a font, I don’t think you’d ever use it, because Code 2001 already takes browsers forever to load, and it takes up tons of memory.

    So back to Wikipedia: the font used for displaying is not improper. We specify only sans-serif in our stylesheet, because we have no way of knowing exactly which fonts are installed on the user’s computer. If they don’t have a font that supports Vietnamese, we offer them a page explaining how they can get one for free. If there were a problem, I would be able to fix it, since administrators are allowed to override the stylesheet.

    What would you have to say about the multitudes of websites that still use VISCII or VNI fonts?