Using the Internet to collaborate on a dictionary

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WeSay is the best tool for collaborating with others on collecting and describing words, whether you are in the same village or across the world or both. Here’s a guide to setting up collaboration using the free Language Depot service. Read on to walk through the steps:

  1. Set up a account
  2. Open a new project on
  3. Bring all the data together
  4. Update to the latest WeSay
  5. Push (Send) the dictionary to the Internet
  6. Pull (Receive) it back down to your computer again
  7. Pull it down from the Internet to all collaborators’ computers
  8. Start collaborating!

1. Get yourself a Account

Go to Language Depot and create yourself an account.


Please don’t use the same password you use for anything important… WeSay is NOT going to be careful about keeping your password well-hidden.

2. Get a Project for the Language

Write to [email protected].  Please provide the following information:

  • That you will be using WeSay
  • The name of the account you created in the previous step
  • The name of the project.  Normally, the name of the language works well for this.
  • The ISO 639-3 code for the language.  Easiest way to find that is via the Ethnologue.

We will do three things:

1) Create the language project

2) Give you manager permissions on that project.  With those permissions, you will be able to assign additional contributors to the project, and turn features of the web site on and off.


People you have not added to the project will not be able to access your data.  However, we wouldn’t pretend to promise any real “security”.  If you need that, it’s perfectly OK to use a Mercurial server somewhere else… you aren’t tied to


Unless you tell us otherwise, we’ll assume it is OK for us to occasionally look at the files in your repository project for the purpose of fixing a problem for you or seeing how the collaboration features are being used in real projects.


Make sure you backup the WeSay project before embarking on any major change like this.

3. Get the Data Together

It’s important that there is a single, up-to-date copy of the dictionary when you first put it up on Language Depot.  If there is currently only a single person working on the dictionary, you need to get their project, and delete the project from their computer.  That does two good things: ensures they don’t keep working on it, and ensures that they will be using the proper version of the project later.

If there are multiple copies of the dictionary out there, you need to do that for each one of them.  That is, get the project, remove it from their computer.  You have an extra step in this case, which is to merge the entries together.  Read these instructions on merging LIFT files.


Edit Sept 2012:

When the above was written, Send/Receive was brand new. If your team is already using Send/Receive, you do not need to get down to a single copy of the project. However, you will need to eventually set up each user’s WeSay to sync with LanguageDepot (that is, each user that will be syncing that way). Instructions for that below.

4. Get the Most Recent Version of WeSay

The stuff shown here requires version 0.7 of WeSay, or greater.  Get the latest on the WeSay Downloads Page.

5. Push the project up to LanguageDepot

Ok, once you have a single dictionary folder with the whole team’s data, it’s time to do the initial push up to LanguageDepot.

First, run the Configuration Tool, and Open your project.

Go to “Actions”, and scroll until you see Send/Receive:


Click that button with the two arrows, and you should see:


Now click “Set Up”, and fill in the account details from the email you received from us.


Click “OK”.  Now, the Internet button becomes available, labeled with the name of the server you will be synchronizing with.


Notice that the “Set Up” button disappeared. This is intentional.  We want to decrease the chance that a user will accidentally mess up his/her ability to do a send/receive by messing up their account information. Therefore, once set up, WeSay hides that Set Up button.  Notice that hovering over the button reveals the trick for getting it back, if you really need to change your account settings:


Click “Internet”, and if all your account settings are correct, your project will be pushed up to the LanguageDepot server.


6. Set up any of your teammates who already have the project on their computers

Will anyone else on the team be Send/Receiving with Then they need accounts too. You can make an account for each one if you like, and assign them to the project under the “members” tab. Note, if you don’t want to bother creating one for each person, they can all share one account. The history logs will still show their individual names. For example, for Tok Pisin Dictionary project, I could create a “tpiContributor” account, and just give out that name and the password that goes with it.

You already know how to make accounts on LanguageDepot. And once you’re a manager of your project, go to the “members” tab for your project and assign new accounts to your team.  Until you do that, these new accounts won’t have permission to Send or Receive.

Next, on each of the other people’s computers who need to Send/Receive with LanguageDepot, go back to step 5 and tell their WeSay about LanguageDepot, using the account you make for them.

7. Pull the project down to the computers of your colleagues

Run the WeSay Configuration Tool, and click “Get From Internet”:


As before, we enter the account information. See the note in (6) about making accounts for your team members.


And click Download.

7. Begin Collaborating

You’ll notice a Send/Receive button now shows up on the dashboard:


Clicking it there will show a dialog like this:


Clicking “Internet” starts the synchronization:


Note: when WeSay detects that some changes were pulled down from the internet, it closes down and restarts itself so that it has a nice clean start with the new data.