Thursday, May 8, 2008

Supporting languages that do not have localisation

Yesterday I had the privilege to present at a workshop in Milan for the ISO. The workshop discussed how ISO will continue its development in the 21th century. A whole day was filled with a mix of people inside and outside of ISO providing their point of view how the world is changing and many kinds of new technology are becoming available and relevant that have the potential to change the current practices at ISO.

Bob Sutor, the IBM vice president for Standards and Open Source opened and discussed everything from Wikis to Second Life. It was a great speech and it opened up the floor for the presenters that followed really well.

The WLDC is about languages and with Debbie's permission, she had seen my presentation ahead of time, I had included the WLDC as a way to establish that I am truly committed to do good for languages.. What we want to do in the WLDC is making a document languages and make a difference by doing this. To help us realise this, I approached Mr Sutor and asked him if IBM could be interested in giving languages a presence in the user interface provided by GNOME or KDE.

This is of a great practical importance; when you write Neapolitan for instance, you do not want an Italian spell checker telling you that what you have written is spelled is incorrectly. The localisation of software is an expensive and time consuming business, it is not realistic to expect that all languages, linguistic entities will be localised. It is however feasible to make Gnome or KDE aware of the language that is used for a document. This is the first step to ensure that this document will be tagged in its meta data appropriately to the language that is used.

I am sure that you know more great arguments why a practical application like this will be of a much bigger benefit then is immediately apparent. So please pitch in with suggestions so that we will be able to produce the proposal that Mr Sutor and IBM just cannot refuse :)

Sunday, May 4, 2008

A proud moment

At the Wikimedia Foundation I have been banging the drum for the use of standards. I made some friends and enemies in that way, but the overall effect has been good. Some fights are no longer fought because the result is clear from the start.

At Betawiki, we are developing an extension for MediaWiki called Babel. The tool is to be used on the user pages indicating the self assessed skills in the languages a person knows. The texts are shown in the language itself.

When we do not have a translated text yet, we are still able to use the native name of that language courtesy of the data available in the CLDR. The standard is not complete, and I asked if it was possible to change the data in our database. I was told no. "The data belongs to a standard and, the data should be improved at source".

I do agree with this sentiment. I have written to someone active in the CLDR if there is an interest in collaboration. I am happy and proud of this turn of events. I hope that we are welcome :)