Saturday, 18 October 2008

Creating and sharing Mock-ups

I sometimes find working within distributed teams a really tough challenge. Different time-zones, communication and language barriers. The 'disconnectedness' of distributed collaboration often ends up meaning we talk using the same terms , but have very different ideas in our minds.

So, to ease these challenges, I've started to investiage different ways in which we can improve collaboration within the projects I'm involved in, moving beyond the traditional IM/IRC, Email and phone-conferencing facilities we use every day.

When developing software, I love visual representations of ideas, such as ER diagrams, UML, and UI prototypes/mock-ups. I am a very visual thinker, and usually spend a lot of time sketching ideas on paper before implementing them in code. However, paper isn't the easiest medium for collaboration across the globe, especially when you want to mash-up and collaborate in this process. I still haven't found a good and FOSS 'sketching' tool, but must admit that I have in previous lives relied a lot on e.g. MS Visio.

Today, however, I discovered Balsamiq Mockups, a web and desktop based mockup tool based on Adobe AIR. It was easy to install on Fedora 9 (using Flash 10 and the Linux Beta of Adobe AIR). The free version won't let you save diagrams or PNG snapshots, so a lower resolution(?) screen-grab will have to do for now. It also lets you import/export diagrams as XML (even in the free version!), so it's really handy as these XML files can e.g. be stored in version control repositories and can thus easily be shared with team members. Here's a quick mock-up I did to test the application:


At some point I started missing some of the advanced layout features (e.g. modifying the values of the pie-chart), but then again, it is a mock-up and is supposed to be quick-and-sketchy!

Tuesday, 8 July 2008

Translation Reuse and Licensing

I've been watching with great interest the recent move within Launchpad Translations (formerly known as Rosetta, the Translation Infrastructure used by Ubuntu and others) to enforce a licensing policy on translations contributed through the web-based translation tool. Basically, from the end of this month, translators will have to either agree to publish all their translations under a BSD license, or stop using Launchpad for translations.

In the past, translations were contributed under the same license as the project itself. The reason for this new direction is to be able to legally reuse translations across project and license boundaries. Up until now, showing translation suggestions from projects which had an incompatible license to the project being translated have been a rather fuzzy area.

(This is not really a new move, as the Launchpad terms of use always granted Canonical the rights to use these translations anyway.)

I personally find it rather silly (or at least counterproductive to the goal of sharing knowledge) that resource-files such as PO files are covered by the same license as source code. What I do know is that we will start to see more and more cross-project reuse of translations, so thank you Launchpad folks for taking the first steps towards sorting out some of the legal issues!

Saturday, 15 March 2008

The acrobatics of community-based localisation

Michael Kaplan has an interesting post discussing the perceived 'failure' of the Swahili-language version of Microsoft Office which was released in 2003. This lesson clearly shows the benefits of some level of community-input in the localisation process. I found this quote from Kaplan rather interesting:
...the job of the localizer is as important as it ever was, if not moreso -- something that can also speak against complete "community" reliance rather on making sure competent people who understand the source and target markets and can translate between them are present in sufficient numbers to do what it may well turn out to be that no educational or governmental entity, what no group of people can actually accomplish successfully on their own.
The success of community-based localisation is indeed dependent on the ability of the community to transfer the ideas and concepts present in the source-language into their own culture and language. Well, that's no different than any other community-based project, and perhaps shows some of the acrobatics involved when commercial vendors attempt to include social translation as part of their localisation workflow.
Now, if only I'd been more interested in learning languages growing up... I spend most of my childhood from age 6 to 12 in Luoland in Kenya, and spoke solid African English with a mix of Swahili, Luo and Norwegian words. Imagine that (if you can)!

Friday, 14 March 2008

XML Localisation with ITS and Gettext

GNU Gettext is perhaps (ab)used more than any other localisation technology in open source software. Why not go a bit further and implement support for ITS?

Saturday, 19 January 2008

XLIFF 1.2 moving towards an Oasis Standard

The ballot to approve XLIFF 1.2 as an Oasis standard opened this week, and closes at the end of the month. The company I work for has already given a 'Yes' vote. I have been involved in the review of 1.2, and I'm fairly happy with the current state of the specification. The main focus now is 2.0 and there are lots of good ideas floating around.

Earlier this week, I discovered Swordfish, a new cross-platform XLIFF 1.2 translation tool from Maxprograms. The betas are freely available.