Reflections on CRASSH

In July I presented a paper at CRASSH in Cambridge. It was a small conference, but being in Europe it was good to see many of the various kinds of projects which are going on in Digital Humanities and Linguists, or also Cloud Computing and Linguistics. One particular project, TypeCraft, stands out as being rather well done and promising was presented by Dorothee Beermann Hellan. I think the ideas presented in this project are well thought out and seem to be well implemented. It would be nice to see this product integrated with some other linguistics and language documentation cloud offerings. i.e. Project Lego from the Linguist’s List or the Max Planck Institute’s LEXUS project. While TypeCraft does allow for round tripping of data with XML, what I am talking about is a consolidated User Experience for both professional linguists and for Minority language users.

A note on foundational technologies:

  • It appears that Lexus is is built on BaseX with Cocoon and XML.
  • The front page of TypeCraft has a very Wikipedia like feel, but this might not be the true foundational technology.
  • Linguist’s List often does their work in ColdFusion and the LEGO project definitely has this feel about it.

The Look of Language Development Websites

I have been thinking through some of the presentation issues for presenting SIL International’s work on the web. As part of this I have also been looking at other organizations which are part of the language documentation and minority language revitalization movement. I recently ran across several nicely done web sites.

National Geographic Genographic Project

National Geographic Genographic Project

National Geographic Genographic Project

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The importance of writing for the web

Lets say it this way, If you want reader to comprehend the things you are trying to communicate to them, and then to act on something then when you write for the web:

  1. Make it short: People scan the web. This is part of making things readable.
  2. Make it readable: that is use pictures to explain concepts.
  3. Make it interactive: [Press the like button…]
You’ll notice that on my personal blog:

  • I do not write short blog posts.
  • I am trying to use more images and photographs to explain concepts.
  • And there should be a like button or a comments section.

The Social Benefits of a Public Roadmap

ACF To-do list

Roadmap for development for the Advanced Custom Fields plugin for WordPress.

I am working with a team to redo a rather large NGOIt is worth noting that there are different flavors of NGOs. This particular NGO is also a non-profit charity and also a volunteer organization (most of the staff are volunteers). Not all NGOs fit this category, though I do make some assumptions in this post as if all NGOs do fit this characterization. website (both the NGO and the website are large). One of the questions through the process is How do we “dismantle a huge 1995 era website” and replace it with a “modern CMS system”? The new CMS of course is going to have to be phased in as its detailed features are built out. The social challenge is that if something which is not meeting the organizational (NGO’s) needs is replaced with something else which also appears to not meet the organizational needs then the people within the organization (the spectators, not the people directly involved with the website project) have a tendency to think that the newly launched product is a flop. The bottom line is that there is a general loss of confidence in the development and implementation team. In my particular context this often means that when people loose confidence in a development or implementation team that they stop expecting great things and start looking for other “more suitable” solutions. One way to combat this loss of confidence is to address the the people (and their concerns) who are watching the phased role-out. One part of that engagement strategy can be to do use a public Roadmap. Continue reading

Developing an understanding on how multi-lingual content needs to work on sil.org

Over the last few weeks I have been contemplating how multi-lingual content could work on sil.org. (I have had several helpful conversations to direct my thinking.)

As I understand the situation there is basically three ways which multi-lingual content could work.

First let me say that there is a difference between, multi-lingual content, multi-lingual taxonomies, and multi-lingual menu structures. We are talking about content here, not menu and navigation structures or taxonimies. Facebook has probably presented the best framework to date for utilizing on the power crowds to translate navigation structures. In just under two years they added over 70 languages to Facebook. However, Facebook has had some bumps along the way as DropBox points out in their post talking about their experience in translating their products and services.

  • Use a mechanism which shows all the available languages for content and highlights which ones are available to the user. Zotero has an implementation of this on their support forums.
    Zotero language options

    Zotero language options

  • Basically create a subsite for each language and then only show which pages have content in that language. Wikipedia does this. Wikipedia has a menu on the left side with links to articles with this same title in other languages. Only languages which have an article started in them on that title are shown in the menu.
    SIL International in English

    SIL International in English

    Other Pages in other languages may not show the same content.

    Other Pages in other languages may not show the same content.

  • Finally, create a cascading structure for each page or content area. So there is a primary language and a secondary language or a tertiary, or a quaternary language etc. based on the browser language of choice with country IP playing a secondary role. If there is no page for the primary language then the next in preference will show. This last option has been preferred by some because if an organization wants to present content to a user, then obviously, it would be in the users’ primary language. But if the content is not available in the primary language then the organization would want to still let the user know that the content exists in another language.

It would also be good to understand the concepts used in Drupal 7 (and Drupal 8) for multi-lingual content. There are several resources which I have found helpful:

  1. Localized and Multi-Lingual Content in Drupal 7
  2. Drupal 7’s new multilingual systems (part 4) – Node translation
  3. Drupal 7’s new multilingual systems compilation
  4. Drupal 8 Multilingual Initiative

It would appear that from this list of resources that Drupal’s default behavior is more in line with part two of the three examples given above.

World Map Navigation

For one of the web projects I am working in we have been throwing around the idea of having a world map as a navigation element. Each country would then be clickable. This kind of navigation has been done with hyperlinked bitmaps like the LL-Map project.

LL-Map Bitmap

LL-Map Bitmap

Or with flash like the Joshua project.
Joshua Project Front page with Map

Joshua Project Front page with World Map

I have not seen any implementations in HTML5 canvas or in SVG. It occurs to me that these technologies could be used. I am not deeply familiar with either technology. So I did some googling.
I found some interesting articles on the matter.

I am not sure that I have any answers but this is my thought towards the problem space.

There is one map of languages I have found which deserves to be mentioned. I am not sure of the technology used but it seems it would be either of these methods. It is the map of the Languages of California hosted at Berkeley.

California Languages Map

California Languages Map