A question, a survey, a conversation and some feedback

During the recent elections Richard Stallman had a specific question for the candidates. Copying from the archives, here’s the question:

Here is a question for the candidates.
To advance to the goal of freedom for software users, we need to develop good free software, and we need to teach people to value and demand the freedom that free software offers them. We need to advance at the practical level and at the philosophical level.
GNOME is good free software, and thus contributes at the practical level. How will candidates use the user community’s awareness of GNOME to contribute to educating the communityn about freedom?
At a stretch the question is similar in theme to the questions/concerns around GNOME and Free Software ideals that come up from time to time. I recall reading similar questions during earlier elections and, it isn’t specifically new or, something that has come out of the blue.
I came to know of the survey when I read the micro-blog from Lefty. And, then we had a bit of conversation.
Personally, I don’t feel comfortable about the survey.
The line of reasoning is as follows – as a member of the GNOME Foundation one has the right to express one’s opinion about the direction and focus of the Foundation by supporting the appropriate (set of) candidate(s). From the perspective of a Foundation it is perfectly valid to focus on areas which are aligned with the very reason for the Foundation and the project to exist. In fact, focussing only on those areas wouldn’t and shouldn’t be taken amiss. In short, the Foundation can choose to exercise what it should work on in the near or long term future or, it shouldn’t. As long as such goals and tasks do not appear to be detrimental to the cause of Free and Open Source Software things should work out nicely.
I hasten to add that similar should be the focus of the Free Software Foundation as well. The survey attempts to somewhat codify this implicit responsibility areas and, I do get the feeling that the specific question
“In what way would you ordinarily refer to “an operating system based on a Linux kernel and using mainstream, mainly community-developed components and applications”? (Distributions representing such include Debian, Gentoo, Fedora, Open SuSE, etc. Android does not qualify, nor does WebOS, etc.)”
is implicitly divisive. An “us/them” meme that has been festering on the foundation-list for a while now.
I did not participate in the survey. I don’t want to. I’d rather like GNOME to focus on being an excellent desktop environment with strong technical and technology focus going back to the times when I started using it as my primary desktop. The Board needs to work out its focus and, work on the project’s future with much more rigor than it does now. To me the survey is just a passing distraction. Mildly entertaining but probably not productive.

Or, where we talk about digital future of the Bengali language

ABP Pvt Ltd has a history that goes back to 1922.

From the website

“In 1922, Anandabazar Patrika first came out as a four-page evening daily that sold at two paise and had a circulation of about 1,000 copies a day. Eighty-five years later, Anandabazar Patrika reaches out to over seven million readers, every day!

Today, the ABP Group has evolved into a media conglomerate that has eleven premier publications, three 24-hour national TV news channels, two leading book publishing businesses as well as mobile and internet properties. Touching the lives of millions of readers and viewers, daily.

We believe the legacy you leave, is the life you lead. We see ourselves as repositories of best practices and processes. And, at times, when we don’t have the very best within, we open windows to look out for expertise. Not surprisingly, ABP is associated with companies and personalities revered across the world.

In the world of journalism, we are not just a media house. We are really an alma mater.

Given the reach of the group and, the important role it plays in giving shape, form and direction to the literary content that is produced from Bengal, it is not too much to expect them to be at the forefront of technology when it comes to news and content published electronically. The association with Ananda Publishers, which publishes books from a variety of authors for a consumer base that spans ages, it is not too hard to anticipate that they will be heralding change and, changing for the better.

Unfortunately, when it comes to Bengali/Bangla and digital standards, the group is one of the laggards since they stick to an antique non-standard technology. In short, it is surprising that they are yet to think over adopting Unicode as a part of their online version.

This lack of interest in adopting Unicode has created an unique situation. The digital content published by the ABP group requires extremely unorthodox parser development to be encoded into Unicode and, used in any form of language study. The inability to be able to easily use the corpus is all the more important from the perspective of being able to extensively use Bengali/Bangla in the digital domain. Additionally, while browsers have demonstrated improved support for Unicode, the online content, including the shopping cart of Ananda Publishers, are unfit to be rendered on such browsers. Stop here for a moment and imagine a plethora of mobile and portable devices which may have extensive support for Bengali/Bangla at the user-interface level, the ability to input, print and render Bengali/Bangla but, would be unable to work with the content provided by the most circulated Bengali newspaper in India.

A group of folks led by Golam M Hossain have devised a prototype of an Unicode Proxy for Anandabazar Patrika. The attempt is not aimed at facilitating the reading of the newspaper, that is a happy collateral. The experiment is focused on demonstrating that it may not be difficult for Anandabazar to adopt Unicode.

Please read this page and if you desire to support it, write in with your name and affiliation to support the petition. If you know someone at ABP/Anandabazar who would be interested in a discussion, it would be good to get a conversation going.