As a general case, my experience with most of the FOSS projects whose products I consume or, contribute to, have been very pleasant. Feedback has generally been well received, requests listened to. So, what I am going to write is not very special. But, they are striking by themselves.
Sometime ago, I was shopping for an off-line translation tool. I was fed up with Lokalize’s issues and, the fact that it wasn’t letting me do what I wanted to do at that point in time – translate. Additionally, I wasn’t in the mood to actually install a translation content management system to do stuff. Face it, I am an individual translator and, calling in the heavy shots to get the job done was a bit silly. So, I turned to virtaal. Actually, I think I was goaded into giving it a try by Runa.
Virtaal was, at that point in time, not really a good tool And, you can figure from the blog link above that I wasn’t interested in it too much. However, since I ended up giving it a chance (you cannot simply ignore a recommendation from her) I ended up running into two issues. One was predominantly more annoying than the other and, in effect was what was putting me off the tool. However, the developers took interest to get it fixed and, in the latest release have resolved it.
The other bug was resolved in an even more interesting way – over IRC with hand-holding to obtain the appropriate debug information and, then on to editing the file to put in the fix. At the end, the fix might be trivial. But the level of interest and care taken by the team to listen to their users is what makes me happy. In this aspect, the other development crew I can mention is Transifex. I haven’t met most of them and yet they keep taking suggestions, reports via every communication channel they are on – blogs, micro-blogs, IMs, IRC and trac. That makes them visible, gets them into the shoes of the users and, I am sure it earns them invaluable karma points.
Yesterday, while helping (I just did the file editing while Walter did all the brain muscling) to close the other bug, I felt incredibly happy to be part of a system where it isn’t important who you are or, where you are from. What is important that you have a real desire to develop better software and, make useful artifacts for all.
As it goes – “Your mother was right, it is better to share” link to video.
The post is brought to you by lekhonee v0.8
In recent times I have blogged about ‘non community based approach to l10n‘ (mail from Gora Mohanty). There is a particular mail on the gnome-i18n mailing list that provides some inputs towards formulating a plan on avoiding such repeat incidents. To quote:
CDAC is a government funded agency and takes up projects from
Government which are based on deadlines which are sometimes strict and
harsh. We work towards deadlines and are answerable to the funding
agency on things we commit. Localisation activity happens to be one of
I tend to hold on to the theory that both the distributions in essence (BOSSLinux and Baishakhi Linux) should be no different that other Linux distributions who work ‘within‘ the community in harmony and collaborate to innovate. Expanding on what I already wrote about working with existing L10n communities, a means to make this possible is to have a release plan available for public view. All the major distributions have a release schedule available in public and an immediate effect of this is that it makes it possible for potential contributors and existing communities to comprehend how the pieces fit in.
Having a release schedule also makes it easy to assess how much work would be required to be put into localization of a particular language, since the components of the distribution in terms of GNOME/KDE/Xfce etc would be targeting a particular release of the desktop environments. The bits that are specific to the distribution viz. installer, configuration toolkits can then be done by the team in charge of the distribution or, the community around the distribution. Taking an example nearer to home, there is much to learn from how to work ‘in’ the community if one takes a long hard look at how Fedora operates.
The reasons that the community got lumped with a huge load of translated files was that there was a lack of communication and synchronization with the folks doing L10n and there was a lack of transparency in the infrastructure that produces the distribution. These are not insurmountable problems, but these are required to work within the community and collaborate to produce high quality of Free Software.
Here is an organisation which is willing to make crucial contributions
to the community at its own defined speed. I would want to believe
that this is one of the larger contributions any government agency has
made to the localisation efforts. Government has its interest in the
effort and so has its own temporal goals. We need to meet those goals
and so sometimes we need to take a path which satisfies our funding
Every distribution has its own defined velocity of releases and logic of cherry picking components from upstream to integrate. Taking a path to satisfy the funding agency should not be at odds with the community at large within whose framework the work is being undertaken. If, they are at odds, it is the onus of the Program Manager for the distribution to talk with both the funding agencies and the community towards providing accurate and transparent communication.
Should a major chunk of contribution go unnoticed just because we did
not satisfy the egos of those in ‘power’?
In the realm of FOSS, contributions are not merely contributions of code or content. Contributions define the nature of the group that is contributing, and, whether they desire to learn about the civic rules into which they desire to integrate themselves. Through learning comes awareness and via awareness one transforms into a good citizen in the FOSS world.