I’m happy to anounce that Codemart (a nearshoring company specialising in Java and Ruby on Rails), Beluga Linguistics (a company that provides translation services to clients such as Xing and Last.fm) and Negonation have joined together to promote FIT, an open source project charged with the development of internationalization software for humans.
Anyone involved in the launch of web applications of an international vocation (i.e. should be available in various languages) will agree that the available options are depressing. The tools are rough, unusable and designed without a thought for the end user (the translator). The current solutions:
- All require translators to request help from programmers to edit files, upload them to the server or to manage the combination of the individual translations into the final version.
- Many are desktop applications that don’t allow online collaboration.
- Many don’t integrate with version control systems and those that do require advanced knowledge (conflicts, merges, updates).
- None is capable of responding to basic questions such as: ‘which text strings have been recently translated?’ or ‘which text strings do we need to translate for the next version?’.
- The management of processes such as assignment, verification and establishment of translation objectives is terrible.
The translator is a bottleneck for the release process and can only work properly when the translation process is performed after development. Slow. Disappointing.
As a result of the first Spanish Rails conference we announced the launch of a new initiative: “Found In Translation (FIT). FIT is an open source project that aims to develope an internationalization software for web applications that overcomes the limitations of current tools. The objective of FIT is to create a tool that makes translators and programmers happy: usable and that transparently supports the existing standard translation file formats.
In our case, managing the translations of Tractis in an efficient manner is critical to our day to day operations. But we’re not alone: habitamos, casabuscador, qype, xing, last.fm, vlex, mobuzztv… Many companies, mainly European, have the same problem. Additionally, in Spain and other countries, it’s important to support all the official languages, and not just when you develop for the public sector.
The majority solve “their” problem with proprietary, internal systems and the “state of the art” doesn’t advance. Without becoming “Infrastructure Software”, “translation” remains clearly an horizontal function – common to all projects but never at the center of the activity. It’s an ideal candidate for open software. It doesn’t make sense for each web application project to develop their own solution. We should join together and combine our efforts to design a solution that benefits everyone. In this spirit, we created a mailing list in December and Negonation appointed me to the project.
- Codemart, Beluga Linguistics and Negonation have reached an agreement to promote FIT.
- We have an official FIT logo, courtesy of Belén Albeza.
- The mailing list now has 26 subscribers – programmers, designers and linguistics profesionals from around the world.
- We have assigned Rubén Lozano, web designer and Negonator to take charge of the design and usability of FIT.
- We have developed some initial code which I hope will serve as the basis for the future FIT (watch screencast).
- The code has been released under the Ruby license – the license used by the Ruby programming language – which is compatible with the GPL
- The project has been accepted in RubyForge. If you want to access the code and collaborate in its development, follow these instructions, register with RubyForge and send me an email at email@example.com requesting access.
We’re preparing the documentation to present FIT at the Google Summer of Code 2007. If Google approve our application and you are a student, you might want to sign up and win $4,500. Soon, we will launch a blog to speak about the project progress and we’re discussing some “killer” features such as contextual translation (the translator logs on to the application in “translation mode” and can translate text strings shown in the application by just clicking on them).
We hope that many other translation, programming and web service companies unite and collaborate in the development and publication of this initiative. Lets build a highly usable tool that recognises the objections of everyone and makes it easier to bring web applications to people around the world.