Talk: Languages on the Internet at Google [en]

[fr] Demain, je donne une conférence à Google sur le thème du traitement des langues sur internet.

Tomorrow 2pm I’ll be giving a talk at Google (thanks for the invitation, [Kevin](http://epeus.blogspot.com/)) about languages on the internet. It will be an updated version of the [“While We Wait For The Babel Fish” talk I gave at reboot](http://www.reboot.dk/artefact-773-en.html) a month or so ago. For details, click on the poster Kevin made:

Talking at Google: Languages on the Internet

**Update 11.07.2007:** here is the slideshow!

**Update 12.07.2007:** and here’s the video!

**Update 13.07.2007:** and here are my notes for the talk… click on the photo to decypher!

Waiting for the Babel Fish Notes (Google Talk)

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What Do You Care About? [en]

[fr] Hier soir, au lieu de me demander "alors, qu'est-ce que tu fais?", David Isenberg m'a demandé "de quoi te préoccupes-tu" (ou, peut-être, "quels sont les thèmes chers à ton coeur" -- traduction pas évidente de "what do you care about").

En bref, je m'intéresse à l'espace où les gens et la technologie se rencontrent, particulièrement sur internet. Plus précisément:

  • les adolescents et internet
  • le multilinguisme sur internet

Yesterday evening in the skyscraper, I met [David Isenberg](http://www.isen.com/blog/), who instead of asking the very conventional “so, what do you do?” question, asked me “so, what do you care about?”

What a great question to ask somebody you’ve just met. It kind of blew my mind. Personally, I’ve come to dread the “what do you do?” question, because the answer is usually something like “uh, well, I’m a freelance consultant… blogging 101, stuff, teenagers, talks… bleh”. Which actually, does not adequately cover what I do and who I am. Actually, [the evening before](http://flickr.com/photos/bunny/sets/72157600415932852/), somebody told me “you need to work on your sales pitch.” To which I answered that I didn’t have a sales pitch, because I don’t want to “sell myself” — if people want to work with me, they call me up or e-mail me, and I’m in the lucky situation that this provides enough interesting work to keep me busy and fed.

So, what do I care about? Mainly, about people, relationships, technology (particularly the internet) and where they intersect. That’s the whole “internet/web2.x consultant” thingy. And in a bit more detail, these days, there are two issues I care about a lot:

– teenagers and their use of the internet, and the educational issues it raises (what the risks are and aren’t — insert rant about predator hysteria here — what is changing, what parents need to know)
– languages online, particularly doing localisation right — insert rant about “country = language” here — and providing tools and strategies to help bridge people bridge language barriers better, and creating multilingual spaces (“multilingualism” stuff).

So, what do you care about?

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Multilingual Interviews [en]

[fr] Deux interviews que j'ai donnés récemment au sujet de la conférence que je donne à Copenhague sur le multilinguisme sur internet la semaine prochaine.

I was interviewed twice during the last week about the [multilingual stuff](http://climbtothestars.org/archives/2007/03/25/blogcamp-multilingual-blogging-session/) I’m going to be [talking about this week at reboot9](http://www.reboot.dk/artefact-773-en.html):

– by [Suw Charman](http://chocnvodka.blogware.com/) for [Conversation Hub](http://conversationhub.com/): [The Multilingual Web](http://conversationhub.com/2007/05/22/the-multilingual-web/) (video)
– by [Nicole Simon](http://crueltobekind.org/) as part of her [reboot9 pre-conference series](http://bloxpert.com/Kickoff-of-the-reboot-9-interview-series-81): [Reboot 9: Stephanie Booth](http://crueltobekind.org/archive/2007-05-24/reboot_9_stephanie_booth) (audio)

Enjoy, and hope to see you at reboot!

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BlogCamp: Multilingual Blogging Session [en]

[fr] Mise par écrit des notes de préparation pour ma présentation hier au sujet des blogs multilingues, lors du BlogCamp à Zürich. En deux mots: il faut des gens pour faire le pont entre les îles linguistiques sur internet, et la façon dont sont conçus nos outils n'encourage pas les gens à être multingues sur leurs blogs. C'est pourtant à mon avis la formule la plus viable pour avoir de bons ponts.

I presented a session about multilingual blogging at [BlogCamp](http://blogcamp.ch) yesterday in Zürich. Thanks to all of you who attended (particularly as I was [competing](http://flickr.com/photos/bunny/432373547/) with [Xing’s Nicolas Berg](https://www.xing.com/profile/Nicolas_Berg/)!) and wrote about the session ([Bruno](http://www.lunchoverip.com/2007/03/a_day_at_the_bl.html) of course, [Sarah](http://politikblogs.wordpress.com/2007/03/24/live-blogging-from-blogcampswitzerland/), [Sandra](http://www.chiperoni.org/wordpress/archives/2007/03/24/blogcampswitzerland/), [Maira](http://vitaminab.org/cms/en/multilingual-blog), [Jens-Rainer](http://www.blogwiese.ch/archives/556), [Waltraut](http://siebensachen.twoday.net/stories/3478815/), [Jokerine](http://www.hdreioplus.de/wordpress/?p=150), [Antoine](http://gedankenblitze.ch/?p=13)*…let me know if I need to add you here*), and to [Greg](http://cascades2alps.blogspot.com/) in particular for [filming the session](http://youtu.be/gLf_EquogUc).

Although I’m rather used to [giving talks](http://stephanie-booth.com/conferences), this was the first time my audience was a bloggy-geek crowd, so it was particularly exciting for me. I prepared my talk on the train between Lausanne and Bern, and unfortunately prepared way too many notes (I’m used to talking with next to no notes), so I got a bit confused at times during my presentation — and, of course, left stuff out. Here’s a rough transcript of [what I prepared](http://flickr.com/photos/bunny/433344448/). Oh, and don’t forget to look at this [photo of my cat Bagha](http://flickr.com/photos/bunny/349150808/) from time to time to get the whole “experience”.

Steph giving her talk.
Photo by Henning

**Talk notes**

In the beginning there was the Big Bang. Space, time and matter came to exist. (Physicists in the audience, please forgive me for this.) We know it might end with a Big Crunch. Internet looks a bit like this Big Crunch, because it gets rid of space. With the right link to click on, the right URI, anybody can be anywhere at any time.

However, we often perceive the internet as a kind of “space”, or at least as having some sort of organisation or structure that we tend to translate into spatial terms or sensations. One way in which the internet is organised (and if you’re a good 2.0 person you’re acutely aware of this) is **communities**.

Communities are like gravity wells: people tend to stay “in” them. It very easy to be completely oblivious to what is going on in other communities. Barrier to entry: culture. Language is part of a culture, and even worse, it’s the vehicle for communication.

What is going on in the other languageospheres? I know almost nothing of what’s going on in the German-speaking blogosphere. The borders on the internet are linguistic. How do we travel? There is no digital equivalent of walking around town in a foreign country without understanding a word people say. **Note: cultural divides are a general problem — I’m trying to focus here on one of the components of the cultural divide: language.**

Who speaks more than one language? In the audience, (almost) everyone. This is doubly not surprising:

– Switzerland is a multilingual country
– this is the “online” crowd (cosmopolitan, highly educated, English-speaking — though English is not a national language here)

Two episodes that made me aware of how strong language barriers can be online, and how important it is to encourage people to bridge the language barriers:

– [launching](http://climbtothestars.org/archives/2001/03/21/faire-part/) [Pompage.net](http://pompage.net) because at the time of the [browser upgrade initiative](http://web.archive.org/web/20010223215147/http://www.webstandards.org/upgrade/) I [realised](http://climbtothestars.org/archives/2001/02/24/tableaux-ou-non/ “Look at all those English language links I pointed my poor French readers to.”) that many French-speaking people didn’t have access to all the material that was available in Anglophonia, because they just didn’t understand English well enough;
– the very different feelings bloggers had about [Loïc Le Meur](http://loiclemeur.com/) when he first started being active in the blogosphere, depending on if they were French- or English-speaking, particularly around the time of the [Ublog story](http://climbtothestars.org/archives/2004/07/21/u-blog-six-apart-and-their-angry-bloggers/).

A few questions I asked the audience (mini-survey):

– who reads blogs in more than one language? (nearly everyone)
– who blogs in more than one language?
– who has different blogs for different languages?
– who has one blog with translated content in both languages? (two courageous people)
– who has one blog with posts in various languages, mixed? (half a dozen people if my memory serves me right)
– who feels they act as a bridge between languages?

So, let’s have a look at a few multilingual blogging issues (from the perspective of a biased bilingual person). Despite the large number of people out there who are comfortable writing in more than one language (and the even larger number who are more or less comfortable reading in more than one language), and the importance of bridging cultural/linguistic gaps, blogging tools still assume you are going to be blogging in **one language** (even though it is now accepted that this language may not be English).

What strategies are there for using more than one language on a blog, or being a good bridge? Concentrate first on strategy and then worry about technical issues. Usage is our best hope to make tool development evolve, here.

*A. Two (or more) separate blogs*

– not truly “multilingual blogging”, it’s “monolingual blogging” twice
– caters well to monolingual audiences
– not so hot for multilingual audiences: must follow multiple blogs, with unpredictable duplication of content

*B. Total translation*

– a lot of work! goes against the “low activation energy for publiction” thing that makes blogging work (=> less blogging)
– good for multilingual and monolingual audiences
– technical issues with non-monolingual page (a web page is assumed to be in a single language…)

*C. Machine translation!*

– getting rid of the “effort” that makes B. fail as a large-scale solution, but retaining the benefiits!
– problem: machine translation sucks
– too imprecise, we don’t want *more* misunderstanding

*D. A single blog, more than one language (my solution)*

– easy for the blogger, who just chooses the language to blog in depending on mood, bridge requirements, etc.
– good for the right multilingual audience
– technical issues with non-monolingual pages
– how do you take care of monolingual audiences? provide a summary in the non-post language

“Monolingual” audiences are often not 100% monolingual. If the number of people who are perfectly comfortable writing in more than one language is indeed rather small, many people have some “understanding” skills in languages other than their mother tongue. Important to reach out to these skills.

For example, I’ve studied German at school, but I’m not comfortable enough with it to read German-language blogs. However, if I know that a particular post is going to be really interesting to me, I might go through the trouble of reading it, maybe with the help of some machine translation, or by asking a German-speaking friend.

A summary of the post in the language it is not written in can help the reader decide if it’s worth the trouble. Writing in a simple language will help non-native speakers understand. Making sure the number of typos and grammar mistakes are minimal will help machine translation be helpful. And machine translation, though it is often comical, can help one get the gist of what the post is about.

Even if the reader is totally helpless with the language at hand, the summary will help him know what he’s missing. Less frustrating. And if it’s too frustrating, then might give motivation to hunt down a native speaker or do what’s required to understand what the post is about.

Other bridging ideas:

– translation networks (translate a post or two a month from other bloggers in the network, into your native language)
– translation portal (“news of the world” with editorial and translation work done) — check out [Blogamundo](http://blogamundo.net/dev/about)

Problem I see: bloggers aren’t translators. Bloggers like writing about their own ideas, they’re creative people. Translating is boring — and a difficult task.

Some more techy thoughts:

– use the lang= attribute, particularly when mixing languages on a web page (and maybe someday tools will start parsing that)
– CSS selectors to make different languages look different (FR=pink, EN=blue for example)
– language needs to be a post (or even post element) attribute in blogging tools
– WordPress plugins: language picker [Polyglot](http://fredfred.net/skriker/index.php/polyglot) and [Basic Bilingual](http://climbtothestars.org/archives/2005/01/23/basic-bilingual-plugin/)
– excerpt in another language: what status in RSS/atom? Part of the post content or not? Can RSS/atom deal with more than one language in a feed, or do they assume “monolingualism”?
– [indicating the language of the destination page a link points to](http://daniel.glazman.free.fr/weblog/archived/2002_09_15_glazblogarc.html#81664011)

**Extra reading**

The nice thing about having a blog is that you can dive back into time and watch your thinking evolve or take place. Here is a collection of posts which gravitate around language issues (in a “multilingual” sense). The [Languages/Linguistics category](http://climbtothestars.org/categories/languages-linguistics) is a bit wider than that, however.

Blogging in more than one language:

– [Writing](http://climbtothestars.org/archives/2000/08/18/writing/) — translation is just too much work; bilingual desires, but daunted by the workload
– [Bilingual?](http://climbtothestars.org/archives/2000/11/24/bilingual/) — the day (four months after its birth) this weblog became officially bilingual
– [Multilingue!](http://climbtothestars.org/archives/2002/09/17/multilingue/) — how to indicate the language of a link target using CSS
– [Life and Trials of a Multilingual Weblog](http://climbtothestars.org/archives/2004/07/11/multilingual-weblog/) — written after some discussions on the topic at [BlogTalk 2.0](http://climbtothestars.org/archives/2004/07/07/blogtalk-20-compte-rendu/)
– [Basic Bilingual Plugin](http://climbtothestars.org/archives/2005/01/23/basic-bilingual-plugin/) for WordPress
– [Thinking About Tags](http://climbtothestars.org/archives/2005/01/16/thinking-about-tags/) (and languages)
– [Requirements for a Multilingual WordPress Plugin](http://climbtothestars.org/archives/2006/01/22/requirements-for-a-multilingual-wordpress-plugin/)
– [Multilingual Proposals (Reboot, BlogCamp)](http://climbtothestars.org/archives/2007/03/18/multilingual-proposals-reboot-blogcamp/)

About the importance of language, etc.:

– [Multilingual Dragon](http://climbtothestars.org/archives/2002/12/22/multilingual-dragon/)
– [SwissBlogs Needs Your Help](http://climbtothestars.org/archives/2005/03/23/swissblogs-needs-your-help/) — [SwissBlogs](http://climbtothestars.org/?s=swissblogs), oldest Swiss blog directory (and multilingual already), call for help. *(I mentioned during my session that I would not comment on any ideas about Switzerland needing a “national blog directory” of any type… part of the story here if you want to dig.)*
– [SpiroLattic Resurrection](http://climbtothestars.org/archives/2006/02/25/spirolattic-resurrection/) — some background on a short-lived multilingual wiki experiment
– [Vous parlez de blogosphère suisse?](http://climbtothestars.org/archives/2006/03/07/vous-parlez-de-la-blogosphere-suisse/) — a tag proposal to try and give the fragmented “Swiss blogosphere” some cohesion
– [About the Swiss Blog Awards (SBAW)](http://climbtothestars.org/archives/2006/04/30/about-the-swiss-blog-awards-sbaw/)
– [English Only: Barrier to Adoption](http://climbtothestars.org/archives/2007/02/24/english-only-barrier-to-adoption/)
– [Not All Switzerland Speaks German, Dammit!](http://climbtothestars.org/archives/2007/03/04/not-all-switzerland-speaks-german-dammit/)

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Multilingual Proposals (Reboot, BlogCamp) [en]

The famous conference [reboot](http://www.reboot.dk/listpublish-63-en.html) will take place in Copenhagen on 31.05-01.06. [I’ll be attending](http://www.reboot.dk/person-471-en.html).

I’m also going to make a proposal for a talk (as the [(un)conference format](http://www.reboot.dk/article-203-en.html) encourages this). I’m being a bit shy about [putting it up on the reboot site](http://www.reboot.dk/listpublish-189-en.html) before I’m happy with the title and description, so for the moment it’s a Google Doc tentatively titled While We Wait For The Babel Fish.

Those of you who know me won’t be very surprised to learn that it’s about multilingualism online. By “multilingualism” online, I’m not only talking about [localisation](http://climbtothestars.org/archives/2007/02/24/english-only-barrier-to-adoption/) or [stupid default languages](http://climbtothestars.org/archives/2007/03/04/not-all-switzerland-speaks-german-dammit/), but mainly about what happens when one wants to get off the various monolingual islands out there and *[use more than one language](http://climbtothestars.org/archives/2004/07/11/multilingual-weblog/)* in one place, for example. How can we help multiple languages coexist in a given space or community, as they do at times in the offline world? Can the tools we have help make this easier?

Another thing that interests me is this “all or nothing” assumption about knowing languages (when you have to check boxes): I wouldn’t check a box saying I “know” Italian, but I can understand some amount of it when it’s written, if it’s necessary. What are we capable of doing with that kind of information? [Read the draft](http://docs.google.com/Doc?id=ddcrwvm8_16d3fhsz) if you want more.

I’m also proposing a session at Saturday’s [BlogCamp in Zürich](http://barcamp.ch/BlogCampSwitzerland) which will be around similar issues, but which will focus precisely on the topic of [multilingual blogging](http://climbtothestars.org/archives/2004/07/11/multilingual-weblog/).

Feedback on these ideas (and anything here) is most welcome. Is this interesting?

**Update 19.03.2007: [proposal is now on the reboot site!](http://www.reboot.dk/artefact-773-en.html) Don’t hesitate to leave comments there.**

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About the Swiss Blog Awards (SBAW) [en]

[fr] Un compte-rendu des problématiques que je vois liées à cette histoire de Swiss Blog Awards (pour mémoire: pas de nominations romande, tessinoise, ou romanche). Je suis fâchée que les organisateurs rejettent la faute sur les blogueurs romands et n'admettent pas qu'il y a un problème dans la façon dont la communication a été menée autour de cet événement, ainsi que dans la manière dont les nominations ont été faites.

Cependant, je tiens à noter que je n'encourage personne à boycotter l'événement, au contraire. Je crois qu'il est crucial qu'il y ait une présence romande à Bienne vendredi. Faites connaissance avec les gens. Si vous avez envie que les SBAW de l'an prochain soient plus équitables, impliquez-vous, faites des propositions d'autres méthodes aux organisateurs. Je ne soutiens pas non plus la demande faite aux sponsors de retirer leur soutien, et je ne souhaite pas non plus voir qui que ce soit du comité d'organisation se retirer.

Si je n'ai pas accepté de faire part de l'organisation des SBAW, c'est premièrement parce que je n'étais pas libre, et que lorsque la demande m'a été faite, les choses étaient bien en train, et que j'aurais eu un peu le sentiment de jouer le rôle de Romande-alibi. Qu'est-ce qui aurait pu être fait côté organisation pour rendre cet événement plus populaire en Suisse Romande?

*Note: this blog post was dictated, so if you see things that don’t make sense, try reading them out loud and let me know.*

I left [quite a few comments](http://cocomment.com/comments/steph/sbaw/) here and there on the issue of the Swiss blog awards. For those of you checking in now, the fact that aside from one English language blog, only German-speaking language blogs were nominated for this award is creating [quite a stir](http://www.cocomment.com/tag/sbaw) around here. It is a touchy issue, and people on both sides are getting angry and/or taking things personally — me included, to some extent. Over the last couple of days, I have seen my position on this issue misrepresented, and I would like to set the record straight and clarify some of my opinions on what is going on.

### I’ve kept my comments public

First of all, let’s say it loud and clear:

– I am not encouraging people to boycott the event, [on the contrary](http://annedominique.wordpress.com/2006/04/28/occasions-sociales-fondues-et-autres-amenagements/#comment-97);
– I do not support the [request made to sponsors to withdraw their support](http://politique.bleublog.ch/politique-federale/aux-principaux-sponsors-des-swiss-blogs-awards.html);
– I do not want anybody to step down;
– I am doing my best to be constructive, even though this whole affair annoys me tremendously.

In addition to that, I would like to stress that I have not held any private conversations about all this since the stir began, aside from forwarding [Bruno](http://giussani.typepad.com/)’s suggestion that the Bloggy Friday be held in Biel to [Anne Dominique](http://annedominique.wordpress.com/), who is [taking over Bloggy Friday](http://annedominique.wordpress.com/2006/04/28/occasions-sociales-fondues-et-autres-amenagements/) for this month as [I cannot be there](http://cafecafe.ch/concerts/cheserex/), and a chat this morning with one of the organisers. Everything I had to say was said in public. In particular, since I was asked that precise question, I am not the one who [reminded Bruno about the unfortunate LIFT episode](http://giussani.typepad.com/loip/2006/04/swiss_blog_awar_1.html).

The closest I got to expressing an opinion on what was going on in private was in the response I sent to Bruno last night, still on the topic of encouraging French-speaking Swiss bloggers to be present in Biel on Friday. For the sake of transparency, I’m reproducing my response here. It also pretty much sums up where I stand.

> Yes, as I commented on AD’s post (no hyphen for her, btw), I also think it would be good for Romands to be there.

> As I expressed in my last comments on the subjects, I do feel that [[some organisers] are mainly blaming the bloggers for not having been nominated. I guess I’m taking it a bit personally because I was approached about
SBAW and (a) didn’t have the time for it and (b) didn’t really feel totally comfortable about the event (can’t pinpoint why, which is why I haven’t said this in public yet).

Now that this is out of the way, here are a few things I’d like to say about these awards and the whole mess.

### Some background information about me

As I — along with other French-speaking bloggers here in Switzerland — am being blamed for not having publicised the awards enough and not having encouraged my readers to go on and nominate me, here is a little information about my personality that I think is relevant to the issue.

I talk about things that I’m excited about. (Or that anger me…) This is especially true when it comes to promotion. It is not my habit to promote an event or a service just because a friend asked me to. So blaming me because I didn’t put a button on my site for the Swiss blog awards is beside the point: it’s blaming my personality.

Then, I don’t like awards. For me, they are inevitably flawed to some extent. Some less than others, but still. In 2003, [I won an award for “Best Swiss blog”](http://climbtothestars.org/archives/2006/02/11/ce-soir-a-geneve-nuit-du-journal-intime/) in the French-speaking blogosphere. Why? Because I was pretty much the only Swiss blogger to hang out in the community gravitating around some of the organisers.

### Blog awards

When an award puts out a title like “Best Swiss blog”, it creates a certain number of expectations. For example, that more than one Swiss blog will be entering the contest. That the contestants will be more or less representative of Swiss blogs in general. That the award will be given with a certain degree of fairness. That the “best blog” is in a way “better” than the others in the same category, which translates into “better quality” for most people, unless clearly specified otherwise.

I find that this is not often the case. First of all, the pool of contestants is always in some way related to the people who organised the awards. Blogging functions like word-of-mouth, but with greater reach. Inevitably, the first people to know about it will be the organisers’ networks, and then in the networks of these people, etc. Then, what is being rewarded is not always quality. I agree with what [Pascal Rossini says](http://giussani.typepad.com/loip/2006/04/swiss_blog_awar.html#comment-16620460): quality and “bestness” is somewhere in the eye of the beholder. In the case of the Swiss Blog Awards, what is very explicitly being rewarded is [the ability to campaign and get as many people as possible to nominate you](http://swissblogawards.ch/2006/04/25/and-the-nominees-are-best-swiss-blog/#comment-794).

### I was approached to be part of SBAW

Here are some details about the last comment of mine in the e-mail reproduced above. I had known about the Swiss blog awards for some time, if my memory serves me right because Matt had talked to me about it. I was officially approached in February. Even though there were perfectly good reasons for which no French-speaking blogger was yet involved, the fact that it became a crucial problem so late, when the date for the awards was set, and most of the organisation was already done, did make it appear bit like an afterthought. I know it was not an afterthought, but still, the fact that organisation had got so far underway did make me feel like my presence in the organisation was desired only to promote the event over here and make it appear like it was not just a ” Swiss German thing”.

I should have raised the issue and clarified with the organisers at the time, and for that I plead guilty. However, I was in any case not available on the date of the awards, and my personal life was a mess (it often is), so I declined and left it at that.

### A Swiss blogosphere?

One of the goals behind the Swiss blog awards is to increase visibility of blogs and blogging in Switzerland, and also improve communication and networking inside the Swiss blogosphere. Improving communication inside the Swiss blogosphere is also one of the goals of the [blogerbosse list](http://groups.yahoo.com/group/bloggerbosse/). I approve of the goal, but I wouldn’t personally have chosen an award for that. A LIFT-like conference, but more Swiss-oriented than international-oriented, would have suited me better to adresse those issues.

I have my doubts about the viability of such a thing as the “Swiss blogosphere”. The borders on the Internet are linguistic. I learnt German at school, but are not comfortable enough with it to read German-language blogs. I stick to my mother tongues (plural, as I’m a strange bilingual animal), English and French. I have a foot in the French-speaking blogosphere, and the other one in the English-speaking blogosphere, but I really don’t have many clues as to what’s going on in all these German-speaking blogs. The Swiss-German blogosphere is almost as much a mystery to me as a Spanish-speaking blogosphere.

It would be interesting to have statistics describing which language blogs people read. I suspect that most people only read blogs in their mother tongue. A fair amount of people probably read blogs in English in addition to that. And then, I suspect we find a small number of brave or a bilingual people who go around reading blogs in other languages.

### Language barriers are even stronger online than offline

Language is an issue in Switzerland. French speakers are a linguistic minority here, and often have the feeling that the German-speaking part of the country ignores them. Funnily, we often forget that are part of this country speaks Italian, and yet another Romansch. I personally often wonder if French-speaking Switzerland isn’t culturally closer to neighbouring France then to more distant, German-speaking parts of the country, which are nevertheless part of the same political entity.

I know where this can make me sound as if I’m promoting the Röstigraben. I don’t want to encourage or promoted. But I think it’s there. Trying to pretend it isn’t there will not make the problem go away. Offline, Switzerland makes sense. We are held together by institutions and politics. We travel from one part of the country to another. We do our best to communicate with fellow citizens who have a different mother tongue, often using English in the process.

But online? What is there to “hold Switzerland together” in cyberspace? These are real questions. The “Swiss blogosphere” must exist because everybody wants it to. The media want to know things about “blogging in Switzerland”. Swiss bloggers want to feel they’re still Swiss when they’re in cyberspace. But how real is it? I think the “Swiss blogosphere” is a pretty artificial concept. That doesn’t mean I think it’s bad. On the contrary. But it means that we must not underestimate the difficulties we will face when we try to make something out of it.

### Publicizing via blogs still requires you to be active

The Swiss blog awards were supposed to be a bottom-up, grassroots event. I don’t think you can create that. Grassroots movements are unpredictable. If you want something to go in one direction, even if you are using the power of blogs to spread the word, you need to be active. In my opinion, letting the word spread on its own and then blaming people for not having picked it up when they complain is unfair.

In the case of the Swiss blog awards, hoping the word would spread through the French and Italian speaking parts of Switzerland with an all Swiss-German team communicating in English was wishful thinking. I know there was no evil the intent on the part of the organisers. I know they tried to get French-speaking people on board. But in my opinion, given the context I described above, having motivated and enthusiastic people from various parts of the country on the committee should have been a requirement before starting to design the awards.

If that is not how things happened, (and again, I’m aware there are valid reasons why it did not happen this way), then a massive communication effort was needed to get the word out another linguistic regions. It’s too easy to just say that [popular bloggers this side of the Sarine ignored the SBAW, while Swiss German A-listers promoted the event](http://swissblogawards.ch/2006/04/25/and-the-nominees-are-best-swiss-blog/#comment-853), and that therefore French or Italian speaking bloggers can just blame themselves for not being represented. Making sure the word spreads in the whole of Switzerland is the burden of the organisers of the **Swiss** blog awards.

### Why am I writing all this?

The main reason I’m writing this is that I’m annoyed. (I know this might not be the best reason to write on a topic, but here we are…) I’m annoyed that we the bloggers (the “candidates”) are being blamed that there are no French-speaking blogs among the nominees. I’m annoyed that I’m being suspected of trying to create trouble, of saying things behind people’s backs, of deliberately trying to make the awards fail, of encouraging people to boycott, and of wanting people to step down. None of this is true.

I’m annoyed that an event that was supposed to bring Swiss bloggers together is dividing them. If the organisers were willing to admit that the nomination design was flawed, and that the communication was badly handled, or that maybe including language-specific awards would have been a better idea, I think it could go a long way towards placating angry French-speaking bloggers. But no, if we are unhappy about not being present in the nominations, it’s our own fault. This kind of attitude is not helping keep the peace.

I’m also annoyed at myself, because from the beginning I had a vague feeling that this event was “too Swiss German”, and I had trouble seeing how it would be accepted and endorsed in this part of the country, but the feeling was too vague, I had other worries, and I didn’t say anything. Would it have changed anything if I had?

### What now?

I don’t have a miracle solution. I think bloggers who do not feel represented in the nominations should by no means boycott the award. Their displeasure has been heard, and there is an occasion in Biel to “meet the others”. Be there. Go to Biel on Friday. It’s much more important to be there now than it was before this whole mess broke out.

As for the organisers… I don’t really know what to suggest. I would have suggestions for things that could have been done earlier on, but I’m not sure they’re very useful to give now. What can still be done now, though, is what I suggested above. Accept your part of responsibility in how things turned out instead of blaming the bloggers for it. Start asking for suggestions *now* for how bloggers from linguistic minorities would organise the nominations so that everybody has an equal chance of being represented. Start prospecting *now* for French and Italian speaking bloggers who would like to be part of organising better Swiss blog awards for next year.

This will show angry bloggers that you already had to do things differently from the start next time, and that they have been heard. There is nothing worse for somebody who is angry than to hear: “let’s just sweep this under the carpet for the moment, and get on with the party, it’s your fault anyway.”

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Vous parlez de la blogosphère suisse? [fr]

[en] Tag posts talking about the swiss blogosphere (or swiss meta-blogging issues) with blogosphera helvetica. The posts can then be syndicated to create a true multi-author metablog. This seems to me a better solution then setting up a new multi-author blog somewhere. Let's use what we already have: bloggers!

Je crois que tout le monde (ou presque) a réalisé que la blogosphère suisse commence à bouillonner. Mais peut-on parler de blogosphère “suisse”? Savons-nous ce que nos amis d’outre-Sarine fabriquent avec leurs blogs? Les frontières linguistiques sont les plus fortes que l’on puisse trouver sur le web. Pour cause, ce sont pour ainsi dire les seules.

[Swiss Metablog](http://blog.ch/blog) fait pas mal de “veille blogosphérique” suisse, mais c’est en allemand. J’ai un compte, mais je ne l’utilise presque pas car j’ai déjà de la peine à suivre avec CTTS. Le [blog de iFeedYou](http://www.ifeedyou.com/blog/) aborde souvent également des sujets touchant aux blogs dans notre douce Helvétie.

On a proposé et reproposé de faire un blog multi-auteurs et multilingue pour tenter de rapprocher un peu les différents groupes linguistiques. N’oublions pas non plus qu’il y a en Suisse aussi des italophones, des anglophones, et des toutes-sortes-de-phones.

Alors, [voici l’idée](http://groups.yahoo.com/group/bloggerbosse/message/247 “En anglais et en contexte.”): on va utiliser [un tag](http://climbtothestars.org/archives/2006/03/01/comment-faire-des-tags/ “Guide pratique.”) pour identifier les billets qui traitent de la blogosphère helvète. Pour ne pas faire de jaloux, on va parler latin: [blogosphera helvetica](http://technorati.com/tag/blogospherahelvetica “Voir les quelques billets déjà écrits.”). Ensuite, on peut consulter la page du tag, s’y abonner, et même syndiquer le contenu pour en faire un meta-meta-blog quelque part.

Je crois que c’est plus viable de demander à des blogueurs déjà fort occupés de simplement rajouter un petit tag sur un billet qu’ils écrivent de toute façon pour leur blog, plutôt que de leur demander d’aller écrire le billet ailleurs.

Qu’en pensez-vous?

Précision 08.03.06: ce tag (blogch ou blogospherahelvetica, on verra) ne sert pas à identifier un billet comme étant “suisse”. Il sert à identifier un billet qui parle de ce qui se passe en Suisse côté blogs. Le public cible pour ce tag est “quelqu’un qui veut savoir où en sont les blogs en Suisse, et ce qui est en train de se passer d’important”. Regardant les quelques billets que j’ai tagués ainsi, je me demande si c’est pertinent pour chacun. Les aurais-je tous publiés dans un blog multi-auteurs portant sur la blogosphère suisse? Pas certain. A méditer…

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Requirements for a Multilingual WordPress Plugin [en]

[fr] Quelques réflexions concernant un plugin multilingue pour WordPress.

My blog has been bilingual for a long time now. I’ve [hacked bilingualism into it](http://climbtothestars.org/archives/2004/07/11/multilingual-weblog/) and then [plugged it in](http://climbtothestars.org/archives/2005/01/23/basic-bilingual-plugin/). Other [plugins for multilingual bloggers](http://codex.wordpress.org/Plugins/Translation_and_Languages) have been written, and some unfortunately [got stuck somewhere in the development limbo](http://doocy.net/archives/2005/01/20/the-multilingual-acknowledgement/).

Defining specs is a hairy problem. They need to work for the person visiting the site (polyglot or monoglot). They need to work for the person (or people! translation often involves more than one person) writing the posts. They need to work for all the robots, search engines, and fancy browsers who deal with the site.

Here is what I would like a multiple language plugin to do (think “feature requirements”, suggestion, draft):

1. Recognize the browser language preference of the visitor and serve “page furniture” and navigation in the appropriate language. This can be overridden by a cookie-set preference when clicking on a “language link”.
– “WordPress” furniture can be provided by the normal localization files
– how do we deal with other furniture content in the theme (navigation, taglines, etc.)? should the plugin provide with guidelines for theme localization? do such guidelines already exist? extra information appreciated on this point
– “language links” shouldn’t be flags, but language names in their respective languages; can this list be generated automatically based on present localization files? otherwise, can it be set in an admin panel?
– upon “language change” (clicking on a language link), could the localization (action) be done in an [AHAH](http://microformats.org/wiki/rest/ahah)- or [AJAX](http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/AJAX)-like way?
– inevitable hairy problem: tag and category localization
2. Manage “lazy multilingualism” in the spirit of the [Basic Bilingual plugin](http://climbtothestars.org/archives/2005/01/23/basic-bilingual-plugin/) and “true multilingualism” elegantly and on a per-post basis.
– allow for “other language abstracts”
– allow for actual other language version of the post
– given the “general user language” defined above, show posts in that language if a version for that language exists, with mention of other language versions or abstracts
– if that language doesn’t exist, show post in “main blog language” or “main post language” (worst case scenario: the wordpress install default) and show alongside other language abstracts/versions
– abstract in one language (would be “excerpt” in the “main” language) and existence of the post in that language are not mutually exclusive, both can coexist
– does it make more sense to have one WordPress post per language version, or a single post with alternate language content in post_meta? For lazy multilingualism, it makes more sense to have a single WP post with meta content, but fore “translation multilingualism”, it would make more sense to have separate posts with language relationships between them clearly defined in post_meta
3. Use good markup. See [what Kevin wrote sometime back](http://epeus.blogspot.com/2005_01_01_epeus_archive.html#110513233021128637). Make it nice for both polyglot and monoglot visitors. [Inspiration?](http://blogamundo.net/dev/2005/10/31/a-nice-language-switching-widget/)
– use <div lang="xx"> and also rel attributes
4. Provide a usable admin panel.
– when I’m writing the other version of a post, I need access to the initial version for translation or abstracting
– ideally, different language version should be editable on the same admin panel, even if they are (in the WordPress database) different posts
– languages in use in the blog should be defined in an options screen, and the plugin should use that information to adapt the writing and editing admin panels
– idea: radio button to choose post language; N other language excerpt/abstract fields with radio buttons next to them too; abstract radio buttons change dynamically when main post language is set; in addition to other language abstract fields, another field which can contain a post id/url (would have to see what the best solution is) to indicate “this is an equivalent post in another language” (equivalent can be anything from strict translation to similar content and ideas); this means that when WP displays the blog, it must make sure it’s not displaying a post in language B which has an equivalent in language A (language A being the visitor’s preferred language as defined above)
5. Manage URLs logically (whatever that means).
– if one post in two languages means two posts in WP, they will each have their own slug; it could be nice, though, to be able to switch from one to an other by just adding the two-letter language code on the end of any URL; a bit of mod_rewrite magic should do it
6. Integrate into the WordPress architecture in a way that will not break with each upgrade (use post-meta table to define language relationships between different posts, instead of modifying the posts table too much, for example.)
– one post translated into two other languages = 3 posts in the WP posts table
– excerpts and post relationships stored in post_meta
– language stored in post_meta

I have an idea for plugin development. Once the specs are drafted out correctly, how about a bunch of us pool a few $ each to make a donation to (or “pay”) the person who would develop it? Who would be willing to contribute to the pool? Who would be willing to develop such a plugin (and not abandon the project half-way) in these conditions?

These specs need to be refined. We should start from the markup/reader end and get that sorted out first. Then, think about the admin panel/writer end. Then worry about code architecture. How does that sound?

We’ve started a discussion over on [the microformats.org wiki](http://microformats.org/wiki/multilingual-brainstorming). Please join us!

Update: this post is going to suffer from ongoing editing as I refine and add ideas.

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