The Meedan Blog Archive

Aspiration Tech Convenes Open Translation 2009

We at Meedan are not having any difficulties translating our enthusiasm for the upcoming Open Translation 2009 event in Amsterdam.

To explain our enthusiasm, perhaps I should address a couple of questions: What is social translation? And, why is it important?  

What is social translation? Social translation is all about enabling formal or ad hoc groups of individuals to collaborate in a distributed setting (that would be the Internet) to move words (and knowledge) across language boundaries. Right now, practically speaking, the social translation community is mostly represented by a group of five or seven organizations and companies that are muddling their way through modeling cross-language online communities and and building code/tools to enabling the 1.5 billion Internet users to move web content across languages. You can see some of our (Meedan and John Shore and me) early ideas on HDNLT here,  and you can check out a wonderful and ready to change the world video translation tool at DotSub. In terms of communities of practice in the space, Global Voices and Meedan are both working with a great community of volunteer and contract translators to get content across languages, but right now both projects are using a pretty brute force approach. In terms of work that is in the hopper, we are working with the great Brian McConnell from WWL on extending his work with WWL and Der Mundo. Chris Blow, Brian, and I  have been working a bunch over the past few weeks on a development plan for some new toolsets--we will hope to have some news to share on an open source push on these tools soon. I should also mention that there is a  "search company in Mountain View" with lots of engineers working on a very nice looking tool--NDA prevents me from saying anything more on this.  

Why is it important? As our economies have globalized so too have our challenges; war, disease, famine, natural disasters, climate change, education, and human rights (to name a few) are all global challenges. They are played out, reported, and addressed by a hugely diverse set of individuals, NGOs, and media companies. The critical information that surrounds this work is often badly siloed as it is expressed in hundreds of languages. Having better tools for sharing our understanding of and response to these global issues is a huge and missing piece of the puzzle. It is not just about sharing Arabic media (our slice of the pie), it is also about sharing terminology on clean water projects among five different NGOs that cater to twelve different language communities in Africa. EG, it is a grande, ضخم , importante, 大的, groot, velik, big- deal. 

So, all of you peace-loving, pro-understanding, FOSSy, multi-lingual, coder, designer, genius type folks should get yourselves down the road to this conference.  Here is the skinny from my buddy Gunner: 

Aspiration is delighted to announce Open Translation Tools 2009 (OTT09), to be held in Amsterdam, The Netherlands, from 22-24 June, 2009. The event will be followed by an Open Translation “Book Sprint” which will produce a first-of-its-kind volume on tools and best practices in the field of Open Translation. Both events are being co-organized in partnership with, and generously supported by the Open Society Institute.

We invite anyone interested to answer the Open Translation 2009 Call for Participants!

Agenda partners for the event include Creative Commons, Global Voices Online,, WorldWide Lexicon, Meedan, and DotSUB.

OTT09 will build upon the work and collaboration from Open Translation Tools 2007 (OTT07, The event will convene stakeholders in the field of open content translation to assess the state of software tools that support translation of content that is licensed under free or open content licenses such as Creative Commons or Free Document License. The event will serve to map out what’s available, what’s missing, who’s doing what, and to recommend strategic next steps to address those needs, with a particular focus on delivering value to open education, open knowledge, and human rights blogging communities.

Primary focus will be placed on supporting and enabling distributed human translation of content, but the role of machine translation will also be considered. “Open content” will encompass a range of resource types, from educational materials to books to manuals to documents to blog content to video and multimedia.

We invite all prospective participants to answer the Open Translation 2009 Call for Participants. 

Full event details