Thank you to all translation volunteers for Sahana!

posted on: December 11, 2008

After an amazing work on behalf of the volunteers doing the translation from English to Burmese, we have translations for all Sahana strings, which will make a deployment of Sahana in the country reach a broader audience and be useful beyond the few foreign aid workers allowed in.


We’ve heard about crowdsourcing (e.g. as supported by Amazon’s mechanical turk and other similar infrastructures) but what tools and approaches can help with flash-crowdsourcing (a flash-flood of crowds)? Volunteer management in disaster situations is a big part of relief tasks (there’s even a Sahana module dedicated to that), and I wonder if we can take a bit more of advice from the ‘real’ world volunteer management into the ‘virtual volunteer’ world.

progress of a flashcrowdsourcing effort

Our challenges were the need for fast coordination and high-bandwidth communication. We jumped onto Skype pretty often the first nights. It took time and false starts to figure out and describe the job well enough. I was ecstatic when the first translated line came in, and another one volunteers started explaining the task to other volunteers, and the speed picked up pretty fast.

Myanmar-Sahana-Translation-GoogleSpreadsheet1We used Google spreadsheets to co-edit the master list of all translation batches and get a live chat amongst all volunteers, without having to agree on any IM technology. That feature by itself was great as it gave a chance for volunteers to see each others’ online status and ask questions of each other. Without it, we would have been caught in the middle brokering every conversation!

The last 20% took a big chunk of the time. As we neared the end, minor issues on collisions and questions compounded with the 24-hour cycle of getting questions asked and answered from different sides of the planet.

Next steps for Sahana

Next steps that various volunteers will carry on in parallel:

  1. Cleanup of work – fixing and editing the odd line and translation here and there
  2. Re-encoding files- different Burmese fonts use different encodings. We chose to have faster translations at the expense of more tech work at the tail-end; which means we have to take the strings as entered by each translator in their preferred font and make it into something common. Coban Tun and other Burmese-speaking brave souls (e.g. from Burglish)are tackling the choice of fonts, encodings, and conversion tools.
  3. Merging files – once converted the files will be able to be merged into the format required to Sahana
  4. Test
  5. Check-in, deploy to the Virtual Machines, which are being made available for download

If you think you can help with any of the above please let us know! And congratulations to all the translators again!

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