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Joel on Software

Translations

by Joel Spolsky
Friday, January 27, 2006

A few years ago, a few hundred volunteers graciously offered their time to make Joel on Software available in over 30 languages. You can see the extraordinary results of their hard work here. I'm extremely grateful.

Just managing that translation project was a huge effort. I did as much as I could, then I turned it over to a brilliant and talented part time staffer, a student from Austria living in New York. Coordinating all the manuscripts, converting from Word to HTML, getting the hyperlinks to work -- it took a lot of manual labor, and was costing quite a lot of money.

Since then, I'm still receiving a trickle of translations, and of course, there are many articles, old and new, that have never been translated. The translated versions of Joel on Software were static, in fact, they were more or less stuck because I simply don't have time to post new manuscripts.

And there are always three ways to translate any one item, so I end up getting endless requests to change a phrase in, say, Dutch. Speakers of the Flemish dialect ask me to change it one way, then speakers of Netherlands Dutch suggest putting it back, and I have no idea what they're talking about!

Sadly, I fell down in face of the effort needed to maintain 30-odd local language versions. Such a job can't be coordinated by one person, especially when that person is me.

Luckily, in the time since 2002, the Wiki has been invented.

Well, OK, it was invented before that, but nobody thought it would work.

Well, actually, most people thought it would work, but I was too stupid to see it. I kept saying, "Wikis? Those will never work. Anyone can change the definition of, say, Podcasting, to 'fart fart fart,' and then what happens?"

Lo and behold, I was wrong, Wrong, WRONG.

Wikis work great.

So, I'm going to use a Wiki for the Joel on Software translations.

It's all set up and ready to go. Blank as the day it was born.

If you speak any language fluently, you can help.

If you don't speak any language other than English, but know how wikis work, you can help by organizing the new wiki, setting up tables of contents, copying over the old translations, and helping translators upload their translations to the wiki and get them formatted.

If you have a lot of time, you can translate something. Anything. A page from Joel on Software that you liked, a page from Joel on Software that you didn't like, a whole article, the whole dang UI book.

If you're feeling naughty, add some fart jokes to somebody's excellent translation. We'll see if the community spots it and fixes it.

If you have a little bit of time, look at the articles that were already translated. Find mistakes. Fix them. Find some jokes that got translated badly, and translate them better. Look for hyperlinks in the Klingon translation that go to the English version when there's now a Klingon translation of the linked article you can point to, and fix it.

Help set policies and guidelines. Collate people's collective knowledge of what obscure jokes mean, and how best to translate them. Create tables of contents, indexes, and cross references. Create local communities.

Don't wait for me. It's all set up and ready to go. Blank as the day it was born.


Have you been wondering about Distributed Version Control? It has been a huge productivity boon for us, so I wrote Hg Init, a Mercurial tutorial—check it out!

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I’m Joel Spolsky, co-founder of Trello and Fog Creek Software, and CEO of Stack Exchange. More about me.

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