Discussion request: multilingual posts on Planet Ubuntu or not?

To keep in spirit with the content that has appeared on Planet Ubuntu the last few days I would like to start a discussion about multilingual content on Planet Ubuntu.

I started to wonder about the use and desirableness of non-English posts on Planet Ubuntu after a comment from LoCo Council member Laura Czajkowski on my blog post Realise native English speakers are privileged. She said: We have many ubuntu members who do not post on planet.ubuntu.com as they feel it has to be in English which is unfortunate as I’d love to read them – we all can use a web translator.

That is something I personally agree with. I see Planet Ubuntu as a window into the general Ubuntu community, not necessarily just the English speaking part of it. After all, when you want language-specific content your LoCo can always provide their own Planet.

However, before bombarding the Planet with posts in a language that not everyone understands I would like to discuss this first and at the same time point at the lack of rules and guidelines there seems to be for Planet Ubuntu. We’ve seen how this can cause confusion and irritation lately when people questioned the appearance of notably Dell, but also other entities. It was their opinion that Planet Ubuntu should be for Ubuntu Members, on a personal title, only.

I’m in favour of allowing everyone to post in their favourite language on Planet Ubuntu. It would make it more useful for more people to read the planet, which would expose them to the rest of the community as well, and it would reflect the international nature of the community better. On top of that, it would allow us all to follow parts of the community that now remain ‘hidden’, by either testing our foreign-language skills, or by testing the quality of the online translation tools.

A possible downside to officially opening Planet Ubuntu for every language could be that it would be less clear what to expect when visiting it. Now people that can speak English know they can go to the planet and read everything. However, this requires mostly a change in behaviour and if people want an English-only planet they can always set one up, no?

What do you, dear (Planet Ubuntu) readers think? Do you want multilingual blog posts, like me? Or are you opposed to it? Please leave a comment.

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  1. Your analysis showed there is a bias towards the English-speaking Ubuntu membership, whereas there is a thriving multilingual community. I remember a discussion surrounding the Dutch Ubuntu planet where you had both English and Dutch articles. Personally, I would be in favour of going multilingual, but perhaps with an option for the readers that makes it easy for them to filter out the languages they can read and understand. Otherwise the sheer volume of the articles might be to much.

    1. Interesting idea to give the reader the ability to filter different 'language streams'. It would be nice if we could give users the opportunity to narrow down the selection of languages shown to them on Planet Ubuntu. By default we could display everything.

      Planet openSUSE is using something similar as you can see at http://planet.opensuse.org/global/ . We could use some of their code.

      1. I would be in favor of this only if there could be filtering as proposed, at least in the RSS feeds from the planet. Perhaps a different feed for each language? That would be reasonably simple to implement. Perhaps even leave the existing "default" feed English since that is effectively the de-facto language, and then add language-specific feeds…

        Whatever happens, I definitely _don't_ want to have scrape through even more syndicated posts from the planet in my feed reader that I couldn't read even if I wanted to.

  2. I would like the planet to stay english (i am no native speaker, from germany). As english is the language most commonly used by IT people most people understand it. I dont think using a translation engine could help on this. Just imagine first message in german, next spanish, korean, kisuaheli, greek ….
    Some of this languages might not be translatable by an engine or only bad translatable. I think it would be a chaos and unreadable. You first have to translate each message, and then see: "Oh not interesting … ok translate next one … oh, too"
    I think its no good idea, but if everyone else wants it ok, do it. I think i wont read the planet then because it gets to confusing/complicated then.

    1. I second that – for me all non-English post would be akin to spam.

      If you want internationality, then the best way to get that is to setup separate planets per language – es.planet.ubuntu.com for example.

  3. It's trivial to simply skip the posts you don't understand, easier than to track two or three separate streams if you follow stuff in more than one language. So yes, it should absolutely be OK.

    1. Agreed. I'm already skipping posts that I don't find interesting (which is sometimes most of them, see e.g. the "opportunistic developers" phase Planet was in for a while), so scrolling past the ones in another language isn't a big deal to me.

  4. Imagine a mailinglist with all different kind of languages. You would quickly get bored skipping all the threads / messages you can't read. That's why Boards and IRCs are divided into spoken languages. I'm not a native English speaker – so it doesn't sound that harsh when I say, that if you want to be part of the big community that you have to learn it's language. You can look from it from the other side: If you don't write in a language that is widely used, then you don't get much response.

  5. I'm not a native English speaker. I can read english. I would find a lot inconvenient to have mixed language articles in places like planet.ubuntu/gnome/blabla.org.
    I think many people could be in my same situation, ie: can read only english (apart my native language).
    Stay english.

  6. I'm from Austria and no native English speaker. Please stay English. The multilingual content is the one thing which annoys me on planet.fedoraproject for example. If multilingual content is allowed at least an option to filter non-English content would be desirable.

  7. If you check on the right, the link "Ubuntu Solar System" has similar planet sites in French, Spanish, Catalan, Portuguese, etc. I suggest consolidating those by language.
    If you want to read in many languages, use a RSS feed aggregator.

  8. Ok my favorite language is vala so all my posts will be in that from now on 😉 (Kidding)

    Well thanks to the magic of google chrome I can read posts in any language. It detects when the page has different languages and asks you if you want google translate to turn it into english. The problem I see is that if you post in Duch or German and someone can only read in some obscure african language it may not translate well into that language. The benefit of using english is that most translating services can do english well.

    1. Automatic translation is not useful. I would never read a blog that was automatically translated. I believe that Chrome and Chromium option is totally useless and a shameless plug on a google service. At most you can only get the general idea of what the original text is talking about. In general you just have to make a real effort to understand the translation.

    2. Hey, I'm from Africa, and I find your sentence extremely irritating and racist. How would you feel if it was me or someone else to write "in some obscure North American language", in case you had not exterminated all the natives, and now Africa was the leading nation of global consumerism? There are not languages that are more "obscure" than your own might appear to somebody with a different first language. And there's no need to point towards Africa, whenever one is in need to refer to a very different, less widespread, "exotic" you might say, language. Is that how you imagine my country? Obscure? It's such an ignorant statement that I suspect you are missing the whole point of my rant. Bah..!

        1. I’m no expert, but I’m pretty sure that all Chinese dialects have the same written language, just with different pronunciations, so they can read each others’ writing, but speaking/listening is problematic.

          However, the fact is that most online translation tools don’t handle languages with fewer speakers, such as Wolof (Senegal) or Tamil, Kanada, or Marathi (Indian languages).

  9. I do agree that Planet Ubuntu should allow multilingual posts, and displayed in the bloggers main native lauguage, this is because Ubuntu is a Global multilingual OS and not just aimed at English speakers.
    But to aid this, Planet Ubuntu should possibly be modified slightly so a normal user can get all the posts translated into their native langage with the click of a button and remembered for future use via the use of a cookie type setup.
    This option could either be a drop down scroll box, or maybe national flag pictures like diffeent sites use.


  10. And I'm surprised Laura said that people "feel" like they can't post in not-English. Last I looked at Planet's rules, there was an explicit requirement that posts be in English (or be bilingual with English as one of the languages).

  11. As an English native I dont have a problem with posts in foreign dialect, but sometimes fell a bit sad when I cant read them. People should not be forced to write in any language but possibly a link to translate a post to make it easy for anyone to understand any article would be nice. Then again, if contributors only wish non-English speakers to understand their posts then thats fine too.

  12. Natural language diversity (and the appalling rate of language extinction) is a critical cultural concern for the planet (Earth, not Ubuntu!), and I can fully appreciate your frustration on behalf of the vast majority of the world's non-English speakers (or writers). However I think in this case, the use of one language rather than many is insulated to some extent from these cultural/political/identity concerns.

    Firstly, Ubuntu is from the outset about community respect and valuing individual contribution. However contribution of *code* (by definition separate from human language) out-weighs any other form of contribution (support, community etc. ). Ubuntu is software, after all.

    Secondly, as I see it one of the main benefits and aims of Ubuntu (as against most other distros) has been to resist the perennial complaint that there are *too many* choices for FOSS to ever make it into the mainstream. Multiple languages on Planet would (ever so slightly) lead to more of the fragmentation that linux nay-sayers so love to moan about.

    There *are*, as mentioned above (ubuntu solar system) language-specific ways of supporting each other and fostering communities that do not have English as their first language. However, English has (for better or worse) become the Lingua Franca of the commercial, political and, more relevant, technical world. I would never want to condone cultural imperialism, but for pragmatic reasons I believe the use of *one* language to the greatest extent possible is vital not just for the future of Ubuntu but FOSS in general.

    (phew, I'll get off my soapbox now, don't really know where that came from… roll on 100% accurate translation software, I say…)

  13. It's not helpful for people to see posts in a language they don't understand. It's also not good when people miss posts that they do understand.

    There's two problems: non-English speakers don't always have one place to post or read content, and English speakers sometimes have to scroll past unreadable content (which also makes entries disappear off the bottom of the page).

    That means we should have language-based planets. Spanish is a great example: if you have a Spanish language post that should be shared with the whole Ubuntu community, you currently need to post it at Planet Argentina, Planet Columbia, Planet Ecuador…and then on the main planet feed as well.

    Now, maybe we should still have loco-based planet feeds for local content that's uninteresting to the planet as a whole. But loco feeds are not a substitute for the more needed language-based planet feeds, except perhaps in the unusual instances where a language is genuinely confined to one country.

  14. I (non native English) would prefer to stay English BUT add the ability to have the feed/page translated. Translation from English into other languages lead to the best results afaik.

    Language based planets would be great too.

    It's interesting that so many non-native readers posted here!

  15. I don't think i can follow a planet if i don't understand part of the posts, It's already irritating when some posts are in a foreign language because i can't read them easily, and the automatic translations are not so perfects. We have our own planet for the French language, we only can encourage our bloggers to post in French and in English if they want. If a user want to follow posts in another language he can aggregate directly the blogs, or the planets in that language. I'm doing that with the Brazilian Ubuntu planet, it's easy. The filter by language seems a good solution. We can think also on a planet aggregating all the solar system, with non restrictive rules (the foreign languages planets don't have the same rules than the normal planet open only for official members).

  16. Why not take a look how other projects do it? Planet gnome once did have a seperate German roll too, it died strangely. Planet Debian has a spanish subsection at http://planet.debian.org/es/ which seems to be used. I would really suggest to give seperation a try and link it prominently. People are only willing to skip so much, if the signal/noise ratio gets too weird people rather refrain from following a feed completely and start to either subscribe to the individual feeds they are interested in or look someplace else.

    Said that, my own blog is available both in English and in German, just add ?lang=en or ?lang=de. If a German-only blogroll is happening I'd add it, which would mean though a duplication of content for those following both.

    1. Separation of languages, but linking them on the international planet could be a good solution indeed. We could always provide the option to mix feeds, as Jan Stedehouder already suggested in the first comment.

  17. This post and your excellent previous post show something interesting. In the previous post, most comments were about being tolerant to non-native English speakers. In this new post, when it comes to something more concrete, most comments are in favor of using English only. There is something to think about here.

    To answer your question: personally, I enjoy seeing posts in multiple languages. I can read them in several languages and it's simple to skip those that I don't understand.

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