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The Open Translation Manual

In a post last week about the Open Translation Tools summit in Amsterdam, I mentioned a “book sprint” that was working to put together a book on Open Translation.
Well, they did it. It was released today, and it’s a damned fine piece of work. (I say that independent of the fact that they used my Polyglot Internet essay as the introduction to the book!)

In five days, a team led by the indefatigable Adam Hyde put together the definitive starting point for people who want to learn what Open Translation is, what tools open translation communities use, what models are working for translation communities, and what the unsolved problems are in the field. The book includes case studies of notable translation communities, including Global Voices, Meedan and Wikipedia, as well as extensive lists of tools useful for localization and translation. It’s available, for free, both as a website and a printable PDF, and will both be published as a paper book, and continue to evolve as a project you can register for and contribute to. (It’s licensed under the GPL version 2.)

As with earlier book sprints, the project demonstrates that it’s possible to make a good stab at a guide to a field of work if you’ve got the right people willing to assemble in a room for five days. The first book sprint was instigated by my dear friend Tomas Krag, who got sick of spending all his time on the road in developing nations teaching people about wireless networking. He knew he’d never write a book by himself, so he held a book sprint, based on the idea of a code sprint, at the annual gathering of the developing world wireless community. Participants spent a long, difficult day arguing over the structure of the book, then went to their respective corners to write, edit, repurpose and recycle content from around the web into a comprehensive guide. The model worked well enough that Adam Hyde from FLOSS Manuals adopted it and has used it as a strategy for building new books around conferences.

I’m off to the Aspen Ideas Festival tomorrow, which looks exciting, celebrity-studded, and worth my careful blogging. But I seriously doubt that a team of smart and crazy people will get a useful book out of it, at least not in five days.