Changes and language switching
Posted on July 27, 2004 @ 13:15 in Sitestuff
I haven't been all that happy with this site for quite a while... for several reasons. One is that for an extended period of time I've felt like I'd run out of steam and consequently I felt like I didn't have all that much to write about. Another is that I've been feeling that the technology driving the site is often in the way of writing. It's not just the content management system (CMS) that's been giving me the jitters, nor just the layout which I think needs a thorough overhaul, but mostly a lack of integration.
There are several sections on this site, the main blog that you are reading now, my Dutch blog, the Cyberculture Resources, and the not yet very integrated Fotolog and Quicklinks. Because of the way MovableType operates, these different sections are each their own weblog installation and are thus separated from eachother not just in presentation on this website but also in management/administration in the CMS. This most importantly means that they are separate from each other conceptually. While I don't feel that it is a big problem for the Cyberculture Resources or the Quicklinks to be somewhat separate from the rest of the weblog, it is a big show stopper for the "content rich" posts in the English, Dutch, and Photo sections.
You could say that I am bilingual (or trilingual if you'd count photography as a third language) and virtually every weblog application is monolingual. There is no true support for more than one language in any of the weblog applications that I've looked at. What we need is not just internationalization and localization of applications, as important as they are, but we need true support for multi-linguality. We need a "language switch."
I think Stephanie wrote up the problem quite well and even provided a great solution for Wordpress users. As she also notes, you can't adequately solve this problem by using the category system provided by most weblog applications. When I want to write a review, I want to file it under Reviews and I don't want to file under either English/Review or Nederlands/Recensie. Say you are bilingual, just like me, and you want to see all my reviews, whether they are in English or Dutch, you should be able to pull them up by hitting the "review/recensie" category. If you read only English or only Dutch, you'd hit the language switch and immediately filter out only the English or the Dutch reviews. Pretty much the same should go for the whole weblog.
Actually, taking a little detour here, this points to another problem. Users are free to choose how they name their categories and these categories generally play an important role in the navigation of the website. However, categories can not be "localized" depending on where you are in the website. A "review" is a "recensie" in Dutch but I can only choose one of those two words to indicate a single category. However, regardless of which language I choose to write in, I want my review to go in the "review/recensie" category. Ideally the language switch would be smart enough to allow localization of categories, showing you the category name in the proper language, depending on which language you chose through the language switch.
When I write, I don't want to be thinking about how or where my post fits into the weblog and I don't want to realize after the first paragraph that I need to copy/paste my text into a different weblog installation. I want to write my post as an integral part of my bi/multi-lingual weblog, set the language switch, and publish it. The software should be smart enough to deal with my post in the right way. Ideally each post would be published to the "front page," while allowing separate indexes for each language, including a separate index for the photographs, in case you just want to browse through the photographs. Not quite incidentally, most weblog applications could do with a serious upgrade of their photo/file handling and integration (but that's a topic for another post: photo uploading, thumbnailing, post integration, and dynamic image handling for liquid designs).
So, where does that leave me for the moment? I've installed Wordpress to test it out and I'd already decided to give MovableType 3 a spin around the block and I will install that later. Just this morning Six Apart released new details about the upcoming MT version 3.1 (general non-developers release). The most intriguing news is that MT will start to offer dynamic PHP generated content on a per template basis, meaning that the previously fundamentally "static" MT will now allow you to set up a dynamic weblog and generate static files for only a couple of high traffic indexes, such as for instance RSS/Atom feeds and the main index.
Interestingly enough, this exact same morning Matt delivers news of the updated Staticize plugin that will allow the fundamentally dynamic Wordpress to deliver certain high-traffic indexes, such as RSS/Atom feeds, as static files, resulting in less work for the webserver. Guess this is an indication of things to come: an optimal distribution between dynamic and static content, meaning both flexibility for the user and low server overhead. Meanwhile I will try to pick up posting here a bit and not be such a slouch.
Comments and Trackbacks
Nice post! The problem you mention with categories can be solved with the use of more than one category to file each post (what I did in MT).
WP 1.3 should integrate the multi-language capability I integrated into my blog.
The http://topicexchange.com/t/multilingual_blogging/ channel is a good place to trackback if you write more posts like this one (and do please trackback this one, so that others can find it!)
Thanks for the comment :) I just pinged (and read) that thread on TopicExchange. Interesting bunch of posts. Equally interesting that, apart from one ping, all the postings talk about the problems of multilingual blogging in English.
As for using several categories per post, yes, that's a possible solution, but (and isn't there always a "but"...) if both "review" and "recensie" are top-level categories, you either end up having to manually edit category lists, or your category lists will "double up," showing both "review" and "recensie."
If you'd be able to localize your categories, category number 5 would actually have two name labels: "review" and "recensie." You could set the "review" label as the default label and only have "recensie" substituted if the visitor switches languages.
For the moment though, I'll gladly settle for a simple language switch that allows me to set the language per post and worry later about categories and interfaces :)
If you're intrested in multi-lingual support, look into this:
Thanks for the comment. I'd actually already found your post, through the TopicExchange thread, but that was after I'd written my post. I'm still in the testing stages with WP, so it's nice to know this is something that's being worked on. I'm not much of a PHP hacker (yet!) so for the moment I'm keeping my install as standard as possible. I hope this makes it into the 1.3 release... is there maybe a place where I can vote for this patch to make it into the next release, like you can attach your vote to individual Mozilla bugs?
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Comments and trackbacks have been closed on this site. My apologies.
Since MT-Blacklist inexplicably stopped working I had no other recourse than close comments and trackbacks to stop the spam. I've been meaning to correct this for quite a while, but life got in the way... in a good way I should add.