L20n, feedback round

Last months have been extremely busy for L20n. I basically focused 100% of my time on the project, driving simultaneously multiple aspects of the project to completion.

L20n is a very complex project, not only technically, but also socially. Localization technologies have always been of minor importance for most of the software world so we never really develop technologies that could anyhow match the complexity of the human languages. The most common mindset, even among those who have to deal with localization, is that you can get “most of the stuff” done with simple key-value pair lists where English string is a key, and target localization string is a value.

It’s a bit like claiming that most of Firefox front end could be written in BASIC.

L20n is on the other side of the spectrum. It brings the localization technology to the new level, and in result breaks almost all paradigms of what people are used to do with l10n and breaks how it “usually works”.

In result, the major challenge when helping someone learn what L20n is, is to convince the person that she has to stop trying to match its components to the concepts the person knows from other l10n frameworks. It will just not do.

The reward is that once you get beyond the game of “how does L20n relate to Gettext / DTD / Properties?” people get into the “Oooh!” moment and what follows is a litany of ideas of what would be nice to have if we are about to reinvent the localization technologies. I love it 🙂

As many project leaders before me have observed, getting close to a target milestone always turns you from a visionary leader that sets the goals and drives them to completion into some sort of a butcher that says “no” to everything except the most crucial additions in the fear of never ending cycle of adding more and more without getting your project released.

So here we are. For the last month we’ve been working pretty close with several projects – Boot 2 Gecko, Jetpack, Firefox – and we got plenty of feedback, from minor additions to major suggestions. Now is the time to narrow down the list of changes we’re ready to incorporate for 1.0, close the list, work toward the release, and push everything else back to L20n:Next.

In the next blog post I’ll list the proposals and the status of the discussion on those.