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Perceived proximity on the Web

Over the years of traveling around the world to evangelize about Open Web and explaining the position and role Mozilla holds, I’ve encountered an interesting phenomena that I tried to put into a social context for quite some time.

My last trip to China, where I had met with Mozilla community in Shanghai triggered me to write about it, so here it comes.

The Web

The Web is a virtual plane on which human interact. It’s an incredible and amazing plane which breaks a vast number of physical laws and, in consequence, economical laws, biological laws, psychological laws, and, maybe in a most profound way, social laws.

From the social perspective, the web changes everything because  it holds an unprecedented characteristic:

The Web almost fully neutralize three basic physical dimensions in which humans operate, and, if that was not enough, it also severely limits the fourth one – time!

Think about it for a moment, please. Isn’t it mind blowing that we’re here, now, as it happens?

Spatial dimensions

Things on the Web are equally “close” to each Web user and the “dimension” that is closest to replace spatial distance – connection speed – is just a temporary factor that is disappearing over the course of a few years becoming ignorable itself.

It may not be the first invention that reduces the eternal impact of spatial dimensions on human life – cars, planes, mail, they all contributed to the sense of the world getting smaller, but the Web just cut it off entirely. You have access to this text from each place on Earth at the very same moment and you can build meaningful connections with everyone on the planet using the same techniques we use to build connections with our neighbors.

The laws of physical proximity and its impact on our social life is being transferred onto the Web and suddenly everyone is socially close to everyone else.

Time

Similar shift happens with the fourth dimension. With mobiles devices, laptops, SMS, video chats, forums, and push&pull notification systems we’ve not only overcame physical distance limitations but we also built a plethora of technologies to store, in a lossless mode, every data byte transferred between human beings. Every piece of communication. Every smile, every word, every information, story or emotion that we manage to encode into any of the digital communication channels may be stored, multiplied, transformed and replayed forever.

Once again, the Web is not the first medium to do it, books, photographs, CD’s, vinyl and cameras where there before, but the Web brought it to the next level. Everything that manages to fit the web can be ripped of action-time limitation. It doesn’t matter when it happens, and how far did it happen. I can record my fingers typing this text and broadcast them to everyone around the world plus let anyone interested watch it in 100 years. All this interesting social/cultural/memetic implications about your daughter reading your blog posts from when you were sixteen kick in!

And the price limes is zero! It costs almost nothing and it will cost less and less! (making economy laws not fit anymore).

Physical vs. virtual

Hola, hola! – as many of my spanish fluent friends would say – but that’s all virtual. Yes, we removed spatial and time dimensions but only from information. Nothing changes in the realm of physical objects. No teleportation, no time travels, right? Right!

Continued…

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Pontoon has a new leader!

Oh, Pontoon, hi! When we introduced the idea of Pontoon on the forum of Mozilla Planet, it generated quite a lot of positive comments, but nothing close to what has happened when we showed the first live demo (Shaver did!) at Mozilla All-Hands in 2010.

Pontoon represents what, I believe, will be the future of web localization and I tried my best to rush it to the point where we will be able to verify if such an approach is realistic, but from there, I failed to find enough time to give this project the love it deserves.

Worry not, great ideas don’t perish, and it sometimes takes a vacuum to appear for a new leader to step in!

I had luck to drive Pontoon to the point where it attracted several souls from Mozilla community to keep pinging me, keep asking about it, and, what’s always the best result of an idea, to act.

In particular one gentleman, my long time friend from Slovenia – Matjaž Horvat, stepped up and took what was there, turned a crank, wrote some code, draw a mockup, moved pieces around, stitched it a bit, and probably invoked some primal magic to assemble new version of it, available here – http://horv.at/pontoon/.

He was able to take the source code to the next level and covered up the visual appearance and user experience zone which has been sorta ignored since we started and needed love. He was also willing to jump in and join me and we’re lucky enough to get Mozilla backing for this project which resulted in Pontoon having a new leader!

I’m proud to announce that I’m stepping down from Pontoon leadership position and Matjaz is taking over! I’ll be serving him as a mentor and a peer and I’m absolutely confident that the baby is in the right hands!

Please, join me in congratulating Matjaž!

You can also track his progress at http://horv.at/blog/ and on Twitter.:)

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Thunderbird to become the default in Ubuntu!

Great news from Budapest where Ubuntu project is holding their version of our All Hands ;)

According to Michael Larabel Thunderbird will become the default choice for Ubuntu’s mail/newsgroup client! That’s a strong prove of progress that Thunderbird has made, and trust me, Ubuntu does not swap the defaults that easily.

Well, it now seems that we’ll have two of our products used as pretty important defaults in this most popular Linux distribution – Firefox and Thunderbird! (although we do have a strong competition for the browser slot).

Congratulations to the team working on Thunderbird!

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Falsy Values – volunteer opportunity

In just about a week Warsaw will be hosting a major JavaScript event – Falsy Values.

Falsy Values is brought to you by the two people – Damian Wielgosik and Paweł Czerski – who made their way onto the Web Event Stage last year with their widely praised Front-Trends conference.

This year, they focus on hardcode JavaScript. This conference is not about soft disciplines, not about social science, it’s solely about hacking the modern Web.
With stellar workshops and talks, with names such as Douglas Crockford, Tantek Çelik, Tom Hughes-Croucher and our homegrown stars like Kornel “porneL” Lesiński, it has what it takes to be the powerful event to be at.

Now, such an event is not going to happen on its own, it takes passion, dedication and the one thing we all should value most – time – to shape it up and deliver.

One of the unique features of this conference is that it really is handmade by those two fellows who work 24/7 right now to plug all the cables in the right slots, bring supply to the tables and speakers to the microphone.

All hands on deck!

As you may have guessed from the title – we believe we could use some help during the event itself!

If you’re located in Warsaw, or if you will be here for the time of the event, and you’re looking for a chance to participate in what’s going to happen there, help us make it perfect, learn the unique lesson from behind the scenes, here’s your chance!

We’re looking for geeks who seek experience in helping us run this event. Several brave souls to support speakers, guide the crowd through the agenda, run fiercely to aid some brother in JavaScript arms who’s in danger of any kind (like – you know that moment when your WiFi doesn’t work?)

We expect you to be there with us (even an hour before the opening), assist when needed and enjoy the conference. We offer an opportunity to learn, gain experience and help us make the best event in the JavaScript world since Brendan invented this monster!

Get in touch with us! Email me (gandalf at mozilla dot org)  or contact Damian and Paweł directly and we’ll go from there. Hurry up, we only have 5-7 slots available!

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L20n gets tangible

While Firefox 4 was the main focus for the last weeks and months, I’ve been also making progress with the next iteration of Mozilla localization technology – L20n.

Here are three things that constitute a milestone for me and should make it much easier to test and play with the features of it.

Toolbox

Toobox guides you through the examples of various localization scenarios and how L20n solves them. It blends incremental learning of features available to both developer and localizer. At the bottom it contains several more complex example that should rarely happen but constitute the latter part of Pike’s “easy things easy, complex things possible” mantra.

XPCShell tests

It’s a small (two at the moment) set of tests that run l20n code. It’s a great start point to play with how the library works and how the format works. You can adjust the compiled code, or the library code and see if it gives the expected result.

Live toolbox

What can be better than a toolbox for a geek? Yes. A live toolbox. A toolbox you can not only read, but one that you can actually touch, change, hack on and see the result live.

It’s a hack itself, so don’t be harsh pls, but it does the job. I even included a set of 7 examples (example1 to example7) that correspond to what you can find in the Toolbox. Feel free to modify the L20n code, see if it compiles properly, play with the compiled code, change the HTML or JS and see the results live!

Also, if you encounter a bug, you can save your code and send it my way so that I can investigate it. The compiler is just an initial approach, and a moving target right now as we still don’t have a finalized JS structure schema, but it works for most simple and medium complexity cases, so I’d say it’s ready for you to play with it!

Next steps

Now, that we have Firefox 4 released (yay!), and mozilla-central is open again, I hope to work on landing the initial set of L20n Gecko bindings which requires some updates to the patches themselves first. With that part, we’ll be able to start investigating migration away from current DTD/properties format into the wonderland of L20n.

 

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Web O’Wonder po polsku!

Pisałem niedawno o kampanii Web O’Wonder.

Niedługo po moim poście zgłosił się do nas Krzysiek Wróblewski i zaoferował swoją pomoc. Pomogliśmy mu założyć konto na Verbatimie, przygotowaliśmy stage, i prace ruszyły. Liderem lokalizacji był Krzysiek, pomagał mu Leszek “Teo” Życzkowski, a ja starałem się by ich praca napotykała jak najmniej przeszkód.

Krótki wywiad:

G: Jak dowiedzialeś się o projekcie i co sprawiło że się zgłosileś?
K: O projekcie dowiedziałem się oczywiście z Twojego bloga na Polskiej Planecie Mozilli. Zgłosiłem się, bo chciałem zobaczyć jak przebiega proces tłumaczenia i miałem trochę wolnego czasu :)

G: Jak Ci się pracowało przy nim?
K: Pracowało się bardzo dobrze, na początku musiałem opanować Verbatima, ale nie było to trudne, szczególnie z pomocą pana Leszka. Nie zdziwiło mnie za to, w jaki sposób Wasz zespół dyskutuje na temat najdrobniejszych szczegółów, bo z tego jesteście znani ;)

G: Co bylo najtrudniejsze?
K: Co było najtrudniejsze? Konieczność porzucenia takich ładnych czcionek na rzecz standardowych, z powodu niedostępności polskich znaków :P

G: Ile czasu zajęło Ci to tłumaczenie?
K: tłumaczenie zajęło chyba z tydzień, co raczej nie jest mistrzostwem świata, ale nie żałuję poświęconego czasu :)

Po zakończeniu pracy nad Web O’Wonder, Krzysiek pomaga przy kilku innych projektach specjalnych – tłumaczy m.inn. grę mobilną Spark. Poza Krzyśkiem, pomaga nam też Pitazboras, oraz siecobywatel, a gro pracy wykonał Teo.
Poza wysokiej jakości tłumaczeniami, Krzysiek napisał także dodatek do Thunderbirda – Glasser i mam nadzieje, że będzie miał ochotę na pracę z naszym zespołem przy następnych projektach :)

A za tłumaczenie WoW należą się Krzyśkowi gratulacje!

p.s. Jeśli masz ochotę się przyłączyć i pomóc z tłumaczeniem, załóż konto na Verbatimie i dodaj sugestie. Jeśli chciałbyś (chciałabyś) przejąć któreś z tłumaczeń, wyślij mi maila na zbigniew at aviary kropka pl.


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Crazy times for the localizers

March of 2011 is special for all of us. It’s the Firefox 4 release month and the whole project is operating in it’s “crazy” mode.

One particular plane on which it’s pretty visible is localization as we’re involved in almost every aspect of the release, every little detail, every step of the product release, every engagement campaign and of course in every bit of discussion about the state of the web that happens in our respective countries.

The story

As an organization that has glocalisation imprinted on the very fabric of its universe, we always feel responsible for making sure that everything we do is localizable, so that our communities around the world can translate and adjust everything that Mozilla project creates and use it to promote the Mozilla mission in their regions.

That’s easy to say, much harder to do. Especially as we grow, and the number of projects that we touch goes up. Firefox 4 release brings an unprecedented number of web projects that are part of our push to make bring the web to the next level.

Those projects vary from HTML5 demo sites, through Mozilla Developer Network Demo Studio, social web projects for twitter and facebook, web games to new Mozilla Foundation campaign – Join Mozilla. In total, I believe, we’re preparing 12 separate projects that we call “special projects” that are going to more or less closely accompany Fx4 release (not to mention Firefox 4 l10n itself, and our major projects like SUMO, MDN, AMO).

Each of the projects is very different and unique, uses different set of technologies and is embedded into different environment and yet we need to unify it for our localization community so that they don’t have to learn how to localize each of them separately.

Given the usual amount of challenges multiplied by 12 different setups it could have been a mess and it should have been impossible, but thanks to a great work done mostly by Staś Małolepszy, our team of l10n-drivers unified the experience as much as possible and localizers are right now doing an amazing job by bringing those special projects to every corner of the Earth, to billions of people.

Below is a summary of what happens there. Continued…

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Mini kampania z okazji wydania Firefoksa 4

Wraz z nadchodzącym wydaniem Firefoksa 4 Mozilla planuje małą kampanię promującą HTML5&Friends.

Aviary.pl szuka osób chętnych do pomocy w tłumaczeniu tej strony. Oferujemy dostęp do serwera testowego, niewielką ilość stringów do przetłumaczenia i sporą dawkę zasłużonego poczucia dobrze wykonanej roboty.

Zainteresowanych zapraszam do mailowania do mnie (zbraniecki at aviary dot pl) lub od razu do wejścia na Verbatim -  – zakładasz konto i dodajesz sugestie.

Uwaga, wysoka jakość tłumaczenia może skutkować niemoralnymi ofertami dalszej współpracy ze strony Aviary.pl ;)

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Hard Blockers Counter 1.0

A little bit more of coding, a few bug reports later, HBC is ready for its prime time. Version 1.0 fixes the nasty toolbar height problem, it gives a user an indication of the interval covered by his plot and is just overall better.

It can be downloaded from an addons.mozilla.org listing, and the source code is available at builder.addons.mozilla.org. :)

A few of the lessons learned and thoughts:

  • builder is awesome, but it needs more real life users. A lot of bugs are only reproduced after you write your extension for some time, hundreds of revisions etc.
  • AddonSDK is excellent for this kind of extensions. It has everything you may want and makes the whole code extremely clean and simple to write and maintain. Just look at it – about 50 lines of core code – your cat could read that.
  • AddonSDK needs more real life users. Like with the builder, bugs show up only when you really use the extension you created.
  • AMO is an excellent developer friendly platform – it gives me a lot of satisfcators in a form of stats, and ability to manage my extension release process.
  • AMO-builder bindings need more real life users. I felt like I’m the first to try to push builder based extension to AMO – many trivial bugs that can be only revealed if you try to go through the whole thing.
  • AMO’s review/release process is excellent for the extension of the Old Days. It gives us a pool of high quality, verified extensions, that are easy to find and safe to use. It does not work with agile development. Builder and AddonSDK makes creating ad-hoc extensions super simple and quick (literally, 2 hours and you’re done with the first version, every new version is about 15 minutes of work). When you then push it to AMO it feels like Matrix slow motion then – you suddenly wait days for a preliminary review, not to mention almost two weeks you have to wait for a full review. My last revised version is super old comparing to what I claim to be the “stable” one now :(

This issue requires a little bit of description. I do not try to say here, that what AMO reviewers are doing is wrong – quite the opposite, I believe the whole process is excellent and anything that is exposed to the millions of users should get some time to season and be tested and be reviewed. It’s just that AddonSDK/Builder gives you a totally different setup that fits different needs. I believe AMO will need a workflow for extensions that are created in 10 minutes, distributed in 20 minutes, updated 5 times during 4 hours and are becoming useless after one or two days.

Think of a conference where schedule is updated often and people have hard time to track it. Using AddonSDK/Builder you can create an extension for it in literally 20 minutes (xhr, panel, widget). AMO is excellent for distributing it, updating your users etc., but it requires very different approach than say, AdBlock or Firebug. Then, you add a feature (ability to mark the talk you want to attend and get a notification when its room/time changes) and upload a new version 15 minutes later. You want to switch all your users to the new one now. Then you fix a small bug affecting linux users, and update users once again.

It’s amazing that Firefox is becoming a platform where it is possible, and I can’t wait for such application for AMO :)

  • AddonSDK requires a lot of users with their use cases. Myk’s approach is to iterate often which means to get version 1 ASAP and then add new features for version 2 instead of trying to build an ultimate solution without a release. I love this approach and it serves AddonSDK well, but now we need version 2 of many of the packages there – it can only be done if people start using the packages for a real life extensions and report what they miss. Like – Widget content cannot be easily themed. Or, you cannot control Panel’s scrollbar appearance. Jetpack team cannot plan for those use cases, they have to come from jetpack users. So be brave! Try things, report everything you need! :)
  • There is a group of at least 500 people who deeply care about our release process. They’re ready to increase the amount of items on their screen to have a continuous updates on our progress toward Firefox 4. And it’s been just two days. It can motivate people to help, make them feel the sense of progress, help them understand the challenges better. It sucks outsiders closer to the inner circle. I believe we can do much more and the nightly users, mozilla planet readers and the audience of my extension deserve the chance to get more info which can help them start contributing! :)

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Hard Blockers Counter 0.8 (0.9) – with a plot!

Tremendous success of the Hard Blockers Counter extension (it got over 300 daily users and 4 positive reviews – yet they were lost in the transition :( ) motivated me to spend another too-early-morning on adding a history plot for the counter.

It was a real pleasure and a good lesson to go through – simpleStorage, timer, panel, and contentScript communication stuff. I reported some bugs in the toolkit, in the builder and in the builder->amo release process. It’s all been fixed :D
The only real unresolved issues is that the widget affects the height of the toolbar. Reported as bug 626728.

So, 0.8 is ready and waiting, enjoy and fight that bug number down! :)

Source code as always available.

[update] Actually, Builder provided me an old version of my jetpack and I submitted it to AMO as 0.8. So now I added 0.9, but it has to wait to get a review – so if you want colorful plot, download it directly from here.

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