Translation status for ubuntu-docs

David Planella david.planella at
Tue Apr 3 10:09:19 UTC 2012

Al 26/03/12 17:10, En/na Ask Hjorth Larsen ha escrit:
> Dear translators and documentation people
> On Mon, 26 Mar 2012, Timo Jyrinki wrote:
>> 2012/3/26 Jeremy Bicha <jbicha at>:
>>> I uploaded the potfile for ubuntu-docs tonight and opened up
>>> translations on Launchpad for the precise branch.
>> What about the ubuntu-docs under /ubuntu/precise/+source/ubuntu-docs -
>> it'll be updated at the time of actual upload?
>> For future, do you think that ubuntu-docs under the Ubuntu
>> translations should simply be not visible until the final template is
>> uploaded? Or this current system still better? I think one of the
>> biggest invisible problems in Ubuntu translations making people go
>> away (if they notice it) is the fact that work is wasted. Most of the
>> people translating do not know that probably a lot of their
>> translations will not be used if they've been translating ubuntu-docs
>> in the last month or so, or even this coming week.
>> This would not be such a big problem it is today without being
>> combined with the lack of supporting fuzzy strings in LP. Then when
>> the docs team do a cleanup of commas, articles or word orders (I'd
>> assume there is always a bunch of those in addition to total
>> rewrites), quality translations that would still have a lot value
>> (either 100% match or something easily fixed to match the new form)
>> are being lost. This is especially big problem in ubuntu-docs, since
>> it has long strings, and a single small change anywhere will always
>> reset a big amount of translated text compared to application UI texts
>> that are usually much shorter.
>> With the new precise ubuntu-docs template, I see that while the total
>> number of strings have stayed roughly the same (+100 strings), the
>> number of untranslated strings have raised from 358 to 1086. What I
>> personally will do is:
>> - now very quickly save the current Ubuntu precise's ubuntu-docs PO file
>> - when the new ubuntu-docs gets to precise proper, fuzzy match the
>> downloaded PO file to the new template manually with gettext tools
>> - in case of simple word order / punctuation / etc changes simply
>> unfuzzy or make a little fix in the translation
>> - upload the new PO with "saved" translations back to Launchpad
>> But I'd estimate that not many of the languages have the luck of
>> someone doing this work. In the other language teams, there might be
>> frustrated people noticing that the hard work they've done
>> (translating ubuntu-docs is really hard work since there is so much of
>> it) has for a part disappeared.
>> Not that this would be a new problem of course, but what do you think
>> about the template hiding idea or do you have any other ideas to help
>> this problem (other than contributing to LP code)?
>> -Timo

Hi Ask,

I apologise for the delay in replying.

> I apologize in advance for the considerable amount of grumbling below.
> But I think we have big problems.

No need to apologise on your side. As long as the conversation is civil,
we should encourage everyone to speak their mind to highlight problems
and how to fix them. So thank you for your direct and honest feedback.

> I think Launchpad should be entirely disabled for docs translations. 
> The lack of fuzzy matching makes Launchpad almost useless for anything
> but UI translations.  The alternative is to use e.g. a bzr archive to
> maintain the translations.  This requires more technical knowledge, but
> we (translations coordinators) can help individual translators with it,
> and actually get the job done.  We are qualified to use tools like bzr,
> msgmerge and other things to make sure that work is not lost.  But right
> now I (as a coordinator) am quite powerless to stop the waste of time.
> The only thing I can do is to not recommend that people work on certain
> things.  I cannot even put a big red sticker on the ubuntu docs page on
> Launchpad saying "don't translate this".  I have only indirect means of
> communication (e-mails) around Launchpad.  This makes everything very
> complicated and not something I look forward to dealing with.

I acknowledge the problems with fuzzy translations, and as it's been
discussed several times in the mailing list, for now and the foreseeing
future, we've only got workarounds to deal with it.

However, and despite these issues, I'm personally against disabling
translations in Launchpad. While in your team or on others there might
be contributors with experience with bzr or other version control
systems, I'd encourage you to consider the wider translation community,
where most translators don't possess those technical skills. The
approach in Ubuntu has always been to lower the approach to
contribution, and that would go on the opposite direction.

Shutting down translations in Launchpad and allowing only VCS
contributions would not only radically increase the barrier to
translation contribution, limiting it to a few translators with
technical skills, but it would also increase the amount of work from the
docs team to merge and commit all merge proposals coming from
translation teams.

> There is only one thing which is worse than not getting a voluntary
> contribution due to it being too difficult, and that is to get the
> contribution and then throw it away.  Because that contributor will not
> come back.

While hidden from the UI, translations are not lost. If you download the
PO file, the old translations are marked as obsolete, and you can bring
them back to fuzzy on your offline files by using msgmerge.

I am not saying that this is the solution, I'm just describing a
workaround to this situation, as we otherwise don't have a fix on sight.

As per contributors not coming back, I see it differently.

First of all a clarification: again, contributions are not just lost.
For the majority of cases, even if a string is marked as fuzzy in, say
Precise, it will have been used in a previous release (e.g. Oneiric) and
will not change there. So the pre-fuzzy contributions in older releases
won't go away. If a translation has been done in the development release
and is marked as fuzzy after string freeze due to a freeze exception,
then yes, it will be hidden from the UI and it will only be present in
an exported PO file.

Nothing is perfect in the open source world (and the same applies for
the proprietary source world!). Ideally Launchpad would support fuzzy
matching, it would have an API that could talk to offline clients, it
would automatically share translations with external upstreams, and much
more. But there is limited development time, which has even been reduced
more drastically in recent times.

One of the things I like about Ubuntu and the open source community in
general, is the ability for it to face and adapt to difficult
situations, and work around or fix them in creative ways. So I'd commend
anyone who is concerned about this or any other particular project to be
flexible and adapt: nothing is perfect but you can improve it by
contributing with ideas or fixes.

One of the ways with which we've traditionally dealt with technical
limitations is with the social approach: providing better communication
within translation teams. Over the years, with mailing lists, forums,
instant messaging, release parties and global jams, the way translators
interact with each other has hugely improved.

I would recommend every team lead to clearly explain to their teams or
casual contributors the limitations with fuzzy strings and try to work
out the approach that works best for your team.

> I and others have previously requested fuzzy matching and some other
> IMHO essential features on Launchpad, but there seems to be no plans to
> implement any of it or even recognize the importance.

If you look on the archive of discussions on this mailing list, the
importance has clearly been recognized, but if memory serves right, when
the community was asked about the most important features to implement
in Launchpad, it did not come up at the top, and Launchpad developers
set their focus to the most relevant ones according to the priority.

Now with even less resources in Launchpad, and unless someone steps up
to implement fuzzy matching, it will still remain in the queue
unfortunately, even if I for one would also like to very much see it
available in Launchpad, believe me.

> So please disable ubuntu docs in Launchpad.

As I said, I'm not particularly in favour of disabling them, but I'd
like to hear what other translators have got to say on this, and if
they've got any further ideas.

Thanks again for the honest feedback and for raising this issue.


David Planella
Ubuntu Translations Coordinator / /

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