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From Dave Fisher <>
Subject Re: Brainstorming: Can we refactor the website to make translation easier?
Date Mon, 26 Aug 2013 13:57:00 GMT
Since some of us like me are on vacation would it possible to either put this into a cwiki
page or other clear summary. I have a lot I can add about the current setup like why you lost
the rightnav - ie you need a subdirectory in templates.


Sent from my iPhone

On Aug 26, 2013, at 8:45 AM, Rob Weir <> wrote:

> On Fri, Aug 23, 2013 at 5:12 PM, janI <> wrote:
>> On 23 August 2013 21:11, Rob Weir <> wrote:
>>> On Fri, Aug 23, 2013 at 12:21 PM, janI <> wrote:
>>>> On 23 August 2013 17:58, Rob Weir <> wrote:
>>>>> (Responses to, please)
>>>>> Obviously our website is quite large.  Google reports 21207 pages
>>>>> indexed in the www subdomain, and a further 48075 pages in the wiki
>>>>> subdomain.   But for purpose of this post, when I talk about the "home
>>>>> page" I'm talking about the contents of our main index.html and the
>>>>> most commonly visited pages directly linked to it, e.g., the
>>>>> why/download/product/get-involved, etc. pages.
>>>>> This core homepage content amounts to around 25 pages.
>>>>> Today this content is scattered around the content tree.  Some of it
>>>>> is in the root.  Some of it in /why and /download directories.  Some
>>>>> of it is template-related and is in /templates rather than in
>>>>> /content.
>>>>> As a test I tried to create my own NL page, in the fictitious "xx"
>>>>> locale.  You can see it here:
>>>>> It is not working correctly, but it already required a lot of
>>>>> non-trivial hacking:
>>>>> 1) I had to hunt around and guess which files to copy.  Do I copy
>>>>> scripts, images and CSS, or just content pages?   Some of the
>>>>> directories had out-dated content that was not linked to my anyone.
>>>>> It was hard to figure out what the minimum amount of content needed
>>>>> was, and where it was located.
>>>>> 2) The main index.html file had to be edited to refer to CSS in the
>>>>> root, rather than current directory
>>>>> 3)  Download page is missed up, missing CSS and/or scripts.
>>>>> Presumably I need to copy something into the xx/download dir, or edit
>>>>> scripts to make them refer /download off the root.
>>>>> 4) The /xx/why pages are not showing the right side navigation now. 
>>>>> must have missed something there as well.
>>>>> Of course, I could figure the above out eventually.  It just requires
>>>>> some time and effort and trial and error.  But none of this is
>>>>> documented, and even if it were this is a fragile approach and
>>>>> probably beyond th web development skills of a typical translator.
>>>>> But we do know this has been done for some languages.  They got it to
>>>>> work.  The German page is a good example:
>>>>> Now this looks good, but it is still a messy thing from a maintenance
>>>>> perspective.  If we make structural changes to the main English page,
>>>>> then those changes need to be manually merged into to every NL page.
>>>>> What can we do to improve this?
>>>>> Here's my idea:
>>>>> 1) What if we refactored the home page so it was all self-contained
>>>>> into these directories:   /scripts,  /styles,  /images and /en/?
>>>>> 2) Make the /en directory be pure content.  Only the stuff that needs
>>>>> to be translated.  It loads everything else, scripts, images, etc.,
>>>>> via URLs relative to the root, e.g.., in /scripts, /styles, etc.
>>>>> 3) Reduce or eliminate any embedded Javascript within pages.  For
>>>>> example, refactor the code in download/index.html so it is external
>>>>> and depends on JSON resource files for translated strings.  Aim so
>>>>> translators never need to touch script.
>>>>> 4) Ultimate goal is for someone to be able to jump start a new NL home
>>>>> page by simply requesting an svn copy of the /en directory, and then
>>>>> editing the resulting files.  No one should ever need to do what I'm
>>>>> doing with the "xx" pages.
>>>>> 5) Maintenance is far easier.  Most things like changing the scripts,
>>>>> is done in one place only.  But even changes to the HTML are easier.
>>>>> Since we then have a common branch point via the svn copy, when
>>>>> structural changes are added to the main /en HTML, these can be merged
>>>>> in more elegantly to the translated versions, using Subversion.
>>>>> 6) Via Apache redirects we can ensure that the default call to
>>>>> goes to /en/.  Conceivably we could also do locale
>>>>> detection and send requests automatically to the appropriate NL home
>>>>> page.
>>>>> A variation on the above would be to use Pootle, rather than svn
>>>>> copy/merge to maintain the translations.  But that would require the
>>>>> same refactoring work to enable it.  And it would require further
>>>>> investigation to identify a way of extracting and merging translation
>>>>> strings in MDText files as well as (X)HTML files.
>>>>> This is obviously more than a one-person task.  So I'd be interested
>>>>> in hearing what you think in general about this approach, whether
>>>>> there is a simpler alternative I've missed, and whether this is
>>>>> something you'd be interested in helping with.
>>>> I like a lot of your ideas, let me add my own experience.
>>> Thanks.
>>>> If the our pages do not contain text, but that is totally outsourced in
>>> one
>>>> or more json objects, then translation becomes easy, and the pages
>>> themself
>>>> stay simple. when the url is called without arguments the "en-json" is
>>>> used, and if called with lang="xx" "xx-json" is used.
>>> I like the idea of content/code separation.  We certainly do this is
>>> the code, for example.  But two challenges to taking this approach all
>>> the way with the  website.
>>> 1) If we do JSON everywhere then we have a Javscript dependency
>>> everywhere.  This has an impact for visibility of the pages to search
>>> engines, but there are workarounds.  But it may be a bigger issue for
>>> users who block Javascript.
>>> No we would do that solely on the server side, it would not be a good idea
>> to have JS retrieve the json objects.
>> We could eg. use php, that retrieved to correct json object, and
>> transmitted a finished page.
> OK.  We're on the same page.
>>> 2) There may be cases where a translation requires direct access to
>>> the HTML or CSS.  For example, I think the Tamil translation needed
>>> access to specify a specific font.  And for some languages they might
>>> need to set text direction to RTL.   These kinds of things make almost
>>> any approach more complicated.
>> Look at e.g. our mwiki that handles those details all on server side.
>> And just as a suggestion, if we were to use wordpress, things like fonts
>> would be solved. WP also have a possibility (not json) for multi language,
>> which I could easy adopt in genLang (for translation).
>>> So the question we need to answer is how far we take this?   I think
>>> we have some examples where the code is so intertwined with the text
>>> that translation becomes very hard and risky.  For example, the
>>> generation of the "boxes" on the download page.   But then we have
>>> some other pages, especially the MDText pages, where I would be
>>> comfortable handing it directly to a translator and expect they could
>>> edit it without breaking anything.
>> We can always find examples where it becomes hard, but typically you can
>> reformulate the problem so it fits in a standard (boxes are no real
>> problem). The only problem I see is with JS, where are ask and get answers
>> e.g. YN.
>>> The Javascript dependency might be broken if we make this be a CMS
>>> build-time text replacement rather than a runtime/Javascript
>>> replacement.  So the CMS would detect when the Pootle files change and
>>> automatically generate new HTML pages from them.  But even then we
>>> still would need some runtime integration of strings, specifically on
>>> the download page where language and OS are determined at runtime
>>> based on browser request headers.
>> I would consider not to use cms, because we basically dont need it.
> So within the realm of server-side software, what is possible?  My
> impress was that Infra generally cautions against runtime server side
> execution due to the greater opportunity for security problems.
> That's why we're using build-time page generation.  This approach also
> performs well, since it is static HTML pages at runtime, and is very
> stable.
> But in any case, I think the refactoring work is approximately the
> same thing regardless of how the pages are generated.
> -Rob
>> rgds
>> jan I.
>>> -Rob
>>>> If we use json objects, then pootle becomes an elegant tool for
>>>> translation, because it knows how to handle xml, and if we want  to stay
>>>> with po files its about 1 day work in genLang.
>>>> A number of top companies (incl. the one I used to work for) do it like
>>>> this, they of course then hire a translator to translate the json
>>> objects.
>>>> Splitting functionality and text is the key, when thats done the rest is
>>>> trvial work.
>>>> This will of course make cms a bit top kill, but I can live with that :-)
>>>> rgds
>>>> jan I.
>>>>> Regards,
>>>>> -Rob
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