Wiki Translation

I’ve been looking into the ways in which wikis could be used for massive collaboration on translation projects. The impetus behind this was a request by to be involved in the translation of a debate on cultural politics which took place last year amongst prominent writers on the island. The texts are long and would require and enormous amount of time, even for a small team of translators. However, using the affordances of a wiki could enable mass collaboration – lots of translators working on relatively small parts – to complete the work in a relatively short time.

A rummage round the web shows that such a platform is already being applied to the translation of public documents. Wikimedia has a page explaining its process of multilingual translation. Traducwiki is a wiki designed for volunteer translators to contribute their work on public documents.

Brian McConnell of the World Wide Lexicon has also produced open source collaborative translation tools that can be embedded in any web publishing or web services platform to enable users to view, create and edit translations. I started a blog on the site to explore how it works. An interesting component is the way that you can pull in RSS feed material, run a machine translation on it automatically, and then clean it up manually. Great tool (there is also a plug in for wordpress blogs) but I’m unconvinced that it would scale to massive collaboration. I need to explore it more in detail though.

However, the tool that is most impressive is the platform used by the Wiki-Translation group – TikiWiki. This is from their FAQ:

This is a place where people interested in translation using a massively collaborative wiki paradigm can exchange best practices and tools, and discuss how to improve them.
The wiki is also being used as a testing ground for a project called the Cross Lingual Wiki Engine Project. (Basically, a few of us are hacking the TikiWiki software that powers the site.) If you look around, you should see translation features that are continuously evolving.

This Cross Lingual Wiki engine is impressive. This screencast outlines its main features. As far as I can understand from my playings with the live demo of Tikiwiki, the engine is built into the platform through the multilingual feature. What is impressive is the way in which the wiki has blended the tools (typical wiki ease of editing etc) into a working process for co-ordinating multiple translations by multiple translators at various stages of completion. It’s really well thought out by people who really look like they know what they are doing. TikiWiki itself is an open source content management system which incorporates wiki tools, blogs, and much more. It’s used by Mozilla Firefox as its engine for the FAQ and various community groups. I’d really like to set it up on a host to really have a detailed play and evaluate its potential for the project.

If mass collaboration and open source working is radically altering the nature of media production and consumption then translation in this global textual soup seems to be vital.