Sunday, September 23, 2007

Some notes about all the lists in the sidebar

In another context someone suggested there might be too many lists about localization in Africa - a fair comment if you take a look at the amount of stuff I put in the left sidebar (which still isn't comprehensive - there are some other lists that should be added, and hopefully will be soon).

To clarify what's going on I thought it would be worth a little bit of background. I haven't put all this together in a narrative form yet, though I did do a summary table here (scroll down or earch "Table 7") not long ago.

Back about 5 years ago there really was no list dedicated to African languages and ICT. At the same time there was a dearth of information about what i18n made possible for African languages, and various other issues that hadn't been discussed.

Around late August 2001 I received a question from someone in Fantsuam Foundation about a keyboard for Hausa. I didn't have an authoritative answer so on Sept. 2 I set up a message board on called "Hausa charsets & keyboards" as a way of perhaps getting other input to this and related questions.

I later set up similar boards on as part of my response to new questions about other languages. In some cases it seemed appropriate to set up the board for all languages in a country, rather than each language. Creation of these message boards - (10 in all - at this point) was in this sense demand driven. Their success has varied, but at the least they continue to serve as places where relevant information can be posted and found by anyone.

In January 2002 I took another tack. Having participated in the Unicode list, being aware of the dearth of information on Unicode in many countries where French is the official language, and having seen the relative success of some French-language Yahoogroups on other ICT in Africa topics, I set up a list called "Unicode-Afrique." This has proved to be one of the most successful, although it is rather quiet lately. (There is some trouble with the RSS feed for this list - still working on it.)

It became clear that it would help to have a specialized list for some technical questions relating to extended Latin characters (commonly referred to as special characters or modified letters). So in March 2002, "A12n-collaboration" was set up. "A12n" was a coined acronym for "Africanization" in the sense of the "last mile of i18n" and L10n in Africa (I briefly discussed this on this blog in a posting on February 06, 2005).

The A12n-collab list was originally intended as a temporary online working group to advance and link efforts to define the needs of African languages in terms of extended characters and diacritics (fonts, keyboards). This list was quite active for a while and facilitated some new work. It in 2004 it was also added to LinguistList's roster of mailing lists.

The traffic on Unicode-Afrique, A12n-collab, and the QT boards pointed to some other needs. First was a portal where people could easily find information, sites, and projects discussed on the various forums. Thus the "A12n gateway" page was created. Currently this page needs updating, but will be reformulated to provide some current information complementary to the PanAfriL10n wiki and retain older material for background.

Another apparent need was for lists that were less narrowly technical and more addressed to applications and localization efforts. So, in June 2003, two new lists were created: "A12n-forum" in English, and "A12n-entraide" in French. Neither list has really fulfilled the hopes for them, though some interesting information has been posted on A12n-forum and to a lesser degree A12n-entraide.

With the beginning of the PanAfrican Localisation project in April 2005 and the preparations for its first workshop in June, a list for communicating about logistics was set up called "PanAfrLoc." Following the workshop, members continued to use it for communication about various topics (the archives only reflect this). One of the problems with this list was that its members included people more comfortable in English or French as working languages, but that it was not possible to translate all traffic.

PanAfrLoc was closed in favor of a new set of lists for different working languages: PAL-en in English, PAL-fr in French, and PAL-pt in Portuguese. Messages to any one of the lists are translated and sent to the other two via a service called Tradauto. All the traffic is additionally reposted to PAL-Archives (the RSS from which is in the sidebar.

There are some additional lists of note from other sources:

[more to come]

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