ineptitude! – Or why Firefox 3.5 does not have a Swahili translation when there is one done…

Firefox 3.5 has just arrived!

This should be celebration time for the Umoja Project, but it is not. And you know why? Ineptitude!

The story in short. There are 2 teams translating Firefox to Swahili (sw-TZ):

  • The first one is an academic group (mob) had funding and has used 4 years with no visible results.
  • The second one is 100% community based which did 80% of the job in a Christhmas sprint. And got finished by the middle of April.

So why is not Mozilla Firefox 3.5 shipping with a Swahili translation? Politics. The Mozilla people want to play nice with everyone instead of giving priority to the team that has actually showed results, real result!

The Swahili transaltion is not even shipping as a beta version. Simply it doesn’t exist in the public eye only as a bug which should be closed.

You know what irritates me? That the people in the community, that actually worked hard, won’t see any visible result. Do you think that is the way to motivate people?

I don’t.

Next time, please, do the right thing. Go with those that do the work, not those that “own” the translation branch and haven’t done anything for years.

At least I hope the translation hits Karmic…

My €0.02

~ by huayra on 2009 June 30.

22 Responses to “ineptitude! – Or why Firefox 3.5 does not have a Swahili translation when there is one done…”

  1. That’s just plain crude. Good luck to the community group!

  2. Gee…I wonder why so many new browsers use WebKit instead of Gecko…

  3. I’m sorry to say that, but what you wrote here is very biased and is missing the goal to summary what happened.

    What’s worse, pointing out fingers in that manner and selecting facts to match the story you want people to see is the opposite of FLOSS communities project culture.

    I feel uneasy about commenting on this blog post because we (you and me) even chatted about it not long time ago and we came back to Emanuel with the status update later.

    You also know, that I fully agree with the latter part of your post. I feel bad about the fact that Firefox still has no sw-TZ localization and that it takes so long to move forward. But the story is more complex than you try to present it here and is definitely less black/white, and I don’t find it helpful to ignore that.

    • FLOSS communities project culture is driven by MERITOCRACY.

      To overlook that fact is just wrong.

      I am biased. Indeed, I set and started this whole project so of course I’m by no means objective and I do not strive to be so in this case. I did not choose any facts, this is what happened and that you fail to see that is your problem, not mine.

      I am not saying you are not right about being careful and try to find the best possible solution. I am just impressed that when the project has endorsement of many organizations working with FLOSS translations (Anloc, Sun, Tafossa, Tanzania LUG) supports us you are not guided by results, but rather let yourself be guided by politics.

      We have even presented the project in a translators conference in Egypt and the conferences CommunityOne North (BreakOut5, 2 presentation) & GoOpen in Oslo!

    • How can it be complex?
      1. Is there any completed translation?
      2. Does it have release quality?
      3. Is it in a compatible license.

      If these 3 are fullfilled, I do not see any reason for it not to ship.

  4. In a world of 7 billion people, only 5 million speak Swahili, and less than 1% of them actually have the means to use Firefox. It may be incompetent, but the big picture says irrelevant.

    • The struggle for recognition through the acknowledgment of the people’s need (use of tools in their own terms) can never be overlooked. This is a fact even if we where talking about a tiny language. It’s a matter of principle not a matter of relevance according to nebulous standards created by a blinded majority.

      The Swahili language is spoken by 5-10 million as their first language. Over 50 million speaks it as first or second language.

      • My first comment was very trollish, but your reply was simple and elegant. I agree.

  5. Dear gandalf,

    With all the respect, Mozilla has been provided with enough facts to move forward months ago.

    The Swahili open source community has repeated several times that is willing to do whatever is requested from Mozilla to make sure their work is upstreamed. They have accepted all the feedback and kept working. Their development is open, there are SVN repositories, reviewers and an international community supporting this effort. I fail to understand your logic, you know very well that there are facts that noone wants to air (specially not to hurt the community) about the real interest of the University in any proj$ct that relates to FOSS.


    • We don’t believe that any localization in the state we have ATM will give high quality user experience to Swahili users and will serve as a sustainable community.
      We contacted Emmanuel plenty of times giving him status updates on the case and reasons we find for this.

      We want to move forward and make it possible, but the assumptions you build here (such as that what block us is “politics”) are just plain wrong and unfair.
      If you have any reason to ask yourself why we don’t find your localization ready yet, I’m pretty sure you can find more in Seth’s post:

      • I realize this point, of course.

        What I asked for was beta status, a motivation point for the translators.

        Instead we got a group that didn’t do anything in over 3 years, cooked up some translations so they could block our effort and maintain their hegemony as the translation team for Swahili @ Mozilla. That’s everything they care about: Titles!

        I feel personal indignation by this fact. I have put a lot of work, effort and love in this project!

        You guys @ Mozilla are just doing your job, I know and you are doing what you think is right, based in your previous experience.

        What I want you to see is that some times you have to be critical, and be so based in facts. Consult anyone that has endorsed our work and you will see that we are serious about this. We want this done because we believe it’s important in its own right, not because we want to have a mention in the contributors logs.

        I appreciate both your ans Seth’s time. Hopefully this exchange of ideas and arguments has certainly enriched our vision on how communities work and that there are lots of differences that have to be worked out.

        Now let’s focus our energy towards getting the translation done and accepted, not just get done with it being stalled.

        I will be publishing links to the latest translation build soon.

  6. […] ineptitude! – Or why Firefox 3.5 does not have a Swahili translation when there is one do… […]

  7. […] #Firefox… […]

  8. Yeah. That’s what happens when your priority is “being nice to everyone” and not “get things done”.

  9. I wonder how come we got a Norwegian translation – there are quite few that speak Norwegian….Politics are not good when trying tp get tings done…

    • They are if they take the pragmatic approach towards action. But being nice to everyone one and overlooking action is always wrong. No matter how you twist it!

      I Norge har vi veldig mange seriøse oversettere som gjør dette mulig og som jobber hardt for å levere varene. Irriterende å se at andre gjør det samme og at Mozilla ikke tar det inn til seg…

  10. huayra: I’m not sure if we have ever spoken personally, so it seems a bit careless to suggest that we are playing politics. If we have spoken via email or IRC, then my apologies. You can find me on, nick: sethb.

    We ship Firefox now in 75 locales. We are not in the business of playing games. It’s about scaling our localization communities in the most sustainable way possible AND providing an excellent finished product.

    But, as you can see through the comments in this post, you’ve planted the seed that our team at Mozilla is doing something dubious. We are not and that’s irresponsible on your part since you do not mention the full story in your post. Exactly what do you mean by “The Mozilla people want to play nice with everyone instead of giving priority to the team that has actually showed results, real result!”?

    Here are the facts and consider rewriting your post:

    We do have two language packs from the two teams with thousands of differences. With those two language packs, my team prepared a presentation of grammatical and translation differences between the two versions and reached out to many different linguistic professors who have expertise in East African Language Studies. One was eager to help and we are trying to get a final evaluation from him since he wants to get sw-TZ users a version of Firefox. Another academic contact requested tens of thousands of dollars to do the evaluation and we cannot fund that since no other locale has been afforded any funding to help settle disputes. A final academic contact did a rough evaluation, said that both translations contained many errors, he wouldn’t be comfortable with either, and would need to charge Mozilla a fee for him to do the thorough evaluation. These responses come from department heads at leading universities.

    Playing politics would be something less prudent.

    Please also keep in mind that we have several things going on right now, not the least of which is shipping Firefox to 75 locales to our 300+ million users who want updates to Firefox 3.5. In addition, we are actively working with many other new locales who want to participate. Yes, sw-TZ has been trying to localize Firefox for many years now. But, we are responding to requests from all over the world and do our best to manage it all and have done fairly well since we have scaled to 75 localizations. Most importantly, we want our end users to have something that is an excellent finished product.

    sw-TZ is unique because we have two translations asking to be the official one. We are seeking the most judicious result as possible because surely one team will be quite disappointed if their translation is not chosen. The team at Mozilla is the group who deals with the aftermath of that decision. And, not making a wise decision would only complicate things.

    I’d ask for your patience and understanding as we come to a resolution. And, please minimize the flaming when you don’t have all the facts. Not sure how that helps.

    • I am not sure it helps either, but the post was provocative enough to create attention around the issue which should help us all getting things done. As the pragmatical (as in πρᾶγμα=action) person I am that is my only goal: To see Firefox officially translated to Swahili!

      The political game is a fact here. The Kilinux team is virtually blocking the translation done by the Umoja team. A prove to this is the fact that they did not do any actual translation work before we started our effort, and they had over 3 years to do so!

      After contacting you, Umoja even proposed cooperation between both groups but that did not get us to any concrete results. I am not saying you are playing politics, I mean that you are, whether your are or not aware of it, part of a political game here.

      But I do not criticize if I am not trying to give constructive feedback. I believe both teams can work it out, as long as overreacting people (like myself) keep out!

      So, I will not change this post, but use the experience as a case for a blog series I am working on about “how can normal users contribute to the Free Software ecosystem” and go through this experience objectively.

      Thanks for taking your time to answer and let’s look forward towards a unified translation (Umoja noun 11/- Root -moja 1 unity, oneness 2 singular 3 harmony 4 alliance, association)

  11. […] In his post, huarya writes, “The Mozilla people want to play nice with everyone instead of giving priority to the team that has actually showed results, real result!”.  I responded extensively in the comment thread, an d here is a copy of my lengthy response for those who care to read it: […]

  12. moziila is gr8.

  13. Swahili is a good language spoken by millions of people in the world /east Africa…..

  14. aa vitu vingine tunaweza fanya wenyewe.
    Hata hivyo napenda kuunoa kama Firefox watarelease rasmi

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