Category: Review

Notes from Code for America Summit session on “Localization: Benefits & Challenges”

Day three of this year’s Code for America Summit followed an unconference format. Luke Crouch and I facilitated a session called “Localization: Benefits & Challenges.” During the session, each of us talked about why we find localization a valuable and beneficial activity, challenges to localization and brain-stormed tools and solutions.

Here are our notes. If you’re working on localization/internationalization in open source projects, especially mobile web apps, I’d love to hear from you!

Why localize?

  • greatest need for access to info is often non-english speaking
  • human needs are language agnostic, services should be as well
  • incorporating all perspectives requires crossing languages
  • empower cross-cultural understanding

What needs L10n?

  • websites
  • documentation
  • knowledge bases
  • phone trees
  • SMS
  • forums
  • social media
  • print media


  • keeping content up to date
  • maintaining parity with english-language content
  • machine translation vs human translation
  • quality assurance
  • analytics
  • keeping entire loop translated / fractured experiences
  • cost
  • selecting and prioritizing languages
  • fonts / non-roman alphabets
  • right-to-left languages and user interactions
  • partnership building takes time
  • determining best practices
  • trust between communities?
  • socio-political context


Note: Internationalization (I18n) is the process of preparing a project for localization. Localization (L10n) is the process of translating content.


  • have users be translators
  • concentrate on building local communities
  • *listen* to needs of users. what do they need translated?
  • user interface vs content
  • platforms & tools address user interface
  • content is trickier: micro-sites, data stores, other?

Tools (libraries for L10n)

Platforms (for collecting/managing translations)

Action items moving forward

  • establish best practices
  • create a turn-key process and/or technology stack
  • organized translation camps

“One-thing” takeaways

Unconference facilitators asked each member of the session to provide a “one-thing” take-away from the session.

  • Localization is not just an international issue
  • Frame of reference for doing localization
  • Localization is solvable and urgent
  • We can work together right now to make this better

Logitech Wireless Touchpad with Ubuntu

Logitech Wireless TouchpadI picked up a Logitech Wireless Touchpadat Fry’s last weekend. I’ve been research alternatives to a regular mouse and the Touchpad seemed like an interesting option. The other item I was considering was the updated M570 Trackball, since I’ve used one of those before and liked it quite a bit.

My biggest concern about the Touchpad was whether or not it would work under Ubuntu and if I could pair it with my existing Unifying Receiver. And it does! A number of the gestures work as well, which was a nice surprise. I was able to use the Touchpad right out of the box with Ubuntu 11.10 using the receiver that came with it.

Unfortunately, Logitech doesn’t provide the unifying software for Linux, so in order to pair the Touchpad with my existing receiver (the one that came with my wireless keyboard), I had to use my old Macbook Pro. If you have a Windows machine lying around, that will work too. I have no idea of you can configure the paring with either of those operating systems running under a virtual machine under Linux.

I’ve been using the Touchpad full time now for a bit less than I week and like it quite a bit. I recommend it to anyone who wants a trackpad-like device and can’t or won’t get Apple’s version.