Part of my series of answers to frequently asked questions about community participation in localization or translation projects.
I’ve often considered creating a FAQ on this site covering answers to common questions about community-driven localization. Without fail, the most common question I get is, “But if they’re all volunteers, how do you ensure quality?” I can get into the issues with the underlying assumption in that question later. This time around, I’m going to address one of the more common quality control mechanisms for (dare I say it) crowdsourced localization and translation projects: the leaderboard.
The Good Place is phenomenal! Kristen Bell is Eleanor, a dead woman who finds herself in the “good place” after being killed in an accident. She’s given a house that best represents her loves in life (clowns, cottages, colors, etc.). And she is paired up with her true soul mate to spend the rest of eternity together. Sound idyllic, but something is terribly off. Eleanor is far from a saint. She has been mistaken for another Eleanor who rightfully deserves to be there, while our Eleanor does not actually belong in the “good place.” Still, she has somehow found herself there. Now her soul mate Chidi (a Nigerian philosophy professor) has to teach her how to be good (in secret) in order for her to remain there.
In watching the show, I’ve realized that my philosophy has gotten rusty over the years. This comedy has rekindled my appreciation of philosophy! I’ve refamiliarized myself with existentialism, utilitarianism, Plato’s The Republic, and Aristotilian thinking. I have found myslef taking notes on all of the books the Chidi is reading, talks about, or assigns to Eleanor for study. I’ve even made this Amazon list of all of these books from season 1 and I plan to begin working through them this summer (after I read my massive stack of books on my desk).
I love this show! The characters are well-developed, funny, and you very easily become invested in them and their (after)lives. I even spent last Sunday’s Sunday School lesson on the LDS kingdoms of glory talking about this show with my wife (don’t worry, it was relevant). Go watch it and take a look at my book list.
Crowdsourcing is a review of the academic research focused on the (seemingly) new phenomenon by the same name. This book is part of the Essential Knowledge series from MIT Press, which consists of other high-level reviews of prominent topics like Machine Learning, Artificial Intelligence, and others. It is an excellent primer for those looking to gain conversational knowledge of the practice and leads to further reading on the subject.
Brabham regularly discusses open source as a distinct model from crowdsourcing. In fact, he dispels the idea of three types of participation culture as crowdsourcing: open source, marketing voting contests, and (even) Wikipedia-like movements (which I don’t know that I wholly agree with). Despite his repeatedly made distinction, I’ve seen many of the elements of “true“ crowdsourcing within the open source participation culture. At Mozilla, in particular, what was once a more bottom-up organization (the defining distinction, according to Brabham) has become increasingly top-down. Some areas of Mozilla have retained the bottom-up practices (e.g., Rust, MoCo Advocacy), but many have been gradually shifting upward.
What I liked most about this book was that it validated many of the questions that I regularly ask about community and notes that there have been no definitive answers to such questions. In fact, he notes that while many have been researched, many lack significant research. Motivations of the community, for example, has been researched extensively, however, recruitment and retention of community members has virtually no research. Brabham also dispels some of the myths that I’ve worked to dispel throughout most of my career, such as:
[MYTH] Communities consist only of amateurs,
[MYTH] Extrinsic motivators are stronger than intrinsic motivators,
[MYTH] Quality of the amateur community is lacking, especially when the community is untrained in the field they’re participating in,
[MYTH] Crowdsourcing is a cheap and efficient way for organizations to accomplish most tasks.
I recommend this book to anyone who has heard the term, “crowdsourcing.” It provides an essential framework for discussing the practice in professional and social settings.
I’ve planned a lot of community localization (l10n) workshops all over the world. Let’s just say that after six years at Mozilla, it’s approximating 50 at least. They’ve all taken different shapes over the years and as I begin working with local community members and the Mozilla l10n-drivers to plan the last three community l10n workshops for year, there are a number of questions I’m asking myself about these workshops and beyond.
Why do we organize these workshops?
Organizing these things are hard work. Often it’s a lot of fun, but it’s time-consuming and full of variables. Here are some of the reasons we do these:
In an open source community, where the people involved are generally self-organized and the expectation of a bottom-up style of management, it’s crucial for paid staff to travel and meet with volunteer staff (Stormy Peters has some good thoughts on this). This humanizes the people involved, it unifies them all under the organization’s common goals, and gives them the opportunity to voice their ideas, concerns, and opinions to a real person.
To train and give mentorship to community and give community to train and give mentorship to one another.
To dedicate time to projects that support the community but wouldn’t be a typical part of their contributions (e.g., creating translation style guides).
Are these workshops relevant to those attending?
I’m afraid the format of our workshops has grown stale and static. There are so many variables to consider when planning the format of a workshop. The community’s level of maturity, personality differences, cultural differences, varied skill sets, and tenure in the project. The more communities you bring together for a workshop, the more complex it can become. With all these variables, a static workshop format is doomed to failure. But what does a dynamic format look like and how do we know what to adapt to the needs of the communities present?
I’m mulling over several ideas about format that we may try for our last three workshops in 2017.
Mozilla localization unconference — everyone comes with topics they want to discuss or lead a discussion on, the agenda is defined together in the morning and the rest of the weekend is spent moving down the list. This facilitates the need for a dynamic format, as no two workshops would look alike and would largely be planned by those present.
Problem solving — the weekend is spent brainstorming and offering solutions to a problem that either a high number of community’s are facing or a problem that one community is facing.
Rotating topic — rather than organizing workshops to cover all of the regions of the world, workshops would be organized around specific topics or deliverables. The members of the global community that can most successfully contribute to those would be invited. No two workshops would be the same.
Work week with l10n-drivers — with some advanced planning, all l10n-drivers attend the workshop and go about treating the workshop as a team work week. Community will have their pick of contributing to the different projects the l10n-drivers are working on and would see localization from a number of different angles.
What is the right size for a community workshop?
I’ve been in and organized workshops involving one community (around 5 people) and workshops involving fifteen communities (~60 people). I can’t definitively say that one is better than another. The great thing about large workshops is that everyone is introduced to a significant amount of diversity and expands their worldview as a result. It’s hard for the l10n-drivers to have significant personal interactions with each localizer present though. In smaller workshops, you miss the diversity and potential for learning, but the l10n-drivers get more personal time with the localizers and there’s more freedom to dig deep into specific issues that uniquely affect that community.
This year we’ve been organizing large workshops. I’m estimating that we’ll send about seventy invitations to our Berlin workshop. One piece of feedback we’ve gotten consistently is that the Mozilla community wants to see more diversity at these workshops. Organizing larger (but fewer) workshops could help meet that need. But at what point does the workshop become a conference?
How do we determine if our workshops over the course of the year were successful?
We hold ourselves accountable for making sure that the time, effort, and money spent on these workshops yields specific results to measure whether or not the events were successful. This success criteria changes from year to year. It started out being number of strings translated at the event (which was a really bad metric) and has evolved into whether the event has helped communities to meet their own goals. If the format becomes more dynamic, how does this change our success criteria? I don’t have an answer for that yet.
Are workshops the right tool for accomplishing our purpose?
I started this by asking why we organize these, and on paper it seems that, yes, workshops are a great tool for accomplishing those purposes. I suppose this question is better stated as, “are workshops the only right tool for accomplishing our purposes?” I don’t have an answer for this yet. The Web breaks down geographic barriers for collaborating, and while I see the value in moving away from our computers and interacting face-to-face, we’re getting closer to a world where the idea of being face-to-face doesn’t have to mean traveling across land and sea. I’m not sure that we’re really taking advantage of what the Web has to offer to break those geographic barriers.
I’m going to keep asking these questions and I think they’re general enough that the answers will be as dynamic as I hope our workshops become. Get in touch with me if you have thoughts on how to answer any of these questions.
Edit: After a round of feedback on social media, I’ve adjusted the list of races I’ll be running this year to a more reasonable amount and purchased a Runners World marathon training guide.
Last year I discovered that I love to race. Not because I’m competitive, but because I enjoy pushing myself. During the three races I ran last year, I was able to reduce my time fairly well. My average pace in the Freedom Run 10K in July was 9:52 minutes per mile. For the Haunted Half in October, my pace was 9:42. And my Run for Your Turkey in November pace was 9:11 (that’s a <30 min 5K race time!). I had plans to run a lot more, but an injury early in the year hurt my odds (no running for 2 months).
This year, I have a massive list of races I want to run and I’m very excited to get back into training mode tomorrow! I’m working out a training plan to run in each of them, as well as considering hiring a coach to help me get there. This is the first time I’m preparing to run a marathon (and even possibly two ultra marathons) so I’m sure that my plan is flawed, but it’s a rough draft. If you’ve trained for a marathon and notice how this plan might need to be adjusted, I’m absolutely open to suggestions.
The training plan
I plan to run or do some sort of cardio training on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays, with a long run scheduled every Saturday. On Tuesdays & Thursdays I’ll do bodyweight strength training (I really hate the gym) and yoga for flexibility. I’m purposely leaving the weekday trainings vague and unplanned so that I can be flexible to my body’s needs (e.g., I may need to spend a lot more time doing strength or flexibility training, but I won’t know that until I start). Edit: I’ve removed the original plan I made. Since I’m not at liberty to publicly share the training plan I purchased from Runners World, I’ll simply note the races I plan to run this year here:
29 Apr – TULIP HALF MARATHON (13 miles)
10 Jun – UTAH VALLEY MARATHON (26 miles)
12 Aug – MOONLIGHT HALF MARATHON (13 miles)
21 Oct – GOBLIN VALLEY ULTRA (either the 26 or 31 miler, haven’t decided)
The diet plan
I’ve been off and on the ketogenic diet for the last few months. It was rough. Not because I wasn’t used to eating whole foods, but because all of the meat and dairy made me feel gross most of the time. It reduced my chronic inflammation, but that wasn’t worth my chronic nausea. For a year and a half prior to that I had been following a mostly plant-based, anti-angiogenic diet focused on whole foods. I plan to return to that diet. It eliminated my inflammation, reduced the risk of my cancer returning, led to significant long-term weight loss, and gave me loads of energy. Essentially, this means I’ll be going off sugar, red meat, and starchy foods. I’ll get my protein & fat from poultry, fish, eggs, nuts, oils, and vegan protein powder.
Like I mentioned, I’m still fairly new to this. If you’ve done this before and have some advice, I’m absolutely soliciting ;-) Otherwise, wish me luck!
Goals. Deliverables. Metrics. That’s what I’ve been obsessing over for the last couple of months. Because of that, I’ve been forced to consider 2017 and some goals/milestones for my personal life. Now, there are many goals that I could have set. SO MANY. So I’ve instead opted to identify themes that I would like to characterize 2017 for myself
Read more books & rely more heavily on first-hand sources.
Strengthen my languages (Spanish, Portuguese, and possibly another).
Be a more engaged & service-oriented citizen in my community, state, and country.
Foster my son’s gratitude & appreciation for the life he enjoys.
Keep myself cancer free.
Become a more experienced spiritual leader for my family.
Prepare myself for the future.
Apathy has no place in me.
Live more outside.
What do these themes mean, in practical terms? It means that you’ll likely see me writing about my field more often here. It means I’ll be running half marathons and marathons throughout the year. It means I’ll be more vocal in church and that I will have a place at rallies, city council meetings, and public service organizations. I’ll place an even higher priority on valuable family time than before. And it means that my health will continue to remain a high priority. Some of this is already happening. I’ve registered for the Tulip Festival Half Marathon in Lehi, UT. I’m speaking in church on Sunday for the first time in four years. And I’m even exploring possible dissertation topics for a PhD in the future. Needless to say, I don’t plan to sit the year out. This year will be a year of action.
In 2004 I was a Freshman at Brigham Young University (BYU) at the time. As a Liberal, I was floating on the surface of a sea of Conservative ideology. Because I knew that I was the minority, I felt a deep responsibility to be able to represent myself. I studied and knew both sides of the issues inside and out and I was willing to discuss with people who thought differently from me to make sure that they had the chance to see how the other side thinks. As you can imagine, I was understandably upset the day after the election because we had just re-elected President George W. Bush and I was sure that we were going to enter into World War 3. The only way I could think to cope with this defeat was to grab my guitar and walk around BYU campus playing/singing AC/DC’s “Highway to Hell” as a form of protesting the direction I was sure our country was heading. It certainly didn’t change anyone’s mind or even less changed the results of the election. But it was my right to protest, to get out there and tell the world that I expected better and that I wasn’t going to sit idly by and watch my country be dragged to hell.
For remote, globally distributed teams like the Mozilla l10n-drivers, time where we can be together in person is precious. For a couple of years, those opportunities have been restricted to the bi-annual Mozilla All Hands, but there was a noticeable gap in our team’s work and unity that meeting twice per year wasn’t filling. Last week marked the first of our revived team retreats (aka work weeks, off-sites, etc.) in Reykjavík, Iceland!
My goals for this retreat were two-fold:
Create an environment of radical participation from each member of the team.
Create an environment that made sharing and collaboration the modus operandi among members of the team.
I wasn’t too concerned about producing something during the work week, mostly because we’ve been highly goal-oriented and decisive since April, 2016. My biggest concern was that this retreat would be the same as past retreats: separated groups working on their own projects, individuals performing their day-to-day tasks, and three individuals attempting to have conversations and make decisions that impact the whole team without their attention. I wanted this practice to remain a relic of the past and to find a format for this retreat that would accomplish my two goals.
If you’re Mormon, did you know that you can request to receive copies of your ancestors’ patriarchal blessings from lds.org? In January the Church announced that a new online tool for requesting and reading patriarchal blessings was available to all members of the Church. Not only can you now request your own (should you have misplaced it), but you can request the patriarchal blessings of any of your deceased direct relatives.