Documentation, GFDL, etc.

Last summer I found myself delving into documentation writing & maintaining. My email client of choice, Sylpheed, which many FLOSS users might remember from early 2000’s when it was one of the first full-featured GTK+ clients (at least as far as I know), was distributed with a set of long-time unmaintained documentation that quickly became more or less completely out-of-date.

In fact, it wasn’t touched for over three years and was left in a state of partially completed LinuxDoc SGML to DocBook 4 XML migration. The first thing that needed to be done, even before finishing the migration and previewing the actual documentation, was obviously evaluating whether it is actually worthwhile for a new maintainer without deep knowledge of the given maintenance rules & processes to try to continue with updating the original documents, or whether it would be better to start from the scratch, i.e. with a complete rewrite.

Since I wasn’t feeling very adventurous and my previous experiences were quite limited, to say the least, I eventually sticked with the former option.

Now I can say that the biggest obstacle is not a need to understand DocBook 4, neither it is adapting work flow procedures and writing style of documents with numerous authors in their history, it is actually dealing with the GNU Free Documentation License, the license the said documentation is distributed under. I believe that many rants have been written before already about this piece of legal text, so I won’t repeat others here. Still, I’m quite grateful for Creative Commons licenses as something fresh and needful coming into scene and replacing GFDL within many documentation teams & efforts. I wish it was more feasible for maintainers to relicense a documentation work done by many (inactive and probably unreachable) authors from GFDL to CC. That being said, the clause that appeared in the GFDL version 1.3 is/was apparently not very helpful, unless you wanted to relicense content on Wikipedia or something very similar.

Anyhow, what I have found in my experience (IANAL) to be least amusing about GFDL is:

  • The idea behind invariant sections etc. (Yes, I can understand those good intentions that went pretty wrong, I would say.)
  • The definition of a transparent format.
  • The need for distributing the full text of the license along with a licensed document.
  • The thing that a generated HTML file with included GFDL copy (i.e. a generated file converted from DocBook XML source files) is or at least might be seen as an opaque copy, that is one needs to distribute a (plain text) file with full text of the license along with HTML file distribution (be it via tarball or any other standard channel). This issue was brought to my attention by Ricardo Mones and discussed on the Sylpheed mailing list.

Planet Fedora

So after crying my eyes out, I realize that this is my first blog post that might land on Planet Fedora, so I would like to say hi to all the hopefully interested readers out there! You can find most of my Czech localization & documentation writing contributions upstream, however, with me joining the Fedora Czech translation team ca. two years ago, and enjoying my encounters with the Fedora l10n infrastructure, notably the Fedora Transifex instance, ever since. Though I do remember the times when was running a Damned Lies fork, also. OK, not too far away history, anyway.

Localization Update for the 2010 Q2 GNOME Quarterly Report

(As discussed on the gnome-i18n mailing list.)

Various localization teams that are part of the GNOME Translation Project continued with focusing their localization effort on stable GNOME 2.30.1 and 2.30.2 releases which were released on April 28 and June 23, respectively. Localization teams will proceed further with working on localization for the upcoming GNOME 3 release.

GNOME translation community that gather together on the gnome-i18n mailing list discussed and conducted common translation project administrivia, including assistance in changing coordinators in several localization teams, the most notable case being the Slovak translation team, in which several translators expressed their discontent with the current way of coordination. The issue was thoroughly discussed within the Coordination Team in order to mediate the dispute and was settled down in the beginning of July when the current Slovak coordinator announced his resignation.

Among other things discussed was the legal issue of whether translators who are not legal experts should translate legal notices or license texts that usually come with the free software distribution. This topic was further discussed on the GNOME legal-list with Luis Villa.

Also, there was a change done in the structure of the GNOME Translation Project coordination. Previously, the project was formally led by two Spokes Persons who were also senior members of the extended Coordination Team. Now, the Spokes Person status has been obsoleted in favor of a larger Coordination Team.

For string freeze break requests during the GNOME Desktop development cycle, developers are now required to obtain the approval from two members of the Coordination Team. The Coordination Team that now consists of 11 members will also seek ways to improve the responsiveness about requests.

One of the important tasks that the GNOME Translation Project intends to accomplish during Q3 is completing the implementation of Git commit support through the infrastructure running on

Czech GNOME LUG nonsuccess

A member of the Czech GNOME community once had a promising idea to strengthen and organize user community in our country (and possibly also counting in people from the neighboring Slovakia) at a common place where interested visitors could find various information on the GNOME Project, and on what could be called as a GNOME software ecosystem, on its developers and, in particular, end users. This all provided in their local language, and considering needs and concerns of the local user group. It was nothing new, after all, we knew about similar local groups that have been very active in, e.g., Asia or Hispanic world.

But contrary to the vital successful ones, the Czech group (or what was meant to be the Czech group) soon showed its limits. I assume that this GNOME LUG attempt failed mainly due to the quantitative factor: in a country with 10 million people, the FLOSS community may be seen as strong and vital enough, probably thanks in part to a distinct tradition of higher technical education (in the country that has been continuously attracting many ICT businesses from 90s on, including those well-known in the FLOSS world), but in the end, it showed that it’s not enough for an enthusiastic individual or a handful of people with interest in a minority software to be able to form an organized group.

Instead of that, Czech and Slovak people who want to read or communicate about FLOSS tend to frequent two or three major Czech FLOSS-oriented websites with a standard set of social networking services. In addition to that, the only viable FLOSS websites beside the major ones are those aimed at “downstream” projects, i.e. distributions, operating systems or productivity software end-user support. This might be a significant drawback for upstream and much more “generic” projects like GNOME in general: users are aware of the distribution they are running, but they don’t know much about exactly what desktop environment they use. Nor they seem to care that much, after all.

So to make long story short, we had (and still have, for what it’s worth) a LUG-supporting website, but we quickly learned that such a website is merely unable to attract its potential users. That being said, for our Czech case, it wasn’t very helpful, either, that the project was planned and realized more or less as a one-man-show, with its primary and sole author not allowing website visitors to actively participate on and contributing to website content, thus making it hardly interactive, making it less like what many call Web 2.0 nowadays.

The author was ultimately able to work on the website for less than a year, from Summer 2008 to April 2009, with the last published news commenting the GNOME 2.26 release. Since then, the website has been dead as in never coming back.

Open Source Conference in Zilina and Slovak localization

From Thursday July 1 to Sunday July 4, I attended a local open source conference in the Slovak city of Zilina. The conference was called Otvorený softvér vo vzdelávaní, výskume a v IT riešeniach 2010 (i.e. “Open Source Software in Education, Research and IT Solutions 2010”). Unlike the conference of the same name last year, this year it was being organized by a Slovak open source society Spoločnosť pre Otvorené Informačné Technológie (“Society for Open Source Information Technologies”), held at a local university campus, and sponsored by e.g. HP or Red Hat.

Organizers thought not only of a highly specialized event for technical academia, but also of a convenient place to let the open source community gather together. Since todays Slovakia has (still) so much in common with the Czech Republic (and this is far from being only a language thing, i.e. the fact that Slovak and Czech languages are mutually intelligible), representatives from both countries were present, and it was nice to see the omnipresent language switching during both the official conference program and past-conference informal social events.

As for my presence at the conference, it all began in the spring when on various places throughout the Slovak and Czech technology-oriented websites and online communities, people started to express discontent with some parts of the Slovak FLOSS localization, and, particularly, with the translation quantity and very much related work flow issues that evolved within the GNOME Slovak translation team. For what it’s worth, a little later this was also brought to attention of the general GNOME translation community by one of the Slovak translators who also attended the Zilina conference. Eventually, the Slovak case was discussed thoroughly by the GNOME Translation Project coordinators and settled down with Slovak coordinator stepping down from his role in the beginning of July.

But back to my participation. I discussed the described issue with Czech FLOSS advocate Vlastimil Ott (see his summary report from the conference, and some pictures) and with Slovak organizer Miloš Šrámek of the mentioned Slovak Society, and I was invited to take part in the event, as they previously decided on devoting one of the conference days to FLOSS localization. I was generously sponsored by organizers to be able to attend the event and give a talk on FLOSS localization on Saturday morning. (Thank you!) Miloš Šrámek also approached many of the Slovak FLOSS translators and invited them to Zilina. Though not many of them visited us on Saturday eventually, the event generally went good among the organizers, presenters, and audience who were actively participating in the subsequent debate.

We concluded the debate with similar points that were outlined in the linked GNOME Slovak case resolution. Also, we identified a persistent issue with how the Slovak FLOSS translation community is organized (or, better say, disorganized). During the debate, Miloš Šrámek offered a proposal of setting up a centralized place to gather the translation community together, and to begin work on common fundamental terminology, glossaries and translation memories, much similar to what the Czech project is or tries to be nowadays. The possibility of operating local instance of the Pootle server to help mainly beginners, at least partially, with the localization process was also discussed.

Hopefully, some willing Slovak translator or, better, group of translators will volunteer to put this much viable idea into action soon.

Hello World!

As this is my first blog post on, I would like to thank GNOME administrators for providing such a nice blogging platform for the members of the GNOME community. And then, I guess, I should introduce myself. My name is Petr Kovar (Petr Kovář including diacritical marks), a Czech technical translator and technical writer living in Brno, Czech Republic.

Let me repeat some personal information that I have written on my profile on I participate in the Czech GNOME localization, and I am also active in the (Free) Translation Project and a few other internationalization and localization-related projects. Also, I am an occasional FLOSS documentation writer, and a proud GNOME Foundation member.

In the GNOME Translation Project, I am one of the Coordination Team members. As such, you can often find me trying to be of some use to the translation community that gather together on the mailing list. As of February 2008, I also coordinate the Czech GNOME localization team. Within the Czech translation community, I help with co-maintaining the project which aims to provide coherent glossaries and other various Czech l10n support resources.

I joined the GNOME community as an active translator/contributor in 2007 when I felt the need to help out with the quality and, in particular, quantity of upstream localization in my language. Though I should add here that I have been a happy GNOME user since at least 2001. Oh those years! Anyway…

I have never felt urge to have my own blog (or is it webblog? It seems not, since both terms are being underlined by a default Firefox spell checker, so it must be good old web log, then). Despite my not planning, you better never say never, as they say. I have some ideas, thoughts, stories and happenings that I would like to write or comment about. That being said, I am not going to become a prolific blogger or anything, even without this blog activity, I don’t have as much free time as I would like to. But that is another story.

I guess that my posts will focus mainly on those things that relate to localization and GNOME translation community, or FLOSS translation community in general. There are some great blogs being aggregated on Planet GNOME that I have been reading for quite a time. These are e.g. blogs of Andre Klapper, Johannes Schmid, Leonardo Fontenelle, Friedel Wolff, Og Maciel, or Danilo Segan, to name a few. As I enjoyed them, I thought to myself, why not try to get in and fill in what might be still empty in the GNOME blogosphere. Well, I am about to try to compose at least a few posts, and then see whether it is sustainable for me to keep this alive or not. :-)