14 May

Interview with Seth Bindernagel – Director of Mozilla Localization

Hi Seth. Can you tell me a bit about yourself, how you got into working for Mozilla and what were your first tasks?

Sure. I first started working for Mozilla back in 2006 when I was asked to start Mozilla’s Community Giving and Empowerment program. With the help of Asa Dotzler, I was able to launch a program to help members of our community with reasonable levels of support that would both assist and amplify a volunteer’s or a community’s contribution to the Mozilla project. Because so many of our community members had their beginnings in the localization work, I learned a great deal about localization and the needs of the community. It was clear that Mozilla should formalize even further the localization-drivers team to increase our focus on the global distribution of Mozilla applications and websites. Because I had much exposure to our volunteers, I was asked to help lead the l10n-drivers team.

Can you compare the importance of localization against some other parts of a complex projects like Firefox?

From a technical standpoint, someone could argue that localization is not as difficult as hacking on the Mozilla platform code or doing php web development, and they would be correct!  However, that is a bit like comparing apples to oranges because localization is incredibly important to the release engineering process at Mozilla.  If we were not able to localize our code, our global audience would not have as rich a user experience as they do now with a localized product.  Localization touches many parts of the release process along the way to final release, including the user interface, QA, and build.  Therefore, our localizers often have to wear many hats, understanding how to translate the language of the user interface, how to access nightly builds, how to read html and php code, and how to test the versions ready for release.

How do you see the localization in the future, in terms of a popularity among localizers and its complexity?

I think the localization of Mozilla products has gotten easier in the past two years, with more tools, reporting, and documentation available for localizers to use. I also believe that it will continue to get easier. But, the important fact here is not to eliminate choice. Our volunteers should be able to choose how they want to localize products and websites, whether using a “slick” webtool or using a more technical code editor. The point is that we should make hard things easy and let everyone experiment and participate as they choose.

Can you tell me, based on your experience, can we expect more and more localizers, and what do Mozilla do to attract new contributors and to promote using the localized builds of its applications?

We work very hard to continue to attract new localizers. This takes a combination of steps. The first step is to work with local communities to help build contributors. If a local community wants to actively build new contributors, we need to work with them to push that authority to them and to the edges to make sure they are empowered to do so. We are in the midst of planning one such event now with Mozilla’s “Inter-Balkan Meetup”. The second step is to build tools for better localization. This includes improvements to our infrastructure, documents, and tools for translation. New localizers do not always know exactly how our process works. So, we need to create a clear path for them to engage and learn how to contribute. With those two steps in combination, I think we will always be adding new community.

What does Mozilla do to improve the ease of translation for its localizers?

One very specific step we have taken is to implement tools like Verbatim. If a localizer visits http://localize.mozilla.org, he or she will see all the open web projects needing translation for various languages. This brings the work flow and avenue for participation to the localizer in a fairly understandable and clear way. Secondly, we try hard to furnish up-to-date statistics about the state of product and web localization through our dashboards. Localization communities can always see the status of various projects (including how many strings are needing translation and where they are located in the code base) by vising this URL: https://l10n-stage-sj.mozilla.org/ If we continue to enhance our tools and streamline our infrastructure to provide to our localizers the most timely information and statistics about work needing to be done, we will continue to make the process easier.

What message would you send to all potential localizers reading this?

Give localization a try!

  • If you speak a particular language, check out what needs to be done at the Verbatim URL: http://localize.mozilla.org.
  • Contact the locale leader for your language. You can see who the locale leaders are for various language teams here: https://wiki.mozilla.org/L10n:Teams
  • Email me if you have any questions. You can find my contact information at my blog: http://blog.mozilla.com/seth

We always look for new contributors and welcome anyone with any level of experience to participate.

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