Monday, February 18, 2008

The Indic Mashup

This weekend got contributed for the first Indic Mashup workshop. The idea initiated by Karunakar finally took shape inside Red Hat premises at Pune.

The participants were expected to come from various language communities. So most of the Red Hat's Localization team appeared on a Sunday morning. It would have been great if more linguists and i18n contributors around Pune and Mumbai would have participated. But except Karunakar and Localization team, the only linguist present was Ravi Pandey who is a font designer and Marathi, Sanskrit expert. Still the crowd of 13 and the issues were good enough to discuss and work upon for 10 to 5 schedule.

Various issues from keyboard layout to collation tables, a lot got discussed. I thought related bug reports could also have been filed at appropriate places, but that might need more focussed workshops in near future. Now we are clear what issues are there and what can be done for them. I think this is a very good achievement for now.

So far, most of the events I have seen were mostly like someone presenting and others listening. This was certainly different. People had actually got into source codes and bugzillas. Testing for most of the Indic related tools was done across distributions. Reports got generated for upcoming features like collation. The collation sequences for various languages with reference to unicode provided collation charts and proposed modification/additions to that are posted here. The only missing for now would be bengali, assamese, tamil and oriya. Now that Assamese, Tamil and Oriya collations are already implemented, a thorough testing could have been done, but the absence of Language experts limited this task.

Among other issues, the important ones that have given few todo's would be the ones related to the keyboard layouts. Few characters like Om, ZWJ, ZWNJ have been either absent or not placed uniformly among various languages. We tried to find out vacant places on current layouts to accommodate these new additions for one-to-one mapping(xkb). Other options like sequence of keys are kept for scim. There is lot more that got discussed which would be worth for filing bugs.

Among feedbacks, the most obvious one, it was different. It was a workshop in real and not just a speech and presentation. Being first of this kind, it was more generalized. Request are now coming up for more focussed ones in future. focusing particular field like input methods or fonts, focusing particular language and so on.

Among few negative feedbacks, one was the weekend work. Not many like the idea of spending a lovely Sunday for such a tensed work. It would be great if it can be managed during weekdays, not as big as this but preferably shorter sessions of couple of hours.

One more comment I received was that the Indic mashup sounded more like Marathi mashup. This was expected to some extent. I would rather say it concentrated more on Devanagari issues. But this was inevitable. Only linguist present was a Marathi and Sanskrit expert. There were two maharashtrian i18n engineers(including myself), one Marathi language maintainer and one Hindi expert and others who understood Devanagari better. For other languages only one developer was present per language. In my personal opinion there could have been more involvement from other language developers. More issues and requirements could have been raised. But nevertheless even though most of the references were done using Devanagari, most issues were common in general for rest of the scripts and languages.

About venue and facilities, WiFi worked very well. IRC was use mainly for sharing URLs and satisfying the curiosity of few remotees. Except for a delayed lunch, food and all worked out well too.

To sum up I can say this event proved to be productive and I would be looking forward for few more focussed and comparatively shorter sequels.

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