SecureDrop 0.6.0 translation post-mortem


It is the first time we do a post mortem on translations and it is unlikely to become a thing :wink: But this release cycle was exceptionally rich and deserves special attention. First and foremost because dozens of translators from all around the world gave SecureDrop much love, and even went as far as to travel to Valencia on a Sunday. Well, of course they did not travel just to see SecureDrop :slight_smile: But I like to think that it was an incentive for all of us.

During the Internet Freedom Festival that followed during a full week I had the privilege of discussing with many of the translators who generously volunteer their time to localize most of the Free Software tools we use every day to protect our privacy and anonymity. Their contribution is not limited the localization sprint and under the gentle influence of localizationlab they became a quiet but essential part of our community. The strict privacy policy at IFF forbids me from naming them and I can only recommend every SecureDrop developer to attend the IFF next year and thank them in person.

In the first few months of SecureDrop localization 11 languages were completed and reviewed which was a great start. It was not easy and we were all quite happy about how it turned out. But we also knew localization is an ongoing activity. Our next challenge was to make it so SecureDrop localization is sustainable, with a stable infrastructure, self-hosted and light weight to maintain, of course. But also that translating SecureDrop updates and carefully reviewing them is satisfying and we enjoy doing it.

Granted: translating is closer to the satisfaction that you feel with a Zen garden. No so much the excitement of extreme sports. I find translating to be relaxing, in large part because I’m amazed by the attention to detail of AO, the French translation coordinator. We got to know each other better during IFF and he kindly reminded me that I misspell my own name (yes, I do: Loic is how I write it, Loïc is how it should be written). My only excuse is that I started using computers when there was nothing but ASCII and it stuck. I’d like to think everyone in the translation community has similar stories, good reasons to enjoy being there.

We need to preserve these relaxed, friendly feelings in the long run for every translator involved with SecureDrop because in the end nothing else matters. Of course we need good translations and the release must be published, but that should come second.

We accomplished great things during the 0.6.0 release:

  • All 11 languages were updated 100%, in time for the release.
  • Five more translations were completed to 100% and will be reviewed for inclusion in 0.7.0

But we also stumbled:

  • Translators did not magically update the translations within 48h (that’s what happened during 0.5.1). What are we to make of that? Honestly I don’t know. I’m a volunteer too: sometime I’m eager to participate. Sometime I have better things to do. I’m a developer too and sometime things happen without any interaction and sometime we have to discuss, we have to reconnect to get some motivation. It is an essential part of what makes us a community.
  • We will release 0.6.0 with strings that have not been reviewed in Arabic, Portuguese and Norwegian. We’re not really worried about it because the translations were done by volunteers who are knowledgeable and the odds of something being wrong are small enough and we decided to take the risk. However it is not something we want to repeat and we will make it our priority to find ways to mitigate that problem so it does not happen in future releases.

As a conclusion it looks like SecureDrop 0.6.0 was the release where localization entered a mature stage, with a lot of human interactions, excellent results, some problems and above all a healthy, lively mixture that feels right.