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To ET or not to ET

by Frank Schnittger Mon May 12th, 2008 at 07:26:29 AM EST

In Wales' front page story - Meta ET - has attracted an almost record number of comments and, for all I know, is perhaps also almost unique in having achieved this with hardly a snark or pie fight in sight. One previous pie fight was even amicably resolved!

However Xavier in Paris felt that ET had become more strident, challenging, and perhaps intimidating of late, and that this made it difficult to encourage newcomers to engage positively with the site.   Helen has agreed to try and summarise some of the existing conventional wisdoms on ET that have departed from tradmed norms and which might confuse newcomers to the site.

I wouldn't dream of trying to summarise such a comprehensive, multi-threaded conversation, much less the strengths and weaknesses of ET as a whole, but I would like to draw out a line of conversation which I was particularly involved in.  This concerned how best we, as a community, might proceed to develop ET into something bigger and more influential in European public debate.


The first issue to address is obviously whether this is something we all want.  Some contributors (e.g. Melo, Lupin, PerCLupi) seemed to have a preference for keeping ET small and beautiful as it is.  pereulok suggested that "It's in some way the beauty of chaos what gives ET its swing"  and that pereulok:

There's a lot of social networks (Facebook, etc.), Photo-sharing ones (Flickrt, Picasa), business networks (linkedin), e-learning ones... Is there any "thinking network" on the web? ET could be one... So I would suggest an organized ET to focus not only in the content, but on the creation process of the content, because that's what, I think, could give you all a window of opportunity, as it's the special feature of ET

Others argued that ET needs to develop to survive in an increasingly crowded cyberpace and that the fact that the EU polity lacks a very actively engaged Demos or populace provides us with an opportunity to help fill that vacuum.  I suggested that ET might aspire to become as influential in EU affairs as DKos or the Huffington Post have become in the US.  This seemed to some, including Jerome, to be a reasonable aspiration.

The next issue to be addressed, if that overall aspiration were to be accepted, would be to decide how best this should be done.  A number of lines of argument developed:

  1. The need to develop a more sophisticated organisation to support a larger and more diverse site.  I call this the evolutionary process from single cell amoeba to a more complex differentiated multi-cell organisational change model  This would require having more frontpagers (or people with editorial responsibilities) performing a variety of more limited and specialised tasks to avoid burnt-out by our existing small cadre of FPers.  (This might also address Fran's concern that some European country topics are under-represented on ET, by trying to appoint country editors with specific responsibility for sourcing content of more general interest on their country).

  2. The need to develop an almost wiki like knowledge base of key position papers which would inform our debates, hopefully "put to bed" some recurring arguments, act as a useful reference for newcomers, and enable us to market our wares more effectively with traditional media, policymakers, parliamentarians, and a wider range of general users.  This might also require that we send regular press releases to a large spectrum of mass media and research players.

  3. The vexed issue of funding then came up, as Jerome feels that one cannot ask an entirely voluntary group of people to do all the work that would be required.  Some readers may be able to advise on how other sites like DKos, Huffington Post, and Wikipedia have resolved these issues.  However the aspect of this debate which became particularly developed was the idea that we would appoint a Literary Agent or apply to the EU for funding for specific projects which addressed issues which were also of public concern to the EU.  Melanchthon has particular expertise in applying for EU funding for specific projects and agreed to write, when time permits, a diary setting out some of the rules and processes for doing so.

However before we go too far down this track, and put too much work into it, it is important that we pause for breath and ensure that most, if not all, ETers are comfortable with exploring these options.

Do we really want to grow ET into something bigger and more influential?  Are DKos/Huffington Post/WikiPedia the sort of models, in terms of organisation, functionality, technology, community and influence we should be pursuing?  Are we in danger of losing the small, informal, relatively close knit, and very voluntary model that is almost unique to ET at the moment?  Should we just let things evolve in their own way without trying to plan or manage the process?  

Is there a deeper philosophical difference here between those who would prefer a more anarchistic, spontaneous and fluid process of evolution and those who take a more managerialist, strategic and planned approach to organisational development?  Should we avoid all role models and planned approaches to change and just let ET spontaneously evolve, or not, in response to external events and occasional internal initiatives?  Do we have to choose one approach or the other, or is there room for both?

Poll
I would prefer ET to
. 1. Stay more or less as it is 4%
. 2. Evolve spontaneously and naturally without too much overall coordination 32%
. 3. Agree some limited aspirational gaols - and plan to achieve them 16%
. 4. Try to become a significant source of influence within EU popular debate 20%
. 5. All of ther above! 28%
. 6. Other (please specify in comments) 0%

Votes: 25
Results | Other Polls
Display:
First, a word of thanks for summarizing what has indeed been a rich thread.

But I'd like to react to one point, and make my position more precise on that, which is the idea of having a repository of "ET wisdom." I'd actually like to have two different things:

  • one is the internal repository of wisdom and references: an easily accessible database of the best arguments and facts provided on ET on various topics. This would not necessarily need to be in polished form, but would simply need to be easy to find and link to, whenever someone comes up with stuff like "most kids in Europe are now Muslim", "France creates no jobs", "what's the price of oil in euros", etc... To a large extent, this requires filing, or maybe tagging, diaries and comments as they are created, plus maybe sifting through old content to dig up nuggets;

  • the other would the external site, which would present texts that the ET community (in a way to be defined) wants to put forward and make known to the wider world. The idea would be to include there only the finished products, such as LTEs as published, articles by members (subject possibly to an agreed approval procedure), and documents created from ET content and/or by ET members more or less specifically tasked for that (for instance, our contribution to the biofuels debate, or various articles written over the past few years with the explicit goal to be syntheses of earlier discussions; like the "France is not in decline" one)

The ET website as it is could remain as it is - or as it evolves over time. The first tool would help us argument between ourselves and to newcomers; the second would be the vehicle for our public activism. In other words, one is a luxury, the other a tool of activism.

Both require quite a bit of work that it is hard to expect to come only, in practice, from volunteers, given the sustained long term nature of the work required. Most of the work can be done by existing members - and indeed should be done by them, to ensure that it fits within the "spirit" of the site.

My thinking is that a good part of the infrastructure could be put in place in a few month-men of work, with subsequent workload a more manageable volume, which might be organised collectively. I'm able to fund that initial work - which would include running the discussions on the site on how to build these instruments in a way that reflects most members' preferences or vision for the site, implementing the agreed changes, and doing the work of building the database, the IT systems, and the procedures to interact internally and externally.

In the long run, we're all dead. John Maynard Keynes

by Jerome a Paris (etg@eurotrib.com) on Mon May 12th, 2008 at 08:20:46 AM EST
Jerome a Paris:
The first tool would help us argument between ourselves and to newcomers; the second would be the vehicle for our public activism. In other words, one is a luxury, the other a tool of activism.
I think you're very wrong that the "internal repository" is a luxury.

When the capital development of a country becomes a by-product of the activities of a casino, the job is likely to be ill-done. — John M. Keynes
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Mon May 12th, 2008 at 08:27:26 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I meant 'luxury' as 'a substantial improvement in how we use ET' - ie having a much better tool. The other side is actualyl using the tool.

In the long run, we're all dead. John Maynard Keynes
by Jerome a Paris (etg@eurotrib.com) on Mon May 12th, 2008 at 08:31:06 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Let's say developing "ET de luxe" (doesn't that sound better than ET 2.0?) is not a luxury.

When the capital development of a country becomes a by-product of the activities of a casino, the job is likely to be ill-done. — John M. Keynes
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Mon May 12th, 2008 at 08:32:15 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Please don't call it ET Pro, ET de Luxe, ET special needs edition, ET 2020, or ET XP etc.

"It's a mystery to me - the game commences, For the usual fee - plus expenses, Confidential information - it's in my diary..."
by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Mon May 12th, 2008 at 08:41:46 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I somehow always see it as a cube - one side is the community site, the other side (site?) is the thinktank presentation, all glossy and slickly formulated.

Not that ET isn't gloss and slick, but it's more... bubbly and chatty, like an ever evolving cauldron bubbling with ideas and chatter.

Tagging, and also the ability to tag diaries retrospectively (because sometimes the best sounding tag appears later on in the process, such as Anglo Disease) would be a great facilitator for filing. Filing has already begun in the series box...

by Nomad on Mon May 12th, 2008 at 02:46:03 PM EST
[ Parent ]
We should do away with this "archived diaries" nonsense. That way people can always tag or comment an old diary.

When the capital development of a country becomes a by-product of the activities of a casino, the job is likely to be ill-done. — John M. Keynes
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Mon May 12th, 2008 at 02:49:03 PM EST
[ Parent ]
See also here.

When the capital development of a country becomes a by-product of the activities of a casino, the job is likely to be ill-done. — John M. Keynes
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Mon May 12th, 2008 at 02:52:34 PM EST
[ Parent ]
A text database using a free-form query/response interface is a non-trivial task.  (That's engineer speak for aaaaaaaahhhhhhhhhhyyyyyyyyyyeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee!!!!!!!)

To really get the thing up and running it would take a team of 2-3 people, full time, up to 2 years and, when completed, wouldn't work all that well.  It's possible to purchase such things but there are two problems: how well integrated into the internet it would be 'out of the box' and it wouldn't be well integrated into Scoop at all.   And it wouldn't work all that well either.

It's possible to 'fake it' using any of the relational databases floating around and hacking in a Frame/Script-like front-end but THAT wouldn't work so well either.

Finally, a staff of at least three people is required to do the system administration work to keep any of the previous running 24/7.

For the money and time might as well get the Wikipedia software and muck around with the front-end (what the user sees) software.  It wouldn't work any worse than the other options and it would be a whole bunch cheaper to get up and running and then maintain.

Skepticism is the first step on the road to truth. -- Denis Diderot

by ATinNM on Mon May 12th, 2008 at 09:52:34 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I don't think ET is, or should be, in the business of writing original software from the ground up.  That is a formidable task if only because the requirements are not sufficiently clearly defined and will change over time in any case.

For better or for worse we are in the business, at most, of tweaking and perhaps integrating bits of software that are already out there and working reasonably well - e.g. Scoop, mediaWiki, some automated translation programs and adding value more by how we use them in innovative ways and fronting them with visually appealing and easy to use front end which will attract a larger and more linguistically diverse user base.

To do this we need a number of key skills:

  1.  "Someone" who can put together a reasonably coherent and internal consistent set of "user requirements" based on the many discussions we have had on various threads about ET. 2.0 and the need to broaden our multi-lingual capabilities.

  2.  Someone who can research, identify, and evaluate all the tools and bits of software already out there which can assist us in meeting the requirements of 1. above.

  3.  Someone who can put together a technical design document which shows how we will use 2. (plus some integrating and front-ending code) to meet the requirements of 1.  The simpler the better, because we want this to be easy to maintain and enhance into the future when we may have little resources to do the job.

  4. Someone who can scope the work required to do all the above, cost the work, and fill out the relevant grant application forms

  5. Someone who can put language around the whole project which will press all the right buttons with the grant application decision makers.

  6.  Someone who can identify/create appropriate partners in at least 4 countries who will support the project, provide the required legal framework, and  provide some seed funding.

  7. An agreed consultation and  decision making process to ensure that a reasonably clearly defined and manageable project is created which meets all the minimum requirements for grant aid.

  8.  An ongoing management/review process to ensure the project is delivered as specified.

Clearly "someone" will be very busy.  It can be a team of people in each case provided they are reasonably clear and agreed on what needs to be done.

Exactly who and how all the above bits are done is open to debate, but I personally wouldn't want to move ahead with this unless I was reasonably confident we had people/processes in place who were ready, willing and able to do the bare minimum required to put a viable project together.

I'd even be on for having a shot at doing the above before July 1 in the knowledge that we would probably fail, but that the work done and experience gained would be re-usable the next time an opportunity comes up.  Sometimes a lack of time is precisely what you need to cut out all the circularity and talk which is all very interesting but which doesn't actually lead to action or new facts on the ground.

Anybody on for giving it a shot?

Anybody want to stop this from happening?

Jinnah was a man with a problem for every solution - Gandhi

"It's a mystery to me - the game commences, For the usual fee - plus expenses, Confidential information - it's in my diary..."

by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Tue May 13th, 2008 at 05:23:20 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I'd be in favor of trying to make the 1 July deadline, with the proviso that I'm unlikely to have the time to be in the driving seat for this. I would however promise to review and comment extensively on what would be done.

In the long run, we're all dead. John Maynard Keynes
by Jerome a Paris (etg@eurotrib.com) on Tue May 13th, 2008 at 06:09:10 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Melanchthon may be able to advise on the level of detail that would be required for a grant application.  Often they don't require a fully researched solution, only a statement of what the project objectives are, how we propose to address them, and what our capabilities/experience of delivering such projects/services are.  

The EU ill not expect a fully fledged solution for the amount of money we are talking about - say 150k. - with 90k provided by EU.  I will make some enquiries about finding an Irish public source/sponsor to make a contribution towards the remaining 60K - I think this is where the timescale will probably prove impossible, although the same project proposal used to apply for EU funding could also be used to apply for national/local funds, and presumably it will not be necessary to have the 60K in place to apply for the 90K.

"It's a mystery to me - the game commences, For the usual fee - plus expenses, Confidential information - it's in my diary..."

by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Tue May 13th, 2008 at 06:49:14 AM EST
[ Parent ]
presumably it will not be necessary to have the 60K in place to apply for the 90K.
Well, in the submission documents, you have to provide official letters of engagement from the project's partners as well as a detailed budget...

"Dieu se rit des hommes qui se plaignent des conséquences alors qu'ils en chérissent les causes" Jacques-Bénigne Bossuet
by Melanchthon on Tue May 13th, 2008 at 06:59:20 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I'm not sure what level of engagement we are getting here Jerome.  We need volunteers who are prepared to run with/lead all the tasks outlined above, and I certainly wouldn't be prepared to take this any further without feeling much more confident that this isn't just a case of a lot of talk and no action.  

I will make some inquiries re: possible sources of sponsorship/funding, but unless there is a general consensus amongst Fpers that we should try to make this happen and volunteers to run with some of the major tasks I think we should leave it at that and not expend any more time on the issue.

It also depends a lot on your plans for ET 2.0 given that we could fold those functionally enhancements into the multi-lingual project.

"It's a mystery to me - the game commences, For the usual fee - plus expenses, Confidential information - it's in my diary..."

by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Tue May 13th, 2008 at 07:15:18 AM EST
[ Parent ]
For sure, it is not ET's job to develop original software. However we might find people doing it and willing to experiment it with us.

I can do 4, 5 and contribute to 6,7 and 8, but I will be quite busy in the following weeks. The first thing should be to write a first version of the project description (purpose, objectives, kind of organisations involved, approach, method, overall cost...) and to agree about it. Then we would have to find a credible non-profit or public organisation willing to be the project's leader.

"Dieu se rit des hommes qui se plaignent des conséquences alors qu'ils en chérissent les causes" Jacques-Bénigne Bossuet

by Melanchthon on Tue May 13th, 2008 at 06:23:57 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Even by using Scoop and Wikipedia ET will be in the software writing business.  Neither are ready 'out of the box.'  Both require tweaking to extensive re-writing to bring them to functionality.

It comes down to this: how much money is ET 2.0 willing to invest to achieve its goals.  

Skepticism is the first step on the road to truth. -- Denis Diderot

by ATinNM on Tue May 13th, 2008 at 12:19:47 PM EST
[ Parent ]
An EU grant would be 60% with a minimum of 75K so the minimum - on that option would be 125K.  I would have thought that would buy a lot of tweaking!

"It's a mystery to me - the game commences, For the usual fee - plus expenses, Confidential information - it's in my diary..."
by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Tue May 13th, 2008 at 12:48:00 PM EST
[ Parent ]
75k (US $) might be able to buy you one experienced, competent, contract programmer for one year.  More likely the person would want $50/hour for an estimated cost of $100k/year.  

I don't know the market in the EU; rates may be cheaper there.


Skepticism is the first step on the road to truth. -- Denis Diderot

by ATinNM on Tue May 13th, 2008 at 08:35:35 PM EST
[ Parent ]
We're talking €, but I'm guessing the $£€ pricing rule applies.

When the capital development of a country becomes a by-product of the activities of a casino, the job is likely to be ill-done. — John M. Keynes
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Wed May 14th, 2008 at 02:59:59 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I mean $ = £ = €

When the capital development of a country becomes a by-product of the activities of a casino, the job is likely to be ill-done. — John M. Keynes
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Wed May 14th, 2008 at 03:20:32 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Laziness.  Didn't take the time to run a $£ conversion.

Skepticism is the first step on the road to truth. -- Denis Diderot
by ATinNM on Wed May 14th, 2008 at 12:17:09 PM EST
[ Parent ]
€125K would probably buy you c. 400 programmer days if you were using an independent programmer, and a lot less if you were contracting a company.  However there would also be other costs  - project management, testing, server hardware/software, e-marketing etc.  The point is it would be sufficient to fund a significant upgrade of ET if that was what we decided we wanted to do, and if we felt that occasional voluntary effort was insufficient for the job.  Please see my comment at end of thread.

"It's a mystery to me - the game commences, For the usual fee - plus expenses, Confidential information - it's in my diary..."
by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Wed May 14th, 2008 at 01:08:03 PM EST
[ Parent ]
No, afaik I didn't promise to list existing strengths and weaknesses. I'm sure I suggested I would list and try to summarize some of the site cws that have departed from tradmed norms and which might confuse newcomers. I'm about half way through this but was thwarted yesterday when my computer suddenly decided that "cut and paste" was beneath it.

Weaknesses ? The irritatingly constant presence of Helen probably.

keep to the Fen Causeway

by Helen (lareinagal at yahoo dot co dot uk) on Mon May 12th, 2008 at 10:38:01 AM EST
Ah - I'm sorry - I missed the significant change in header on Jerome's post requesting you to do a list.

"It's a mystery to me - the game commences, For the usual fee - plus expenses, Confidential information - it's in my diary..."
by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Mon May 12th, 2008 at 11:07:00 AM EST
[ Parent ]
To avoid further confusion I have edited the diary to reflect your actual diary-in-progress.

"It's a mystery to me - the game commences, For the usual fee - plus expenses, Confidential information - it's in my diary..."
by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Mon May 12th, 2008 at 12:04:28 PM EST
[ Parent ]
dKos advertising is very profitable these days. Kos not just pays himself something of the order of $80K, but pays an IT support person full time plus Hunter is currently full time coder on new stuff. I believe he also pays front-pagers a stipend as well.

Huffington Post works cos Arianna is as rich as Croesus and can afford a vanity project like HuffPo.

ET doesn't have a revenue stream at all, existing entirely from the generosity of Jerome and (possibly) Colman. I doubt that will change.

keep to the Fen Causeway

by Helen (lareinagal at yahoo dot co dot uk) on Mon May 12th, 2008 at 10:43:10 AM EST
dKos advertising is very profitable these days. Kos not just pays himself something of the order of $80K, but pays an IT support person full time plus Hunter is currently full time coder on new stuff. I believe he also pays front-pagers a stipend as well.

And the quality of content & influence has reflected this revenue stream how?  (I'm not implying you suggest that it has.  Just pointing out that paying people and evolving are not nec. connected...)

"Pretending that you already know the answer when you don't is not actually very helpful." ~Migeru.

by poemless on Mon May 12th, 2008 at 11:10:16 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I think there are technical things at least that ET would benefit from if we had some revenue stream to help make it happen.

The one that springs to my mind is that we did have a decent community urge towards branching out subsections in different languages but that ran into severe problems with the architecture of the Scoop software. We'd be a better "European" community if we were more able to interact in more than one language. (Although you can argue that it might not do that much for our political influence.)

Changing that in fact might well not involve a community member being paid, but it almost certainly involves someone being paid.

by Metatone (metatone [a|t] gmail (dot) com) on Mon May 12th, 2008 at 11:19:29 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Metatone:
We'd be a better "European" community if we were more able to interact in more than one language. (Although you can argue that it might not do that much for our political influence.)

Yes. For this forum to grow into a bigger form of itself, it would need to find a good part of its membership among a population of non-native English speakers, people who are comfortable enough reading AND writing in this language. That is, IMHO, both a limitation and a strength of the current model: a smallish pool of individuals sharing a lingua franca. A multi-language community, on the other hand, would need a minimum set of front-pagers per language and a culture of cross-posting to more than one language forum.

You're clearly a dangerous pinko commie pragmatist.

by Vagulus on Mon May 12th, 2008 at 04:30:08 PM EST
[ Parent ]
We'd better be a "European" community if we were more able to interact in more than one language.

I do not completely agree. First, we must be interested in being European. And secondly, we must make great efforts to achieve this: One of the problems that will have to deal with the European Community is the problem of common language. We can not pretend that all citizens of all countries in Europe we are "omni-lingual." Which is not to say that knowing how many more languages is not something magnificent. :-)

by PerCLupi on Tue May 13th, 2008 at 12:06:37 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I did suggest, on Meta ET, that paying some people could result in a different dynamic, and not necessarily a better one.  However if we got specific funding for specific projects from the EU, presumably those doing that work could be paid without impacting on anything else - provided all were agreed on the appropriateness of the projects in question.  I suspect DKos pays some
people because the revenue stream now allows it to and not because it couldn't survive without paid employees.  However there is also a different culture in the US around paying/contributing for services we would see as more appropriate to the public sector space here.  We we wouldn't want to import a market orientated/advertising approach here now would we?

"It's a mystery to me - the game commences, For the usual fee - plus expenses, Confidential information - it's in my diary..."
by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Mon May 12th, 2008 at 11:25:01 AM EST
[ Parent ]
A consultancy could pay its way with ET taking the equivalent of an agency fee which could be used to fund other things.

Consultancy has the potential to be so well paid that it's unlikely this would cause anyone any particular financial hardship.

So I don't think there's any need to make ET a volunteer or welfare effort. Not paying people also affects the dynamic in a different way, and makes it much harder to do useful stuff effectively.

by ThatBritGuy (thatbritguy (at) googlemail.com) on Tue May 13th, 2008 at 05:24:21 AM EST
[ Parent ]
To grow to the size of dkos, though, you do need at least one full time front pager type (kos) and an IT guy to keep things running.

you are the media you consume.

by MillMan (millguy at gmail) on Mon May 12th, 2008 at 02:02:30 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Who wants to grow to dKos' size? Diaries scroll out of the screen faster than you can read them. Plus, the quality of the content (and the comments) is a pale shadow of what it was 3 years ago, say, when it was already many times larger than ET is now.

When the capital development of a country becomes a by-product of the activities of a casino, the job is likely to be ill-done. — John M. Keynes
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Mon May 12th, 2008 at 02:09:14 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I agree, although let's face it, the echo chamber does perform a needed job which thatbritguy alluded to.

you are the media you consume.

by MillMan (millguy at gmail) on Mon May 12th, 2008 at 02:19:20 PM EST
[ Parent ]
... and structural flaws eventually become reflected in the dynamic, even if talented individuals try to rail against it.

Some of those flaws were exploited (perhaps deliberately, perhaps they stumbled on it) during the now concluding primary season.


I've been accused of being a Marxist, yet while Harpo's my favourite, it's Groucho I'm always quoting. Odd, that.

by BruceMcF (agila61 at netscape dot net) on Mon May 12th, 2008 at 08:17:26 PM EST
[ Parent ]
You couldn't run the dKos model in Europe without some big changes. dKos isn't about content, it's about persuading people to give money and knock on doors, and the content is there to make that happen.

The primary season has seen some interesting 'Praise be I've got the Lord Obama' diaries which look suspiciously like astroturf, but have done their job of creating the illusion of consensus incredibly well.

ET wouldn't - at this stage - be about money or knocking on doors. The audience would be different, and likely much smaller, even with localised editions.

It might be about creating consensus, at least in a small way, but if so we need to be for something, rather than against something.

by ThatBritGuy (thatbritguy (at) googlemail.com) on Tue May 13th, 2008 at 05:20:55 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I mentioned DKos only as a metaphore for a site/community which has grown significantly bigger in terms of membership and influence than ET.

No project we put together now can define what sort of content will ultimately find its way onto ET and what it will be used for.  Those are problems for another day.

What we are talking about (I think) is enhancing our existing infrastructure/software to cater for a larger, more linguistically diverse, community and content stream without losing the sense of community or the sense that you can find/focus on what you are looking for.  This requires some better tools, but chiefly better ways of cataloging/organising documents and supporting discussions between participants with different mother tongues.

Thus whist originating diaries would generally be written by someone ion their mother tongue and might only be available in other languages in a machine translated form or if someone has taken the trouble to edit/improve that translation - the "comments engine" might allow comments to appear in several languages.  This will obviously create confusion where the machine translation has been poor - something which can only be clarifies by further discussion.  Hopefully there will generally be a participant around with sufficient lingusitic skills to sort out residual confusions.  It would be a very good way to improve your command of various languages - and a good reason for the EU to support the project.

"It's a mystery to me - the game commences, For the usual fee - plus expenses, Confidential information - it's in my diary..."

by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Tue May 13th, 2008 at 05:41:19 AM EST
[ Parent ]
... at dKos when I said there were flaws in the model. The dKos system allows a small, well-organized group to engage in "hits" to take out influential voices that are on the other side of some immediate fight.

But dKos is not, by and large, imagining itself to be the think tank where ideas are generated and propagated to opinion leaders ... it imagines itself to be a community-written substitute for the oligopress. And so, just as with the oligopress, blocking access by "the other side" is just a familiar political tactic in a new arena, and the hit squad is the organization that puts that tactic into practice, and regular contributers become accustomed to "community" being a synonym for mob rule.


I've been accused of being a Marxist, yet while Harpo's my favourite, it's Groucho I'm always quoting. Odd, that.

by BruceMcF (agila61 at netscape dot net) on Tue May 13th, 2008 at 11:04:58 AM EST
[ Parent ]
The issue of how to deal with hostile, exploitative, and just unruly members is going to become something which ET will have to face more and more as it gets bigger (and more influential) in any case.

"It's a mystery to me - the game commences, For the usual fee - plus expenses, Confidential information - it's in my diary..."
by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Tue May 13th, 2008 at 11:22:23 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I think I would feel uncomfortable, long term, relying on the generousity of one or two people.  We need to find a more self-sustaining model.  I hadn't realised DKos advertising was that profitable.

"It's a mystery to me - the game commences, For the usual fee - plus expenses, Confidential information - it's in my diary..."
by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Mon May 12th, 2008 at 11:11:39 AM EST
[ Parent ]
gets 500,000 visitors a day, in what is a single advertising market. We get 2,000 visitors a day (or, to take a slightly more positive number, 8,000 page views a day) over several ad markets.

I don't see how we could make more than a few hundred euros, at best, from ads, per month. It's that thinking that led us to take all ads out last year - the revenue stream was not worth the hassle (slower page uploading, among other things)

In the long run, we're all dead. John Maynard Keynes

by Jerome a Paris (etg@eurotrib.com) on Mon May 12th, 2008 at 12:05:20 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Jerome a Paris:
We get 2,000 visitors a day (or, to take a slightly more positive number, 8,000 page views a day) over several ad markets.

Interesting number - has it been increasing steadily, or do we know what factors influence it?  e.g. did Stopblair  add a temporary spike or has there been a sustained increase/trendline since?

"It's a mystery to me - the game commences, For the usual fee - plus expenses, Confidential information - it's in my diary..."

by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Mon May 12th, 2008 at 12:11:20 PM EST
[ Parent ]

Last May was a peak for the site (linked to the French presidential campaign which we covered quite extensively. January was a one-off as one article got "dugg", which brought 40,000 hits over a day or two.

As a rough rule, we've grown by about 25% per year in a pretty steady fashion (with probably stronger growth in individual viewer numbers than for pages viewed). Last year, we were around 40,000 visits per month and 180,000 pages. Two years ago, probably around 30,000 and 140,000.

In the long run, we're all dead. John Maynard Keynes

by Jerome a Paris (etg@eurotrib.com) on Mon May 12th, 2008 at 12:21:50 PM EST
[ Parent ]
We seem to have a lot of very occasional browsers who only view a very few pages.  Have you considered developing an e-mail based marketing campaign whereby an email is sent to all subscribers with a an autogenerated list of links to new diaries/stories each morning as a way of drumming up page views a bit?

"It's a mystery to me - the game commences, For the usual fee - plus expenses, Confidential information - it's in my diary..."
by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Mon May 12th, 2008 at 05:44:26 PM EST
[ Parent ]
People are told when they register that the e-mail address used for registration is not going to be used to mail them. Having been involved in managing a mailing list once, I am very wary of mass e-mailing even in a case like this, people are very touchy about spam.

When the capital development of a country becomes a by-product of the activities of a casino, the job is likely to be ill-done. — John M. Keynes
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Mon May 12th, 2008 at 05:50:23 PM EST
[ Parent ]
we'd have to introduce a check box for people to opt in to receiving e-mails.  How many "dormant" accounts do we have - registered users who almost never log in?

PS - it seems to be very difficult for unregistered users (with v. limited IT skills/blogging experience) to navigate the site to find a specific diary

"It's a mystery to me - the game commences, For the usual fee - plus expenses, Confidential information - it's in my diary..."

by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Mon May 12th, 2008 at 06:22:17 PM EST
[ Parent ]
From the viewpoint of what is 'normal' on the web, ET has very high participation and also a very high rate of views to visits.
by nanne (zwaerdenmaecker@gmail.com) on Mon May 12th, 2008 at 06:15:38 PM EST
[ Parent ]
What the heck happened in January?

Skepticism is the first step on the road to truth. -- Denis Diderot
by ATinNM on Mon May 12th, 2008 at 09:19:44 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Jerome a Paris:
January was a one-off as one article got "dugg", which brought 40,000 hits over a day or two.


"It's a mystery to me - the game commences, For the usual fee - plus expenses, Confidential information - it's in my diary..."
by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Mon May 12th, 2008 at 09:22:30 PM EST
[ Parent ]
slap forehead

Oh, right.  That was when we were investigating possible voter fraud in the New Hampshire primary.

Skepticism is the first step on the road to truth. -- Denis Diderot

by ATinNM on Mon May 12th, 2008 at 09:54:16 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Any news on that issue?
by Deni on Tue May 13th, 2008 at 07:47:48 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Apologies for the tardy reply.

The conclusion was: Not Proven.

Skepticism is the first step on the road to truth. -- Denis Diderot

by ATinNM on Wed May 14th, 2008 at 02:27:52 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Some general points:

  1. You can create a media presence with a single site, but the way the Right creates Common Wisdom is by having a number of supposedly impartial and distinct sources all saying the same thing on demand. Putting together that kind of media swarm is more of a long-term project, but it's worth keeping in mind.

  2. We don't need a literary agent, which is a very specific job and probably isn't what Jerome meant. We do need a press office, which is a different animal. Although in fact we don't need a real press office - we need something that looks like one, possibly including a volunteer to field occasional phone calls.

  3. One way to get credibility would be to create a presence in Brussels, and also try to get some form of press accreditation, no matter how tenuous. That way we could be in the news, rather than commenting on the news afterwards.

  4. The press office, think tank/position paper outfit and blog could be seen as separate with no loss of functionality.

  5. Video and moving media are possibly more likely to make a difference than text and analysis are, at least in some parts of the media machine. There's a full range of possibilities from on-the-nose subversive agit-prop to ET TV (for business), which we've discussed before - and it wouldn't hurt to spend more time on them.

ET TV could generate a substantial advertising income all on its own, with relatively small capital costs, even if only progressive advertising were allowed.

  1. Books are useful things too, not just for revenue but also for publicity. I don't think we're at the book writing stage yet - at least not about ET - but it won't be long before we will be.

  2. A distributed presence is fine, and not a new idea. E.g. look at Universal Everything for an example. ET could easily be something similar dedicated to doing something more useful than creating silly eye candy to sell Nikes and Audis.

  3. Probably the main point is to keep in mind that we're talking about more than one kind of job here. Blog swarms, media swarms, a policy machine, a virtual consultancy, and a dynamic content distiller all have different requirements and specifications and will pull the site in different directions. Putting together an outline strategy is going to be more helpful in the long run than trying to start on specifics without one.
by ThatBritGuy (thatbritguy (at) googlemail.com) on Mon May 12th, 2008 at 12:06:21 PM EST
To react to this in order:

  1. Noted. I suppose the medium term goal is to create at least one credible voice.

  2. The "receiving end" bit of the press office de fact exists - that's me (even for the Sto Blair campaign which I did not initiate) and it's manageable right now. What's missing is the "push" part, ie the ability to send press releases over to large numbers of media outlets; the receiving end might need to be beefed up if this is set up, but the harder part is to build the push side, which requires specific knowledge of the media world.

  3. That's why we need a new entity - the thinktank - to play that role. I don't know about the presence in Brussels but maybe it is an inevitable requirement.

  4. Agreed.

  5. That's where I'm least competent to comment. I "don't do" video. It seems horribly time consuming to me, and requires competences I don't have, and/or targets publics I don't "feel."

  6. well, there were proposals following the "France is not in decline" article. The Anglo Disease is also ripe for a book. Writing a book is terribly time consuming, a commodity in short supply...

  7. No comment on that

  8. Agreed. I can only talk about what I feel vaguely able to participate to. If others are confident enough to push other ideas, then that's most welcome.


In the long run, we're all dead. John Maynard Keynes
by Jerome a Paris (etg@eurotrib.com) on Mon May 12th, 2008 at 12:29:15 PM EST
[ Parent ]
We got pricing on PR for an organization of our size and type back during StopBlair days. It's do-able, but unfortunately not free. And, the more you use it, the more you pay...
by redstar on Mon May 12th, 2008 at 06:35:15 PM EST
[ Parent ]
The press-office and the position paper coudl also include the medeia repository to send the press-releases.

A pleasure

I therefore claim to show, not how men think in myths, but how myths operate in men's minds without their being aware of the fact. Levi-Strauss, Claude

by kcurie on Mon May 12th, 2008 at 02:27:12 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I answered « all of the above" to your poll because item 1 and 2 are necessary (in my view) if we want to maintain and develop the collaborative thinking which is the main asset of ET. Item 3 can be seen as a first step towards item 4. Some remarks :

About developing a "shopwindow" to present the results of our collective thinking: I think it is a good idea but, as underlined by Jérôme, it is not a small job. And I agree that this "shopwindow should be a different site. As I said in previous diaries, the community is the heart and main asset of ET and any change made to the site must be carefully designed in order to make the community more welcoming and the collective work more fluid.

If the goal is for ET to contribute to create a European public space, to develop a new EU civil society and if ET, as you put it, "aspires to become as influential in EU affairs as DKos or the Huffington Post have become in the US", that implies to reach a wide enough audience among European citizens. Then there is a major issue which is the language(s). We will never achieve this if we remain an English-only site.

Many people I've introduced to ET found it very interesting but did not become contributors because they didn't feel at ease with writing in English (I know they are lurking). I, for one need much more time to write in English than in French.  Conversely, dveloping a multi_laingual ET would probably make it easier to find more front-pagers if they could write in their mother tongue. I would gladly become a front-pager in a French version of ET (I already mentioned it), but I wouldn't do it now. That would certainly help to cover more European countries' topics, too.

The main question is: how to maintain the community-based production and at the same time have several languages? Is it possible to have instantaneous translation using tools like the wonderful translation tool designed by someone? I think we should launch an internal project about the creation of a multi-lingual site. I know it's a lot of work, but I would gladly participate, because I think it's a necessary condition of ET's development and the creation of a vibrant European public space. It would be a major innovation and I think we might even find European funding for that.

"Dieu se rit des hommes qui se plaignent des conséquences alors qu'ils en chérissent les causes" Jacques-Bénigne Bossuet

by Melanchthon on Mon May 12th, 2008 at 04:13:44 PM EST
I think we should definitely be at least researching what funding is around for tools for multi-lingual sites as I suspect that the EU is already funding some projects in that area. Even if we can't get funding maybe we can volunteer to be a test bed for some ideas.
by Metatone (metatone [a|t] gmail (dot) com) on Mon May 12th, 2008 at 04:22:06 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I made a (very quick) research, and I don't think there are significant projects like the one we have in mind (a simultaneously translated forum). The only thing I found is this paper. And I had a look at the new Debate Europe site, but although it exists in many languages, they do not (or seldom) interact.

The more I think about it, the more I think it would be a great idea for a project. In order to do it, we would probably have to find a software research lab and some other partners.

"Dieu se rit des hommes qui se plaignent des conséquences alors qu'ils en chérissent les causes" Jacques-Bénigne Bossuet

by Melanchthon on Mon May 12th, 2008 at 05:38:22 PM EST
[ Parent ]
How about this one?
Summary of the call for proposals EACEA/07/08

...

This call for proposals, concerning action 1, measure 2.1 -- Citizens' projects within the `Europe for
Citizens' Programme (1), is designed to contribute addressing a major challenge of the European Union
today, namely how to bridge the gap between citizens and the European Union. It aims at exploring original
and innovative methodology with the potential to encourage citizens' par ticipation and to stimulate dialogue
between European citizens and the institutions of the European Union.
The specif ic objectives of this call for proposals are to suppor t citizens' panels which enable to:
(a) collect the opinion of citizens on some key European challenges for the future (see themes);
(b) consolidate a method for stimulating active interaction and discussion between citizens on certain
EU policy areas that affect their daily life;
(c) create mechanisms that enable European citizens to develop civic competences, to formulate their views
and opinions on the European integration process in the form of recommendations for policy makers at
European level;
(d) encourage the dialogue between European citizens and the institutions of the EU, empowering citizens
as regards EU policies and their impact, and ensuring appropriate follow up of citizens' opinions by the
EU institutions.
Applicants under this programme are invited to address in their projects at least one of the following
priority themes:
-- intercultural dialogue,
-- new institutional developments: a new momentum for active European citizenship,
-- women par ticipation in political life,
-- spor t for active citizenship and social inclusion,
-- the European Year of Creativity and Innovation 2009.



When the capital development of a country becomes a by-product of the activities of a casino, the job is likely to be ill-done. — John M. Keynes
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Mon May 12th, 2008 at 05:47:40 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Brilliant.  What's the deadline?

"It's a mystery to me - the game commences, For the usual fee - plus expenses, Confidential information - it's in my diary..."
by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Mon May 12th, 2008 at 05:59:15 PM EST
[ Parent ]
1 July 2008.
2. Eligibile applicants
To be eligible for a grant, the applicant must satisfy the following requirements:
-- it must be a public body or a non-profit-making organisation with a legal status and legal personality.
Consequently, natural persons -- i.e. individuals -- are not eligible,
-- it must be established in an eligible country.


When the capital development of a country becomes a by-product of the activities of a casino, the job is likely to be ill-done. — John M. Keynes
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Mon May 12th, 2008 at 06:02:01 PM EST
[ Parent ]
 Time is very tight, but setting up a shell company with ET FPers as Directors is cheap and child's play. Do we have any lawyers in the house?  Charitable status might take longer. Which country has the the quickest/best/most appropriate options of a non-profit organisation?  Alternatively we could look to partner with an existing non-profit.  The issue is - can we write a decent proposal in time - going on the StopBlair experience - that shouldn't be a problem - hell we can even use that as an example of multi-lingual collaboration.

"It's a mystery to me - the game commences, For the usual fee - plus expenses, Confidential information - it's in my diary..."
by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Mon May 12th, 2008 at 06:08:22 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Time is too tight, alas! (see below) Especially if you take into account this criterion:
Project must involve partner organisations from at least four different eligible countries other than the country of the applicant, fulfilling the eligibility criteria as defined above.


"Dieu se rit des hommes qui se plaignent des conséquences alors qu'ils en chérissent les causes" Jacques-Bénigne Bossuet
by Melanchthon on Mon May 12th, 2008 at 06:52:26 PM EST
[ Parent ]
A French Loi 1901 association is very easy to create. Only needs 3 signatures and a trip to the préfecture...

Un roi sans divertissement est un homme plein de misères
by linca (antonin POINT lucas AROBASE gmail.com) on Mon May 12th, 2008 at 07:16:04 PM EST
[ Parent ]
A UK LLP takes £20 and two signatures...

When the capital development of a country becomes a by-product of the activities of a casino, the job is likely to be ill-done. — John M. Keynes
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Mon May 12th, 2008 at 07:33:54 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Migeru:
2. Eligibile applicants
To be eligible for a grant, the applicant must satisfy the following requirements:
-- it must be a public body or a non-profit-making organisation with a legal status and legal personality.
Consequently, natural persons -- i.e. individuals -- are not eligible,
-- it must be established in an eligible country.

A UK LLP takes £20 and two signatures...

A UK LLP would qualify as a "public body" but not (automatically) as "a non-profit-making organisation", is that correct?  (I realize it would only have to be deemed one or the other, but I just wanted to make sure I understood the categories.)

A language is a dialect with an army and navy.

by marco on Mon May 12th, 2008 at 07:41:38 PM EST
[ Parent ]
For the European Commission, a public body means a state administration, a local government, a public university... As far as I know, a UK LLP is a private body.

"Dieu se rit des hommes qui se plaignent des conséquences alors qu'ils en chérissent les causes" Jacques-Bénigne Bossuet
by Melanchthon on Mon May 12th, 2008 at 07:53:10 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I don't see the LLP as applying.

I see the Foundation (as a "Not for Profit" "organisation") applying and receiving the money as "Custodian".

The members of the LLP then pass these funds to Operating Members to develop whatever IP exists, and whatever gets developed gets held by the "Custodian" as a "steward" of the stated ET purpose.

The LLP is simply a consensual legal agreement or protocol. It does not operate as an "Organisation". The LLP agreement could probably incorporate a Creative Commons licence, or similar.

This protocol links together the "Organisation"/ Foundation with the other stakeholders and potentially replaces (say) employment contracts (with any individuals); service contracts (with service providers);  revenue sharing agreements with "Investors" (instead of loan and grant agreements) and so on.

The LLP is not an "Organisation" at all the way I see it: it's a framework - with cross border application (which I've done a couple of times) within which we "self organise".

It could even extend to the legal relationship with the EU, but I suspect they'll want to stick with their standard boiler-plate agreements for a while longer. Probably until McKinsey suggests doing it.

"The future is already here -- it's just not very evenly distributed" William Gibson

by ChrisCook (cojockathotmaildotcom) on Tue May 13th, 2008 at 09:03:43 AM EST
[ Parent ]
ok, ok, lets not have a race to the bottom!!  Presumably Jerome/FPers would have make formal decision.

"It's a mystery to me - the game commences, For the usual fee - plus expenses, Confidential information - it's in my diary..."
by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Mon May 12th, 2008 at 07:42:09 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Okay, here's my take:

The structure of Jerome at the top ONLY exists--as I understand it--because Jerome pays for the site.

Now...Jerome is also at the top when it comes to certain key issues.  When it comes to music video diaries--

It takes, I think, a discussion about what kind of public entity ET (the collective) would like to create--and if it is to be called ET LLP (LLPs can have all kinds of names)--then, yes, whoever coined the term has full veto.

But--as I understand it--Jerome is saying, "If you think it's a good idea, get on and do it!"  He can't be micro-managing every conversation--doesn't want to.

I think the idea of ET LLP is long in the air and any time the conversation turns to business structures...here it comes!  I think it would be very enjoyable to read the diaries in which such a structure was created--diaries are available to all who are allowed to comment (two bannings so far); offer initial absolute veto to every member posting as of 31st May 2008--or build a structure that would get no vetoes cast upon it--

I really don't see a seperate table where Jerome and the FPers dine--really, I don't.  I very much appreciate the work they put in and I try and add a bit to the mix--but as Jerome wrote correctly (for me); if you have the contacts--use them!  If you know how to do something useful, do it!

Now, can I have once again a rousing cheer and an offer of whatever someone would like to....someone for TribExt!?!!!!!!!!!!!!!

You know, at £20, that's about 50 english pence per regular--it's not the money, it's the structure--as you pointed out!

I'll go back to Colman's description: "Fluid Hierarchies."

Don't fight forces, use them R. Buckminster Fuller.

by rg (leopold dot lepster at google mail dot com) on Mon May 12th, 2008 at 07:59:46 PM EST
[ Parent ]
It is exactly the kind of calls for proposals we should look for. However, the deadline for this one is, IMHO, too tight. Before July 1st, we should:
  • set up a non-profit organisation
  • design the project and draft the project's presentation
  • find a partner willing to be the project leader (because our organisation would be too recent)
  • find partners (local or national governments, companies, foundations...) willing to finance 40% of the project:
    The grant awarded may not exceed 60 % of the total amount of the project's eligible costs as specified in the detailed budget estimate. The minimum grant will be € 75.000. The maximum grant will be € 150.000.

  • set up the detailed budget
  • ...

I doubt we will be able to do so in less than 2 months.

However, this kind of open calls for proposals is usually renewed every year (with different deadlines), so we could aim at building a project for next year's one. We could look for similar opportunities in other EC directorates and agencies.

 

"Dieu se rit des hommes qui se plaignent des conséquences alors qu'ils en chérissent les causes" Jacques-Bénigne Bossuet

by Melanchthon on Mon May 12th, 2008 at 06:40:28 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Reluctantly, I have to agree, but it would be really useful if we could start the process of setting up the type of legal structure/partnerships which would allow us to become eligible for this kind of grant income in the future.  Do we have agreement in principle that this is the sort of option we should pursue in the future?  I could investigate possible partners in Ireland.  Can others look into partners in other countries, and do we have a lawyer who can suggest a legal structure?  

"It's a mystery to me - the game commences, For the usual fee - plus expenses, Confidential information - it's in my diary..."
by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Mon May 12th, 2008 at 07:03:35 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Do we have agreement in principle that this is the sort of option we should pursue in the future?  

Chris, any thoughts on this one?

Don't fight forces, use them R. Buckminster Fuller.

by rg (leopold dot lepster at google mail dot com) on Mon May 12th, 2008 at 07:05:20 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Yup.

You'd need an "ET Foundation" somewhere, which would then be the "Custodian" member of an ET LLP. And that's it.

Solveig did this not long ago with an LLP in which the charity she set up is one "Custodian" member and she personally is the other "Operating" Member. It's still a "shell", but hopefully will be activated soon.

"The future is already here -- it's just not very evenly distributed" William Gibson

by ChrisCook (cojockathotmaildotcom) on Tue May 13th, 2008 at 02:38:49 AM EST
[ Parent ]
ChrisCook: You'd need an "ET Foundation" somewhere, which would then be the "Custodian" member of an ET LLP. And that's it.

Chris, have you seen this thread below?

Do you think an LLP + "ET Foundation" as "Custodian" would pass as a "non-profit-making organisation" in the eyes of European Commission?

A language is a dialect with an army and navy.

by marco on Tue May 13th, 2008 at 03:28:30 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Apparently 'non-profit' has a technical as well as a moral description - it doesn't mean money isn't made, it means money isn't given to shareholders.

I'd guess a lot of trusts and foundations invest their money for profit, even if they're not for-profits in the technical sense.

So I wouldn't see this as a huge problem.

by ThatBritGuy (thatbritguy (at) googlemail.com) on Tue May 13th, 2008 at 05:29:26 AM EST
[ Parent ]
In the future, we should look for other oportunities like this one(same deadline problem), or this one...

"Dieu se rit des hommes qui se plaignent des conséquences alors qu'ils en chérissent les causes" Jacques-Bénigne Bossuet
by Melanchthon on Mon May 12th, 2008 at 08:43:17 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Melanchthon:
However, the deadline for this one is, IMHO, too tight.

That's fightin' talk....

"The future is already here -- it's just not very evenly distributed" William Gibson

by ChrisCook (cojockathotmaildotcom) on Tue May 13th, 2008 at 02:42:31 AM EST
[ Parent ]
What do you mean?

"Dieu se rit des hommes qui se plaignent des conséquences alors qu'ils en chérissent les causes" Jacques-Bénigne Bossuet
by Melanchthon on Tue May 13th, 2008 at 02:51:30 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Joke. From a bad 50's western B movie....

I mean let's go for it, kemo sabe....

"The future is already here -- it's just not very evenly distributed" William Gibson

by ChrisCook (cojockathotmaildotcom) on Tue May 13th, 2008 at 08:51:33 AM EST
[ Parent ]
A project to create a multi-lingual blogging site with rapid translation facilities and which encourages inter-lingual blogging exchanges of comments/diaries would, in my view, be a very attractive project from an EU perspective.  Ideally Diaries/comments would be mirrored across several languages.  How good are the altavista babel fish type translation engines?

"It's a mystery to me - the game commences, For the usual fee - plus expenses, Confidential information - it's in my diary..."
by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Mon May 12th, 2008 at 05:55:05 PM EST
[ Parent ]
They're crap.

When the capital development of a country becomes a by-product of the activities of a casino, the job is likely to be ill-done. — John M. Keynes
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Mon May 12th, 2008 at 05:55:58 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I could get real technical here and bore the shit out of everyone so let me just say, "ditto."

And there is no way to fix 'em without stepping outside the Set Theory paradigm.  

Skepticism is the first step on the road to truth. -- Denis Diderot

by ATinNM on Mon May 12th, 2008 at 09:17:19 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Now yoy have the ETpedia wiki, to bore us with technical detail not only on linguistics but on agriculture. Yippee!

When the capital development of a country becomes a by-product of the activities of a casino, the job is likely to be ill-done. — John M. Keynes
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Wed May 14th, 2008 at 02:49:02 AM EST
[ Parent ]
When boredom has been maximized my work here will be done.  Until then, ATinNM vows to endeavor to persevere.

;-)

Skepticism is the first step on the road to truth. -- Denis Diderot

by ATinNM on Wed May 14th, 2008 at 02:25:02 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Yes!  But you want a natural flow across the languages--or I'd like a natural flow, so I could read a diarist who wrote in a couple of languages in the one diary, creating some time-saving:

He said, "ma non capisce un niente, quello..."

a link to the original comment, those who understand the language will naturally move across, and for those who don't understand it, the context should make it clear what the quote is about--in relation to the present diary...

I think that can be done with the current set up, those who can understand more than one language will be able to read more diaries--and who knows what crazines they're writing over there--using only cyrllic symbols--with a few kurdish words in there, maybe...

My word!  That's as open as you like!  All it means is people posting diaries, so then you get "too many diaries to read all of them", and then you have to pick and choose on criteria--the title of the diary, the name of the person or people who put it together, so you need a central spot--but the central spot of ET is currently written in english, because so many european, english, north american, australian, indian, chinese, etc. people can read it and speak it to most acceptable levels.  I think the sound of europeans speaking english is wonderful, and simply applying more of your own language, especially when...or that becomes "talking to people like me"--so I think a slow consideration of a new front page structure, what needs to stay on the front page, do things need to be added or subtracted?

This isn't a bi (or tri etc.)-lingual site, but there are a high percentage of people who can write and speak--can function effectively--in another language.  But to write?  Ah....!  So for those people (including me) who will find it easier to write in one language, read in another, and between the two find some common ground, a bit of this, some of that...

Which sounds like ET--gateway to...however you can describe what ET is: a gateway (a window--a screen upon which you find)...words and pictures and videos.  In all kinds of languages--so a diary producer is advantaged in a multi-lingual environment, if he or she or they can communicate to both language areas (or all three...or...four)--

So lack of translation means leaving people out (the ones who can't understand both sides of the conversation.)  I don't mind that--maybe I'll hope someone who does understand can give me a translation--but, turn the page, click a link, switch the thing off...ach...how could a multilingual frontpage work?  What would it need, how would a multilingual site be negotiated?

Heh....you got me thinking, I've been enjoying your comments and your offers are very generous.  If there are EU grants going for music video diaries, I'll write a proposal.  I can think of many intriguing ways to use it to generate credits of all kinds--ach!

Don't fight forces, use them R. Buckminster Fuller.

by rg (leopold dot lepster at google mail dot com) on Mon May 12th, 2008 at 05:03:44 PM EST
[ Parent ]
you want a natural flow across the languages

Exactly! Unless we achieve that, we will not tap into the huge number of knowledgeable people who are not compfortable with writing in English. (see above)

"Dieu se rit des hommes qui se plaignent des conséquences alors qu'ils en chérissent les causes" Jacques-Bénigne Bossuet

by Melanchthon on Mon May 12th, 2008 at 05:41:57 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I'd say to that number of people: write in any language you want!  I put up video diaries, as irrelevant or not to the main thrust of this site as you can get!  Or ask for collaborations, maybe, where there's input and proof-reading from the various angles--

I think Jerome could do well from a book called The Anglo Disease; he has the closest focus; he has the widest and deepest knowledge--I think.  He could ask for collaborators, but it would have to come from Jerome.

For the rest of the site, I would cross over to a foreign language page if--I could understand it in some way; so sometimes diaries go up and...float away...for various reasons, and if there's no audience--maybe it's the best diary written at ET ever, but everyone looked away at the wrong moment and when they looked back, it had gone!  

A specific example: I can read the photo-blog in any language--because I go there for the pictures.  Have a themed blog: this week, all comments in the photo blog will be in russian--followed by whatever russian phrase the writer has found--

здравствулте!

Next week it'll be korean.  

여보세요

and

안녕

!

--------

Suddenly I think that it also depends on the width of diary entries.  If the focus is economics, and intelligent people are already discussing issues in great depth in english, they won't want to break into french.

But if a specific issue appears in french, and the answers bend from french to english, french, french, english and french, french and english--it happened once, not quite that level but I enjoyed it, I understood very little, but I got some of the gist--or maybe I imagined it just now!

Soft shoots don't grow when it's hailing; sturdy plants survived many changes in location and weather--

I would say: keep the subject interesting--find new angles and report back.  As long as you have some luck, and...

ach....a bunch of english speakers will not be able to read the diary.  But...

Okay...it's a hard subject.  Common currencies are useful--especially when communicating over distances.  I like the idea of spanish being the lingua franca of everyday discorse--

It's something a multi-linguist could try, a series of diaries where language becomes the subject, and the diaries are written with all --

Ma chi mi riesce rispondere, e qui vorebbe--se scrivo cosi' male l'italiano--the english accent--!

Un diario in francese--ma chi capisce francese?  Ah!  Si, io capisco perfetammente francese, epurre c'e' quello li che capice tutt'e due--e quei inglesi--heh!

Don't fight forces, use them R. Buckminster Fuller.

by rg (leopold dot lepster at google mail dot com) on Mon May 12th, 2008 at 06:58:51 PM EST
[ Parent ]
rg, this appeals to me (sorry, I've forgotten how to put the quote into a box):

" It's something a multi-linguist could try, a series of diaries where language becomes the subject, and the diaries are written with all -- "

I speak English, French, Italian and Spanish, plus a mostly forgotten bit of Portuguese. I write correctly in English, well enough in French and Italian (with some grammatical errors, easily forgiven) and could manage to write in Spanish. So the idea of a multi-lingual diary, if it's not too long and on a subject I can talk about, is very tempting. Now all I need is the subject. Any suggestions? Not economics, please!

Blaugustine

by Augustinatalie (endapressNOTblueyonderNOTcoNOTuk) on Mon May 12th, 2008 at 08:58:01 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Oops, I have to reply to myself because I've just seen my error.
rg, you did say that language would be the subject.

Now I have to ponder what I could say about language.

H'm, let me think.

Blaugustine

by Augustinatalie (endapressNOTblueyonderNOTcoNOTuk) on Mon May 12th, 2008 at 09:01:58 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Automatic translation software can achieve anywhere from a 70% to 95% 'correct' score depending on the text inputted to the parser.  Unfortunately, that's not good enough to fool a native speaker.  

If the goal is to launch from an 'ET' diary to the news media a non-idiomatic automatic translation can be used as the starting point but it would have to be edited and redacted by a human.


Skepticism is the first step on the road to truth. -- Denis Diderot

by ATinNM on Mon May 12th, 2008 at 09:00:03 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Obviously only a few key diaries would be translated for the media and this would create a requirement for more multi-lingual editors

"It's a mystery to me - the game commences, For the usual fee - plus expenses, Confidential information - it's in my diary..."
by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Mon May 12th, 2008 at 09:20:37 PM EST
[ Parent ]
The idea is to have a simultaneous translation of the diaries and the comments. There is no need to "fool a native speaker", but to convey the meaning of the contributions made in different languages. If they are interested, native speakers could correct the diary's text in their own language (like we did for the petition).

I have experimented the tool used by Someone in Tribext on some complicated texts, and I have been amazed by the result. Maybe this level of performance could be sufficient to allow a discussion involving contributors writing in several different languages. Anyway, it would be worth trying it.

And this using basic tools. What about working with a research lab able to provide state-of-the-art translation software?

"Dieu se rit des hommes qui se plaignent des conséquences alors qu'ils en chérissent les causes" Jacques-Bénigne Bossuet

by Melanchthon on Mon May 12th, 2008 at 09:38:18 PM EST
[ Parent ]
The only research being conducted, that I am aware of, in the US on translation software is being funded by police, military, and intelligence agencies of the US government.  

But Translation software is not within my main line of research so there may be other funding sources.

Skepticism is the first step on the road to truth. -- Denis Diderot

by ATinNM on Mon May 12th, 2008 at 11:02:09 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I've always been in favour of the multi-lingual project (this is not the first time it's been discussed, far from it), and I don't want to throw cold water on your hopes for automatic translators, but I find most of the time that there's a fair to considerable amount of work to be done on generated (French->English) texts. A couple of paragraphs from Libé for the Salon this morning needed almost entirely rewriting, for example.

I also seem to recall we concluded, at one point, that the free translators available on the Internet used the same engine, so there's nothing to be gained from collating them. I don't see how we could function without human intervention.

by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Tue May 13th, 2008 at 10:29:09 AM EST
[ Parent ]
afew:
I don't see how we could function without human intervention.

And that is not just a necessary but also a good thing - building translingual relationships,helping people to improve their command of other languages, building the confidence of those who have some but not enough command of a particular language etc.  

All of which is also precisely why this project would be worthy of EU support.  Its not just the increased sharing of knowledge, but the building of relationship, the improvement of processes for dealing with misunderstandings - something which can happen in one language in any case!

"It's a mystery to me - the game commences, For the usual fee - plus expenses, Confidential information - it's in my diary..."

by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Tue May 13th, 2008 at 11:19:29 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Entirely agree.
by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Tue May 13th, 2008 at 11:40:55 AM EST
[ Parent ]
afew:

I don't see how we could function without human intervention.

And I do not know either. Indeed, if we read Boing Boing, quoted by Melo below, those making the Worldwide Lexicon do not know either.

by PerCLupi on Tue May 13th, 2008 at 11:37:06 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Any language one chooses excludes those who don't understand it. Multiple languages would mean that more people get excluded. Given that English is by far the most common foreign language known in Europe it is the logical choice for a multinational site.  

To those who are reluctant to comment because they're worried about making lots of mistakes - don't worry, just do it. This isn't a language class, nobody is grading you on your grammatical mistakes. Hell, some of us native English speakers can get pretty careless as well (always somewhat sheepish at the fact that a lot of the non-native English speakers tend to be more polished than I am). As far as more involved diaries go, one idea might be to offer translation services. I'm perfectly happy to translate anything from Polish, French or German. And I'm far from the only one here with language skills.

If we do try multilingual stuff it might be worth trying to figure out which languages make sense - presumably only the major ones (Spanish, French, German, Italian). How many lurkers are there who are native speakers in those languages but don't feel comfortable commenting in English? How many people can read those languages?

by MarekNYC on Tue May 13th, 2008 at 12:22:13 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I agree you.
by PerCLupi on Tue May 13th, 2008 at 01:30:29 PM EST
[ Parent ]
If we do try multilingual stuff it might be worth trying to figure out which languages make sense - presumably only the major ones (Spanish, French, German, Italian). How many lurkers are there who are native speakers in those languages but don't feel comfortable commenting in English? How many people can read those languages?
I always say the same thing: refer to the Special Eurobarometer 243 on Europeans and their Languages [PDF] for self-assessed language fluency in the European Union (and neighbourhood: it includes Turkey and Croatia)

The previous chart is from the full report, while the following one is from the summary [PDF]:


When the capital development of a country becomes a by-product of the activities of a casino, the job is likely to be ill-done. — John M. Keynes

by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Tue May 13th, 2008 at 02:18:04 PM EST
[ Parent ]
thanks. It's nice to see foreign languages are going up. I'm a bit surprised at the native level stats - (there are more native Italian speakers than native French speakers?) and the fact that apparently several million Europeans speak Polish as a foreign language?!. Anyways, that confirms my intuition about English as by far the most commonly known language. Furthermore, only German and French seem to have significant numbers of non-native speakers.
by MarekNYC on Tue May 13th, 2008 at 02:34:44 PM EST
[ Parent ]
One possible reason might be that more people list Italian and some other language as their mother tongue, while French-speakers are less likely, for some reason, to do so.

Yes, you can list multiple languages as you mother tongue. 94 % of the Irish list English as their mother tongue, while 11 % list Irish...

Did any of you know that 9% of the population of Luxembourg have Portuguese as their mother tongue? Or that the Luxembourgers are the only country where they think that learning French is more important than learning English?

by gk (g k quattro due due sette "at" gmail.com) on Tue May 13th, 2008 at 05:44:46 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Maybe because French is actually an official language in Luxembourg...

Also, for the "more Italian than French mother tongue", I'd say maybe the more numerous immigrants in France than in Italy may not have French as mother tongue...

Un roi sans divertissement est un homme plein de misères

by linca (antonin POINT lucas AROBASE gmail.com) on Tue May 13th, 2008 at 06:41:51 PM EST
[ Parent ]
It's 93% in France vs. 95% in Italy, so the immigrants in France may be balanced by the nonimmigrant linguistic minorities in Italy.

But another explanation is simply that the conclusion is false. It's 13% vs. 12%, and the margin of error is around 2%...

by gk (g k quattro due due sette "at" gmail.com) on Wed May 14th, 2008 at 03:43:30 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Even without the error margin, they seem to forget that 38% of Belgians name French as first language. That's about 4 million people.
by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Wed May 14th, 2008 at 08:56:22 AM EST
[ Parent ]
So assuming that they know how to do arithmetic, that means there a lot of Italians scattered throughout Europe. This could be the case: in previous generations, a lot of Italians moved to Germany for work, and maybe this happened in other countries as well. Unfortunately, this report doesn't have statistics for this.

By the way, another reason not to take the figures on Italian vs. French too seriously is that the study does not include Switzerland...

by gk (g k quattro due due sette "at" gmail.com) on Thu May 15th, 2008 at 02:59:42 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Belgium and the Netherlands also took in a large number of immigrant workers in the 1950's and 60's. Maybe that's the reason Italy was one of the 6 founding members of the EEC.

When the capital development of a country becomes a by-product of the activities of a casino, the job is likely to be ill-done. — John M. Keynes
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Thu May 15th, 2008 at 03:18:07 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Actually, understanding dawns when you look at p70 of the main report pdf. There you have the population size they were using as a basis for the percentages.

The survey was run on 15+ population. Their numbers for that group are 49m in Italy, 44m in France, 8.6 m in Belgium.

  • 49m x 95% = 46.6m
  • (44m x 93%) + (8.6m x 38%) = 44.3m

Other numbers (p141) are:

  • Italian-speakers 2% in France, 2% in Belgium, 1% in Spain, 1% in Luxembourg
  • French-speakers 6% in Luxembourg, 1% in Cyprus (!)
by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Thu May 15th, 2008 at 05:52:55 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Some contributors (e.g. Melo, Lupin, PerCLupi) seemed to have a preference for keeping ET small and beautiful as it is.

er, not quite...

its more a contentment with what is and a faint concern, probably groundless, that changing it into something more effective might be a seduction ploy of our wishful thinking, vanity, whatever...

so it's not a preference for it staying 'small is beautiful' (though i am a huge EF Schumacher fan), it's more 'why tweak it, when it's so close to perfect already?'.

but that's selfish, i certainly am not partisan to it staying small or growing per se, just cautious of a desire to grow for possibly the wrong reasons, ie to be 'bigger', make more ad money, become a blog 'somebody', when for my needs it's so nice just the way it is.

but since this blog is not just about me, i don't want to influence the direction of this blog in the size dept, i just want it to be the amazing place it is and has been since the beginning, big or small.

if it changes in ways where i don't feel it as fun or welcoming, then it's probably because there's another little blog just starting up with interesting themes to study and develop, that hasn't got too big for its boots yet.

the best growth happens without fertiliser, because the plant is happy where it is. if this place was stagnant in any way, or was bumping up against some ceiling stopping it grow, then i'd be trying to change it, or gone.

since i like it, i don't need it to change, tho' i'm open and excited to see others take the energy we generate here and use it to lever reality.

in fact i think its healthy, to grow and change. and it's healthy to enjoy something the way it is and know when you're lucky already to appreciate what there is, to be so happy already, that it'd be 'pushing the river' to want it to be more in any way!

win-win

( growth for growth's sake is anglo disease!)

"We can all be prosperous but we can't all be rich." Ian Welsh

by melo (melometa4(at)gmail.com) on Mon May 12th, 2008 at 06:31:54 PM EST
Well put, as usual, and there is nothing wrong with ET focusing on existing needs even whilst eying a green field out yonder - its the bread and butter of any community.

"It's a mystery to me - the game commences, For the usual fee - plus expenses, Confidential information - it's in my diary..."
by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Mon May 12th, 2008 at 06:44:56 PM EST
[ Parent ]
thanks, and exactly!

it's both/and, not either/or.

i'm not some stodge who is afraid of change, but sometimes good intentions can add unneeded complexity. can't know without trying...

it's easy to fall in love with a puppy, but there's a different kind of beauty in a full grown dog.

 i trust that ET will grow or die, like all enterprises, and evidence shows, as jerome points out, that we are growing, in fact we're getting big enough to start feeling an inferiority complex, lol!.

we want to be like the big blogs!

as i get older, the more i appreciate slow and think there are a lot people who miss the best feelings in life because they are just running so fast...

take it easy, savour each moment, make it last...

 is that my inner polynesian talking?

get with the program, shave every day, get euro-angst and make it work for you-  climb, grow, dominate!

just kidding, frank, you knew that, right?

"We can all be prosperous but we can't all be rich." Ian Welsh

by melo (melometa4(at)gmail.com) on Mon May 12th, 2008 at 08:06:45 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I can do slow... just not in the morning.  I can do humility too - just not very well.

"It's a mystery to me - the game commences, For the usual fee - plus expenses, Confidential information - it's in my diary..."
by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Mon May 12th, 2008 at 08:52:28 PM EST
[ Parent ]
haha..

i talk too much...

about too little...

i'm learning not to worry so much about things, che sara sara

"We can all be prosperous but we can't all be rich." Ian Welsh

by melo (melometa4(at)gmail.com) on Mon May 12th, 2008 at 09:26:23 PM EST
[ Parent ]
(This might also address Fran's concern that some European country topics are under-represented on ET, by trying to appoint country editors with specific responsibility for sourcing content of more general interest on their country).

I'm not sure we need to appoint country editors, since they can always appoint themselves.  

One of the things I'd like to see is more news in translation.  The English-language media is very bad at reporting on goings-on in non-English speaking countries or getting into the detail (and when it does, it tends to report in certain stereotypical ways).  It would be nice to see what non-English speaking countries write about themselves, and their internal political narratives.

Currently we get a bit of this stuff.  But not enough.  Any volunteers?

by IdiotSavant on Mon May 12th, 2008 at 10:27:53 PM EST
  1. In my view, and from personal experience, the problem of the common language used in ET (English) is "in writing diaries complex": it is not in reading, or writing comments.

  2. A system of automatic translation does not exist -as far as I know: they are investigating on improving what already exists, but the level achieved is still unsatisfactory for a routine use on a large scale.

  3. If we diversify ET in several languages, in my opinion, this has the following problems:
           a) If we are to maintain a unity of ET, we must include all the different elements on the same page. And this, from experience, I know that is impractical (See: A Multi-Lingual Experiment About Language, by Augustinatalie, in ET, or http://okonkanuto.blogspot.com).

           b) If we divide ET in several sub-websites, according languages, users will see page written in their own language and, at best, a user will look at some other site in a language he considers easy.

I think that the language of the site must be English. At least, ET will readers. And this site will be a unit. If processed materials are made, they must be written in English and revised so they have a good level of expression -or written, for its importance, in the native language of the author and translated into English by a capable person.

Many people, like me, we are able to read several languages, but we have trouble writing and speaking, because we learned languages as tools for our studies and to obtain specialized information, but we do not have enough expressive fluidity.

I, as linguist and philologist, I think I can say: if a community does not possess a single common language, the different languages will divide the community in respective sub-communities. The problem of language is a matter of utmost importance. Let us be careful.

"Correspondents" in each country in Europe -and even in non-European countries- may have. And the material from them must be common set of ET as unitary website.

I think that the language problem is not what we have to resolve first.

(I will continue.)

by PerCLupi on Tue May 13th, 2008 at 05:14:51 AM EST
I think an international auto-blog would be a very interesting side-project. It would certainly be a useful and noteworthy thing, even with some manual tweaking of output. The idea is inherently powerful, even if the the implementation would probably be less so.

But in the short term we'll get more mileage from localising ET for non-English use, perhaps with a simple link to a 'translate this page' feature on something like Babelfish. It would be a simple and quick mash-up which would do the job almost as well as a three year research project would.

I wouldn't see developing new language community spin-offs as a bad thing, as long as there was some cross fertilisation between them.

If ET became multilingual overnight, we'd soon be swamped by content. We might be better off having roving front pagers who can cross-post specific topics.

Possibly the easiest way to implement this would be to run everything on a single server in a single database, with language tags for user filtering, and either individual cross-post tags for specific language crossovers, and a global show-all tag for ultra-special posts that would interest everyone.

With a bit of code you could possibly persuade the mash-up to show the translations automatically, with an option to have volunteer translators who can spend 15-20 minutes beating a machine translation into something that makes local sense.

by ThatBritGuy (thatbritguy (at) googlemail.com) on Tue May 13th, 2008 at 05:47:15 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I think my reply to PerClupi - just below, and written at the same time as yours, says more or less the same thing.  Even if this project is not 100% successful first time around - it is an effort which should be made, and an effort the EU should support.  In fact its a hugely ambitious effort, and even a few stepa in the direction of supporting cross linguistic dialogue and blogging would be a hugely powerful tool towards supporting the creation of an EU Demos or active citizenry.

"It's a mystery to me - the game commences, For the usual fee - plus expenses, Confidential information - it's in my diary..."
by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Tue May 13th, 2008 at 05:58:56 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Well, my comment to PerClupi is along the same line. (see below)

"Dieu se rit des hommes qui se plaignent des conséquences alors qu'ils en chérissent les causes" Jacques-Bénigne Bossuet
by Melanchthon on Tue May 13th, 2008 at 06:05:07 AM EST
[ Parent ]
...Although I also think the idea needs to fit into a bigger picture. Otherwise it will become a technical project for the sake of it, rather than something that's really going to have a social impact.

My take on it would be to keep it as simple as possible - multiple sites, a single server, a single database, simple auto translation, some manual tagging and editing.

I don't think a fully automated site is possible for now, and we shouldn't promise that to anyone.

Functionally I think the different language versions should be independent with some cross-posting. The plan wouldn't be to have all of the content duplicated across all the sites.

Position papers can probably stay in English, although French and German would be useful.

If you tag the auto-translation with a Beta label, no one will expect great things of it, which would help to minimise disappointment.

by ThatBritGuy (thatbritguy (at) googlemail.com) on Tue May 13th, 2008 at 06:18:45 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I think my reply to PerClupi - just below, and written at the same time as yours, says more or less the same thing.  Even if this project is not 100% successful first time around - it is an effort which should be made, and an effort the EU should support.  In fact its a hugely ambitious effort, and even a few stepa in the direction of supporting cross linguistic dialogue and blogging would be a hugely powerful tool towards supporting the creation of an EU Demos or active citizenry.

Melanchthon may be able to advise on the level of detail that would be required for a grant application.  Often they don't require a fully researched solution, only a statement of what the project objectives are, how we propose to address them, and what our capabilities/experience of delivering such projects/services are.  

The EU ill not expect a fully fledged solution for the amount of money we are talking about - say 150k. - with 90k provided by EU.  I will make some inquiries about finding an Irish public source/sponsor to make a contribution towards the remaining 60K - I think this is where the timescale will probably prove impossible, although the same project proposal used to apply for EU funding could also be used to apply for national/local funds, and presumably it will not be necessary to have the 60K in place to apply for the 90K.

"It's a mystery to me - the game commences, For the usual fee - plus expenses, Confidential information - it's in my diary..."

by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Tue May 13th, 2008 at 06:44:18 AM EST
[ Parent ]
PerCLupi:
I think that the language problem is not what we have to resolve first.

However it is the problem which might best attract EU funding.  I don't see a problem with different sub communities being created who converse primarily in their mother tongues provided there are at least 90% accurate translation engines around to make those conversations at least partly accessible to others, and particularly to people who have some, but not sufficient capability in a particular language without some translation support.

This will help create more dialogue between otherwise diverse linguistic sub-groups who at the moment have no means of interacting meaningfully on-line.   Just becuase we don't have a 100% solution doesn't mean that an 80-90% solution shouldn't be attempted, particularly if bridging the remaining 10% communication gap requires human effort and creates better linguisitic skills, social interaction, and sense of shared effort.

What we are proposing is to create an infrastructure capable of supporting enhanced dialogue between peopl with different primary languages.  The infrastructure itself will never be a substitute for people making the mutual effort to understand each other better.

"It's a mystery to me - the game commences, For the usual fee - plus expenses, Confidential information - it's in my diary..."

by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Tue May 13th, 2008 at 05:53:04 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Currently, and for the foreseeable future, there are no usable automatic translation systems that would even reach 80% understandability. You're going to get 80% of the words correctly translated, word for word - that's not enough to get basic understandability. And even building such a system is an extremely hard task.

Un roi sans divertissement est un homme plein de misères
by linca (antonin POINT lucas AROBASE gmail.com) on Tue May 13th, 2008 at 06:08:04 AM EST
[ Parent ]
However it is the problem which might best attract EU funding.

I am not quite sure of that. We could provide the possibility of using existing translation and analyse the impact this has had on increasing visitors and their provenance, after a while.

For example: Do we know how many non-English speaking people have signed Stop Blair in English and how many have chosen the site in their own language?

by PerCLupi on Tue May 13th, 2008 at 06:52:27 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I agree with you: the main goal should be to maintain and develop ET as the community and "thinking network" it is. However, we could, in parallel with ET and without modifying ET, launch an experiment about a real-time multi-lingual forum in which the ET users could participate.

"Dieu se rit des hommes qui se plaignent des conséquences alors qu'ils en chérissent les causes" Jacques-Bénigne Bossuet
by Melanchthon on Tue May 13th, 2008 at 06:01:21 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Yes, I agree. I'm wary of splitting the community if we have several language sites. I'd be keener on having a way to translate more stuff, post more bilingual columns, and have  non-English diaries in the main site.

In the long run, we're all dead. John Maynard Keynes
by Jerome a Paris (etg@eurotrib.com) on Tue May 13th, 2008 at 06:30:00 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I'd think a way to see diaries in the languages the user chooses, and an emphasis on translating the better diaries - with volunteers able to translate diaries  of their choosing - into other languages, as a way to keep the language communities interacting...

Un roi sans divertissement est un homme plein de misères
by linca (antonin POINT lucas AROBASE gmail.com) on Tue May 13th, 2008 at 06:55:59 AM EST
[ Parent ]
This is ET 3.0 if you'd ask me...

  1. Is it doable at all and at what costs are we looking at?
  2. Is it doable in SCOOP or does it need to be build from an entire new platform whilst able to keep the threading?

Don't get me wrong, I think such language pollination model has the best chance to retain some of the ET spirit while opening it up to other countries. I've previously pointed to an European equivalent when this came up: CafeBabel from which I'd say ET can learn bits and pieces.
by Nomad on Tue May 13th, 2008 at 08:12:39 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Not doable in Scoop. At all.
by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Tue May 13th, 2008 at 08:16:01 AM EST
[ Parent ]
According to Migeru, Scoop code is a bit too ugly to modify and make it cross language. Doing it at all needs not be very hard ; the coding itself is possibly a few man-months, which can be partly volunteer, at least. The advantages of starting from scratch, or from switching to another content management base, would be that it'd be easier to customise ET.

If we do ET 2.0 Deluxe, adding language support in it wouldn't be too hard, anyway. Language support in itself isn't hard to add on a custom codebase ; the problem, obviously, is having a clean enough codebase that it'd be easy to do.

Un roi sans divertissement est un homme plein de misères

by linca (antonin POINT lucas AROBASE gmail.com) on Tue May 13th, 2008 at 08:18:05 AM EST
[ Parent ]
This would be my preference as well.  One infrastructure and community, multiple content types.  The tagging functionality will in any case be required if the volume of content (in any language) increases significantly and allow users to find/focus on their primary interests.

"It's a mystery to me - the game commences, For the usual fee - plus expenses, Confidential information - it's in my diary..."
by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Tue May 13th, 2008 at 07:02:55 AM EST
[ Parent ]
The tags do need to be unified across languages : L'anglo maladie and the Anglo Disease need to lead to the same diaries in both languages.

Un roi sans divertissement est un homme plein de misères
by linca (antonin POINT lucas AROBASE gmail.com) on Tue May 13th, 2008 at 07:43:04 AM EST
[ Parent ]
<gibber>
by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Tue May 13th, 2008 at 07:53:01 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I was thinking of tagging for language only, not tagging for content.

Otherwise you have to create a multilingual tag database, which would be mad.

I'm not sure how useful content tagging is anyway. If you can search for keywords directly from a Google search, and there's a Wiki and/or a best-of articles list, what would content tagging add?

by ThatBritGuy (thatbritguy (at) googlemail.com) on Tue May 13th, 2008 at 05:51:09 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Tags are much, much more useful than google search, and much easier to maintain than a wiki.

Plus, tagging would allow those that are interested in a narrower range of subjects, especially if ET gets bigger, to quickly access what interests them.

My idea about tagging is having only a few dozens of them, and adding them when the needs arise. i.e. adding new tags would be an editorial  job. Multiligualising that wouldn't be hard, really.

Un roi sans divertissement est un homme plein de misères

by linca (antonin POINT lucas AROBASE gmail.com) on Tue May 13th, 2008 at 06:45:24 PM EST
[ Parent ]
linca: Tags are much, much more useful than google search, and much easier to maintain than a wiki.

Tags, if managed well (e.g. making it an editorial job, as you propose) and applied well, are extremely helpful.

But they will not replace Google searching, and new technologies (such as Powerset) will continue to come out to improve fast and smart querying.

Tags' and wikis' main value add's are in quite different areas: tags are for organizing and locating information, wikis are for collaborative content generation.

A language is a dialect with an army and navy.

by marco on Tue May 13th, 2008 at 09:17:19 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Clarification:

I have raised just one point as a problem and to harness energies in the process of improving. I have not rejected the possibility of using an existing mechanism that can facilitate that non-English-speaking Europeans consider that it is easier to enter ET.

My view was that an interesting ET attract more visitors than a multilingual ET.

If possible facilitate muntilingual
understanding, very well.

by PerCLupi on Tue May 13th, 2008 at 06:41:37 AM EST
[ Parent ]
PerClupi, I agree.  Even the small quadriligual exercise I started took much longer than I wanted to spend on it and a full article done in this way would be ridiculously energy-wasting. There might be some way to make it work better but it would take a lot of thought and collaborative time. The original English content to be translated wpuld need to be pared down as much as possible, more drastically than one would normally do for the sake of clear writing. A one-page multilingual translation would need to flow easily from one language to the next, perhaps in the same paragraph rather than distinctly separated.

The instant-translation services I've seen, eg Babelfish and Google, are hilariously bad. Content on my own website was put through one of those word-grinders in Spanish and came out in a tongue no one on this planet would understand.

Blaugustine

by Augustinatalie (endapressNOTblueyonderNOTcoNOTuk) on Wed May 14th, 2008 at 01:22:05 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Boing Boing
Brian McConnell says:
The Worldwide Lexicon is a community translation system that enables a website's readers to translate to the languages they speak. We're beta testing a multilingual blogging service, Der Mundo.

You can find Boing Boing at boingboing.dermundo.com where you can view, edit and score translations, and help make Boing Boing accessible to everyone who speaks your language. Der Mundo translates new posts using machine translation services, after which readers can edit or replace these rough translations to improve them. Der Mundo guesses which languages you speak based on your browser preferences, and tries to display articles in your language first. It falls back to the original text if a translation has not been posted yet.

Readers can score translations via a simple five star rating scale, and can edit existing translations by clicking on a pencil icon adjacent to each item. Readers can contribute translations by clicking on English --> __ links below each article headline. This will take you to a web editor where you can create or edit a translation, as well as view the revision history.

WWL is an open source project, and is developing a suite of tools to enable websites and blogs to go multilingual, using a combination of machine translation, volunteers (readers) and professional translators. The project's goal is to eliminate the language barrier for interesting content by making it easy for people to form translation communities and services around topics, websites or languages. They will be releasing a professional translation hub, under the New BSD license, in early summer. If you're interested in contributing code to the project, or in helping localize the interface to more languages, contact Brian McConnell (brian@worldwidelexicon.org)

Link


"We can all be prosperous but we can't all be rich." Ian Welsh
by melo (melometa4(at)gmail.com) on Tue May 13th, 2008 at 08:50:45 AM EST
Have you checked the Spanish translation? A Spanish can understand the English translation only knowing English and decoding the Spanish from English.
If this shows the level of translation currently possible, it's best to forget about it.
by PerCLupi on Tue May 13th, 2008 at 09:35:39 AM EST
[ Parent ]
The to-English translations aren't bad, but the available content isn't too demanding.

I still think it's an interesting idea. The plan wouldn't be to have perfect translation, more to give readers a chance to get a flavour of what's going on elsewhere in the world. Even if only a tiny minority of cross-readers get involved in native debates, that would still count as a win.

by ThatBritGuy (thatbritguy (at) googlemail.com) on Tue May 13th, 2008 at 05:59:42 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Sounds like English menus in restaurants in Italy. I once had "Angry pasta" in Bassano...
by gk (g k quattro due due sette "at" gmail.com) on Wed May 14th, 2008 at 02:40:38 AM EST
[ Parent ]
We can continue to debate the priorities for ET 2.0/3.0 but the main issue to be addressed in any major redevelopment/expansion of ET is whether we can obtain funding from the EU.  The opportunity unearthed by Migeru http://www.eurotrib.com/comments/2008/5/12/72629/8439?pid=26#27
still seems the most appropriate opportunity, but the deadline of 1 July seems impossibly tight.

We would have to obtain seed funding of c. 50K to apply for the minimum EU grant of 75K and would also need public or nonprofit partners in four EU countries.  

We seem to have the expertise needed to put together a good proposal, to specify the work required (and perhaps even to do the redevelopment).

Where we seem to be lacking is in the contacts/support required to fulfill the EU requirement for partners in four countries.  Can I put out a general call to ask people to think of options for organisations who might be able to provide minimal support/sponsorship so that the EU application criterion can be met?

Otherwise, regrettably, dreaming about radical enhancements to ET functionality in the short/medium term is just that.

"It's a mystery to me - the game commences, For the usual fee - plus expenses, Confidential information - it's in my diary..."

by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Tue May 13th, 2008 at 07:24:06 PM EST
Where we seem to be lacking is in the contacts/support required to fulfill the EU requirement for partners in four countries.

What prevents us from registering associations in France, Britain, Ireland, and Hungary, say?

When the capital development of a country becomes a by-product of the activities of a casino, the job is likely to be ill-done. — John M. Keynes

by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Wed May 14th, 2008 at 02:58:49 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Nothing, but to fulfil the EC calls for proposals requirements, these associations must not be empty shells, i.e. they must have a record of activity, be it research, projects, exeriments, publications... and they must have financial reliability.

Another thing is the EC funding is, in the best case 80% of the project's costs. That means the partners must bring 20% of the costs.

"Dieu se rit des hommes qui se plaignent des conséquences alors qu'ils en chérissent les causes" Jacques-Bénigne Bossuet

by Melanchthon on Wed May 14th, 2008 at 03:16:11 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I'm not well connected in these areas, but the EU Parliament and Commission does have offices, supporting associations, etc. in all EU countries - charged with promoting EU affairs to the local populace.  What better way to promote EU ideals that by promoting dialogue and information exchanges within and between EU civil societies?

We do have a track record and experience of doing this.  What we lack is formal sponsorship and some seed funding in four member states.  How about all of us approaching our local EU Offices/MEPs with a view to obtaining a small degree of local sponsorship/funding.  All we need is four of us to succeed.

How about launching a call to action to all EU based ET members to contact their local EU Offices/associations/WEPs looking for a letter of sponsorship and perhaps 5K from their PR budget (about what its costs to host a  reception)

We could draft an outline project proposal setting out what we propose to do - without getting into the detail of the precise functionality/software we propose to use to do it.  I.e the business/political/communications case for the project.

Do you think ET members generally would be sufficiently engaged to do a bit of lobbying if we gave them the tools?

"It's a mystery to me - the game commences, For the usual fee - plus expenses, Confidential information - it's in my diary..."

by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Wed May 14th, 2008 at 11:11:53 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Throwing it out for what it is worth ...

There might be monies available from institutions and/or organizations in France for doing automatic or semi-automatic translations into French.  

Skepticism is the first step on the road to truth. -- Denis Diderot

by ATinNM on Wed May 14th, 2008 at 02:22:56 PM EST
[ Parent ]
As I said in an earlier comment, we've got enough language skills on board to do a fair amount of translation. We could gather up info on which people are willing and able to do given languages and then do a clearing thread where ET'ers volunteer to do a given piece.
by MarekNYC on Wed May 14th, 2008 at 02:37:32 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Probably more money available in canada...

Un roi sans divertissement est un homme plein de misères
by linca (antonin POINT lucas AROBASE gmail.com) on Wed May 14th, 2008 at 03:32:56 PM EST
[ Parent ]


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