#IndiaBlocks – We don’t need SOPA / PIPA for censorship

India doesn’t need SOPA / PIPA for censorship. It can block anything on web. There is supposedly a draconian IT Rules 2011 amendment, but even that is not required / followed for blocking anything the government does not like. They don’t need SOPA / PIPA / even follow their own legislated IT Rules to block stuff on web. Yes, we are cool like that.

For the first time, Wikipedia article gets blocked through a DoT order. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Persecution_of_Muslims_in_Burma is not accessible if you are in India. Reading 2012_Assam_violence and Internet_Censorship_in_India will give some background.

Both the Supreme Court and the Delhi High Court have rejected petitions to unblock the content. Internet Freedom is progressing in a worrying direction

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Translating and Editing SVG

Picture is worth 1000 words. Illustrations are key in conveying the idea in a simple visual manner. But editing them puts in a entry barrier of knowing to use the tools to edit them even if it’s a spelling correction / minor update. Translating them into other languages was even more a pain. It won’t be the case anymore once the User:Jarry1250‘s TranslateSvg extension gets deployed after final touches. It is currently available at http://translatesvg.wmflabs.org/wiki/Main_Page for beta testing. It nicely sits on top of the Translate extension, so one gets all the nice features like translate suggestions from the translation memory among others.

Another feature that will be very useful(not yet available) in improving editors ability to use these illustrations effectively will be Online Cropping / Editing of SVG. User:Planemad did an amazing map of Indian National Highways. But for individual highways one has to crop the particular segment and recreate though doing this manually takes a lot of time and effort. A lot of geo-visualisation illustrations can be easily made if there is a tool which is as simple as TranslateSvg that can make these.

Mobile Input methods

@Yuvipanda and me were discussing about available Tamil input schemes for Android. Until ICS Tamil had no support in android and pre-ICS phones had very limited number of languages supported. Jelly bean added some more languages, but input methods, complete language support even for those limited languages have a long way to go. Even though android doesn’t provide these tools out of the box, developers passionate about language have also written apps like TamilVisai which is the popular opensource input method editor available for Tamil. 

Although these apps let people type, some of these are sub optimal for a seemless experience. This app for instance lets users input into its own preview box and then to the text area in the interface. This will defeat auto-complete for example. But this app was developed couple of years back when there was no rendering support, so the preview box made sense back then.

With Mobile page views of Wikipedia growing at a rapid rate across languages, it is essential to have good input method tools for all languages to increase them further because the current page views are mostly through clicking link and not really searching. This will also help in enabling mobile contributions.

While there can better layouts for touch and it need not always be based on QWERTY unlike desktops, but to people who come from desktop, having these layout will not hurt. Extension:Narayam supports over 30 different keyboard layouts and creating an app which can use the rules for the layouts will make mobile input a lot easier on Android and of course more layouts can be added.

Localisation Tools @ Wikimedia

As part of my role at Wikimedia Foundation, I shall be posting about things related to localisation / internationalisation efforts at Wikimedia Foundation Localization team and things generally related to Wikipedia / i18n.

For those who are unaware of the way it works, here is a short intro.

  • Wikimedia projects exist in 280+ langauges.
  • The software Mediawiki is localized at translatewiki.net which itself is a wiki powered by Translate extension
  • Similar to the large army of volunteers who contribute content to Wiki projects, there is also a small army (~5000+) of volunteer translators in all these 280+ languages.

The localisation team develops / maintains extensions / additional piece of software which help users of these language versions of the Wikimedia projects read / contribute to them by providing tools which assist them.

I will keep posting more about these in detail in the days to come.