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Crowd Translation — Open Letter to Developers

This article is part 1 of 1 in the series Crowd Translation
  1. Crowd Translation — Open Letter to Developers


Crowd Translation is the concept behind “allow people from all around the world freely participate in translation projects”. It can be video games, subtitling, lyrics, articles, e-books… but we will focused on softwares for this article.

Making softwares/plugins/add-ons/app translatable is important, it will open your projects to new users, new collaborators, and new markets (if your project is not free). Because we cannot expect everybody in the world to speak the same language, translation will always be at the heart of globalization.

Personnal Approach to Translation

I came to translation with WordPress Plugins. The fact is that my websites are mostly in French, and most of the plugins I used are, without surprise, in English exclusively.
I don’t have any problem to understand plugins I install, but some of them have front-end behaviour, displaying text for website visitors. Same things for themes.
Having english words in middle of french ones is a big problem. Consistency is important in order to appear serious, and keep the user focused, without being distracted by small unexpected text strings.

Of course, we can’t either demand to every developer to provide their softwares into all languages. Developers have to focus on what is important : bug-fixes, optimization, updates. 😛

So, I had to dig into it, and I translated thousands of lines of WordPress plugins myself (often with the help of other motivated people, especially Marie).
Some tools are very nice for individual work, scanning php files of the plugins in order to generate languages files, if the original plugins doesn’t provide them of if they are not up-to-date.
Codestyling Localization is definitely one of the best tool for that 😛

We, as regular users, are able to make translations, if needed : that’s great.

But translations take a lot of time and efforts, and I would definitely have the feeling to waste them if I kept my work for myself.
That’s why I share my translations online. I feel useful to the community, it is a way to thanks the developer for his plugin (which is often free in the WordPress community !), and to be part of the adventure of their great plugin developpement. 🙂

But well, if independent peoples write translation on their own platform, it can be a bit hard to manage for developers. That’s why I started to explore the world of online collaborative crowd translation solutions for developers.
And I found great platforms, that can interest all developers that are open-minded into providing localizable versions of their software 😛

Because during talks with support teams from differents plugins I had the feeling that these relatively new platforms were not very known by the developers, I had the desire to write this article !

Pro & Cons

Using crowd based translation platforms can have a lot of advantages for developers :

  • Centralize up-to-date translations into one place, allowing to download all of them by a single click before every new release
  • Have a single Master file to update for new strings (the other language files are automaticly updated, being forks of this master file).
  • Manage Teams and Translators
  • Encourage people to be part of the project
  • Cost effective and good quality translation (translations have to be reviewed by several people before being validated)
  • and the other advantages come simply from the fact that the software is translated in other languages (more potential users, customers…)

These plateforms are made by developers for developers, but translators can have advantages to use them too, contrary too more classical tools :

  • Automatic update from the master file
  • More potential translators or reviewers – less individual work
  • Collaborative tools (messages, chats, annotations etc…)
  • Automatic Translation tools based on machine translator and (better) Translation Memory Access (detect if any strings was already translated in another project).
  • Score / History / Authorship / Social Sharing (or any other system that will value their work, and gamification techniques that can make it more fun and engaging)

Honestly, I don’t really see any real cons for using these platforms from a developer side 😉
I have certain recommandations for these platforms from the translator side, this will be the subject of my next article, Crowd-Translation – Open Letter to Translation Platforms.


I did a lot (and I mean it, a lot) of researches in order to find the ideal place for developers and translators.
There is different approaches, some are self-hosted and dedicated to one file type (GlotPress) but doesn’t really provide modern functionnalities and don’t let translators to merge their different project stats, some use more common (but powerful) code editor (Github) or realtime collaborative code editors but doing so doesn’t provide real translator tools and it often miss the social/stats behaviour.

And after a lot of comparaison, I found dedicated plateform for software translation, and the fact is… they have great things to provide, for both developers and translators 🙂

So, my selection is Transifex and Crowdin, which both have powerful tools for translators and easy management for developers.

But at this time, Transifex seems to be the more fair with translators, providing stats by user (and not only by project), badges and some other social functions. It is pretty simple yet but I truely think it can evoluate nicely (it is the reason behind my next article).

Transifex can be used freely (0$) for open source or freemimum softwares developers, using the Wp-Translations community.
I’m pretty sure it can be the ideal solution for that kind of projects. 🙂

Thanks your Translators

These platforms are centered on developers and doesn’t provide any special rewards or monetization for translators. (More on this on my next article).

After talking with Crowdin and Transifex support teams, I understand what is the philosophy behind it : they provide a platform for developers, and it is up to them to choose how to thanks (or not) their translators. (Note that your translators can be very engaged with your software, and can take the altruist initiative to put the lang giles on one of these platforms, but for obvious reason, it would be more convinient for everyone if the developper take that role).

So, if the platform itself doesn’t provide any awards, of if your translators translate their own ways with the tools of their choice — especially if you choose to not use these plateforms, you as a developer has to find fair ways to thank your team, accordingly to your project of course.
Generous people can help you spontaneously, without asking anything in return, but to stimulate them cannot be a bad thing, for both of you.

You can say that you already give them a free plugin (if it’s the case), but don’t forget that translators are not regular users. Regular users will thank you with cricisms, notes, stars, blog articles, social sharing. Not 10 hours long translation enlarging your market and user community 😛

You can do a lot of things :

  • Personnal Message
  • Message on the Changelog
  • Message on a Post Blog
  • Give access to special content (betas…)
  • Giving priority support

And for not free softwares :

  • Give a discount licence
  • Giving a full licence
  • Giving money proportionnaly to the number of letters/lines translated and to the money received by the project.

There is probably some other ways, these are just ideas, and I’m very glad that some plugins developpers did accept some negociations 😛 (I want to thank you BadgeOS team for this, which give me a full licence for one of their add-ons, and the other plugins that gave me a licence too !).

Don’t forget that to thank your translator community is important. They worked on your project just because they like it. They are motivated volunteers. Make them happy and they will follow you through your updates, and be sure that they will be the most motivated persons about your work 😛

Extra Links :

This article is part 1 of 1 in the series Crowd Translation
  1. Crowd Translation — Open Letter to Developers