Heroes of Code
Tucked away in the corner of the FISL exhibit hall in Porto Alegre was a stand staffed by the Brazilian OpenOffice.org group - enthusiastic, friendly, welcoming. I stepped carefully around the mound of food packages the team are collecting for the poor and was greeted by Claudio Ferreira Filho, leader of the group that localised OpenOffice.org to Brazilian Portuguese. Using just the tools to hand they have done a fine localisation that is widely used. By 'tools to hand' I'm talking dedication - at least one team member still has to do uploads and downloads using a dial-up connection, meaning it can take days to grab the full source code. If you're reading this in Brazil, help these guys!
Today, as the announcement of the availability of OpenOffice.org 1.1.2 goes out, I'm thinking of Claudio and the people like him around the world. Teams like Claudio's are the unsung heroes of code. The real success of OpenOffice.org is the fact that small teams in 36 projects are diligently creating the local language versions of OpenOffice.org that will bring it to millions around the world in their own language. Claudio explained to me that it wasn't just a matter of translating the text to the words everyone else uses in the computer world; his team strives to use authentic Brazilian expressions and break the linguistic hegemony of American English.
The fact that it's open source means every language group can have its own word processor, not just the ones that corporations think they can profit from. This, by the way, is why we need format standards - not for the people who have the wealth to create a custom schema but to include into the community those with economies too small to be worth exploitation.