Mobile technology is winning

I was privileged to be able to attend DrupalCon last week in Denver. Drupal is a web development platform, the one that this website runs on, and one that I've used on many websites over the past five years or so. I learned Drupal on my own in Africa, with nobody around to swap stories with and get assistance from. Of course, the Internet is very helpful and the Drupal community is amazing, but sometimes that human interaction can make a huge difference.

I've been mugged!

At least that's what the e-mail message said that was sent out to everyone on my Google contact list. The request for financial help did actually originate from my Gmail box and claimed that my family and I were in Spain, had been mugged, and had everything stolen except for our passports. That last detail, as it turns out, is very important. You see, in order to receive a wire transfer of funds, you have to have some form of identification. Had the passport been stolen as well, it would be impossible to scam my contacts out of their money.

Technologies used for Buli Rapid Word Collection

Mobile cellular network

Arriving in Ghana, we were accosted with advertisements for cell phone networks, all claiming to be the fastest and most reliable.  There were at least 4 or 5 to choose from.  Since we hadn’t gotten any feedback as to which one would be the best for the Northern part of Ghana, I asked a random individual which network he thought would work the best in the North.  He hesitated a moment and said, “Tigo”.  We really had no idea, but trusted that the Lord inspired him with that answer.  We loaded our devices up with 4 SIM cards with a median price of 62 cents each.  We loaded two of them with one month’s worth of Internet credit for up to 2.5 Gigabytes of data.  Plenty for synchronizing dictionary files and sending out Tweets (see below).  When we finally arrived at the workshop location, I was disappointed to discover there was no connectivity.  …but wait—Art informed me that he was connecting, and sure enough, a reboot of my phone and I was in business too.  It wasn’t the advertised 3.5G speed, or 3, or 2.5, but hey, we are connected and able to do all we need.

Buli Rapid Word Collection Workshop

Today, I am leaving for Ghana where we hope to facilitate a Rapid Word Collection workshop for the Bulsa people.  The primary goals of the workshop are:

  • To validate Buli as an official language of Ghana by providing them with the beginning corpus of data for a dictionary.
  • To promote the Rapid Word Collection method as the most effective way to collect words in a minority language.

The Buli people are excited to participate and we will see how many words can be collected, glossed, and entered into the computer during a two week workshop with a minimum of 28 participants.  While such workshops have been done before, none have had as ambitious a goal: At the end of one month, all the data will be posted on the Internet and accessible to the world.  In addition, the Bulsa people will continue to develop and work on the data with the help of computers that will be donated for the purpose.

SIL's Area Language Technology Coordinators meet in North Carolina

SIL International has a new academic domain called "Language Technology", and I am serving as the International Coordinator of Language Technology Use. In SIL, there are domains for each discipline that is required in a language development project. You are probably aware that my personal motivation is to see God's Word available in every language of the world. Yet, one does not just go in to an area that has no writing system and start translating the Bible.  There are numerous disciplines involved in developing the language and understanding the cultural context.

Translation Resources of the Future

I attended a meeting in Misano, Italy in September to discuss Translation Resources of the Future. I was representing SIL International along with two others, and there were partners from United Bible Societies and The Seed Company, both of which are heavily involved in translating the Bible.  The goal of the meeting was to try to spearhead a new initiative to produce the types of Bible translation aids that will answer the needs of a new type of Bible translator.

Rapid Word Collection

Ron Moe is a colleague of mine at SIL International and has developed a set of semantic domains and accompanying questions that enable the rapid elicitation of words. He has been promoting it for years as the Dictionary Development Process (DDP). Although teams that have tried it have not often effectively managed the resulting mass of data, it is unarguably the best and most efficient method of collecting words in minority languages without a history of literature.

Android phones in Africa break the $100 price barrier

Call me biased, but I really believe that Android is the operating system of the future for smartphones. The Apple iPhone OS is not poised to take back the market share that Android is gaining because Apple products have always been destined for those who can afford them. I have heard rumors of an Android phone in the range of $100 being produced, and have been anxiously waiting for the day this would happen.

Dual mice again on Windows 7

I spend a lot of time at my computer and I soon start to feel it in my arms. I am sold on trackballs have been using them ever since the first trackball that hooked on the side of my notebook computer. For the sake of this article, we'll generalize and call them mice. When USB mice came out, it was possible to attach more than one to the computer and I quickly figured out that if I had a mouse in each hand, I could stick my sore arm behind my back and force myself to use my left hand every once in a while.