FOSS dev, self-hosting fan, Matrix, degoogling, small tech, indie tech, friendly tech for families and schools. Let's own our own identity & data.

A thought about social processes for translation (i18n/l10n) of project web sites, blog/news articles, social web posts, etc. Particularly in the freedom software development community, though more broadly in any international online community.

I have been finding more and more good work in other languages, and wanting to translate it to my language and then publish the translation, for outreach.

Machine translation is a helpful starting point and getting steadily better and easier. As a reader I can now use Firefox's built in translation — hurray! But it is not a full solution: it's not universally discoverable, convenient, available, accurate, linkable; and it provides no way for readers to work together to contribute and save improvements. There is good reason for writers and publishers to be able to host translations that they approve, if they want to.

In one case I translated someone's work first, then emailed the author that I published a translation on my site and they can take it if they want it. When someone asked to translate one of my blog posts I immediately agreed — and then had to quickly choose a licence and state it, and work out how I would host it or link to their version. For a one-off I don't mind how clumsy this process is, but it got me thinking. I want to do this more often. Ideally we could be a bit more organised.

We might have de-facto standard ways to tell the original authors/publisher that I'm interested in providing a translation, or have already made one, and for the originator to receive it and publish it; and tools for contributors to review and edit and share the work, using machine translation for the first pass if they prefer. Something like using community tools for UI-strings translation like Weblate.

There is no need to fully automate the whole cycle. On the publishing side, for example, there are some standards for localising web sites but there is also huge variety in the ways articles are published, and a social system need not be complete and universal in order to be useful.

I suppose there are some sort of tools, communities, processes somewhere — I don't mean commercial standard practices, I mean social processes like in freedom software development — but I haven't heard of these.

Have you?


This article opens with the well known idea of using (free/libre/open) tech for teaching (free/libre/open) tech skills, but it is not about that, at least not directly.

Tech for Teaching Tech

Learning to code is perhaps the most obvious gateway for introducing an open-source based freedom-software solution into a school. The people involved are likely to be the teachers most familiar with I.T. and might have at least heard of the concept of freedom software or at least open source. When I am thinking about how to get Free (Libre) Open Source Software principles taught and practised in schools, then, code for teaching coding is one of the easier routes that comes to mind.

Hedy (https://hedy.org/) teaches coding, from zero to real Python in 15 levels. It is open source, including its lesson plans. I now self-host it for my young children. It's great. Check it out!

However, this article is not about that, but about where to start, how to introduce the idea in the first place, in a world where the children, the parents, the teachers, and likely even the school's governors and advisors know only YouTube and Microsoft.

Reaching the Mind-Set

The situation at my children's primary school (ages 4 to 11) is, I think, virtually no awareness at all of the gulf between proprietary tech business models and the values and principles of using technology that we ourselves can control.

Here is one of the issues they deal with daily: playing a video to entertain the youngest children, or to teach something about volcanoes to the older ones, as far as I can tell they often turn to YouTube... and then after a few minutes comes the advert. The teacher clicks the button to cut short the advert and resume the intended video. (I learnt this from a young child.)

Now, I am guessing the teacher thinks their only alternatives are either to search for a suitable video on an “official” educational videos provider (perhaps expecting they won't likely find the one they want there because “it's on YT”), or to ask the school to pay for a special YT subscription for teachers.

Whereas I am thinking, choose your videos at lesson planning time, then ask if there's some I.T. support for playing those videos on some other “web site” (which should be controlled by the school and could well be made with open-source software).

Now, I am the techie type. My conversational skill goes along the lines of: “Didn't you know there is open source freedom software for doing all these things... It's great... I can build some... What do you mean you haven't been trained on that, you don't have such alternatives, and you don't even really understand what I'm talking about?”

It's easy for us (techies) to come up with things we want the teacher to do better/differently, especially technical solutions like copying/playing videos a different way, but today my issue is about the initial approach. I'm afraid to talk to a teacher because they're working so hard to just manage to teach at all, it feels too rude to even mention that seeing a bit of the beginning of an advert is anything to complain about.

If I suggest that it really bothers me that my child sees bits of adverts... I can't take myself seriously, I can't honestly say that. We discuss at home what adverts are trying to do, and why, and what the alternatives are. That's not what bothers me. My child will be fine with that. If I were in an open tech advice team for the school, I would certainly be ready with ad blockers, self-hosted media players, all kinds of technical options, but that's for later.

My real goal is I want the school as a whole to learn how technology can be opened, studied, modified and controlled by ordinary people.

Maybe it would be useful to approach a school teacher, gently, just asking what they think of the situation and what they might wish for if they could have something different, and letting them know I/we are not criticising them but just interested in the wider issue of adapting technology to suit our values. Maybe that way I/we could start some awareness that alternatives are possible. Maybe that way I/we could make contact with someone in more of a position of power to change the tech that is being used. Somewhere, maybe, some “IT support” person or remote department is hiding. Maybe they exist and are approachable. (Or maybe the school's IT literacy and awareness comes only through Google/MS marketing channels. Ugh... that sadly seems entirely possible.)

I recently plucked up some courage and tried emailing the head teacher, asking who I could talk to about IT decision making and procurement, explaining why I'm interested. I'm advised by friendly supporters that I should speak to them in person instead, I'm much more likely to get a response that way.

Ada & Zangemann

There is a book, a children's story, that really “nails it”. It gets to the heart of how owning her skateboard (in this case) means wresting control of it away from its maker (Zangemann) by reprogramming it so that it obeys only Ada.

Ada & Zangemann – A Tale of Software, Skateboards, and Raspberry Ice Cream

This September (2023) “Ada & Zangemann” became available in English, originally being in German, and I bought a copy. It's great! I want every library and school to have it! (I can lend one copy but I am not willing to donate lots.)

Maybe my child would like to bring Ada & Zangemann in to school and ask the teacher to read it. Sometimes in the younger years they read a child's favourite book for the whole class. Is that too pushy? Maybe not. Or I could show it to the computer skills teacher and ask what they think of it.

How Can We Help?

I would like to circle back to the reason why I mentioned this issue (YT and ads). Not because it's the one particular issue I care about, but because it's an indication of the level of awareness of open/freedom tech.

It shows us that asking the teachers to use, for example, a free (libre) school information system like AlekSIS for example, is way too big a jump. I suspect the teachers (including the head teacher) would not comprehend why that might be a good idea. They need basic introductory level education about the difference between the goals and values of proprietary vs. open/libre systems.

I have been wondering for a long time what I can best do to help.

As an open-source dev, the first thing that came to my mind was, I could pick an open ed-tech software project and work on enhancements to it.

Then I began to think, what we really need is not so much to build the software (we know we can build it, and many parts already exist), but what we need more is people to go and demonstrate the existing software, show teachers what's possible, explain why it gives them the power to control their environment to suit their needs and values. That way we build a demand for the open tech, and have the possibility of the schools (and governments and charities) beginning to pay for developing the tech.

I have been wondering whether there are members of free-software organisations (FSFE, CEDO, OpenEdTech, and many more) who might go into school teacher-training days and deliver a presentation about why FLOSS matters. Does anyone do that? Might anyone have prepared a presentation already that could be suitable if the opportunity were presented? Because that is something that I think we need, that is beyond what I could manage to do myself.

And then I realised what I have been looking for is a group of people who share a common goal. Who can work together. And that is why I am pleased to have discovered CEDO, along with OpenEdTech, FSFE, and others.

I am inspired by open tech projects such as Öppna skolplattformen, Hermannpost (English tr.), AlekSIS and more.

It seems to me there is a lot of open tech existing that is aimed at higher education (such as Moodle and many other computer-based learning technologies). For younger children there are lots of small projects aimed at providing a computer-based lesson in a particular subject (learn maths, learn spelling, and so on). For in-person lessons there are lots of open/free resources (videos, pages to print on paper for any subject, activity ideas).

And then there are of course all the IT tools that we IT-literate people know about: ad blockers, self-hosted video platforms, alternative open-source ways to do almost everything without involving MS/Google.

And I'm coming back to... how do we introduce these to the teachers and the school administrators?

Other Ways to Help

While I'm thinking... Other topics I want to mention when I've more time...

  • I ordered the FSFE's pack of stickers and posters. I highly recommend it. You can ask for specific topics if you like; I asked for thier selection. It includes some Ada & Zangemann stickers and lots of good FSFE campaign cards and posters (Public Money: Public Code; Free Your Android; lots more). So if anyone (local) asks me, I'm more ready. But still shy to take them to anybody.

  • Translation/promotion. I often read about inspiring projects such as those I mentioned, and I would like to share them more widely. To help, I would like to make translations into English (and encourage others to translate to their languages). While readers can use for example Firefox's built-in translation (try it if you haven't), there are still big advantages to publishing a translation (accuracy, convenience). I published a translation myself for Hermannpost but I expect almost nobody knows. (The original author didn't respond to my email about it.) It would be much more efficient if we worked together. Could “we” organise that?

  • I wonder if we could try to tap into “maker spaces” or “hack spaces” where there are lots of people interested in having control over their own hardware, to see if we can interest them in bringing open software for their community as well.

  • We should link up with other campaigning groups. One I have been meaning to contact is Privacy International in the UK as I read they have a special interest in ed-tech.

  • I keep considering to donate a little money to the many organisations supporting open ed tech. Donating money is something I do from time to time, but isn't really right for me now as I don't have a steady well-paid job and I am working in other ways to help them. Really I want to indicate my support. I try to sign up for accounts and newsletters and the like, to show them that I'm interested.

  • How do “we” (communities like us) get involved in setting up service providers for all the open-tech that we want schools to use, so the schools can pick “that product/service” for “that price” and know there is support included, and know it is approved/trusted by the relevant authorities so it's “safe and simple” for the school?

Find more articles tagged... #openEdTech #EdTech #awesomeFOSS #degoogled #campaign #outreach


Changing your email provider? Concerned about surveillance and misaligned incentives of a free account at Google, Microsoft, Apple and the like? I'll tell you what I think.

You might have heard, “If you're not paying for the product, you are the product.” It means when they give us email “for free”, their real customers (advertisers) are paying them for our data, buying our attention, buying our loyalty.

If you want not-evil, you have to pay for it.

(Thanks for that quote, Adrian!)

My choice: I use and recommend FastMail, https://fastmail.com . Australian company with good world-wide coverage and credentials. Their “standard” package at around £5/month.

Own Domain

Call Me By My Name

Before you sign up with any provider, take a moment to consider one thing. If you are leaving a free provider, you have to change your email address. Why? Because you didn't own your address, they did. So you can't take it with you. You have to change it to a new one.

But now, if you're willing to pay for email at all, this is your opportunity: you can make a huge leap to future-proof yourself, by moving to your own domain. (More about #ownDomain.)


Toothbrush Co.'s New Smart Toothbrush Monitors Your Teeth

You get the data on your teeth!

Track your family's oral hygiene in the click of an ad a smile :–)


A Mini Review

Tandoor is a self-hosted open source recipe manager. I have been running it in my YunoHost test server, in order to try it out, for about a year, collecting 21 recipes in it.

Basically I'm not satisfied with it, for my needs.

It's quite nice in some ways but terribly limited to one particular fussy attempt to organise a recipe in a particular way with steps, ingredients categorised by name and quantity, etc. There's no way to include recipes that don't fit this format. No way to include a web page (that doesn't import neatly into this very precise format) or a text document that I wrote or a PDF scan of a paper page. No way even to represent “fuzzy” ingredients like “some herbs of your choice” or “about 2 or 3 cloves of garlic”. Each ingredient has to have a number and a unit specified, and there are only hacky work-arounds like defining the word “some” as a custom unit. So I'm still running it for fun, for a small handful of recipes I imported (sometimes with awkward manual clean-up required) from web sites, while most of my recipes are still on scraps of paper or PDF scans or books or web sites that don't import.


Open tech, be afraid. Be very afraid. Microsoft owns both Visual Studio Code “VSCode” and MS-GitHub, two intertwined and utterly proprietary product-service ecosystems with a bit of open-source in their core to lure us in. Because they love open source? Yeah, no.

Soon after leaving GitPod whose technology links the two, Geoffrey Hunt last year explained their strategy and what it's doing to our open tech world, in a great and “harrowing” article, “Visual Studio Code is designed to fracture” https://ghuntley.com/fracture/

“The future of software development tooling that is being built is closed as ****, and people seem to be okay with it...”

This is why MS-GitHub is not our friend.

This is why falling for their trick, disguising MS-VSCode as a neat “free” editor, will come back and haunt and hurt us.

Vendor lock-in double-whammy. Using open source as “a financial weapon”.

”... the biggest challenge for Gitpod, GitLab, Datacoves, OpenBB, Foam, et al lies ahead – developing open language tooling for each community where Microsoft has forked the communities over to proprietary language servers...”

If we have a grain of public spirit, if we are motivated at all by the Freedom that's supposed to be afforded by Free-Libre Open-Source Software, we must #GiveUpGithub, we must recognise the trap, we must choose truly open #FreedomTech.

Related: – FOSS Apps Live in FOSS ForgesI Can't Wait for Forge FederationYour FOSS Project Deserves its Own DomainFOSS Apps Live in FOSS App Stores!

#awesomeFOSS #selfHosted #GiveUpGithub #DitchDiscord #forgeFed #forgeFederation #ForgeJo #Codeberg


We tend to think of Google Search as the gold standard, the comprehensive, personalised, convenient, quick and reliable option. The one for getting things done. The experience that other search engines can only aspire to.

But, as we know, Google Search is designed around the financial goals of the advertising business. Can we understand just how far that misaligned incentive has warped the whole experience? What if a search experience were designed in a different way, around what's good for us, what's important to us, our real values? I don't mean just the same kind of search experience but with adverts stripped out. I mean if the whole system, from content publishing through to browsers and apps, were redesigned. How unimaginably different might that look? And as we obviously can't jump straight to that world, what insights does this give us about improvements we could seek in our current world?

Robin Berjon explains in “Fixing Search”. It's a good article. (@robin@mastodon.social">Follow this writer!)

Anyone still thinking Google Search is “good”, after learning about what is going on behind the scenes, is missing a perspective on what “good for us” would really look like.

“Have you ever wondered why every cooking recipe on the web has a twenty page biopic preamble? Because Google likes it better that way.”


Announced by @davx5app@fosstodon.org, the good folks at DAVx5.com who make the libre/open sync for CalDAV/CardDav/WebDAV, that connects Android/Outlook/Thunderbird to standard calendars, address books and file shares: they are now looking at designing a “push notification” standard for the DAV family of libre (open) standards.

Yay! Fantastic!

With push support, my family would get instant, efficient updates to our shared calendar and address book whenever any of us add an entry, for example.

The most interesting thing about this, for those of us who care about liberty and choice, is that the push delivery system should not be locked in to google/apple but should be able to use the UnifiedPush.org open standard that lets each end-user choose their preferred push provider. (See my other posts on UnifiedPush.)


I wrote this piece in response to a particular organisation that empowers local people to create tech solutions matching community values, on hearing they chose to use Discord because of its “usability”.

I was dismayed. To me, the choice embodies the opposite of the organisation's values.

“Discord is great for enabling our community,” people tend to say: it's “free”, and it's great to use, once you're inside. I know. Those are some more-or-less correct facts about it, on the surface.

So what's my beef with it? Why am I so upset that I spend hours writing this? Why can't I just see the value in it, see the pragmatic decision, see that using it benefits the community's work, and be happy for us all?

I nearly replied on the spot, a quick denigration of the decision, but I realised it deserves a much more detailed and balanced response. I think about this stuff all the time. I should be able to express my position clearly and helpfully.

My immediate reaction: I'm so fed up with seeing one supposedly public-values project after another locking itself in to yet another walled garden. I'm fed up with one supposedly open-participation community after another assuming I'm willing to subject myself to yet another Big Tech walled garden if I want to engage. There's a reason I ditched Google and the rest: because I care about using open tech, community-values tech. I care about not being forced into using and depending on a third party against my will, especially when that's a company working in opposition to my values.

You, the community organisers, will certainly have thought of this, I soon realised, and I suppose you decided you need to prioritise a higher level kind of community tech: getting people to work together to create something their community owns, even if they don't own the tools for doing so. That's the main goal of your work and I respect and admire your endeavour. Of course you have to focus on that, and make it possible for your contributors to focus on that.

First, I'll unpack why I'm dismayed. Second, how to keep the gate open (by bridging), as a practical and community-valued way forward if one portion of the community is going to be using Discord.



I was just preparing a Merge Request to contribute upstream, when I noted,

You can review my merge request in the web UI at my TraxLab (gitlab) repo. Obviously you can't click the “Merge” button (until Forge Federation is done — there's an awesome project to check out).

It still grieves me that open source devs push me into working with Microsoft Github. Sure I understand the argument to use it “because it's convenient right now and 'everyone' is there” but to me there's a more important value I wish to uphold:

Millions of Free Software developers forgot why it matters to own their tools.

... says ForgeFriends.org, continuing ...