Older blog entries for yosch (starting at number 138)

Please don't use flags on your multilingual website

As the web becomes increasingly multilingual and more domains host content in various languages, an anti-pattern tends to surface: the use of flags to represent sections in different languages.

As more content gets written (or translated) and added to a website, the section and navigation system gets redesigned accordingly. But the underlying assumptions about hosting multilingual content and the best way to present it to a bigger and more varied audience are often not being properly thought through. I imagine that this is not just because monolinguals or ethnocentrists may be in charge but because i18n best practises usually come as a afterthought.

If you design your website with a navigation system forcing users to go to their preferred content by clicking on a flag, you're making a very infortunate statement about the classification and power relationship between languages and in the process you're very likely to alienate people visiting your website or making use of your webapp. Consider how you'd feel if you had to pick the flag of a foreign country to get to the section most relevant to you? For example if you were Belgian and had to pick the French flag to get to the content relevant to you? Cameroonian and had to pick the UK or French flag? Australian and had to pick the US flag? Swiss and had to pick the German, French or Italian flag? Or Taïwanese and had to pick the Chinese flag? See the pattern and how this is a big can of worms that makes people uncomfortable? Unlike what powers-that-be would like you to believe, flags don't map to languages and country borders don't correspond to linguistic communities. A flag represents a country and many many countries use the same language or have more than one official language (and often more lesser-known languages not officially recognized at the country level).

Instead of flags you should be using the name of the language in autonym form and the corresponding two-letter or three-letter code for the language as standardized in ISO 639.

More details in the W3 i18n best practise WG note and in the "flag or no flag language links" article by Motiva web consulting.
A Debian-branded pocket multi-tool

I've carried around a Victorinox WorkChamp in a belt pouch for ages (more recently along with a mobile device running mostly FLOSS). Now I think my next multi-tool may well be Debian-branded.

An obvious way of bringing together two famously solid, sharp, practical and malleable DIY multi-tools.

"Tools of the trade" or "tribal markings"? Both!

OS X shipping more open fonts by default with Lion release (10.7)

I find it interesting to see that while the previous version silently shipped Menlo - a derivative of Bitstream Vera - as the default monospace, the trend picks up in a clearer way as the recently released OS X Lion (10.7) now ships with two big open font families : Stix and Nanum, both major projects commissioned to be released under the OFL (along with various unamed Non-Roman fonts for Devanagari, Gujarati, Gurmukhi, Tamil, Hindi, Marathi, Nepali, and Panjabi, Bengali, Kannada, Khmer, Lao, Malayalam, Myanmar, Oriya, Sinhala, Telugu and Urdu... No word on their licensing though).

This choice contributes to show how sometimes the quality and scope of open fonts are too good to pass and it gets a vote of confidence by being explicitly described in the release notes.

Explicit support for the OFL in Gforge/FusionForge

Looks like newer versions of the Gforge and FusionForge "software forges" have updated their classification to include explicit support for the OFL. No surprise there as this classification is based on the official OSD-compliance status, but having font designers and font developers be able to pick the license explicitely when using these hosting services is always good.

Even if various projects have moved on to other hosting platforms, G|FusionForge is still being used by many upstream communities. This will facilitate collaborative font development and also make it easier to find out about new open font projects.

Future creative shifts around the (open) font design toolkit?

While many designers are eagerly waiting for the promised FontLab update, it seems other tools are looking to challenge the status quo and redefine what it means to do font design with digital tools:

According to the abstract of this upcoming AtypI talk, a spiro-based web-based collaborative font editor is in the works and is to be released under an open source license. Which license will be chosen and how well the software will work in a self-hosted scenario and outside of a "cloud" infrastructure remains to be seen.

Looks like earlier experiments in the area like Typism have not really taken off. We'll see what happens.

Another tool taking a different approach (albeit proprietary and platform-specific) is Glyphs.

The way open font design best practises shape and support these new paradigms - and obviously the underlying licensing and collaboration culture - will be interesting.

In the meantime apt-get install open-font-design-toolkit.
22 Jun 2011 (updated 22 Jun 2011 at 10:17 UTC) »
Mozilla's font inspector API

Yesterday's Mozilla platform meeting minutes has this:
"Jonathan Kew’s font inspector API landed. You can now write extensions that will tell you exactly what font(s) are being used to render any given DOM range including the entire document, or a single character. For downloaded fonts you can get metadata including the license."

See bug #467669: Need chrome-accessible API for getting list of font faces used by content and the corresponding one in Firebug: bug #3071 Display sample of WOFF file inside Net Panel.

Yet another huge step forward for webfonts and webdesigners! Major kudos for making this happen!
4 Jun 2011 (updated 4 Jun 2011 at 15:24 UTC) »
ScriptSource - a collaborative service and community for the world's writing systems - is now publicly released

After years of development and an extended cycle of review by a selection of community experts, ScriptSource is now released: the version codenamed Gutenberg is now available at ScriptSource.org.

The About page says:
"ScriptSource is a dynamic, collaborative reference to the writing systems of the world, with detailed information on scripts, characters, languages - and the remaining needs for supporting them in the computing realm. It currently contains only a skeleton of information, and so depends on your participation in order to grow and assist others."

A major goal of ScriptSource is to enable the development of software that supports minority writing systems, including fonts, keyboards, sorting routines and typographic rendering systems. Every writing system should have at least one full-featured, unencumbered reference implementation, which can then more easily lead to multiple implementations including commercially-focused ones.

This service is a major trailblazing effort to organise and link together all the foundational linguistic data and corresponding software from various experienced organisations and to curate it as a collaborative dynamic open resource. See the details about the practical aspects in the FAQ.

Having personally been involved in various meetings and discussions over the years (with several mentions of the soon-to-be-released work at various FLOSS conferences) and having significantly helped Victor Gaultney (Project Leader, Designer and ScriptSource General Editor) to research, define and write up the various ScriptSource policies, I'm very happy to see all this work now published publicly. I'm sure this web service and its growing community will be a unique resource for many experts doing writings systems implementation around the world which will in turn practically improve the lives of millions of people through language-based development efforts.

Obviously, I'm also very happy about the clear commitment of the ScriptSource service to openness and appropriate copyright and licensing: we have a pragmatic and visionary set of policies based on the values of open access with reasonable and balanced involvement of both for-profit and not-for-profit entities in a collaborative community. And we're promoting it to all contributors in a flexible way. The many challenges of writing systems implementation can be more easily tackled in a collaborative community building upon each other's work without the obstacles of exclusivity deals.

So please go ahead: explore, contribute your expertise and send your ideas and suggestions. Your feedback big or small is most welcome. The hosting system, the workflows and usage scenarios forming the overall service will improve incrementally according to the needs of the community.

You may have already heard about or made use of the Ethnologue, like, for example, the Debian-Installer and OLPC localisation teams already have done for a while, but I think the unique technical features and the open and collaborative approach of ScriptSource will accelerate and simplify to a unprecedented level the work of the linguistic research community and of the makers of multilingual services and products.

4 Jun 2011 (updated 4 Jun 2011 at 15:26 UTC) »
LibreOffice 3.4 and major font improvements

The latest major release of Libreoffice, version 3.4, besides all the many improvements, speadups and fixes from this development cycle, provides various very nice font-related goodies:
  • a better font menu with previews for complex scripts and improved alignements of the entries
  • better font rendering via Cairo
  • integration of the improved and much faster Graphite2 smart font engine essential for many languages

A huge thank you to the Document Foundation and all developers involved for their very valuable work!

If you haven't already, you should consider how you can contribute.
4 Jun 2011 (updated 4 Jun 2011 at 10:11 UTC) »
BBC World Service looking into webfonts?

Even with the confusing use of "embedding" to describe webfonts and apparently no use of @font-face but only a restricted font for download for the Urdu BBC website, I find it promising to read that the BBC World Service acknowledges the need to go beyond the system fonts to deliver quality typography to visitors for content using complex scripts beyond the Latin boundary.

Some highlights from BBC World Service Language Websites: user experience and typography:

"Our strategy was to free ourselves from the constraints of system fonts by embedding a custom web font on our sites."

"We believe this is the first time this has been done on a major news site in English or one of these languages."

"We have also aimed to meet the varied cultural needs of each language by further customising the font for each site."

"Nine languages, four different scripts and two reading directions..."

"18 more language sites that require five other scripts to be worked on..."

It's very significant to see a major news outlet thinking along these lines and actually talking about it publicly. Hopefully real webfont usage is coming for increased control over distinct style and visual identity as well as a "just-works user experience" by delivering the chosen font directly to the user.
11 May 2011 (updated 11 May 2011 at 18:03 UTC) »
Highlights from the webfonts session at Google I/O 2011

Just a few highlights from the Google webfonts session at the Google IO 2011. Go ahead and watch the whole video for the full context:

  • " we needed a better way to use and select fonts. So the solution is webfonts. "

  • " Google loves webfonts, webfonts not only make the web more expressive, more semantic, more accessible, more translatable, but they also make it more searchable. We think webfonts is a win for everybody involved. "

  • " Recently in the last two years, browsers started supporting webfonts which means right now they are a great choice for production applications in websites. "

  • " there's licensing complexities involved, just because you own a font and can use it on your local machine doesn't mean you can use it on the web. And oftentimes, and probably more often than not, the license to use the font as a webfont is completely different. "

  • " we're looking to make webfonts ubiquitous "

  • " there's no licensing worries because all the fonts are open source... you never have to think about how you're constrained about using Google webfonts, we think this is really important "

  • " there is a really huge surge of demand from the Internet and we're really excited about this "

  • " 1.29 million unique domains "

  • " we started with 18 one year ago, we now have 175 font families in the Google font directory, we're aiming for a 1000 within 12 months "

  • " we worked with 45 designers from all over the world "

  • " as we add more fonts to our library, we're also very committed to keeping the open source license, we think this is incredibly important and the reason is that there's no telling what devices and platform will be announced in the future and we don't want you to have to worry about not being able to use these fonts "

  • " They're your fonts as much as they are Google's and we'd like you to know that and we'd like you to be creative with your use... "

  • " We can do that because they're open source, there is no paygate that we need to put in place so we can go completely foot to the floor to get these fonts as fast as possible, that includes our cache strategy "

  • " there's incredible increase in adoption, the more popular the Google webfont service becomes the faster it's going to be "

  • " with all the fonts we're adding every week now, that list is growing fast "

  • " it's very simple to bring Google webfonts directly inside the CS suite via TypeDNA: I just right click it and then click 'similar web fonts body' which then takes me into Google and it makes suggestions of similar Google webfonts "

  • " you could actually go a long way by supporting one math font, there is the STIX font which is an open source font that a bunch of organisations and publishers got together and designed "

  • " Both of the primary licenses that we use, Apache 2 and the SIL Open Font License, do allow for derivative works. You have to do attribution and there's some rules about what, you know, you name the fonts that you have to kind of respect the wishes of the font designer around the names of those derivative works, but you're free to mix them all together, you know, add your own characters, basically do anything you like "

  • " we love the fact that there's many different options in the space. We want to grow the pie, we want to make sure that the folks who are just casual bloggers have sufficient access to high quality fonts. We'll fill the market from below, make a solid foundation "

  • " Google webfonts do work in the Android browser. "

  • " We have been slowly building out the range of international character sets. A growing number of the fonts are also supporting Cyrillic and Greek and a few other Latin Extended ranges. We actually have a lot of Khmer fonts in the directory. For the more complex scripts we're working with the browser manufacturers, of course including Chrome, to really make the support of these scripts bulletproof. "

  • " It is definitely important for Google to make these fonts worldwide, all languages. "

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