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November Update

Turkeys are better than roosters

November Update
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Photo by Randy Fath on Unsplash

A week ago, part of me thought that this months update might never come. I had been feeling defeated by the fact that I still hadn't gotten translations completely figured out. And concluded I might as well keep my mouth shut until I did figure it out. But here we are, I've finally managed to get the initial implementation of internationalization for narco.news set up. For me personally this is a huge accomplishment and I've sunk dozens of hours over the weeks into getting that single button to work how I want. It was the last thing that I needed to get accomplished before I could begin to feel like this place was complete.

Here's the low down

Content

Anyone who has been hanging around for awhile can tell content consistency is on and off. I've been putting a lot of energy into the development side and after doing that all day my brain is jello. Now that development will take up less time, being that everything else required developmentally is non-critical, I'll be working towards posting consistently.

You might also have noticed the differences in style of content. El Parece has been focusing on longer form pieces and research. My focus has been aggregation and documenting significant events. The hope is to have a mix of content that is long and short, national and local. Traditional press publications have focused on high-profile apprehensions and events, often not spending much time on the day to day. The problem with this is that it doesn't always give folks a comprehensive picture of the situation. By working towards covering things both big and small, we hope to be able to provide a fuller picture of what is going on.

We will also be building out a more comprehensive tagging system. Which will allow more organization of how things are displayed on the home page.

Translations

This all was obviously not the path of least resistance. But I didn't want to settle, knowing that it was possible, I wasn't ready to give up. Ultimately the difficulty arises from two things. First, my lack of knowledge with Javascript and the frameworks this website is built with. Second, the frameworks this website is built with don't naturally talk to each other. Thankfully, very kind folks have written starting templates and open sourced them for others to use. That is where we started, many months ago.

Unfortunately the template had no implementation for using multiple languages. Which required me to spend time learning how each framework handles languages and then figure out how to make them do it together. It was quite an experience to say the least. I finally asked for help a couple of weeks ago, and was thrown a bone. But it wasn't the solution I was looking for, though I was encouraged and told to be on the right path for solving it. So I spent another couple weeks grinding away before finally figuring it out the other night.

Even though our translations are done by a computer at the moment, they are not done automatically. Meaning we have to manually translate them, with the aid of the computer, and copy it over. This allows us to tweak what the computer outputs versus just providing a one-for-one copy of what the computer translation spits out.

For the time being, we will not publish all the articles in Spanish. The significant activity articles are really just a regurgitation of Spanish press publications. It's unlikely that the content will be very different from their Spanish sources. Thus I don't feel they are as crucial to get into Spanish, and providing a lazy copy-paste computer translation seems minimally beneficial. But, all of the articles like research, analysis, opinion, etc we will aim to have Spanish translations for. Those are more important because that content doesn't exist already in Spanish. As with the significant activities, for a native Spanish speaker I'd suggest and think, they would get more benefit skipping my run down and just looking at the linked Spanish language sources at the bottom of the article.

Ideally we want to get to a point where everything has a Spanish version and an English version.

Side note on accuracy: As someone who came from studying the Middle East and having to "translate" Arabic, Spanish is a relief. During that time, the idea of learning Arabic to be able to better understand things was unimaginable for me. So I had to learn how to "survive" knowing I'd never be able to speak or read the language. When translating small bits and pieces, the point has never been, for me personally, to get it 100% perfect. While that should be the goal, sometimes it's just unobtainable. You have to figure out and learn how to deal with a situation in which you don't have all the information. It's naive at best to think that we will always have all the information we require. Obviously the longer articles, perfection is more important. But with snippets and bits and pieces from press articles, perfection usually isn't required to understand what is going on. That is of course not always the case or to say that details aren't being missed, they are. We're doing the best we can with what we got and are working to improve. I'm thankful for any correction and suggestions that people send my way.

What to expect

It seems silly sometimes setting expectations in a pandemic world but some certainty is required to avoid insanity. Our focus will be on content. I'm not ignorant to the fact that the look of this place makes absolutely no difference if the content is garbage. Thus I will be spending the majority of my time on improving the content on this website in the coming months.

The translations were all or nothing, so everything else discussed in the past was put on hold in order to focus on meeting that goal. In the last post the next thing I was going to work on was getting the Mediawiki set up. I still have plans for that but maybe need to keep thinking about it. It seems natural in the beginning to do a lot of things and then as you go forward you refine and decide what you really need, or what you have time for. I guess that is one dilemma with setting ambitious goals, sometimes you don't get to everything. Slowly but surely though, I'm confident and know we will get there.

This all might seem like a lot of work for a website with just words. But the vision is vast and this is only the very beginning. The foundation being built will allow an infinite amount of flexibly, allowing us to provide our users with exactly the experience we want. In other words, it removes any technical barriers that could prevent us in providing the information in the way in which we feel most effective.

The necessity of anonymity at the moment requires increased transparency in areas that don't compromise said anonymity, in an effort to establish credence. My hope is that these updates help towards accomplishing that goal.

Thank you for coming along this journey with us.

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