New subforum? Language software development

Small area for language related software developers. If you have a feature request please put in the appropriate place. This area is for developers of language software and forum software development only.
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New subforum? Language software development

Postby Cainntear » Fri Dec 23, 2016 6:58 pm

I was wondering whether it might be an idea to open a new subforum on developing and programming language learning software.

There seems to be a gradually increasing number of members involved in producing little bits of software to help in their own and/or others' learning, and when we discuss this, it could end up being in the General Discussion, Practical Questions and Advice or Language Programs and Resources section, so things aren't being kept in one place.

In particular, we've had at least two threads in the last few months where someone has been soliciting suggestions, and a forum of this form would make it easier for any future would-be devs to get access to previous discussions over possible apps, as a source of ideas.

It's unlikely we'll be able to solve the some of the more technical problems for each other, but at the very least we should be able to help each other in what to look for, and to save each other going down the wrong path.
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Re: New subforum? Language software development

Postby tommus » Fri Dec 23, 2016 9:40 pm

I like your idea. I have tried to combine my interests of computer programming and language learning. They support each other. I program in Java but dabble in Python, C# and javascript; whatever works for the challenge at hand.

I like trying to process Big Data, and try to extract useful language learning material from it. I think the current trends and technology point to advances in text-to-speech, speech-to-text, and artificial intelligence in language learning.

I'd love to exchange ideas, techniques, software, etc. I think your idea has a lot to offer.
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Re: New subforum? Language software development

Postby smallwhite » Sat Dec 24, 2016 1:24 pm

Cainntear wrote:There seems to be a gradually increasing number of members involved in producing little bits of software to help in their own and/or others' learning, and when we discuss this, it could end up being in the General Discussion, Practical Questions and Advice or Language Programs and Resources section, so things aren't being kept in one place.


I think software development discussions belong perfectly in "Language Programs and Resources". Current apps and what they do; future apps and what they will do. If apps under development get a separate subforum, then on the day of the app's publication, do you move the discussion from the "App Development" subforum to the "Language Programs and Resources" subforum? And what about apps in beta or apps that are published with certain functions still under development, which of the two subforums would they belong to?

Language Programs and Resources
All about language programs, courses, websites and other learning resources



I think what we (may) need is a new subforum structure altogether, a more scalable one, or at least more descriptive subforum names and descriptions, instead of a new subforum for each of software development or member introduction or other topics new to the forum. A subforum structure that can't handle new ideas is a problematic subforum structure.



> when we discuss this, it could end up being in the General Discussion, ...

Using "General Language Discussion" is plain wrong to me. I had already noticed earlier that member Maschingon chooses subforums very differently from the rest of us, so I would consider his choice an isolated case.

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Re: New subforum? Language software development

Postby Cainntear » Mon Dec 26, 2016 11:06 pm

smallwhite wrote:I think software development discussions belong perfectly in "Language Programs and Resources". Current apps and what they do; future apps and what they will do. If apps under development get a separate subforum, then on the day of the app's publication, do you move the discussion from the "App Development" subforum to the "Language Programs and Resources" subforum?

No, you leave it (or "them") where it is, and you start a new one. Very few computer programs finally end up doing what was originally planned, and no-one wants to read through a year-long string of ideas, problems and revisions to try to find out what the final product actually does.

Also, we may well end up discussing little technical matters that most users of the software won't care about -- things like the best way to represent irregular verbs in memory etc.

And what about apps in beta or apps that are published with certain functions still under development, which of the two subforums would they belong to?

If it's a matter for users, then the user-orientated forum (language programs and resources) -- if it's about software development, the development forum.

Language Programs and Resources
All about language programs, courses, websites and other learning resources

I don't believe this is the appropriate forum for a resource that doesn't exist, as it is supposed to be a place where people discuss resources they can use.
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Re: New subforum? Language software development

Postby crush » Thu Dec 29, 2016 4:43 am

I like this idea as well. Lately there have been a few threads popping up and i've got a couple projects as well that i'm a bit hesitant to post under the Language Programs section as they aren't that polished yet. But getting feedback and suggestions (or even finding out if anyone other than me is interested in using it) would be great.
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Re: New subforum? Language software development

Postby Ani » Fri Dec 30, 2016 10:25 pm

The big downside of starting a new subforum for every little thing is that they WILL look dead while nothing is happening. None of the subforums here are so busy (except logs) that they can't support a few extra threads on various projects. Moving them to language resources is a great idea because it will increase traffic in that subforum, which will also have the end result of encouraging people to actually post their resource questions over there. If you notice, lots of them end up in Practical Questions and Advice which further adds to the problem.

As long as the thread starter is really clear with the title (Project in Development: , Project in Beta:) there shouldn't be any confusion for people who are looking for resources ready to go, or people who are looking at developing, following the development of various resources.
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Re: New subforum? Language software development

Postby Cainntear » Thu Jan 05, 2017 11:18 am

Ani wrote:The big downside of starting a new subforum for every little thing is that they WILL look dead while nothing is happening. None of the subforums here are so busy (except logs) that they can't support a few extra threads on various projects.

I'm not sure this is such a little thing. There really is nowhere I've found online for people to discuss problem specificlly related to programming language software, and I believe having a dedicated subforum here would encourge more discussion.

For example, I've started playing around with Python to filter through downloads of the Tatoeba database for my own purposes. The scripts are a bit scrappy and I haven't shared them with anyone. They're not really a language "resource" of any sort (yet) and I would be sharing them looking for suggestions and colloboration in improving them, which makes it "practical questions and advice", but about programming/development, not about language.

Maybe I should go and set up a dedicated language software programming forum somewhere, but it's always hard to build momentum in a new forum, because you get that spiral of few updates leading to rarely checking the site, leading to few updates, leading to rarely checking the site...
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Re: New subforum? Language software development

Postby tommus » Thu Jan 05, 2017 2:03 pm

I think we need a more targeted objective(s) for such a sub-forum. "Language software development" is a huge, amorphous (Google: without a clearly defined shape or form) project. Perhaps it can be focused on some key issues such as key challenges, help needed, new approaches, etc. (not too many). To that end. Let me propose one topic that has wide applicability.

The Challenge of Character Encoding in Language Learning Software

Correct character encoding ensures that characters in a chosen language or script are displayed and handled correctly. It would seem easy to do. Make sure that your application is set to the encoding appropriate to the language and script. More easily said than done. There are many different encoding schemes, many of which claim to solve all problems and display all characters correctly. Examples of popular encoding systems and standards: UTF-8, ISO-8859-1, UTF-16, UTF-32, Unicode, and countless others. Some use 8 bits, some use 16 bits, and some use 32 bits, often in strange ways, to represent all the characters. Applications need to be able to handle whatever encoding it encounters, often with mixed success.

One might think that figuring this out is complicated but quite manageable. But it can get very messy. For example, if you are developing an application that saves file names and directories a variety of character encoding, you might find that your operating system does not support such characters. It may refuse to save filenames with characters from different scripts, which is my major challenge. It can depend on whether you are working in Windows, Apple, Linux, Android, etc, and even depending on which computer hardware system you are using or targeting. There are differences between Java, Python, C++, c#, etc. And of course, how do browsers handle the encoding? There can be differences between versions of browsers, operating systems for a specific browser, old HTML or new HTML5, etc. It is a maze out there. Unicode was supposed to provide a solution to all these problems. It is incorporated in various ways into various systems. But to say that everything is now easy and working smoothly would be an overstatement. Many popular and commercial applications, such as mainstream browsers, Anki, Wikipedia, etc., handle character encoding reasonably well. But we are talking here about developing new applications, perhaps just for ourselves, but potentially for others. And by definition, we are almost always working with two or more languages, often with vastly different scripts.

I have tried to find good tutorials to help make this all clear and understandable, with no satisfactory results. Character encoding sounds relatively easy until you actually try using it in serious applications. For example, to work with applications that use articles from the Dutch Wikipedia, one might use ISO-8859-1 which is generally used to encode western European languages, but there are many, many articles, with people and place names for example, that fail to display properly.

So has anyone found effective ways to approach the challenge of character encoding in language learning software?
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Re: New subforum? Language software development

Postby Cainntear » Thu Jan 05, 2017 2:14 pm

tommus wrote:I think we need a more targeted objective(s) for such a sub-forum. "Language software development" is a huge, amorphous (Google: without a clearly defined shape or form) project. Perhaps it can be focused on some key issues such as key challenges, help needed, new approaches, etc. (not too many).

It is a broad topic, yes, but not unmanageably so. A dedicated, single-purpose forum could have subforums for character encoding issues, UI, internal representations of grammar etc, but for the current forum membership, that would be far too specific.

The sort of projects undertaken by the current membership tend to be relatively straightforward things like automating processes for creating Anki cards, and the questions we might want to ask each other are going to cover a range of general topics, and hard to predict at the moment.

Ideally, I would like to see the community expand to the point where it outgrows this site and is spun off into a separate, dedicated forum, but I think that running it here for now might help generate the required growth. I think it would also help expand the forum membership slightly, as there are a number of small app developers who only really use the site to advertise their own software. A section for software dev might give them a reason to stick around and join in with the site more.
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Re: New subforum? Language software development

Postby crush » Thu Jan 05, 2017 6:55 pm

I'm still in favor of this idea and can see many uses for it, especially if we can encourage more open source tools and collaboration to maintain them, it benefits the entire community. It would be interesting to create tools to help create our own courses, for example taking sentences from Tatoeba and organizing them in some sort of N+1 fashion. Or more tools for creating parallel/interlinear texts. And of course we can use GitHub and other external sites to discuss these projects, but i think folks are much more likely to participate in discussions here.
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