PAL project website and evolution of the wiki
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The website concept for the PanAfrican Localisation project underwent an evolution during its 3-year span (2005-08). While the basic concept of providing a resource for localisers remained the foundation, it was decided to make more use of the wiki technology as a way to continue to gather information in a flexible and open format and also to facilitate interaction within and among localisation communities. The result was this wiki, which later was revised and maintained by the African Network for Localisation (ANLoc) project, and since September 2015 is being revised on the Bisharat site.
The original concept called for creation of a database with information relevant to localisation - language data, character sets, current activities, experts, etc. This was fairly ambitious in design. Gradually, however, it became apparent that the quality of data available was uneven and developing a database structure might not be necessary to convey what data there is. Moreover, a formal database would necessitate either regular updates from a central person or office, or a complex set of permissions for a range of experts and activists to amend the database (and the whole issue of recruiting such people for all corners of the database).
The wiki was actually started early in the project, to fill some immediate communication needs, and also as a way of assembling data. In the process of setting it up and adding to it, a structure was developed to facilitate addition of and access to information. In addition, the software provided a search function, which also assisted users in finding of information on the wiki. In effect, it became a structured and searchable "datamass" with the added virtue of being open.
While no one should mistake the latter for a database (which has enormous advantages in certain contexts), in this case it became apparent that it served the fundamental purposes intended for the database. Yet another advantage of the wiki format in this case was that it was easily extensible, both in terms of content and structure.
A series of diagrams illustrating the evolution of thinking about the parts of the website and their interaction is presented on a separate page.
In an attempt to facilitate user input and interaction on localisation activities, it was decided to experiment with a feature of the wiki software to create "WikiGroup communities." Although the structured language and country pages could not easily accommodate user interaction, the wiki software allowed the setting up of sections that could be customized but still be "wikilinkable" and searchable across the whole wiki. Ultimately this effort was not so successful.
The original design included a splash page from which one could enter the wiki. This ultimately proved redundant.
An email list was set up early in the project, on which mostly English was used. Later a set of three email lists were set up in English, French, and Portuguese (as the main ELWC working languages of localisers). These were linked by an automatic translation function.
The website was incubated on the Bisharat.net site then migrated to the project's new domain, PanAfriL10n.org.
With the conclusion of the PAL project and the beginning of ANLoc in 2008, the PanAfriL10n.org domain and wiki were transferred to ANLoc, which managed it in tandem with the AfricanLocalisation.net site until November 2013.