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I am proposing that the site and all the diaries exist in all languages, with some (most) of them machine translated.
This isn't going to be practical. It took two to four weeks to get translations of a single petition. The amount of effort required to translate every diary and every comment into every language would be enough to keep a translation agency working full time. It might be possible with a Euro-wide readership which was a thousand times bigger, but given where we are we don't have the people hours to cover more than the occasional translation effort.
It might be more realistic to have:
Separate language communities
Auto-translation options for all content (in fact we this have already)
One or more (themed?) multilingual front pages which cherry pick the best of the separate communities, with hand translations of just those selections
And I think it would be more realistic still to start out with just one or two languages for proof of concept before trying to go further.
If people don't like a translation they can always change it. There probably isn't any need to keep track of versions or translation ratings - keeping things simple will be more likely to get them started.
One problem - doesn't this mean that edit privileges will have to be shared somehow for translated content?
Yes, edit privileges would have to be shared. I don't see this as much of a problem. Though it does mean we have to track changes so that they can be rolled back in case of accidental deletion etc.
Wouldn't it be easier to Wiki-fy it and let translators sort it out for themselves?
The ratings are to give people who only read the content in one language an idea of how accurate the translation might be.
Still not convinced this is essential. If someone only has a few minutes to tidy up some basic errors, I don't think they should be de-rated if they've still managed to improve the original. That's likely to demotivate them from attempting more corrections, which would not be a good thing.
If you pseudo-Wikify translations, multiple edits can converge on something better. You wouldn't need the extra complexity of rollbacks then.
You'll have to hope there won't be too much obsessive anal re-editing, but I think at the initial stage the aim is basic readability, not fluent perfection, and if you make that clear it will minimise unnecessary tweaking.
Basic quality will be obvious to everyone who reads a language, so I'm not sure it needs to be tagged explicitly.
If someone only has a few minutes to tidy up some basic errors, I don't think they should be de-rated if they've still managed to improve the original.
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