I've had the pleasure to present the results of the Drupal 8 Multilingual Initiative - great work of numerous highly respected individuals - at the start of this month in Berkeley at BADCamp 2012. The session has some great demo content about where did we get and background information on what is still to be done. We are pretty close with all the essentials but will not be bored for the rest of the Drupal 8 release cycle either to put on more polish and fix the rough edges. Meet us this Friday, the last day before the Drupal 8 feature freeze if you want to get involved!
The content translation problem
One of the great goals of the Drupal 8 Multilingual Initiative (D8MI for short) is to have one unified system for content translation. The basic problem is that with Drupal 7, you have two ways to translate content: copy nodes for different language versions (with the built-in Content translation module) or save different languages under one entity (with the built-in multilingual fields capability). Although the later does not have a user interface in core, the API is there, so well respecting contributed modules need to support both. The reality is that many modules support neither, because node copies are combersome and field language support is painful.
This is both a user and a developer problem. Users need to decide their translation methods up front, and both methods have their advantages and limitations. Node copies allow for best workflow because they have authors, publication status, permissions, core search support, etc. all a given. Field language on the other hand works better with relations (when signing up for nodes, putting nodes into a common menu, etc.) as well as sharing values between translations (product images, non-translated attributes, etc.). The grand plan for Drupal 8 is to figure out a way for a system that marries the advantages of all as possible and have one better configurable system instead of two independent systems. This should make it easier for users and developers alike to work with multilingual entities.
This is an extremely simple idea, yet the implementation is lagging behind enourmously.
I've highlighted some great developments around multilingual Drupal in my Denver core conversation talk (see the slides and video for details on where Drupal 8 multilingual improvements are going or check out the interview with me on Modules Unraveled from last week). First of all, there are some great new developments with each, second these got little publicity if anything, so I wanted to broadcast the good news here too.
Drupal 7 Multilingual Sites book is out
The Drupal 7 Multilingual Sites book is out from Packt Publishing! Jose Reyero (Internationalization module maintainer) was a technical reviewer, and I've been involved with the book as a technical reviewer in parallel (without monetary compensation), so even if you might not recognize the name of the author (Kristen Pol), I can assure you that it is a strong book. It starts off from the basics and reaches as far as it comprehensively can in the small size. It goes through some complex topics like tips and tricks for Views, Panels and SEO, and even includes comprehensive tables for which module to use for translating what. Some topics were cut out due to the size boundaries but you can already read one of those as an article on Kristen's blog on Drupal Commerce localization. The book should be a life-saver for anybody starting out building multilingual Drupal 7 sites and even those who already got started but stumbled into some seemingly unsolvable issues. Admittedly as the book goes into some of the more advanced topics, you'll face note boxes more and more as it references issues where fixes for problems are in the works. Help is always welcome.
Ps. Kristen is happy to donate ruffle copies of the book for your events, see https://twitter.com/#!/kristen_pol/status/193752939515490304
New Translation Management Tool module
While there are relatively good tools to translate content, configuration and the user interface in Drupal, larger scale setups will require more complex translation workflows with queues for people working on translations and integration with outside services and subcontractors for translation. Remember the Translation Management module? Well, that was a bit monolithic solution to this problem, did not integrate with common Drupal components such as Views and Rules and was never fully ported to Drupal 7. There was no community behind it and as the developers stopped working on it, there was no solution for people to look to.
Enter Translation Management Tool (tmgmt) a solution along the Drupal way (TM) to the same problems. It is component based, already integrates with more services and is backed by several companies in Europe. It was bootstrapped earlier this year in Europe and is actively developed ever since. For further icing on the cake, a great project to improve and build on the module was accepted for this year's Google Summer of Code, so we are going to see even more awesomeness coming from there!
Drupal as base implementation in European Union multilingual project
Carsten and Carina from Cocomore held a discussion at Drupalcon Denver incorporating their announcement of the EU funded "MultilingualWeb - Language Technologies" (MultilingualWeb-LT) project for the Drupal community. The project is managed by a W3C Working Group and its goal is "to combine several existing technologies and standards to close gaps in the technical localization chain by better integrating localization service providers and translation technologies". It is not just a standards effort, the initial implementation is going to happen based on Drupal! Yes! We hope to work with this project on Drupal 8 improvements if the timeline allows and they certainly plan to make heavy use of the tmgmt module on Drupal 7 which should lead to more improvements and fixes there.
xjm has a great guide for doing interdiffs using two branches for the original patch and your new changes. I must admit I'm lazier than that, and have a much simpler process for doing interdiffs on patch updates. Of course this only works if you work on one patch at a time. Branches are better when you work on different things and want to keep those things around. With that, here is my simpler interdiff workflow.
I've had the great opportunity to share my experience navigating the waters of Drupal core development at at DrupalCon Denver last month. My talk "Thrown Into a Shark Pond? A Guide for Surviving Core Development and Even Enjoying It" was possibly a little sensationally titled, although every Drupal core developers have their ups and downs and sometimes people do feel like they are in a shark attack. I planned to provide good ways forward from different ways that ideas can be blocked from inception through implementation to getting it into core.
When preparing for the session, I realized I'm going to explain a somewhat complicated tree with different decision points and states. I wanted my session to be a useful and clear explanation and let people focus on tips and tricks instead of piecing together this tree in their head, so I decided to design a handout for the attendees (PDF, 250k). This turned out to be pretty great I think, and I got lots of content feedback from xjm, webchick, Moshe Weitzman, Kieran Lal and even Dries at various stages of drafting it. (Getting it printed on-site was a herculean undertaking, but that is really due to the printing shop services available.) At the end, each attendee got a nice color copy of this that they could bring home (and the leftovers I had were distributed at the new contributors sprint at the end of the conference). After all I decided to not theme the talk or the handouts with sharks, in hopes that the handouts would be much more easily reusable later just as well.
You can also watch the recording of the session below, and download the slides (PDF, 7.8M).