Coming from a workshop

I'm on the train back from a workshop on Japanese and computing. For me it was something new meeting these people. I got a very warm welcome and had some nice conversations.

Hearing about problems and issues other people have with related work lets you know you're not alone and talking about solutions helps with new insights. For example we talked about technical limitations in SQL with Unicode characters outside the BMP (not possible in MySQL 5.0), collation issues, Java's inability to properly render Devanagari (or was it some other Indian writing), and in general encoding issues.

In the workshop was the creator of WadokuJT, and from his, in my terms, long experience on the field of dictionaries it was interesting to get some insights. There seems to be nearly no project funding and most energy seems to stem from private investment. While the creation was initiated by the lack of proper electronic dictionaries, some years later now the dictionary is widely used across scientists of Japanese Studies. The creator's main concerns are quality, as dictionaries unlike most Wikis have a high demand on the contributor's (translation) abilities, and thus the Wiki's community based approach isn't as equally valid here.

I had to learn that over time you will come across plenty of people with new and noteworthy ideas, only to see that many of them lack the proper undertaking and breath to carry through with their ideas. It seems that a greater level of persistence is asked from the online folks. Especially it's not missing ideas, it's the lack of people that are willing to carry through with a task that maybe only in the long run will yield satisfying results.

Judging by the discussions it seems there is a lack of qualified people good on both computer science and Japanese/other languages, and research still needs to catch up with technological development. Studying both a linguistic topic for one and as a second major computer science does not seem widely implemented, at least in Germany. People in research are either linguists turned geeks or computer scientists turned language lovers. A nice project on online collaboration in translation introduced in the workshop gave a nice idea of a linguistic programming project. People fluent in both natural and programming languages seem to be highly welcomed!

Sadly enough, I had to learn that Japanese don't do Chinese and Chinese don't do Japanese. While we agreed that the single East Asian studies could benefit widely from each other in the computing field, only few co-operations are seen. The researchers in Buddhism are the only ones to have mastered the language bridge in this area.

It was interesting to see though, that also here Copyright or the lack of proper judging on those cases is an issue, as often enough for dictionaries and other collections it is unclear on which scale Copyright laws hold. The data in general or more common the lack of it is a big topic and mostly needs two things, funding and willingness to share.

Overall it was an interesting debate and everybody left with new ideas and impressions. It's nice to meet people in person and for me very much increases the quality of debate.

Update: And I definitely need a Mac in this community :)