Many Pies

Many Pies

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Emojis are a serious matter

Emojis are increasingly popular. ✏ If you can see a pencil before the word "If" then the device you're using has some support for them. They may seem like a bit of fun, but the fact that they have been included in the Unicode standard since 2010 means they are actually pretty serious. Or rather, that they are a valid means of communication which the Unicode Consortium has recognised.

😁 I don't see an emoji Bible coming anytime soon though (someone did have a go at creating a Kickstarter project for one).
The Unicode standard has new characters introduced at every revision, and for some revisions this includes new emojis. If you can see a chilli pepper here then you're up to date: 🌶. If you're wondering how they decide whether to include emojis then they've written a document on that.

There is a review process to introduce characters, and often some of the preparatory work in Bible Translation will feed into this review process. One of the early things in Bible Translation is to work out which script should be used. Some languages have never been written down before, and so there's a process involving the people who speak the language to see what they want to do. If it has been written down and some of the characters which aren't in Unicode then they will be submitted to this review process.

SIL, who do a lot of work on language technology have a group called the Non-Roman Script Initiative (NRSI) which has been working on technical issues do with fonts and writing systems. They recently celebrated their 20th anniversary.

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

MissioMaze - a new app for Wycliffe Bible Translators UK

Much of what I do is behind our office firewall or password protected websites, but I've been working on something recently that people with an iOS device will be able to see.

Back in 2013 I came across an app called iHobo, which puts a homeless man on your phone for three days. You interact with this homeless man from time to time over the three days - it's not something you do continuously. I thought that same approach could be used with a game which has been round for many years "For those back home". This is a game designed to be played within a group setting. You have a series of choices to make, a bit like the old "choose your own adventure" books. In that game the aim is to get as many converts as possible. However situations come up where you have to choose between what your sending church and what local people might want.

I started by rewriting the questions, as the approaches used in Bible Translation have changed in the 20 or so years when that game was written. For example, many new translation projects in related languages are done in parallel with an overall "cluster" project*. The measure of success changed from number to percentage of the church engaged - how much the local people gain a desire to have and use the translated Scriptures.

As I'm an IT person I got some people who know what they are talking about to review what I'd written. At that point the project stalled due to lack of time and money. Then towards the end of last year it was revived again and I started work on developing the app, while other people worked on refining the questions.

As I had previous experience with the Marmalade framework I used that. I used Marmalade Web which wraps up HTML/Javascript into an app. This was because a requirement was that the game could also be played on a PC at an exhibition stand, and so I wanted to use something simple. For iOS Marmalade Web lets me write an extension in C++ which calls a routine to send a (local) notification after a number of minutes or hours. This is necessary because iOS could close the app when it's not in the foreground.

What's not easy to see on the website, is how you can't get do everything you need to on Windows. Whilst the environment simplifies a lot of the work involved in cross platform building, when it comes to uploading to the Apple App store, you need to use a Mac. I used for this bit. You can rent a Mac for $1 an hour. For ad hoc work you have to buy 30 hours credits, and they expire after a while. That's not a bad price if all you want to do is upload your app.

It's currently going through beta testing - let me know if you want to take part. Keep an eye on the MissioMaze web page for when it's released (we're aiming for March/April).

*From Not too remote
A language cluster refers to languages that may be linguistically related, and/or from similar geographic regions or cultural backgrounds. Speakers of these languages work together, sharing expertise, training and resources, to develop their languages and work on translation into each language.