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Disclaimer: this is a draft. Prices and perks may change. Your input on this topic is welcome, and will help cement the details. A final draft will be posted once the various kinks are worked out

I'm getting serious about a language database for Torn World, and looking closely at what's available. The short answer? Nada. What is available doesn't have the strength and flexibility I need for Torn World.

So, in Ellen's usual little red hen fashion, I'll do it myself, using some of the things I've learned through the crowdfunding of Sketch Fest.

Firstly, I want to make this script available for others, which means coding it separately from the Torn World website. Secondly, I'd like at least token payment for it. I don't need my usual freelance fees (I estimate this would be a $1000 project, at least. Maybe $2000, with some of the features I'm considering...), but I would like something to make it feel worth my time. No one person is going to want to pay that. But more than one person? Well, that's the beauty of crowdfunding...



Start at the End: The Final Product

An administration page (or possibly multiple pages) will enable global settings, such as: do words need to be approved, or are they approved immediately when entered (in case of group project where you want a second set of eyes)? How many drifted sub-languages? Word-length limits? Language rules (allowed blends, etc. - sub-languages will require specified exceptions/changes/drifting rules)? The allowed letters will include letter combinations, and symbols that represent sounds like clicks and hisses. This page (or these pages) will be password protected.

An entry page will allow the entering of new words and editing of existing. 20 or 40 per page seems reasonable - having one word per page seems like a hassle. Each word will have: English translation, new word, part of speech (drop-down), class (drop-down), notes (special information/longer definition) and as many drifted sub-languages as are specified above. When you enter a set of words, it will automatically search the database to make sure you haven't used that word yet, and possibly also find close matches, as well as warn you if you've accidentally broken a rule (but it will only warn you, not fix it for you, because exceptions happen).

Word generation tools would be an expansion option. Possibly with rules that you can specify at the time of generation (so, for example, you can generate verbs, with restrictions on ending, or nouns of a particular class). Gender is not something we utilize at Torn World*, so this option will not be added unless this feature is funded. (You would have to manually make sure that your words had appropriate gender, otherwise.) The word entry page(s) will also be password protected, but may have a different password, so that you could allow a wider group of people to add/suggest words than to control the language.

An approval page will allow you to view un-approved words and approve them.

A public search page will allow you to find words by searching any of the fields. You can list all verbs, for example, or search for the translation of 'can' (which may turn up a verb and a noun), or find out what firolk means in your language, or how it may have drifted in your sub-languages.

A basic search page would find only exact matches. An optional refinement would be to make it find parts of words, too, though not all of them may apply, in case you are looking for a compound word. (In this case, firolk translates to hexball, or six-ball. The database should find rolk = ball, fi(m)- = six AND firolk = hexball, a popular table-top game similar to pool, played on a six-sided table. Possibly there would be the option to add a link to the database, too, since, in the case of Torn World, there would be an article for Firolk!) Pagination is a must on these results.

A public overview page will list the major points of your language (as set on the administration page), point you towards the search page, and maybe display some random words from the database. You'd have the option to view clusters of words, or possibly all (with pagination). Menu options would suggest looking at major types of words available in the database (and maybe count them!).

An expansion option would be a phrase resource that collects and displays common phrases, with their literal translation and expanded meaning.

Another expansion option would be to link it to a database of names to double-check for use when creating a new word.

All pages will be protected from mysql injection attacks and built as simply and as securely as I know how. It will use basic css so that you can customize the look of it to suit your own site.


Funding

All donations and participation in the creation process will get you listed on a thank-you page associated with the project, with a link to your site.

Basic: A donation of $5 or more will get you a zipped copy of the final php pages and a blank sql table to use to create your own site using this script. I won't install or trouble-shoot it for you.

Bonus: A donation of $10 or more will get you a zipped copy of the final script and blank sql table, and a banner rotation for your project in my network of sites for 1 year.

Hosted: A donation of $50 or more will get you a banner rotation at my sites for 1 year, and an installed version of the final script, hosted at my site, with 5 years of hosting included. You will receive a subdomain at my site (ie: fredslanguage.ellenmilliongraphics.com), or you can provide your own domain. With this level of donation, a rotating banner advertisement will run on your language pages.

Hosted Unlimited: A donation of $100 or more gets you an installed version of the script in progress, so you get a functional database almost immediately, and all of the goodies and improvements are added to your system exactly as they are developed. This can be hosted at your site (you will need to provide me ftp and sql logins) or at mine, with perpetual hosting (never expires!). Banner advertising on your site is optional, and you may add a banner to my advertising rotation for 1 year.

If donations reach $1000, the final script becomes freeware, available for anyone to download and use.

The optional features listed above are added based on my enthusiasm, audience participation and funding. If we hit $2000, every option mentioned above will be implemented.


Timeline

The script will be completed by the end of 2011, as long as total donations are less than $100. (Very likely, it would be much, much sooner, but it's a pretty complex system, and I want loooots of wiggle room for free and nearly-free work.)

The script will be at a usable stage by the end of 2010 and fully completed by February 2011, if total donations reach $500 before the end of October. (Again, could be much sooner, but definitely by then.)

The script will be completed within 6 weeks of total donations reaching $1000. At that point, it becomes a legitimately paid project that I can work into my schedule and give actual priority to.


Don't have money?

I am not a linguist, and I don't play one on TV. I've had to learn a lot about it in self defense, but do not, by any means, consider myself an expert.

If you contribute to discussion of the project and help me test features, iron out language-y wrinkles and generally help out, you can earn a Bonus package without paying a dime. The top TWO non-monetary contributors will receive Hosted packages. Participation is helpful, too!

Discussions are likely to occur here at livejournal, but I may set up a forum or other communication drop point (google group? email announcement list?) by popular request.


What if it doesn't happen?

I will refund all donations in full if something comes up and the project fails. I don't see that happening, but I've had unexpected things come up before - and made things right with the other project participants in every case, you are welcome to ask around. This is a commitment I've already made (to develop this for Torn World, where it's becoming a real necessity), and, in general, I follow through on my projects. Programming is something I do to pay the bills, and it becomes a professional project once money starts coming in on it, not just a happy-fun-speculative-maybe-happens thing.

Questions? Comments? Ideas??


* And to be very honest, I have only the foggiest idea of what gender even is. Did I mention that I wasn't a linguist??

Comments

( 12 comments — Leave a comment )
ysabetwordsmith
Oct. 1st, 2010 09:09 pm (UTC)
Thoughts
>>Firstly, I want to make this script available for others, which means coding is separately from the Torn World website.<<

This sounds exciting. I'm interested.

>>Secondly, I'd like at least token payment for it. I don't need my usual freelance fees (I estimate this would be a $1000 project, at least. <<

I highly recommend that you promote this project to other folks who are constructed language mavens. (I linked to your post over on conlangs among other places.) That may help boost your fundraising. Actually, since this is a big single project rather than a weblit serial or the like, you might consider posting it on some place like Kickstarter.

>>An administration page will enable global settings, such as: do words need to be approved, or are they approved immediately when entered (in case of group project where you want a second set of eyes)? How many drifted sub-languages? Word-length limits? Language rules (allowed blends, etc. - sub-languages will require specified exceptions/changes)?<<

If you're building for general use, then most of that stuff will need to be adaptable. For Torn Tongue ...
* approval depends on whether we want to use this site for discussion of words or just uploading approved ones.
* we have three languages in a language family already; we may add more related languages and/or other language families later.
* we have some notes on word sizes and language rules already.

>>Each word will have: English translation,<<

I'd recommend a short and long translation box. Reason being, some words have a direct correlate across the languages, but others don't. The latter will need room for expansion.

Will it be able to do two-way translation searches for words or phrases?

>>When you enter a set of words, it will automatically search the database to make sure you haven't used that word yet, and possibly also find close matches. <<

Is there a way to connect this to a character or name database to avoid accidental duplications there? Some words will be fine as names, others less so. If that's too clunky, maybe we could just key in the character names in their own section of the language database so they'd ping as already in use, and people could use the search function to see if a new name was already in use as a word before adding it as a name.

>>possibly also find close matches.<<

Hmm, we could use a way to handle affixes, and roots that can't stand alone.

Also, will it be possible to include a word-creation tool that incorporates construction rules and sublanguage alterations?

>>All donations will get you listed on a thank-you page associated with the project, with a link to your site. <<

Awesome. Most of the other perks look good too.

I will say, if you're using rotating banners, make them something that won't drive people nuts. They should be static rather than animated, neither huge nor covering up site content, accessibility-friendly, and somewhere that people's eyes will naturally fall without being a nuisance on the page. Somewhere near the top of the left or right column would be good. Across the top might work if the banners are ribbons rather than billboards.

>>I am not a linguist, and I don't play one on TV. I've had to learn a lot about it, but do not, by any means, consider myself an expert.<<

Get some input from linguists if you can. It will make the site more useful. I'm a hobby-linguist myself; I can help determine what conlang users will want and need, but there's a limit to my technical knowledge of linguistic science.

>>If you contribute to discussion of the project and help me test features, iron out language-y wrinkles and generally help out, you can earn a Bonus package without paying a dime. The top TWO non-monetary contributors will receive Hosted packages. Participation is motivation, too!<<

I will do what I can with this. It sounds like fun.

>>Discussions are likely to occur here at livejournal, but I may set up a forum or other communication drop point (google group? email announcement list?) by popular request. <<

Keeping touch with conlangs would probably be very helpful too.
ellenmillion
Oct. 1st, 2010 10:07 pm (UTC)
Re: Thoughts
Kickstarter is out, partly because I find their terms onerous, and partly because I will be building this regardless if we make a goal... it'll just take a lot longer and might not be as comprehensive. I wouldn't want to lose a handful of minor donations because I couldn't make it to a big one.


I'd recommend a short and long translation box.

"Notes" was what I intended to pick up the long translation option. It can be up to... maybe 2000 characters?... and would give room for expansion of a concept that may not exist in English.

Will it be able to do two-way translation searches for words or phrases?

Yes for words! Phrases may be a separate database, as that wouldn't fit the system neatly... I will add that as an expansion option.

Is there a way to connect this to a character or name database to avoid accidental duplications there?

That's going to be a Torn World specific addition, I think, because there's no real knowing what kind of site someone else might have, or how their character database might be set up. But for Torn World? Yes, we should definitely do this.

Hmm, we could use a way to handle affixes, and roots that can't stand alone.

If they are entered as affix- and -suffix, I could probably finagle the database into dealing with those. Not sure about roots... I suppose -root- is a possibility?

That may also be handled by the parts of speech drop-down - affix and suffix, etc. can be options there, and would be handled as such. I'll have to think about that further...

Also, will it be possible to include a word-creation tool that incorporates construction rules and sublanguage alterations?

Yes! I meant to list that the first time, too - I've edited above to reflect that.

I'll take a peek at conlangs! I could post monthly or weekly progress reports over there, or that could be the kind of thing that a volunteer does as participation credit!
wyld_dandelyon
Oct. 2nd, 2010 01:45 am (UTC)
I tweeted a link to this! I'll try to do that again at several times, to catch people in different time-zones.
ellenmillion
Oct. 2nd, 2010 05:24 am (UTC)
Awesome! Thank you!
wyld_dandelyon
Oct. 2nd, 2010 06:45 am (UTC)
Being short on money, I instead donate some small bit of publicity.
(Deleted comment)
ellenmillion
Oct. 2nd, 2010 05:24 am (UTC)
Welcome to the madness! :)
wyld_dandelyon
Oct. 2nd, 2010 06:56 am (UTC)
Trying to fit an ad into 140 characters is interesting, and sometimes thought provoking.

For instance: Wyld_Dandelyon: Hey, #scifichat folks - this will be a resource for #scifi and #fantasy writers: http://bit.ly/b5Ng5O A database designed for alien tongues!

Which leads to this suggestion: Each language should have a page for defining sounds, and the database should also be able to handle non-letter characters for clicks, hisses, or non-human sounds. (People can hear and reliably distinguish lots of sounds that we can't [or that most people can't] make, after all.)

Edited at 2010-10-02 07:03 am (UTC)
ellenmillion
Oct. 2nd, 2010 08:26 pm (UTC)
Hmm! Good ideas - and I should definitely allow symbols to be added as approved blends/letters. A click can be *, a hiss #, etc. (Likewise, you'd be able to add double letters that act as a single letter.)
marnanel
Oct. 3rd, 2010 04:36 am (UTC)
This does seem to be a vertical market that is less than well provided for.

I don't know whether it will be helpful for me to mention this: I keep my conlang in a git repository, in a set of XML files with a set of Perl scripts to manipulate them, and to generate the static HTML for the website (which isn't ready yet). So it's rather a different setup to the way you're doing things.

I don't know whether you've considered developing the scripts as open source, so that people can contribute patches, but it might get the job done sooner and bring more hands and eyeballs into the project.
ellenmillion
Oct. 4th, 2010 05:24 pm (UTC)
Thanks for the input! I hadn't considered open source, but gave it some more thought over the weekend. (My limited experience with sharing jobs like this is that more hands don't necessarily mean it gets done any sooner... but that may be as much because of personal experience as anything!)

Do you like the flexibility of your setup? Does it work well for you? Anything you wish that it did? I found another option on-line that relies on Ruby on Rails, too, and I'm debating installing that to see how it works out. I'm very comfortable with php/mysql, and it would interface best for my site, but I'm open to other options if they have good benefits (for example, already existing...).
(Anonymous)
Oct. 3rd, 2010 02:21 pm (UTC)
How strange, to ask for money to scratch your own itch. But then again, I come from the open source world... Build it, and sometimes they'll come.
ellenmillion
Oct. 4th, 2010 05:19 pm (UTC)
The way I would do it just for myself is about 7 times easier than the way I've proposed above, which would be more flexible and useful for anyone, not just me. I don't feel odd asking money to do more than I otherwise would, or on a far faster timeline.

I appreciate the comment, though - it did make me give some thought to working on it in a more open source fashion and think about other support structure options.
( 12 comments — Leave a comment )

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