Translations or linkbait?

By Abhijit Menon-Sen <ams@toroid.org>

2013-02-04

I get more email from readers about my git-website-howto article than about anything else on my web site. I'm a little surprised by this (I always thought people would like the git-central-repo-howto better), but I'm happy to hear from people who found the article useful. (Aside: many of the notes say "Thanks, this was helpful"; some also ask a question or two. A few are incomprehensible requests for assistance, but I can remember only one of those ever turning unpleasant.)

A few people have contacted me to ask for permission to translate the article—into Belarusian, Bulgarian, Brazilian Portuguese, and Ukrainian so far. I know none of these languages, but the requests were polite and did not set off any mental alarms, so I gave permission and added links to the resulting translations.

Last year, a Bulgarian reader wrote to (say thanks for the howto and) tell me that the quality of the Bulgarian translation was terrible. He thought it was probably done mechanically (e.g. using Google Translate), and pointed out that the site where the translation was hosted also had many other dubious translations of technical articles. I took the link down (though it may have been too late to reverse whatever SEO benefit they had enjoyed in the meantime).

Last week, I received a request for permission to translate the article into Ukrainian. It just so happens that I can read the Cyrillic alphabet quite fluently (but I know next to no Russian), so I compared the output from translate.google.com and the translated version I was requested to link to. Surprise! It was almost identical. I wanted to do the same with the Belarusian translation, but the link was dead and redirected to the webhostingrating.net index page.

On the other hand, the Brazilian Portuguese translation by Thiago Belem appears to be genuine. Translating it back to English with Google Translate reveals certain changes in the article, which are certainly not the result of mechanical translation. So it seems unfair to reject all such offers, and I would certainly like to acknowledge the work put in by people doing genuine translations.

This leaves me with many questions:

Comments are welcome, especially from technical authors who have had their work widely translated.

Update (2013-02-05): Viacheslav Tykhanovskyi was kind enough to read through the Ukrainian translation and confirm that it's 100% crap.