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US Government Seeks Open-Source Translation 309

valdean writes "The Boston Globe is reporting that last week the United States Government began publishing captured Iraqi documents on the web in order to harness the translating talents of the bilingual public. The article calls it 'the same open source principle' that created Linux. Check out the Foreign Military Studies Office's document portal."
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US Government Seeks Open-Source Translation

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  • Good, but... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by christopherfinke ( 608750 ) <> on Sunday March 19, 2006 @05:29PM (#14953398) Homepage Journal
    I think it's a great idea, but how many people will have to translate a document with similar results before it can be trusted?

    Posted with the Slashdot Firefox extension. []
  • Open-Source? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by PocketPick ( 798123 ) on Sunday March 19, 2006 @05:32PM (#14953415)
    I fail to see how the term 'open-source' is applicable to a translation. Is the belief that if a number of people contribute to something, that it's open-source?
  • Ironic, because (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday March 19, 2006 @05:37PM (#14953446)
    If they'd followed the same principle with the intelligence that before the war they claimed they had, and after the war they claimed was "bad intelligence" (whoops!)-- I mean, if they'd just published the "Saddam has WMDs" intelligence on the internet and asked "hey, can anyone fact check this?"-- we wouldn't be in a war needing random volunteers to translate Iraqi documents in the first place.

    Of course it would also help if they were a bit smarter with their hiring policies to begin with. []
  • Re:Good, but... (Score:2, Insightful)

    by AndroidCat ( 229562 ) on Sunday March 19, 2006 @05:48PM (#14953498) Homepage
    Perhaps if they opened up a WikiIraqi? Let the differences be worked out in edit fights and revert wars. (But don't let any of those congress staffer yahoos in. ;)
  • not fun! (Score:3, Insightful)

    by hogghogg ( 791053 ) on Sunday March 19, 2006 @05:52PM (#14953519) Homepage Journal
    I think they are forgetting that (for some deranged part of our society), creating Linux was fun. Will translating orders for toilet paper for the Iraqi National Guard mess hall be fun too? Only if you can write your translation as a perl poem!
  • Re:Good, but... (Score:2, Insightful)

    by cfortin ( 23148 ) <> on Sunday March 19, 2006 @05:52PM (#14953520)
    I think this is a great idea. Kinda like information triage. When someone finds something that looks tasty, then the military can have someone trusted confirm the translation.
  • by reporter ( 666905 ) on Sunday March 19, 2006 @06:22PM (#14953642) Homepage
    This whole story is odd. The American government has an annual budget exceeding $2.0 trillion [], yet that same government cannot seem to buy top-notch translators graduating from the academic pentagon: Harvard University, Princeton University, Yale University, University of Illinois (at Urbana-Champagne), and University of Wisconson (at Madison)?

    I call, "BS", on this story.

    The American government already knows what those documents state, in the Iraqi language. The purpose of presenting those documents to the public is to slyly hint, to the Iraqi insurgents, that Washington has even more documents and, more importantly, all the detailed information about their whereabouts and their next set of moves. Washington hopes that this threat just might scare the insurgents into leaving Iraq. Basically, Washington is doing psy-ops (psychological warfare) on the Internet.

    The situation in Iraq is dire. Lacking sufficient troops to quell the insurgency, Washington just might exit Iraq, leaving it to spiral into civil war. The latest reports talk about Shiite death squads rounding up Sunnis and executing them. Sometimes, American soldiers are caught in the cross fire.

    Washington will do everything (including psy-ops) that it can up until 2007 January 1, the start of the next presidential campaign season. After 2007 January 1, Washington will pull the troops out of Iraqi. On this matter, the veto-proof majority of Republicans and Democrats are united, and they will pull the troops out of this mess. The only people who disagree are George Bush, Condoleeza Rice, and Donald Rumsfeld.

  • Not really (Score:3, Insightful)

    by CarpetShark ( 865376 ) on Sunday March 19, 2006 @06:30PM (#14953678)
    Ermm, the question is whether he had any chemical weapons beyond what is known. The US and/or UK governments have admitted that he probably didn't after all.
  • by CarpetShark ( 865376 ) on Sunday March 19, 2006 @06:32PM (#14953687)
    Yep. If they had the sense to publish the documents on ODF, and encourage ODF responses along with recommending free ODF tools for any citizens who want to help, then they might be a little closer to harnessing the power of an open system.
  • Re:Taxation (Score:5, Insightful)

    by horatio ( 127595 ) on Sunday March 19, 2006 @06:39PM (#14953711)
    This is properly tantamount to a voluntary tax upon bilinguals

    So, by your reasoning we should suspend activities such as:

    - Big Brothers/Big Sisters
    - Frats and VFW groups who do highway/litter cleanup
    - Museum volunteers
    - Reference desk volunteers at the local library
    - Volunteers for the Red Cross and other relief orgs who are at least partially funded through tax dollars - but whose volunteers are not paid for their work
    - Civics groups who put on things like Shakespeare in the Park
    - Volunteer firefighters and EMTs
    - College students who pay money to take their springbreak repairing the houses of dirt poor black americans in towns in the south where racism still lurks ominously. That is *double* taxation - not only have I paid to make the trip and buy the building materials, but I also spent weeks of my own time doing it. Why doesn't the gov't step in and pay me me! me!! to help these poverty-stricken people?

    Maybe you got your degree from this guy [] so you don't understand that people who are paid by the gov't are paid out of your tax dollars. Very simple math. Gov't hires 10 more people, your taxes go to paying those ten extra people instead of whatever social program you fancy today. Give a little time as a volunteer (to do whatever, not nessecarily translate docs), and you save yourself a few dollars in taxes and get to have a little bit of civic pride. But it seems like you want us to all run around like a bunch of self-centered little dumbasses.

    God forbid you should help an old lady cross the street without expecting a check for your "services".
  • Baloney (Score:3, Insightful)

    by XanC ( 644172 ) on Sunday March 19, 2006 @06:42PM (#14953727)
    You have circular reasoning in your definition of "bright". To you, anyone who agrees with W can't be bright, so no bright people agree with W. You need to get outside your own little circle and see that there are plenty of smart people who disagree with you.
  • by ScottLindner ( 954299 ) on Sunday March 19, 2006 @07:01PM (#14953786)
    " This whole story is odd. The American government has an annual budget exceeding $2.0 trillion [], yet that same government cannot seem to buy top-notch translators graduating from the academic pentagon: Harvard University, Princeton University, Yale University, University of Illinois (at Urbana-Champagne), and University of Wisconson (at Madison)?"

    Yes. That is exactly the case. It isn't a matter of money. It's a matter of not enough people with the required skillset. The US government has had numerous open jobs looking for people with these skills for many years and they cannot fill them. This led to a lot of the Intel problems we had prior to Afghanistan and Iraq.

    "I call, "BS", on this story. "

    Why? Ignorance?
  • by sasha328 ( 203458 ) on Sunday March 19, 2006 @07:03PM (#14953793) Homepage
    I think you've missed the point. The government is not targeting insurgents, it is targeting people outside of Iraq, people who have access to the internet. Especially people in the US, so they can "see how bad the previous regime was".

    I think many people project their status onto other, so if everyone you know has a computer and is connected to the internet, and just because you see insurgents advertising on the internet, does not mean that everyone has access to the internet. I've been to the Middle East (not Iraq), where the majority of people do not have computers let alone internet access.
    However, you are correct, I call BS as well that they need the "public's" help to translate documents.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday March 19, 2006 @07:21PM (#14953852)
    That anyone can find this drivel interesting amazes me. You may want to actually look for the facts in Iraq rather than reading the insane rantings on the democratic underground. Is Iraq a dangerous place? Yes. Is it hopeless and nothing good will ever come from it? Not exactly. If you look at history, after WWII there were American soldiers being killed by insurgents in both Germany and Japan for about seven years. The insurgents are losing in Iraq. What they are hoping for is people like you, aka morons, to keep comparing Iraq to Viet Nam and pushing the US to leave before the job is done. They thank you for your support. But don't expect them to return the favor. If they ever have a chance to kill you, they will.
  • Re:Not really (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday March 19, 2006 @07:53PM (#14954014)
    he still needed to be removed

    Why? He was one of the less dangerous dictators. It would have made far more sense to go after a dictator that nobody denies is developing WMD, like Kim Jong-Il. Or after a dictator whose human rights violations are the horror of the civilized world, like Than Shwe or Saparmurat Niyazov.

    Or even, if we wish to think of our own interests first, after a leader whose anti-U.S. policies actually threaten our oil imports, like Hugo Chavez, or a dictator who is in a position to strike at our territory, like Fidel Castro.

    Saddam was a threat to nobody except a minority of his own people. By toppling him, we have made the lives of most Iraqis worse, and done nothing to address the real and genuine threats in today's world. That's the ironic thing about this - we had plenty of watertight cases to go to war, but Iraq was not one of the valid targets!

    Just admit that Bush made the wrong call and move on with your life.
  • Hypocrite (Score:5, Insightful)

    by N8F8 ( 4562 ) on Sunday March 19, 2006 @08:06PM (#14954081)
    US Government doesn't give enough information to the public there US Government is bad.

    US Government Gives Too Much information to the public there US Government is bad.

    US Govermnet translates documents to skew them to their own meaning there US Government is bad.

    US Government releases documents for the puclic to translate therefore US Government is bad.

    Give me a fcking break.

    And I won't even bother explaining the tons of goofy dialects that make translating Arabic from anywhere very difficult. You practically have to have a translator born in the neighborhood where the document was written. I took Arabis for a year and went nuts when learning every phrase went like: This is how the phrase is said in Saudi Arabis; this is how it is said in Egypt, this is how it is said in Kuwait, this is how it is said in this part of Bahrain... and so on.
  • Re:Not really (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday March 19, 2006 @08:27PM (#14954175)
    Bush will be removed but the damage has been done. More instability in the Middle East, more instability in Afghanistan, more terrorist groups who are now standing up to avenge their fallen brethren (so America beware), etc, etc.

    As for Saddam... You cannot enforce democracy. Fact is that the Iraqi people had food, water, electricity, Internet access, hospitals, limited freedom, but at least a life worth living. Now they have almost nothing because someone thought they needed to be liberated. If it wasn't for the always meddleing US the Middle East would have focused their attention to themselves a long time ago. Iraq would have learned how to be free.

    Who was it who put Saddam into office in the first place? And who was it who put the Sjah into place (who then got shot and overrun by an Islamic fanatic faction due to the hate of the Sjah) ? Wasn't that the US as well?
  • by NoYes19 ( 766616 ) on Sunday March 19, 2006 @10:04PM (#14954520)
    I find it disturbing that you can justify the morality an action by citing prior instances of it.

    I am sorry I am not sure what you are talking about there. The morality of promoting patriotism? I didn't think I was engaged in a defense of the practice of the military promoting patriotism.

    And yes, I most certainly believe that there are some humans that need to be killed. And, I am glad you live a life where that harsh reality can seem absurd to you, but please recognize people have fought hard, died, and yes killed so you can enjoy that.

Fear is the greatest salesman. -- Robert Klein