How I connect with non-English speakers about open source | Opensource.com

How I connect with non-English speakers about open source

Victorhck brings information about GNU/Linux and open source to the Spanish-speaking community through his blog, Victorhck in the Free World.

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Jason Baker. CC BY-SA 4.0. Source: Cloud, Globe. Both CC0.
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One of the wonderful things about open source is the large community of writers contributing to our shared knowledge base. Not surprisingly, much of this is written in English; but there is also a well-served demand for open source-related information in other languages.

I first encountered Victorhck through his kind and thoughtful comments on Opensource.com, then learned that he has translated some of our content into Spanish and published it on his blog, Victorhck in the Free World. I find a lot of really useful info on his blog, such as articles about Vim and openSUSE and a lot of excellent reference material. I particularly like his overviews of topics, like this article about open source/libre technical materials.

Victorhck and I conversed over email about writing informative, non-English articles about open source/libre software and culture. Following is a transcript of our conversation, translated from Spanish and edited for clarity and conciseness.

Chris Hermansen: We've "met" a few times on Opensource.com, which introduced me to your blog, Victorhck in the Free World. What led you to begin this wonderful project? What keeps you going?

Victorhck: What has motivated me for nearly 10 years is the desire to share what I've been learning about GNU/Linux and openSUSE. I hope that my blog will serve as support for users with similar problems.

These days, GNU/Linux distributions are less problematic; more hardware is supported and compatible, so there is less need for the tutorial-type articles.

But there is still the desire to share the passion for free software and GNU/Linux.

CH: I notice your interest in openSUSE. How did you decide on this distribution? Do you use other distros?

Victorhck: About 10 years ago, a colleague at work spoke to me about GNU/Linux and recommended openSUSE to me. Since that first installation of openSUSE 11.2 (if I remember correctly), I've never stopped using openSUSE, except briefly on a few occasions.

And since the Tumbleweed rolling release of openSUSE, my geek life is much happier. I have a stable system with the latest versions of software packages installed, without the need to reinstall my system in order to update it.

openSUSE offers me the opportunity to enjoy GNU/Linux without having to worry about GNU/Linux. I don't need to spend time on how my system functions (or doesn't!). I merely installed it, keep it up to date on a regular basis (two or three times a week), and I have time for my blog and to enjoy other things.

CH: What do you do when you aren't "in the free world"? Are you a software developer? Does your day job involve open source software?

Victorhck: I am neither a developer, nor a programmer, nor a system administrator—none of those. My love for IT goes way back, to when I was 14 and asked to enroll in a BASIC and COBOL course. After that, I put it aside for a while, until the discovery of GNU/Linux about 10 years ago reconciled me with this passion that has since grown, thanks to the communities I've come in contact with over the internet.

As far as work goes, the truth is that I don't get the chance to use free software there—having a choice of software requires you to use your own private operating system environment. And I often miss my openSUSE when I'm trying to get things done at work.

CH: Your articles provide a substantial amount of useful detail. For example, this article on Vim, which is probably my favorite "desert island application." How do you decide on a specific topic? How do you determine your readers' level of ability to ensure a useful explanation?

Victorhck: The article that you mention about Vim belongs to a series I've been writing for a few months, and it began from my efforts to learn to use this text editor, of which everyone speaks well. During that learning process, I'm sharing what I discover through my blog, both to be able to consult it in the future and so that other people might find it useful.

I decide on the writing topic based on what interests me. The good thing is my choice seems to coincide with a number of readers who visit my blog or subscribe to it.

CH: As well as writing technical articles, you translate articles originally written in English. How do you decide that an article merits translation?

Victorhck: I like to translate what I find interesting or useful, and I like to share that on a Spanish-language blog with the large community of "geeks" that either have no facility with English or are simply looking for an interesting resource.

CH: On Opensource.com, we tend to focus on readers comfortable in English. In my experience, many people prefer information in their native language. As a Spanish-language writer, what do you think of this topic? Do you have an idea of the level of demand for information on open source and free software in (let's say) Castillian Spanish?

Victorhck: The various communities of open source and free software (KDE, GNOME, openSUSE, Debian, Arch, etc.) are global communities, and they use the English language as a common idiom for documentation, forums, articles, tutorials, podcasts, etc. But that doesn't obviate the existence of local communities that prefer to consume information in their own language. Generally, there is a part of each community that translates not only the software packages but also the documentation or wiki into other languages. But there is often a lack of information in languages other than English. In this context, we create blogs as a part of spreading, familiarizing, offering, and generating content in a language other than English.

CH: Where is Victorhck in the Free World going in the future? Podcasts? YouTube channels? Inviting other authors? Syndicated content?

Victorhck: In 2021, the blog will have its 10th anniversary. That might not seem like a lot of time, but it's a small, personal, and almost-daily effort to maintain the gains and passion for publishing for 10 years, and truthfully it's a lot of effort. I've seen a lot of blogs closing, others reinventing themselves… I don't have plans for the future, as I like to improvise. But I can affirm that I have the time and the means to keep on writing my blog on openSUSE, GNU/Linux, and free software. Perhaps I may reinvent my content in another format, but for the moment, I feel comfortable.

CH: Do you have other hobbies apart from this blog, for example, base jumping or fusion cooking?

Victorhck: Ha-ha, neither of those two! Nor do other "geek" hobbies, such as manga or anime, appeal to me. I love music, I love cats, and I love chocolate. I don't know the formula for happiness, but I really enjoy the company of my partner on the sofa, listening to music together with my two cats, and savoring a slice of dark chocolate (70% cocoa).

CH: One last question: Why do you sign your emails with GPG?

Victorhck: The truth is, I sign them without knowing whether or not the recipient uses GPG; rather, it's a way of saying that I use GPG and that others can send me an encoded message if they wish. At the same time, it spreads the knowledge of this wonderful software that serves not only to encode or sign messages but also software packages, repositories, or ISOs of distributions of GNU/Linux, and to ensure that the ISO downloaded is the same as what the developers have published.


Thanks very much, Victorhck, for taking the time to share your thoughts with us, and best wishes for the continued success of Victorhck in the Free World.

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About the author

Chris Hermansen portrait Temuco Chile
Chris Hermansen - Seldom without a computer of some sort since graduating from the University of British Columbia in 1978, I have been a full-time Linux user since 2005, a full-time Solaris and SunOS user from 1986 through 2005, and UNIX System V user before that. On the technical side of things, I have spent a great deal of my career as a consultant, doing data analysis and visualization; especially spatial data analysis. I have a substantial amount of related programming experience, using C, awk, Java,...