People using internet spend most of their time in chatting, gossiping or communicating with friends, co workers and family members. Many of them also spend time on blogging (thats a kind of communication too!) and development works. When we planned for somewhereinblog, a common platform for people where they can start blogging, Emran and I suggested arild not to start another english blogging system, rather start a community where people can share their thoughts in bangla. Thats how somewherein bangla blog was created. Emran worked so hard to deploy the system and then I took control for over three months. Now emran is developing the blog again. Oh I forgot shahriar is also working in.
So why did I start a topic on this? Actually I want to share some idea, drawbacks and solutions from technical perspective as well as users point of view. I will also share some thoughts on building a greater community useful for all. When we finalized our planning – We decide to develop this application in PHP. Because only in PHP we can deliver such a huge application in such a short time. Though we are still spending time on it but it was really a very small amount of time to develop a version that works!!
Developing a system, specially an web application, is not so easy to develop as like as normal applications. From the very first time we wanted to avoid Unicode. People asked me so many times why did I do that. Well, if you look at the general non-tech users of a system where they can express themselves and would not bother about any configuration, what else can you expect except ascii? Most users of community sites are so non-tech that they really dont want to be bothered with lot of configuration for unicode. I agree that most of teh PCs today runs on windows xp. But in cyber cafe and other places you should not forget that these PCs are not unicode compliant (atleast indic script) just after installing winXP. You need to configure indic script options with administrative privileges and others which general users want to avoid indeed. So do I. I avoid unicode when my audience are general users. In the meantime I also agree that a hybrid system will work better. That means a bangla community site must be capable to render its content on both unicode and roman form, depending upon the choice of visitors.
Now the main point of this article, A blog site can’t fulfill all the increasing requirement of community sites. If you look here and there, you will find some great community apps like Flickr, Craigslist, Meetup, Hi5, Orkut, MSN Spaces, My Yahoo, Opera Community, 43People, 43 Things, Chat Applications and a lot… – So what can we develop to make a complete and rich bangla community? I plan for the followings
1. Definitely a solution where people can chat. A desktop application, specially a hybrid one which can connect with YM and MSN messaging protocol or Jabber protocol (or using simple xmmp) we must have a chat client where people can chat in bangla. We can develop an webbased solution (like meebo) or an web based IRC client if we really cant provide a huge backbone. But developing a chat application is must.
2. A resource sharing solution – This could be an application where people can share their resources, like photos, music, documents but everything will be in Bangla. Creating a simple bangla interface for a comple photo gallery is not a big job. If we want to avoid the hassle of storage or others, we can even develop a simple interface to Flickr.
3. A job site – Really, a job site in bangla will blow up peoples mind because a huge percentage of people in Bangladesh are very poor in english. If you just think about high-class jobs like Telecoms, Banking or IT, no – thats really a very small part of the jobs in Bangladesh. For participatory job management, a site in Bangla will be a great idea.
4. Blogging – Thats what somewherein blog does. It has a huge on growing community of bloggers who started their blogging life with this beautiful tool . The most successful part of this story is in somewherein blog people share themselves – they feel themselves and really they are empathetic, something even more that just sympathy. They buildup a greater community where they are helping each of them. You cant feel the real flavour unless you are a member of this community.
5. Bangla Forum: Beside blog a forum is a very popular application where people can debate. A forum in bangla will be a great addition in the bangla computing sector where there are only a few applications are available. I developed a bangla forum which will be up soon.
6. Bangla Emailing: BanglaExpress is the first and largest bangla emailing solution. The most surpring part of bangla express is that it works totally independent of font. No matter where you are mailing, No attachment, no font, nothin – Just mail as usually and the receiver can see the mail. Currently BanglaExpress has more than 46000 registered users, thats a big number.
7. Bangla Operating system: Now the most interesting part. There are several developers in bangladesh working for a bangla operatign system. They converted a knoppix distro into bangla and run that project under the title “Ankur”. This group is also working for localizing open source office solutions like openoffice, dictionaries and so forths.
So, How about building a bigger community just for Bangla? How about spreading the word “Bangla” to every bangali? Lets come and work together, We will be able to deliver a better one than it is currently.