TL;DR

People have asked, “What is the mission of our International Sites? What problems do they solve?” The answer, “They are just like Stack Overflow in English, only in a different language” makes the International Sites even more mysterious. We thought that it would be great to dispel the fog of mystery by adding a help center article about the mission of these International Sites. Please take a look at your_language.stackoverflow.com/help/manifesto and let us know what you think! It’s moderator editable and we would appreciate translations.

Please, let me give you a few thoughts behind this mission. To start, please think of the difference between a native English speaking developer and a non-native English speaking developer. How does this difference affect their lives?

(I found this picture on Google Images.)
With this illustration I want show that the experience of going from point A to point B depends heavily on the environment, the path of the same length for the same people may differ a lot.

The problem of non English-speaking developers: Less, Late, & Poor.

If one searches for an answer on programming in a language other than English, they will mostly find links to overwhelming phpBB-like forums, answers scattered in personal blog comments, dev mail list chains, etc. It seems that we’re still stuck in 2007: it's really hard to find anything on how to solve a nontrivial technical issue.

In other words, there is a tremendous asymmetry in information available in different languages. Developers all around the world who do not speak English have less information available, it appears late, and some important nuances get missed.

Has Stack Overflow in English impacted non English-speaking developers? Yes, indeed! Over the last few years we have seen the dawn of sites with auto-translated Stack Overflow content. One can only dream that it has been quality machine translations with human corrections but it’s a ton of spam-like content most of which does not make any sense to a human being. There are a dozen such sites with a few million generated pages on each. This is what we, non English speaking developers, see in the search results each day...and it’s not a joke.

The situation creates huge inequality between developers whose first language is English and the rest of us. For a big part of the world population, programming itself is a big grey area, the threshold to getting into the industry is still high, learning programming is very difficult and expensive.

Currently, IT is not designed well for people outside of the English speaking world. But, together we are going to change that trend!

The Goal: Detailed answers to any possible programming questions in your native language.

In our world today, people with similar abilities and passion for programming start learning at the same time. A few years later they may have a big difference in their knowledge and working experience, because of the disproportion of information available in their native languages and how accessible it is.

Mission and ultimate goal of international Stack Overflows is to create a world where everyone has equal opportunities to be successful in programming irrespective of their native language.

Stack Overflow solution: Unlimited, On Time, & Comprehensive.

Everyone starts the same — with a strong passion for being a developer. The only difference is that some of us have enough comprehensive materials when needed in their native language. Others do not. We, who do not, have to spend zillions of extra hours just on translating, reviewing, and going through content many times while clarifying all the nuances of a technology. If we want to be effective, we need to change this trend. We believe that a good starting point is the creation of a well structured library of detailed answers to all programming questions and a community of mutual help.

Stack Overflow speaks many languages

Stack Overflow is about us. It’s about all developers around the world who want to help others and who are looking for an answer online, regardless of any language boundaries whether programming or human.

To make the treasure of community wisdom available for everyone, we need to have you on board! Please join our International Sites, ask and answer questions, and share the sites with your friends. Tell them why international Stack Overflows exist and what their mission is. Your recommendation is the only way the International Sites will grow.

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    I'm almost inclined to -1 on this because having read through the whole post, I still have no idea what will be going on. Aren't there already 4 internatialized SO sites? What next? – ɪBᴜɢ Oct 9 at 16:14
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    I've read the manifesto on ru.stackoverflow.com but it reads like a shortened tour page. What should the take away be for readers of that page and could it be that the intent is that the manifesto is to replace the tour? – rene Oct 9 at 16:20
  • @rene Thank you for feedback! Manifesto is more about why international sites exist, what problem do they solve. Tour briefly explains how the site works. At the same time they both highlight the mission, which is the same for Stack Overflow in any language. – Nicolas Chabanovsky Oct 9 at 16:39
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    @NicolasChabanovsky would that mean that the manifesto is more aimed at visitors/passer by's and less on users that are expected to contribute content? Or asked differently: If I run into a lost stranger that ask about SO in Russian/Spanish/Portugese/Japanese do you want me to redirect them to the manifesto or to the tour page? – rene Oct 9 at 16:57
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    The problem with this manifesto, as I see it, is that you're trying to prompt native speakers to join and participate - but the problem is that the dev material available isn't as in-depth as in English. Perhaps this manifesto should be edited to also encourage bilingual developers - English and Russian/Portuguese/Japanese/Spanish - to participate in both SO and SO-in-other-language, even if their native language is English, so that the developer base of SO-in-* is broadened, effectively with additional indirect access to the English-language devlit. – Jeff Zeitlin Oct 9 at 17:01
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    I'd love if the manifesto would say something about how we are not only a localized SO, but a site with life on it's own, with the things that come not only for the language, but with the whole culture behind it as well – KacosPro Oct 9 at 17:13
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    @KacosPro This is a great idea! Thank you! Let's wait for more feedback and update the mission page. – Nicolas Chabanovsky Oct 9 at 20:05
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    @rene I would say that if somebody asks you how to use the site the best starting point is the tour page. In case if somebody wonders why do we need an international site (in the context of SOen, for example), I would send them to the mission help center page. – Nicolas Chabanovsky Oct 9 at 20:08
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    I find the part of However, one of the people (the native English speaker) will be a presenter at the conference while the other (the non-English speaker) will be the taxi driver very unfortunate. I agree that having access to all the info in your own language will increase your knowledge, but assuming that not having that info will make you unemployable and have to leave the programming world is just... ridiculous. – fedorqui Oct 10 at 7:53
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    @Nicolas you may enjoy a community called Mathematics ;-P Jokes aside, I see your point and share absolutely the value of international stack overflows. What did make me uncomfortable about the taxi story is that you are making a statement in which a true, specific case is elevated into a generic "if you don't get info in your language, you'll be lost". I understand some drama always helps to get the point better, but it also true that some good programmers do not speak English (I remember a post in Meta.SE or SO with a list of them, but I cannot find it now :/) – fedorqui Oct 10 at 9:09
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    It took me a lot of energy and sleepless nights to learn programming. I'd bet that not everyone is up for that (and should not be). The fact that we have a knowledge base which is free and open for everyone should smooth that trend. I'd love to see a lot of my friends at least understand programming. I'm 100% sure that if they had the chance to access the information about it when they were 15 - 20, they would lived way more easy and happy lives. All I wanted to say is that with international sites we are going to have more good developers everywhere! :) – Nicolas Chabanovsky Oct 10 at 9:34
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    @Nicolas I am sure this SOxx project is going to have a big impact, as it is already having. I would add the context you provide and say something like while the other (the non-English speaker) could be the taxi driver, since the lack of information in their own language made it impossible for them to get to the level when they would be hired. – fedorqui Oct 10 at 11:00
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    @fedorqui I've added the suggested clarification. Thank you! – Nicolas Chabanovsky Oct 10 at 12:48
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    @Nicolas wow, it is so... pleasant :) to have such nice and fast feedback! – fedorqui Oct 10 at 12:54
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    Manifesto translated to Portuguese at pt.stackoverflow.com/help/manifesto. – bfavaretto Oct 10 at 17:55

If you wanted to do science in Europe then for many centuries you used Latin. It didn't matter if you were from England, France, The Netherlands, or somewhere else; Latin was the langua franca of European science. This had important benefits, as people from all over could read and discus Newton's Principia, Spinoza's Ethica, Descartes' Principia philosophiae, and many other important works that advanced the state of science for the entire continent.

For various reasons the modern langua franca has settled on English for science and technology, including computer science and programming. I'd argue that learning decent English is almost a requirement for being a professional programmer, just as learning e.g. decent git skills is. This is not a "prejudice" as you call it, it's a practical matter.

Does this mean that native English speakers have an easier time? Probably. Latin was perhaps more fair as no one spoke it natively. But I am troubled by your phrasing of "prejudice" and saying non-native speakers don't have "equal opportunities". 100% "equal opportunities" means Huxley's Brave New World, and I don't think we want that. In addition, most people get employed in their own country, so I don't see how a Russian programmer is disadvantaged against ... another Russian programmer? Claims that you're doomed to be a taxi driver for the rest of your life if you're a non-English native developer seem rather strange.

This doesn't mean that everything should be in English; my first programming book was in Dutch, and 12-year old me would probably have struggled a lot more with an English book (programming is already hard enough to learn on its own), and being able to ask questions in Dutch (to my dad) was extremely helpful. I definitely think the localized Stack Overflow sites have a place and add value, but at the same time we must be clear and honest about the importance of the English language, and not dismiss the value of a langua franca as discriminatory.

  • Thank you for feedback! Please, let me clarify a few ideas. As a not native speaker I probably formulated them in a bad way. Think about an imaginary situation. One lives in a palace and each day 10 teachers visit them to teach. Another must walk 10 kms to get to a school with one teacher for all who got to the school. Both should work hard to get a degree, sure, nevertheless their experiences definitely different. With international sites we want to make the 10 kms way to the school easier. – Nicolas Chabanovsky Oct 11 at 7:27
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    When I close my laptop after a working day and go to a local meetup in St. Petersburg, Russia, I talk to people who in their spare time teach for free "offline" other people how to code in javascript and php. After meeting them I look at the discussions about lingua franca differently. It's like discuss delicacies during the famine. People all over the world want to learn programming, they need help and assistance whether they speak lingua franca or not. Well, they might not even know that there is lingua franca. They just want to learn this cool thing that we call programming. – Nicolas Chabanovsky Oct 11 at 7:40
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    Note that I never argued against the idea of localized programming resources (Stack Overflow or otherwise) @NicolasChabanovsky; in fact, my last paragraph explicitly endorse it. My chief gripe is with some of the language in your post, as well as the dismissal of the value of English. I understand where you're coming from, and I wish the Russian SO all the best, but I think things are a bit more nuanced and complex than you've described. – Martin Tournoij Oct 11 at 23:16
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    I'm not sure if I follow how your comparison in the first comment applies here? If you live in Russia and want to learn programming and get employed as a programmer, your "competitors" are presumably other Russians? In other words, in the country of Russia, it's a level playing field? It would perhaps be different if you would move from Russia to the UK or US, but not in Russia itself? Maybe I'm missing something? – Martin Tournoij Oct 11 at 23:20
  • It's no about a competition at all. It's a fight with oneself. – Nicolas Chabanovsky Oct 12 at 18:05

UPD: After the multiple edits made to the OP I would say it doesn't provoke the same emotions that urged me to write this answer in the first place anymore. Still, I leave it here for the history as the info inside it didn't become obsolete after the edits.


Being a Russian developer I find this post derogatory. Starting with the picture, continuing with its text content.

If one searches for an answer on programming in a language other than English, they will mostly find links to overwhelming phpBB-like forums, answers scattered in personal blog comments, dev mail list chains, etc. The only source of quality information in that language is still books. It seems that we’re still stuck in 2007…

I'm not sure why phpBB-like forums are a worse source of information than StackOveflow is. As a user searching for some information I do not care if it comes from a forum, blog post or SO answer. It just doesn't matter as long as I get the answer. And Russian segment of Internet didn't become bigger or more saturated with information with ruSO start.

I must admit that the SO model is somewhat convenient and it might have united some people and brought them to answering question on Russian part. But this post to me looks like the following: we had a wasteland with aborigines running back and forth until the White Man (SO) came and shed the light of knowledge upon us. But that simply is not true.

Yes, most of the information in IT comes from English sources but this information gets translated into Russian pretty quickly. I can't say for all the programming languages out there but I've checked for C# & C++ and we have translation for all the latest major books. People write blogs about some newest & coolest things in the IT world, and we still have some forums left for new programmers to find their answers on.

So whatever problems Russian part of Internet has, the Russian SO branch doesn't solve it just by being there. It just yet another resource for exchanging knowledge, not the Resource. So I don't see how we had been unequal before the ruSO introduction and became less so after. This is simply wishful thinking and it belittles all the efforts people have been making to keep Russian speaking IT population up-to-date all these years.

International Stack Overflows: Unlimited, On Time, and Comprehensive in your native language

Does it means that Area51 is finally re-opened for new Stack Overflow in non-english languages proposals?

Related

From Answer to Other language localization

... we will be taking a break from creating more international sites for a time. This is due in part to our desire to focus on our current international sites and also to allow for those sites to grow in critical mass as we track the progress and impact they have on the world's developer population. You can read more about it here


Some posts about non-English site proposals / inquiries

  • Thank for the question! I think the plan is the same — assist existing international sites. – Nicolas Chabanovsky Oct 12 at 18:06
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    @NicolasChabanovsky Thanks to you for your reply. So, considering that historically several users declared their interest on having SO in Arabic, French, German, Turkish, among other languages, I think that the title should be changed from "your native language" to " a set of selected languages" or something like that. – Rubén Oct 12 at 19:01
  • This announcement is for existing international sites. When it gets translated into the language of an international site, it seems to me there is no need for clarification. – Nicolas Chabanovsky Oct 15 at 15:08
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    @NicolasChabanovsky Are you saying that only members of international sites should read this? – Rubén Oct 15 at 15:15
  • I wrote the announcement for our international sites with hope that the post would be translated and the translations posted on four meta sites. It's for everyone who is passion about international sites. – Nicolas Chabanovsky Oct 15 at 15:31
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    @NicolasChabanovsky I have to agree entirely with Rubén. Does this announcement intend to be informative or propaganda? International Stack Overflow is limited. To a selection of languages. To no further area 51 sections. – Jose Antonio Dura Olmos Oct 22 at 17:07
  • @JoseAntonioDuraOlmos Thank you for feedback. Please look at the post as it had been posted on an international meta site (not MSE). For example on Meta SOes. Does it sound differently in the new context? – Nicolas Chabanovsky Oct 22 at 17:11
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    @Nicolas it reads to me as an announcement that the limit on the number of international stack overflow sites was being removed ("unlimited"). It definitely does not convey the intent you're saying it should, at least not for me. – Diminutive Colossus Dec 7 at 16:35

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