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An Online Haven for Yiddish Mavens.

For the Yiddish Book Center (YBC), we created a custom Drupal installation that powers a digital community where users bring new life to Yiddish culture’s rich literary history.

An online community

Though Yiddish culture produced an astonishing array of literary works, in the 21st century that output is only accessible to a dwindling number of Yiddish speakers. Translating the thousands of known Yiddish texts would be a herculean task, far beyond the capacity of the few professional Yiddish translators.

The YBC proposed to address that problem by creating an online community where users could upload their Yiddish texts, and collaborate with others worldwide to create & revise translations that did justice to the original work.

On top of Drupal

The YBC runs on a Drupal backend that is customized to organize the incredible wealth of information housed on the site. On the front end, users can upload PDFs of Yiddish texts along with their suggested translations. The Yiddish documents are then converted into images, which display quickly and in full resolution across a variety of screen sizes.

Once a text is in the system, users can view it alongside the latest translation, and revise or comment on the translation as they read. Edits and comments are each treated as their own custom content type, which allows users to view detailed histories of comments and revisions on each piece, and collaborate with others to evolve the YBC's translations.

To streamline the editing process, Yiddish words and phrases are also treated as their own content type, which users can reference as they refine translated texts. In addition, users can create and apply tags to texts as they work, which allows the entire community to participate in organizing the YBC’s ever-expanding library.

Working with design associates

The frontend of site, which was created by legendary designer Alexander Isley and his team, presents users with an easy-to-navigate interface for reading and working on translations. 10 Speed Labs developed the wireframes to allow Yiddish and English versions of each text to be presented alongside one another, with the translation rendered in pure HTML and original text shown as a high resolution, zoomable image.

For a more immersive experience, either version of the text can be viewed alone. Users can also read comments from previous editors and translators, and leave new comments to explain their own contributions. In this way the YBC pools the expertise of its entire user base to allow collaboration and continual improvement of its translations.

An Agile Waterfall

Our original plan for development of YBC followed a traditional waterfall model, with tight time constraints for each phase of coding and QA. But as can happen with the best laid plans, the launch date was unexpectedly moved forward, making the timeline too short for a full-featured launch.

Rather than delay launching the entire site, we worked with YBC to prioritize and create an MVP feature set that gave users everything they needed to start translating, while we worked behind the scenes to complete the more advanced features. The site launched according to schedule, and we were able to give all aspects the thorough attention they required.

Jovial Website Screenshot
Translators registered
Increase in our Yiddish vocabulary
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