Free online gradebook LearnBoost has announced its plans to crowdsource translation of its app. The decision makes sense as the startup's gradebook has already been adopted by teachers in schools in over 20 countries, and many have requested native language support. "Our product's engagement levels have been through the roof," says co-founder Thianh Lu, "but we knew that this approach would work when we received countless emails from users preemptively offering to translate our product for free."

Following Facebook's Lead: Crowdsourcing Translation

LearnBoost's decision to crowdsource the translation echoes the process that Facebook started two years ago, something that proved incredibly successful in helping the social network spread internationally. Facebook is now available in over 70 languages, thanks to the 300,000 or so users that helped translate the site. LearnBoost is hoping that taking a similar approach will give them a cost-effective way to boost their international audience as well.

But with a far smaller engineering team and a far smaller user-base, LearnBoost has developed a technological solution that's "better than Facebook's," boasts CEO and co-founder Rafael Corrales. This is in no small part because translators will never have to see or understand the HTML tags that often appear in other crowdsourced translation efforts.

LearnBoost has created an active translation interface, showing teachers which phrases need to be translated, as well as where it is located in the application in order to provide some context. Submitted phrases are compared and vetted by an internal tool for accuracy, and the community can vote on the most popular phrases.

Once a language has been translated, users will be able to view LearnBoost's gradebook in their native language. And because of the way in which LearnBoost has built the tool, as new features and pages roll out, LearnBoost's system will automatically include them in the crowdsourcing translation process. In other words, the translation feature will scale as LearnBoost grows.

Open Sourcing Translation, Internationalizing Node.JS

And while a translation project to spread LearnBoost to non-English-speaking educators is cool, as with many of LearnBoost's undertakings, what's under the hood is just as exciting. LearnBoost has built an internationalization layer on top of the Jade node.js template language that, in the words of co-founder and CTO Guillermo Rauch, "makes it easy for developers to define what needs to be translated. Traditionally, developers have to be bothered to add translation hooks that are too obtrusive and have to deal with HTML, which in turns is difficult for translators." In addition, with the help of a tool called jade-serial, every time a new feature (and by extension a new phrase) is added, the internationalization systems checks to see if requires a translation.

For very young and small company, LearnBoost has open sourced a number of impressive open source projects, and the startup already has over 2500 followers on GitHub. And this new translation tool, jade-i18n, is available alongside LearnBoost's other projects, including Socket.IO and Mongoose.