Mozilla in Cambodia: Meetup in Phnom Penh, January 2012

While I was in Cambodia in January 2012, I helped organize a meetup with the people volunteering on the Khmer localization of Firefox. A total of 28 people met up in the East West Institute in Phnom Penh on Monday 23rd Jan 2012, which was way more people then I expected to show up, especially given that it was Chinese New Year that week.

Given the larger-then-expected turnout, I was super grateful to Mark West for providing such a large venue for the meetup, as well as boosting up the internet connection at East West Institute for the day.

We started with introductions – not just me introducing myself, but everyone introducing themselves, where they worked, etc. After all, I had never met any of these people in person! We’d been interacting together by email/irc/bugzilla for a couple of years now, so it was strange, yet weirdly comfortable and exciting, to finally meet up with everyone in person for the first time. It was also interesting to discover that some of the people who lived in Phnom Penh and wanted to help with the Khmer localization had also not met others who also lived in Phnom Penh – until that meetup.

Most of the afternoon was spent describing how Release Engineering works at Mozilla. This focused on describing our Continuous Integration infrastructure, the technologies used to make it work, how our systems were setup, as well as describing the “new” Rapid Release processes which this infrastructure made possible. There was lots of Q&A, and whiteboard discussions to explain the process for developers reviewing patches, the process for patches landing in the mozilla-central/mozilla-aurora/mozilla-beta branches as part of the rapid release process, as well as how the localization process works since Mozilla switched to the rapid release model. Everyone seemed to be excited and curious to learn more, asked great questions, and we went several hours without taking any break!

Next, it was my distinct pleasure to handover the proceedings to Vannak Eng, to start a localization sprint. Vannak has been working really hard behind the scenes on the Khmer localization of Firefox, and had managed to localize 96% of the strings in the previous months. In recognition of all his work, Vannak had been granted commit privs to the Khmer repo only just a few days before this Mozilla meetup. With his newly-granted commit privs, and the help of everyone else in the room, Vannak led a localization sprint that evening, and another sprint the next morning – they quickly hit 100% strings translated to Khmer. We still have to get through the Mozilla locale approval process, but this was a wonderful milestone to hit.

We ended the meetup by having 20 of us go to Romdeng for dinner, to continue chatting until very late in the night amidst the heat, humidity, great food, friendly staff and the occasional friendly gecko running on the walls.

(Romdeng is the latest venture from Mith Samlanh – a great organization that I encountered in my first visit to Cambodia in 2006, and it was great to see how much they’ve grown since then. They are a local not-for-profit organization that does wonderful work with practical on-the-job training for street children in Phnom Penh. Click here for more background info about Mith Samlanh. Their restaurant training is so great that they are rated #1 on and I agree.)

The next few days in Phnom Penh were busy with a series of interviews with the press, two published articles (TheCambodiaDaily and AsiaLifeGuide). There were also meetings with local Khmer ISPs, and the Cambodian Android User Group (who were constructing Khmer font for Android… an obvious prerequisite for any localization efforts on Android phones/tablets!). More on both of these in later posts, but after all the work of the previous few years, I found those hectic few days to be exciting, rewarding, nerve-wracking, humbling and fulfilling all at the same time.

If you are interested in helping with Mozilla’s Khmer localization efforts, please contact Vannak or anyone else on the Khmer team here.

I’d like to end by giving special thanks to Vannak Eng (for his continued dedication and hard work), to Javier Sola (for his behind the scenes help before I arrived, and his wonderful hospitality while in Phnom Penh), to Gen Kanai (for his behind the scenes help – too many to mention!) and to Mark West (for his generosity with providing a venue, and the many thought provoking discussions we had about the impact of localization on the economies of developing countries).


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