Interview with Marco De Vitis of ATO.
Today I feel... "ATOmic"!
Forgetting this start of the meanest quality, a real nightmare for the hopes of seriousness of our poor De Vitis, let's dive in a confrontation, hoping it will colour in the proper light the goodness of such an initiative.
|Hi baby, (BTW: does such a start hurt you?).|
|No, it doesn't hurt me, but to be sincere it seems a little excessive to me, seems like I'm being approached by a queer figure in a disco :). Isn't a friendly "Hi Marco" enough for you?|
|No, it lacks personality, and what's more... I'm a disco-addict!!! ;) Apart from lacks of personality, introduce yourself to AmiWorld's readers, please.|
|My name is Marco De Vitis, I'm 26 years old, I was born and I live in Rome, Italy, where I'm a student in electronics engineering. Hobbies: Amiga and music (I'm a keyboard player); often the hobbies overcome the "official" occupation :-). Special peculiarities: terribly careful of other people's mistakes :-). As your readers already should know, I'm here in the role of (current) administrator of the Italian division of the Amiga Translators' Organization. I joined it in April 1997, and I became administrator of ATO-Italy at the end of January 1998.|
|Uhm, a fast career! Let's test your language skills: sum up in a few lines the history, the aim and the usefulness of ATO. :)|
I could easily manage this telling you to visit our web site on
or by sending you the ATO FAQ ;-) (Don't believe you
can get out of it with so little!
Anyway, I'll try to be concise. (Here, now that's fine!
The aim of ATO is to provide an useful service to both Amiga users in general and programmers, allowing users to use applications nicely translated in their own language, and offering programmers an organized and cheap localization service. The advantages of this are evident: the users, besides being able to work with a system which "speaks" their own language, can enjoy a better consistency of terms and conventions. Programmers, as a consequence, can expect their applications to spread more around thanks to the localization in many languages, moreover they have a reference point for when they are in need and they have some warranty on the final product quality which they would probably not have by trusting occasional translators.
For what regards the history and beginnings of ATO I can only refer to what I read in the ATO FAQ, as I only joined afterwards. It seems it all started from a mail written on May, 12th 1996 in the MUI mailing list, by a person who offered to translate a new MUI class into Norwegian. This fired the typical sparkle in someone's mind, talks did start, and ATO was born. The organization has then obviously grown up, and new divisions have been added one by one: we currently have 24 of them, and the 25th is going to be created. I hope I'm not wrong (I've only got a vague memory about this), but I think the Italian division has been one of the first to be created, administered at the time by Paolo Menichetti; then it was the turn of Vincenzo Gervasi, also known as contributor for the famous (and now, unfortunately, closed) Italian magazine "Amiga Magazine", and then there is me, at least until January, 31st 1999, the date when my mandate will end.
Best wishes for the re-election! Let's suppose I'm a programmer who
would like to take advantage of your services, what do I have to do? What are
my obligations towards you, and yours towards me?
The payment ATO asks for is very humble, commercially speaking: a
registered copy of the program we're going to translate, for each member involved
in the translation process; this usually means two copies for each language,
plus another one more for the project coordinator. As most of the programs we
translate are freeware, we often work for free.
Moreover, we ask the author to insert the names of the translators in the program's
documentation and, if possible, inside the program itself; this is usually
accomplished by simply inserting in the guide, or even putting it in the
distribution archive as a separate file, a standard "ATO.readme" text which
contains some brief informations on ATO.
Our rules also consider the possibility of some other form of payment, such as
money, depending on the situation (for example: big commercial projects), but we
didn't happen to find ourselves in such situations, yet. Last but not least, of
course, there are some moral obligations: the translators need to know exactly
what the requested work is, and they have to be sure that their work will not be
wasted, so honesty and respect are needed on both sides.
A note about the number of members assigned to a project: as I mentioned before,
this number is usually fixed to two members for each language, and it can be
increased for particularly compelling translations, if the program author or
publisher agrees, of course.
The two members have the roles of translator and proofreader; we
encountered some problems with authors who thought the proofreader was useless,
and I can understand that people who never translated an application can have
problems understanding his usefulness, but I would like to take this opportunity
to understress how much proofreading is instead an ESSENTIAL stage to obtain a
high quality result: the additional check made by eyes different from the
translator's ones never misses to reveal faults or chances of improvement, however
skilled the translator could be.
About translators, their main obligation towards the author is to deliver the requested result within the fixed deadline and guarantee a good quality for it. Our members engage themselves to satisfy the author's requests, to leave any section of the text unchanged unless differently agreed with the author, to not spread non-public files and to translate future updates of the same program, unless they really are unable to do it. Moreover, the translated files remain property of the program's author.
Could you explain us how things proceed from the translation proposal
on to the final result?
A person is choosen within ATO (he usually is the one who established
the first contact with the author) to take the role of "project coordinator". From
now on, the coordinator will be the only contact between ATO and the author, as
much as possible; this has the aim of making life easier for the author, so that he
hasn't got to handle contacts directly with all single translators.
The coordinator will act as a bridge between all involved members and the author
for everything, ranging from an info request to the final delivery.
Summarizing the translation process, the author sends the material to the
coordinator, who distributes it to all members assigned to the project; they carry
on with their job and, when they've completed it, they deliver the translation to
the author, through the project coordinator again.
What does actuelly mean being administrator of the Italian division
of ATO? What are the responsibilities, and what the satisfactions?
You wrote "actuelly" (see "special peculiarities", in the first
answer ;-)). (I wanted to check if you were paying attention!
Local administrators have to coordinate their own divisions and the relevant
members. This means, in practice, controlling that everything flows correctly,
that deadlines are honoured, that translations keep a certain quality
standard,and so on.
There are of course many responsibilities, particularly on important projects
or strict deadlines; should anything go wrong, it wouldn't be the translator alone
cutting a poor figure, neither the single ATO-Italy division: the impression which
final users (in case of a badly done translation) or the program's author (in case
we are not honouring the terms of the agreement) would get out of it would involve
the whole ATO, running the risk of damaging its reputation.
This all could happen just for the fault of one single person who didn't take his
task too seriously.
But I have to say that the satisfactions abundantly compensate for this: seeing a
group of people who in most cases even don't know each other personally, of
different ages, from all corners of Italy, collaborating in a friendly and
enthusiastic way with the aim of helping other people (the authors) physically
even more distant from them, all practically for free, surely is an incredible
experience (Just like AmiWorld, actually!
Moreover, for what regards the Italian division in respect to ATO in general,
the fact that it is one of the more active and well organized makes me even more
In your opinion, what makes the Italian division one of the more active
ones? What are the reasons for its success?
The situation in ATO reflects the general Amiga situation, and the
Italian Amiga community is very active at the moment.
However, most of the credits go to the previous administrators, who succeeded in
keeping the attention of our members alive and organized our division; Vincenzo
Gervasi, for example, takes care of our web site and mailing list in an excellent
way. I'm trying to continue the tradition by using their same tricks, and I think
I'm being a nuisance enough to avoid my subordinates getting asleep for too long ;-).
Of course, if the division actually works fine this is due to the co-operation of
"subordinates", "trks"... You sound like a dictator!! ;)
I'd like to be one, but a smiley always pops out :-). And, anyway,
I didn't write "trks" ;-)).
Anyway, it's really admirable that, in a small reality such as the
Amiga one, a maniple of fearless people succeeded in offering a free translation
service. Just like any kind of voluntary service, ATO has its limits: what about them?
You played a sad note. This surely is the weak spot in ATO, for
As I mentioned above, it can happen that someone doesn't take his task too seriously. This is due to the knowledge of the fact that we're providing almost for free a service that usually has a price in "the real world", and starting from this idea it becomes somehow easy passing on to something like "I'm doing a favour to the program's author", so taking the job not too seriously. Actually, we always have to remember that at the other side we have a person who is trusting us for the success of his program, which could have requested him months or even years of work, and that its spreading in our own countries depends much on how we'll do our job. We all know how unpleasant it feels using a badly translated application.
Moreover, being a voluntary service, we do it in the free time we can find in our everyday life. This means that, if the person in charge for a translation has some unexpected problems which prevent him from working on the project, the translation will be affected by this, at least for what regards the date of delivery. Unfortunately, no one is to blame for this: if a translator has some important things that keep him away from his computer, like for example his work or family problems, we can't expect him to disregard them just to work on the translation of the next shareware program for Amiga, being concrete. Personally, I often subtracted time to more important - but not in a way that they couldn't be put off - things to find time for ATO, and I know that many others did the same.
Ever thought about the trick Scott uses on the Enterprise? Just exaggerate
the times of delivery you announce and then deliver your work with large
anticipation, so making yourselves look like wizards! ;)
The problem is that we're almost never the ones who fix the
deadlines: when a program is ready for the localization phase, the author
generally already has a date in mind for its release, and we have to adapt
ourselves to it. The requests we receive are sometimes nearly impossible to
fulfil for translators who work in their free time :-/.
Going back to the subject of important engagements which can hinder the translation process, sometimes you have no choice. You only have to try being concrete and understand your limits, avoiding making promises which we could not be able to fulfil, prey to our own enthusiasm.
Finally, this also is the reason why some software houses sometimes feel suspicious about us; they don't think ATO is able to provide a professional translation service, given its "amateurish" nature, but they don't know that most of our members are actually able to show an impressing curriculum. And you must not forget our main advantage over any professional translation team: we are Amiga users, we feel at ease with our system, we surely know the meaning of all technical terms and references to the operating system which we can encounter. Get a professional translator and ask him whether he knows what "tooltypes" are... but be prepared to pay an expensive bill for the answer ;-).
Which paths does ATO intend to follow to further improve itself?
Our main aim at the moment surely is working hard to gain more
faith on behalf of developers. I have to admit that, in my opinion, there are
some faults in our international network: some divisions, sometimes even relative
to important languages, don't seem to be active enough, or maybe they simply miss
the necessary people to take part to most proposed projects. They sometimes are
division relative to minor languages, and given the low number of Amiga users,
I can understand finding new efficient members in the relevant countries can be
hard; but in other situations I wonder at the lack of participation, and I think
we should make up for this as soon as possible, trying to renew the structure of
By the way, the search for new members offers another hot matter: how can we be sure about the quality of translations into languages which we don't know? Every local administrator could do some sort of "entrance examination" for new members but, besides the fact that this wouldn't fit much nicely an organization based on volunteers who generously give their time to other people for free, still there would be the problem of the administrator himself: no other ATO member could be able to evaluate his mastery of his same native language. And how could a project coordinator guarantee to the author of the relevant program that the translation into a language they both ignore will be done as it should? The relationships between local administrators are based on mutual faith, but the only thing which can really give us confidence or make us understand if we're doing something wrong is the feedback from final users.
So, friends, make us hear your voices! When you read in the documentation for a program that it has been translated into your language thanks to ATO, make us know your opinion, so that we can take note of it and try to offer an ever improving service, for both you and the programmers. This is important, please!
Our readers can train themselves by looking at the translations for
AmiWorld's articles... ;)
How much of the soul of the Amiga community is in ATO? And, should there be one
day no more material to translate (touch wood as appropriate), what would happen to ATO??
ATO was born from the soul of the Amiga community: it exactly
represents the desire, which practically all Amiga users have, to do something
for our platform just for the simple pleasure of doing it.
We won't miss material to translate as long as applications will continue
to come out, and I have no reason at the moment to doubt that Amiga, one way
or another, will still live for a long time. Should we miss any material to
translate one day, this would mean that there would be no more Amiga users;
Amiga would be dead in this case, and ATO with it, too.
But Amiga users, each time they leave our platform, tend to keep along with
them the things they learned during these years, and their experience would
surely not be wasted, being probably addressed in other forms of co-operation.
I agree with you. Do you believe it would be possible to reuse in
alternative systems the ideal property which is behind Amiga, meant as the
"modus vivendi" of our community (especially in the beginnings), that very
special habit of mind only partially shared with the Linux friends?
As I just mentioned, I think that outside of our "world" Amiga
users are trying to somehow reproduce the comfortable environment which they
were accustomed to work in, and this is a good thing; unfortunately, this is
not always possible, due to the intrinsic limits of other systems. It is
sometimes too difficult to bring elements of the Amiga on other existing systems,
like Unix/Linux; greater are the possibilities of success for systems which are
being created now, if their makers know the strong points of Amiga.
An example is BeOS, a system loved by many Amiga users, for which some of our
members already tought of an organization /a>
AMIGA, SEI COSÌ VECCHIA...|