Non-English reviews on the CPAN ratings site?


Last week I updated the CPAN Ratings site to use our new (beta-ish) Bitcard service. While I was at it I also finally added the "was this review helpful?" functionality. (And you can vote without refreshing the page; it's very neat).

Anyway, one thing I've noticed is that some of the reviews that gets rated as not so helpful maybe are that way because the reviewer isn't a native English speaker (native English writer?) (like me!). Would they be more helpful if they were in the reviewers native language? Most likely. (Although not in my case, my written Danish is just as bad as the English by now!)

We can add a checkbox for choosing which language you are writing in and a few filters so you can choose which languages you want to see reviews in. Seems potentially useful. The only downside I can see is that when someone reviews Authen::Bitcard in French or Chinese and gives it two stars it won't be very helpful to me as the author. Hmn.

Any suggestions or opinions?


I think the filtering option seems the most sane. Most sites handle this by breaking the site up by language or country (, On the topic of reviewer vs author language, I think it makes sense to let people leave the reviews anyway because they're useful to (some) users. Perhaps authors should be able to note their language so if reviewers can write multiple languages, they know which one to pick.

You can also, of course, do some auto-detection by Accept headers to make all the selection a little faster.

Apparently, noone else has a good suggestion either. I checked this entry a half-dozen times now, expecting someone would have a comment, but no dice.

I see upside, and no downside (other than the effort required to develop and implement it).

It helps those who might wish to filter out languages they don't understand, obviously.

I don't see that it hurts anyone. In the example given, of a French or Chinese review, being able to tag the review with a language doesn't make it any less intelligible to those who speak the language, nor does it make it any more intelligible to those who don't (I suppose one might then know what language it is and use a machine translator to try to translate it, but machine translators tend to be mediocre at best with everyday language and next to useless at translating technical writing).

I do like the suggestion, in the first comment, of letting authors list the languages they understand. I don't know if it would be of great help in practice, but the theory at least is sound.

P.S. your English is far better than that of most of my blogging friends who first language is English! I'm not sure if that should be a compliment to you or a sad commentary on the state of the Canadian education system.

If Perl docs are in English, and the module docs are in English, it makes sense to me that the comments are in English, too.

Personally, I would rather have a review with bad English that I could get something out of, rather than one in a language that I understand none of.

Perhaps I'm just an insensitive native English speaker, though.

Here's a wacky suggestion, which might not be practical. How about allowing each comment to exist in multiple languages, and perhaps even allowing people to translate them?

If you speak English and Danish, and I speak English and French, and someone posts a comment in French, it's useless to you. But if I can translate it, and then it does become useful to you.

Or maybe the person who posted it speaks French, and a bit of English, and they posted it in French because they can express the idea clearly in French but would not be able to do as good a job in English. Therefore, it would make sense for them to post it in French. But maybe, if they could post a version in French and then post another version in English, they could say "Sorry, my English not good" and still produce something that would be intelligible even if it's not as lucid as what they wrote in French.

This probably wouldn't attract enough translations (whether by people translating their own comments or translating others' comments) to be worth doing, but hey, maybe I'm being pessimistic.

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This page contains a single entry by Ask Bjørn Hansen published on July 25, 2005 11:37 PM.

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