Hawaiian Social Network Quandry

One of the blessings of being away in Ireland for nine months is that it will give me some separation and time to think out the future of our Hawaiian language technology initiatives, such as Leok? (our Hawaiian language intranet system built on FirstClass), Ulukau (our Hawaiian digital library) and the use of the Ka Leo Hawai‘i archives (about 700 hours worth of interviews with Hawaiian language speakers conducted in the 1970s and 1980s).

I have been wavering back and forth as to whether or not it is worthwhile to us to continue using FirstClass, or move on to some other platform. FC’s great benefit is its GUI – it’s much more user friendly than most web browser-based interfaces I’ve seen, especially for young children. My daughter was doing email with it by first grade and chat shortly thereafter. Back when we started in (1993) the graphical web was new, and FC was revolutionary. Time has caught up with it in many ways. It doesn’t have a lot of the features that are expected in today’s social network space. I watch how my daughter and her friends use MySpace, and while they all use Leok? as well, it is far less appealing to them.

I can’t help but think that there are better options out there. The caveats – we need to be able to localize them into Hawaiian and they need to be low maintenance. FC has been reliable as heck, and requires minimal effort for regular maintenance. While the FC Client and Server are now Unicode compliant, the localization tools are not, so I’m back to square one. I’m also talking to the state Department of Education about piggybacking a Hawaiian language service on to their Lotus Notes system which services all DOE teachers, students and staff. However, its Unicode support is still in beta.

Having the service run on OS X would be a plus. MugShot looks interesting but limited. I just found AROUNDme, and need to look into it further. The question is will our students use it if it is restricted to Hawaiian language speakers? All have family and friends who don’t speak Hawaiian. Many children about my daughter’s age begin to rebel against the language a bit. They’ll use it in school, but outside she and many of her classmates revert to English. We find that many gain a greater appreciation of the language after they leave high school, and choose to use it wherever they can.

The search continues…

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