Alan Barrett: The man behind the tech

I recently caught up with Alan Barrett, who has been a volunteer with The Rosetta Foundation since 2009. Alan recently played a key role in the merger with Translators without Borders (TWB) earlier this year. As well as holding a Ph.D. in Chemical Engineering from University College Dublin, Alan is vastly experienced in a variety of technical areas. Networking software development, computer hardware development, and operating system development are just some of the valuable skills in which Alan specialises. He was asked to join the board of The Rosetta Foundation when it was founded in 2009, and he continues to play an important role in the organisation.

Alan got to flex his programming muscles with the development of The Rosetta Foundation’s translator workspace, Trommons. This is a tool that matches translation projects and volunteer translators from all over the globe.

“In 2015 I decided to get involved with Trommons development and have been leading that and doing most of the development since then.” Alan enjoys the challenge of this sort of work, saying, “it allows me to keep my development skills up to date and learn lots of new things.”

The work of organisAlan Barrettations like TWB and The Rosetta Foundation extends across borders and languages. As such, it requires a solid technological framework to support its worldwide operations. On the importance of technology to delivering language solutions at this scale, Alan said that “without technology, working across the world with multiple partners and volunteers would be impossible.”

The recent merger of the two non-profits aims to increase efficiency and to mutually improve the services both organisations offer to partners. Alan played a vital role on the merger team: “I supported the negotiations and worked on the board to support, move forward and complete the discussions. There were also a lot of legal issues to be addressed (and much more time had to be spent on this than I would have liked!).” He explains that both organisations will benefit from the merger, in that “it will expand the reach and impact of both organisations, which have mostly different partners and volunteers. There are also different skills and approaches in each organisation which can be transferred.”

Alan is currently working with TWB Head of Technology, Mirko Plitt, to integrate the two organisations’ complementary translation platforms.

“I have been working on single sign-on between our systems,” Alan explained. “I am now focusing on aligning how translators’ skills (language pairs and skill levels) are held in Trommons to make it compatible with the TWB system, Kató, so we can easily integrate the systems.” As for The Rosetta Foundation volunteers currently using the Trommons platform, we asked Alan what might change in light of the work he’s currently carrying out to complete the merger. He said that Rosetta volunteers “will continue to use Trommons. However, they will now also have access to Kató through integrations of the two systems.” Alan added that TWB volunteers will in turn, be able to access Trommons and partner projects that are posted there.

Finally, we asked Alan how he finds the time for all of the vitally important work he is now doing for both organisations: “I am retired from work, so, aside from hobbies like windsurfing Atlantic Ocean waves, sea swimming and walking, I have time to do work for TWB and other charities. Although most of my time currently is spent on TWB.”

Written by Lauren Elwin

Proof reader – Genevieve Shanahan
 

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