International Support for Apps on the Ning Playground.
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Bonjour, guten tag, and g’day mate!

My name is Yoz Grahame and I’m one of the Developer Advocates here at Ning. Given that I’m in the U.K. and recently returned from a trip to Israel, I was voted “Most Qualified (At This Particular Moment) To Talk About International App Support” by the rest of my Ning teammates.

If you’re a developer on the Ning Playground surrounded by people talking a different language than yours, I’d like to tell you about a couple of features we have in place to assist the development of non-English apps. I also want to let you know that we have more stuff coming down the pipe soon.

The Ning architecture has been designed from the ground up to support Unicode all the way through. We chose the Unicode standard of UTF-8. Unicode or UTF-8 is intended to be a single character set that can be used for any type of text in any language. (For a very entertaining introduction to Unicode, see this article by Joel Spolsky – but note that PHP’s Unicode support has improved somewhat since it was written).

Thanks to Unicode support, the Ning Playground should be able to handle any funny characters you want to throw our way. From א to ζ, we can take it. To ensure that your app code works seamlessly with Unicode, be sure to read the tips on handling UTF-8 in our doc entitled Thinking Globally about Characters and Dates. (It also contains some useful tips about date formatting, which changes across different locales.) As always, if you see something that looks funny or if your data is being mangled in ways you didn’t intend, don’t hesitate to let us know and we’ll do what we need to do to fix it.

In order to create an easily-translatable app, take a look at PHP’s gettext functions. gettext has become a popular way to provide multiple translations for an app’s messages, and Ning’s PHP interpreter is built with support for it.

Though the facilities and fixes mentioned above will help a great deal in catering to many languages, there’s a number of other things related to globalisation coming down the pipe:

  1. Provide translated, localised versions of the Ning system pages and the Ning Sidebar.
  2. Expose users’ locales and preferred languages through the API (privacy options permitting) so that apps can pick them up and adjust their output accordingly.
  3. Enhance our current and future set of Ning Example Apps to make translation simpler.
  4. Make it easy for XNHTML apps to output localised messages.

If you have any other suggestions or feedback for making the Ning Playground as global as needed, please let us know.