Technical Participation In Thdl

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Contributing Technical Expertise: Technical Participation in THL

by David Germano (September 1, 2008)


THL is a non-profit initiative whose survival is based on grants and volunteer activity. Its aim is to benefit Tibetan and Himalayan peoples, the field of Tibetan and Himalayan Studies, and the international public with an interest in Tibet and the Himalayas. THL is dependent on technologists and computing professionals contributing their time to developing, modifying and maintaining tools and technical systems, as well as performing highly technical processing. All our own products are open source and free.

Please contact us at <a class="safe-contact" href="javascript:linkTo_UnCryptMailto('nbjmup;uimAdpmmbc/jud/wjshjojb/fev');"><img src="/global/images/contact/contact-thl.gif" /></a> to let us know of your interest in volunteering technical assistance. The present document details various types of technical needs THL currently has. All volunteered time will be fully credited within THL's permanent online credits.

Graphics Web design

We do not have any dedicated experts in graphics or Web design within THL to help improve the look and feel of specific types of resources within THL. We thus welcome any volunteers with such expertise to help us improve the look and feel of THL in general, and for specific projects. These include designing creative visual banners for new websites are are publishing, as well as designing the overall site. Examples of projects on the horizon include:

We also need help with creating attractive layouts of images and text for essays, projects and promotional materials.

XML Markup

THL bases itself on XML for all text markup, whether modern essays or classical Tibetan literature. However this entails major bottlenecks in the processing of submissions into XML markup. We thus constantly have a backlog of submissions needed to be marked up in XML by people with at least basic competency in XML and attention to detail. Thus we seek volunteers for help in XML markup of essays and classical Tibetan literature. Since markup is self-contained for a single text, such work can be done on a piece by piece basis and include long periods of doing nothing, though given the need for startup acquaintance with the THL markup scheme, volunteering to do a single text is not very efficient.

XML Posting

In addition to XML markup, another bottleneck is the final posting of already marked up XML texts into our various XML databases. For example, our rich catalogs of Tibetan literature are often held up just by the lack of someone to post a new catalog and series of input texts. Unlike XML markup, however, this requires access to THL servers and does not make sense as a one time contribution. We thus are seeking volunteer help with this task, but help needs to be for a minimum period of time during which help is consistence and reliable, or is focused on a specific project's needs.

XML Technical Development

Our various XML systems are under constant development that are in urgent need of technical assistance. This impacts the entirety of THL and is one of our highest priority needs on the technical front. Tasks include:

CSS & Java Script Development

CSS and Java Script are essential to the THL look and feel, and the navigational and presentational systems. THL projects are often delayed and prone bugs due to our limited resources in both areas. Thus any volunteers in these areas are especially welcome. Especially pressing is a need for a Javascript programmer to help with the visual and navigational features of our interactive GIS maps - this requires no knowledge of GIS, just Java Script and CSS skills. Other such projects include:

Ruby on Rails

Our non-XML databases are Ruby on Rails, with a MYSQL or POSTGRES backend. We are working at integrating all of these Ruby on Rails databases so that they draw upon each others' services. There are typically a number of modest projects, and not so modest projects for creating such databases which are delayed because of a lack of programming time. Such tasks can often be done in short order by skilled programmers willing to donate a little time. Present goals include:

Adopt a repository or tool

It is a constant struggle to maintain and development on a technical front for our different repositories and tools. Systems have thrived best when one competent person is willing and able to take over responsibility for one system. This is thus more of a long term commitment of at least a year. Extant projects that need more programming help:


QuillDriver is our Java software for creating and playing back transcripts in conjunction with audio-video recordings. QuillDriver is in crisis and needs a Java programmer to help recover it.

Tibetan font work

We have done extensive work with Unicode Tibetan, but this remains an exceptionally challenging area for THL overall and for helping Tibetan communities. Pressing needs at present include:

Tibetan language computing

As Unicode Tibetan becomes widespread, the next major challenge is having operating systems and Office software localized for with Tibetan language interfaces. This is a challenge that includes translation tasks as well as technical tasks. We are thus seeking collaborators and volunteers for creating Tibetan versions of software.

Flash mapping

THL creates interactive FLASH maps calling upon XML and MYSQL databases for images, audio-video, texts and other resources. We have a working system, but the process is time intensive and we are in need of volunteers who would be willing to work on specific mapping projects for regions, towns or monasteries.

GIS work

The basis for our Environmental and Cultural Geography initiative is GIS datasets. We are always in need of expert help in dealing with GIS.

Processing QTVRS

We have a number of photographs made for creating QTVRs, but lack the staff time to properly process them for publication. We are thus seeking volunteer help in processing QTVRs.

Three dimensional work

One of the most time consuming activities in THL is the rendering of three dimensional reproductions of architecture or landscape. It also requires considerable experience and expertise. We are thus eager to locate volunteers with such expertise and experience.

Technical documentation

Proper documentation of our technologies, tools and repositories is essential, but is very time consuming. This documentation ranges from the initial use of tools in creating data – photography, digitization, etc. – to the processing of data – audio-video editing, conversions, etc. – to the final delivery of data with our software and databases. Our documentation can be found in Toolbox, and we are in great need of help in extending this documentation. We could use help with any are of technical documentation concerning photography, videography, XML, database design, etc.


Training in advanced technologies is a constant need both at THL central technical operations at the University of Virginia and in Tibet and the Himalayas for our technical participants there. If you have advanced technical competency in any relevant programming or markup, or in photography and videography, and are willing to donate time to provide training at Virginia or in Asia, please contact us.

Provided for unrestricted use by the external link: Tibetan and Himalayan Library