Andy Baio discovered The Eco Team.
... a group of dedicated fans of The Economist newsmagazine are translating each weekly issue cover-to-cover, splitting up the work among a team of volunteers, and redistributing the finished translations as complete PDFs for a Chinese audience.
It's an impressive example of online collaboration with simple tools, a completely non-commercial effort by volunteers interested in spreading knowledge while improving their English skills. In the process, they're taking a political risk in translating controversial articles about their homeland behind the Great Firewall.
They call themselves The Eco Team, a group of about 240 passionate Economist fans led by a 39-year-old insurance broker named Shi Yi. The ECO China forum was originally founded in May 2006 by a mysterious character named "nEo," though he's no longer involved with the site. On their About Us page, nEo delivers the mission statement:
"Like the forum name says, producing a Chinese version of The Economist is our goal. But we're still young and immature; very amateur, not professional. So what? Because we are young, we have the fervor, the enthusiasm, the passion. Because we are amateurs, we'll double our efforts to do our best. As long as we wish, we can be successful and do a good job!"
Every week, in their Weekly Topics forum (translation), a moderator creates a thread linking to every untranslated article from the newest issue on Economist.com. Here's the list for this week's issue, published on February 21.
Volunteers choose their stories in the comments, while the moderator keeps track of assignments. As each story's translated, it's posted as a new thread in topic-specific forums, like Special Reports or Science & Technology.
Each article weaves together paragraphs of the original text and its translation, while other volunteers suggest their corrections in the comments. The lead editor incorporates all the comments, eventually arriving at a final draft ready for publication.
The best part is that The Economist is actually ok with the Eco Team doing their thing - an extremely smart move on the part of The Economist.
How long before we can get Indian language translations of magazines like The Economist? Time we did something about it.
As an aside, The Economist is part of my staple media diet. Though I don't necessarily agree with all the views expressed in The Economist, I'm an unabashed admirer - it is a simply superb magazine.