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 Home > Participate with Babels! > English

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Babels Protocols

(Date: 28 May 2005)

To organize projects, Babels uses several electronic tools and follows certain protocols. The tools and protocols are detailed below. This information is useful only if you are interested in helping organize Babels projects.

Please beware: organizing Babels projects requires spare time, dedication, access to internet and fluency in at least two languages. Please participate if you can, but be warned: it’s a lot of work!

If you only wish to volunteer as an interpreter or translator please register on the Babels database and wait until you are contacted by email.

Babels has internal mailing lists, a central database in which all the volunteers are registered, as well as an online forum, a web-based chat (Instant Messaging), and a wiki (or ’virtual blackboard’). See below for more information on how these tools are used to organize projects.

Babels follows a number of protocols to ensure maximum transparency, efficiency, accountability and respect for people’s privacy.

 Communication Protocol
 Using the Babels Database: protocol
 Protocol on Babels Internal Mailing Lists

Communication Protocol

This document outlines the way Babels proceeds in terms of internal and external communication. The aim is to increase transparency and accountability, to avoid fruitless controversy by email, and to include more people in every project Babels undertakes.

Preamble: Transparency and trust as a basis for communication

At each and every stage of the protocol, basic transparency rules are observed at all times:
 every project organizer is required to communicate all relevant information to his/her fellow organizers about what he/she is doing, on a regular basis. This is to ensure transparency and collective decision-making.
 each project is required to communicate, on a regular basis, progress reports to the Babels community at large (see stage 7). Political decisions should be detailed and explained, progress should be documented: even if each project enjoys a great degree of autonomy, each project is "accountable" to the rest of the network.

Stage 1: EMAIL: Babels participation requested

info(@) (or anybody in Babels) receives a request for Babels’ participation in a new project. If necessary, whoever receives this first contact requests more information for other Babelistas to understand what the project is about, without going into bureaucratic details. Here is an incomplete list of what can be useful to know (the list is just an example, it is useless to go into more details at this stage: the point is to have a general idea of the project):
 what is the event about? who organizes it? one or several organizations? is the event private or public?...
 number of people attending; number of interpreters / translators needed; languages needed...
 when and where is the event to take place?...
 why did people ask Babels for help? how did people propose that Babels participate? what is the budget like and who is responsible?...

Stage 2: MAILING LISTS: a quick consultation and initial proposals are made by email

Info(@) (or someone else) forwards all this information to the general mailing list babels(@) This mailing list is the general list with all the people who wish to help organize Babels projects.
babels(@) is open to anybody who wishes to subscribe to it, and there are list archives which allow any new subscriber to follow what has been discussed on this list. Reminder: this list is only for people wishing to organize projects.

Whoever forwards the information is advised to include a first assessment of what they think of the project: either they think it is a project that is interesting for Babels, or they think it is a project that should not be organized by Babels but that it might interest people in Babels. This first assessment can be very short, but it is useful to kick-start a discussion on the project.

If it is a project they think could be interesting for Babels, anyone is free to react to the project using the mailing list to weigh the pros and cons of Babels’ participation, as long as each email proposes constructive criticism, or concrete proposals.

If it is a project they think is not for Babels but that it could interest people in Babels, they should give their reasons using the mailing list. Anyone is free to react and see if the project is worth a second look. If after two days nobody shows any interest, the project should be put on the forum with a note reproducing the reasons for its "rejection" as a Babels project. In this case, there is no more discussion on the mailing list: if people are interested in the project, they can use the forum to get in touch with the organizers, etc., without this being a ’Babels project’.

If the project is supported by some people on the mailing list but hotly contested by others, either a consensus is reached and some people are allowed by the others to pursue the project, or no consensus is reached, and the debate should continue in the forum. Once the project proposal is on the forum, people can always get in touch with the organizers to volunteer on a personal basis, without this being a ’Babels project’.

Depending on the nature of the project, the time allowed to discuss the participation of Babels should not exceed 2 weeks. After that period, an official reply should be sent to the project originators by whoever first proposed the project to Babels. The reply should say, in substance: "Yes, Babels will do it" or "No, Babels won’t do it, but all the information for your event is on the forum for volunteers to contact you directly if they are interested in participating in their own name, and not as Babels".

If, after 2 weeks, nobody has reacted on the mailing list to a new project proposal, the proposal is considered as having been "accepted". However, one last message will be sent to the list to remind everyone that a new project was under consideration, and that if there is no contrary opinion, the proposal will be considered as having been accepted 48 hours after this last email has been sent.

Stage 3: WIKI and CHAT: a description and a call for volunteers are drafted

If the project has been agreed upon by the babels(@) mailing list (in other words, if nobody has given clear reasons why they are opposed to the participation of Babels), then whoever said they were interested in the project can start working on it. To do this, a description of the project should be drafted using the wiki, with all the necessary information (both logistical and political: explaining how, who, etc., but also why...), as well as a call for volunteers. The wiki is a collaborative tool that facilitates the drafting of collective documents.

At the end of the process, there should be a document presenting the project to everyone. This document will be posted on the Babels website. There should also be a document calling for volunteers (with precise criteria whenever possible). Obviously, both documents can be merged into a single document.

In case the project seems interesting but nobody volunteers to work as the project organizer, then it is advisable to put all the information on the forum for all to see, and explaining that the project is in need of project organizers. If the babels(@) community does not object, a message can be sent to the database to call for new organizers for the project.

Download a userguide to use the Babels wiki:

Wiki Userguide (EN)

The Babels chat can also be used by the project organizers to discuss the project.

Stage 4: WEBSITE: the project is put on the website

These documents are then put on the official Babels website for all to see. As these documents serve not only as information but as archives of what Babels has done, it is important that they be in several languages.
If necessary, a new contact address is created for people to write to if they want more information on a project. The project organizers will be in charge of answering emails sent to this contact address.

Download a userguide for Babels website administrators:

Website Userguide (EN)

Stage 5: DATABASE: the project is put on the database and a message is sent to volunteers asking them to sign up

A new list is included in the Babels database for this particular project. The call for volunteers (previously drafted on the wiki then copied on the website) is sent using the database to the volunteers on ’Info Babels’. The call can be sent using several criteria depending on the needs of the project. For instance if the project concerns Italy, the call can be sent only to those who live in Italy. Volunteers who receive the email can then subscribe to the new project if they are interested.
Whoever starts organizing the project then works with the volunteers who have subscribed to the project’s list. This ensures respect of people’s privacy: you should not be allowed to personally contact people who have not shown that they were interested in a project. And people show that they are interested in a project by subscribing to the project’s list (or writing to the contact email).
See Using Database Protocol to understand in detail how the database should be used by project organizers.

Stage 6: FORUM: the project is further discussed in the forum

A new topic is created in the forum for all those wishing to discuss any aspect of the project, to share information, etc.
If the project had been rejected or disputed in the early stages, then the arguments are reproduced in the forum for all to see and for all to draw their own conclusions. At this stage, if no consensus has been reached regarding Babels’ official participation in the project, anybody is free to contact the organizers or the other people interested in the project to volunteer to the project on a personal basis, not as Babels. The forum is an open space of discussion and personal decision-making: if people want to participate in a project that many people in Babels object to, they are free to do so, as long as they participate on a personal basis, not as Babels.

Stage 7: WEBSITE and BABELOG: reports are drafted and published online

If the project goes ahead as a Babels project, it is essential that a report (or several reports) be added to the website after the project has ended, so as to document the implementation of, and the lessons learnt from, this new project. To draft the reports, the wiki and the forum are used, and the finalized reports (in various languages) are put on the website for all to see. If new projects grow from the project that has just ended, then the whole consultation process should start again. This guarantees that everyone is informed of the existence of new projects.

More personalized reports (and lots of pictures) can also be put on the baBeLOG.

Using the Babels Database: protocol

This protocol increases the transparency and accountability of the Babels project organizers in the use of people’s private data. This protocol also increases the pool of available volunteers for small projects, all the while keeping the registration process clear and simple for everyone.

Protocol summary:

  1. new project is created. See Communication Protocol for details.
  2. Babels-Tech creates a new project-oriented list and a new project-oriented admin. The project should have deadlines (if applicable), so that we know when it is no longer useful to recruit new volunteers. For example, if a forum ends on March 31st, the project should end on March 31st, and the list should be taken off the registration page on that date (this does not mean the list is deleted). The project should also be clearly described.
  3. the general-purpose admin sends a message to volunteers using the general-purpose list (’Info Babels’) to explain that a new project has been created, and that volunteers should subscribe to the new project if they are interested.
  4. the project is organized by the project-oriented admin with the project-oriented list. This list is used to contact the volunteers who chose to subscribe to the new list/project. The project-oriented admin can look at the files of the volunteers in detail.
  5. once the project is over, the list is removed from the registration page, and the project-related admin is deleted shortly after that. If the project takes a new form, then a new project should be created, to allow for more/other people to volunteer, and the protocol has to be applied again.

Download a userguide for the database:

Database Userguide (EN)

The complete protocol is available on the wiki.

Protocol on Babels Internal Mailing Lists

This document outlines the way Babels works in terms of internal communication. The aim is to increase transparency and accessibility, all the while protecting personal data from unscrupulous viewers. This document is not a userguide.

WARNING: this protocol is only for people wishing to participate in the organization of events. If you only wish to volunteer as an interpreter and/or translator, please do NOT subscribe to any of these lists. Instead, please go to the Babels database. The internal discussion lists are only for those wishing to organize, often months in advance, a Babels project.


Babels uses mailing lists to prepare events. We will refer to a list by using only it’s name, not the whole address (for example: the list babels-de refers to babels-de @, which is the same as babels-de @ There are several types of lists used by Babels:

public contact lists
Example: babels-ar, babels-el, babels-fr, fsesf, info, transtrad, voc...
These correspond to the ’contact emails’ volunteers can write to if they have questions, or the addresses they contact in response to a call. In reality, these ’contact emails’ are not emails but lists. Normally, these lists are not for discussion. However, if a project group wishes to use these lists as a discussion list in addition to being ’contact’ lists, they are free to do so.

closed project lists
Example: babels, esf06, caracas06...
These lists are used by project organizers to discuss issues related to their project without outside interference (spam). These are discussion lists. Only subscribers are allowed to send messages to the list.

list receiving emails from other lists
Example: esf-listas, ic-listas, fsmed-listas...

These lists are used to receive emails from outside, non-Babels, mailing lists. They serve as a ’repository’ for emails sent by other official mailing lists. These are not discussion lists. By default, subscribers are not allowed to send messages to the list.


Creation and deletion of a list
A list is created depending on the needs of a Babels project. Each project can have several lists, if necessary. All lists are created by Babels-Tech. Please email babels-tech @ with your request, a description of what the list is for, and all other relevant information. The creation of a list is dependent upon the approval of the project, see Communication Protocol.
Once a project is finished, the list should be deleted. Please contact Babels-Tech to help you do this.

Administration and moderation of a list
Every project is responsible for the management and moderation of its list(s). Project organizers can delegate the thankless task of list administration and/or moderation to one or several people. List administration and/or moderation consists in verifying and changing the list’s configuration, subscribing / unsubscribing emails, as well as in filtering emails sent to the list (usually spam which must be discarded, sometimes legitimate emails which were held for approval for one reason or another).
If list moderators or administrators behave in an inadequate manner, please report this to Babels-Tech immediately. If list moderators or administrators seem to have abandoned their post, please report this to Babels-Tech so that the administration can be delegated to a new person.

Sending out a call for volunteers
When a project is ready to send a call to volunteers, it is important to check that the "reply-to" field contains the address of the public list for that project. Otherwise all the replies go to babels-tech, which inundates this already very loaded list and means that replies may be lost—babels tech can forward the replies, but it is not always clear to whom they must be forwarded, some may slip through the cracks, and it is a thankless, tedious and unnecessary job which wastes a lot of time. Please be careful with this.

Privacy issues

Lists can and should be protected.

Access to the list of subscribers (also known as ’roster’)
By default, the roster is accessible to subscribers only. This is to protect the subscribers’ email from being ’stolen’ by spambots. In rare cases, such as lists receiving emails from other lists, the roster is not accessible to anyone: it is useless to see who is on such lists, as these lists are read-only lists.

Access to the archives
By default, archives are private. This is to protect possibly sensitive data contained in emails from being picked up by search engines (google, yahoo, etc.).
Example: babels-ww sends out a call asking for people to volunteer for the Social Forum in WW. Volunteers reply to the list with their name, telephone, address. If the archives are public, all this information will be publicly accessible using any search engine.

Subscription to the general ’babels’ list

The ’babels’ list is open to all the people involved in Babels and willing to take more time to help and organize Babels projects. This is the only list used to exchange information internationally all year-round. It can be very active and understanding the issues that are being discussed on the list often takes a few weeks of training! It is the central mailing list for Babels: it is used to discuss and announce all important issues concerning Babels. If you are subscribed to other internal mailing lists, it is highly recommended that you subscribe to this list.

All the Babels internal mailing lists for project organizers can be found here:

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