The Tale of Two Esperanto iPhone Keyboards

Posted on 29. Jan, 2015 by in Esperanto Culture, internet

In September 2014, Apple opened up its mobile operating system, iOS 8 to third-party keyboards. Before this, the Ĝusta Klavaro was available, but it was a separate app where you typed and then copied and pasted its contents to where you wanted them–not very convenient. Due to this new feature of iOS 8, two Esperanto iPhone keyboards were released this month: one by the Esperanto game company, Ludisto, and another by Viacheslav Shklyaev. [Full disclosure: I personally run Ludisto, the creator of the first keyboard.]

Esperanto-Klavaro was released on January 4, 2015 and cost $5. According to an interview with Libera Folio, Shklyaev did not like that this cost $5 and had the Ludisto company logo on it, so he made his own Esperanta Klavaro, released on January 20. It’s also of interest to note that both keyboards used the open source project Tasty-Imitation-Keyboard as a foundation to build them.

Data from my Esperanto venture

On January 27, I made Esperanto-Klavaro free to celebrate the launch of our new iPad board game What the Shell (also playable in Esperanto). I assumed the keyboard would last a little longer as a revenue-generating project, but I don’t regret it. It brought Esperanto keyboards to iPhone owners around the world and earned our company a little, which I can now invest into further developing our Esperanto games. Now that the Esperanto-Klavaro has run its time as a paid app, I’m now delighted to show you the results of this commercial Esperanto venture.

Downloads by Date (Jan 3-28)

Downloads by date

Downloads by date

Strictly from a business point of view, earning 215€ (US$240) from nine days of work was a pretty big commercial failure, but I was mostly working on it out of idealism, so it doesn’t bother me too much. To put this in perspective, keep in mind that it’s not too unusual for an iOS developer to make 400€ (US$450) per day! In any case, I think it’s interesting to see data from an experimental project just to get a feel for the Esperanto iOS app market.

Downloads by Country

World map of downloads

World map of downloads

Of course, another interesting statistic is how this breaks down by country. Given that the iPhone’s primary market is the United States, it is no surprise that this is the strongest country by far in sales. I was, however, a little surprised at Japan coming in second place. I was aware that there are many Esperanto speakers there, but I had forgotten how strong the iPhone market is there. In any case, Japan and France usually provide the second and third most participants of the Universala Kongreso de Esperanto (the first is usually the host country), so I suppose this shouldn’t have surprised me so much.

Downloads by country (click to enlarge)

Downloads by country
(click to enlarge)

Have you considered pursuing a commercial project in Esperanto? What were your results?

Note: All screenshots were taken from Ludisto’s account on appfigures.com.

Related links

Trans in Esperanto

Posted on 27. Dec, 2014 by in Uncategorized

Sophia

Sophia

Today I’d like to give a voice to a friend of mine who made a significant change in her life. Here is her article about her experiences in the Esperanto community.

Sophia: A short introduction to the concept: being trans, an abbreviation for transgender or transsexual, means that I was born with a body that didn’t fit me as far as apparent gender is concerned, and I’ve taken steps to transform it, as well as to take up a different role in society. I don’t believe I was ever a man; all that’s changed has been my appearance as well as how I affirm myself.

As a result of being trans I go through some of the most intense discrimination you can imagine. I’m bisexual, for instance, and have experienced discrimination both for being apparently a gay man and apparently a lesbian woman. I’ve been heckled, for instance, and stared at. I wasn’t always able to openly display affection for my girlfriend. Sometimes guys have ignored the obvious and just assumed we’re straight and available, and tried to flirt with one or both of us, something which would never happen if we were a male-female couple.

However, this discrimination is an order of magnitude less than the discrimination which I can directly connect with being trans. I’ve had people who consider themselves left-wing, conscious or tolerant throw me out of their house, or their social group, or tell me not to contact them again. I’ve had water thrown on me, a billion insults from random strangers on the street, and all sorts of people in perfectly reasonable voices telling me that I am fundamentally unattractive or undeserving of my basic rights.

Being Trans In Esperantujo

Trans flag

Trans flag

Well, I thought it would be interesting now for me to write about the difference between my experiences being trans in Esperantujo and being trans in normal life. [Editor’s note: Esperantujo is the Esperanto word for the abstract concept of everywhere in the world where Esperanto is currently spoken.]

For a lot of people, Esperantujo is a sort of safe haven; a place where they can be themselves, and know that they will be accepted.

To some extent, Esperantujo is that for me. I certainly didn’t feel uncomfortable when I was holding my girlfriend’s hand at an Esperanto event, for instance. I don’t feel like people are going to find me strange for being polyamorous, or vegan, or for having unusual esoteric beliefs.

As for being trans… let’s say that I don’t let my guard down. There are a lot of people in Esperantujo who very fully accept who I am. For instance, I find that quite a few of the straight men in Esperantujo are open to flirting with me. Outside Esperantujo on the other hand, most straight men who know I am trans are so scared of being seen by others as gay that you can pretty much see them searching for masculine aspects of my appearance so that they don’t have to be attracted to me.

Transphobia In Esperantujo

On the other hand, I’ve had some pretty crappy experiences with transphobia in Esperantujo.

My first Esperanto event was the Junulara Esperanto-Semajno (JES 2012-2013). I hadn’t taken hormones yet and it was still fairly easy to see I was trans just by looking at me.

I experienced reasonably good treatment – well, except for the millions of micro-discriminations which were a fact of my everyday life back then. Of course, I heard the occasional accidental “he” – or intentional one – something which is capable of making me feel far worse than I wish a single, often innocently-intended word could. I got stared at. I was asked awkward questions. The usual.

A friend did tell me, though, that several people had talked to her about me. Apparently, it was mostly Russians and Ukrainians – I guess because of their more conservative cultures. She reported that one had said, “Why does the boy want to be a girl and the girl want to be a boy??” – unfair, since my partner at the time was just presenting androgynously.

Once I took hormones and started blending in as a woman, the micro-discriminations lessened, both in and out of Esperantujo. Still, I’ve kept doing talks about transsexuality in most of the Esperanto events I’ve gone to, and that’s given people a chance to know I am trans and also talk about the topic with me, which quite often turns uncomfortable. For instance, one member of my audience in a recent talk referred to me as male right after I had given a long monologue on why doing exactly that is both incorrect and incredibly uncomfortable for me to hear.

I’ve only had one experience of severe discrimination in Esperantujo, the details of which are unpleasant enough that I won’t recount them here. But that did contribute to me feeling genuinely uncomfortable in that event.

Overall

Nowadays, I’m wondering whether to stop doing my talks about trans issues and blend in. The thought of doing so chafes me ideologically, but it’s also true that I enjoy social experiences much better when I am not bombarded with discrimination, minor and major, and of course I only get that when people know my history. Esperantujo is a safe-ish place in that regard, but still not safe enough as far as I’m concerned.

Overall, I’d say Esperantujo is sort of polarised. On one hand, there are quite a few people in Esperantujo who are really aware of trans issues or just really accepting, and around those I feel genuinely comfortable, like I can really let my hair down. People like that are rarer to find outside of Esperantujo.

On the other hand, Esperanto attracts people from all sorts of cultures, including the more conservative ones, and some of those people seem rather less comfortable around me. Besides that, there is a small minority of somewhat extreme personalities that seem to be drawn to Esperanto, anti-social people who are maybe looking for an accepting place, I don’t know; these, when they choose to get in my face, can do a lot to make my experience in these events less enjoyable.

If you’re moved by these words, I would recommend, like I recommend anyone, that you read a little about trans issues and get educated. I think a great start is Whipping Girl by Julia Serano. (Try to avoid mainstream documentaries, though, as the message is often distorted according to what the producers think their viewers can handle). Besides that, perhaps you can come to one of my talks on the topic if we’re at the same Esperanto event – supposing I keep doing them.

Related Esperanto vocabulary

transsexual = trans-seksa
transsexual person = transseksulo
bisexual = ambaŭ-seks-ema (literally: both-sex-inclined)
homosexual = sam-seks-ema (literally: same-sex-inclined)
heterosexual = mal-sam-seks-ema (literally: different-sex-inclined)
polyamorous = plur-am-ema (literally: many-love-inclined)
gay = gejo
lesbian = lesbo
queer = kviro

Sophia’s photo used with permission. Flag image attribution: user Torbakhopper on Flickr.com.

New comic about Esperanto!

Posted on 01. Nov, 2014 by in Uncategorized

Esperanto subculture comic

Esperanto subculture comic

The American comic artist, Dan Mazur, published a 12 page comic about native Esperanto speakers. The comic appeared as part of a comic anthology about subcultures. Libera Folio interviewed the author and you can read the Esperanto translation here.

How did you get the idea? What was your objective?

Earlier this year, I was beginning the work of publishing an anthology of short original comics, by various artists, on the subject of “subcultures,” so I was thinking about interesting subcultures, and I thought of Esperanto speakers as a topic. I didn’t know much about Esperanto, though I’ve known of it since I was a child. I had a vague notion of it going back to the early 20th century, and some association in my mind (probably erroneous) with utopian or idealist movements like the Fabian society. I thought it would be a pretty multi-faceted subculture, since it goes so far back. On my first Google search on the topic, I came upon an article about native Esperanto speakers, and this surprised and fascinated me… native speakers seemed like a subculture within the subculture! At this point I decided that I wanted to write and draw this story myself. I then watched a YouTube interview with Lana Shlafer [below], which had been shot in 2000, and I learned more.

How did you gather the material?

Though I am a cartoonist, I’ve also worked as a journalist, so I wanted to be able to interview a subject for the story. The only local contact I could find was the MIT Esperanto Society. This society turned out to be inactive, but I heard back from a former member, Erin Piateski. She helped with some contacts, and soon I was in touch with 5 Esperantists a mix of Europeans and Americans, four out of five were native speakers, so it was a good mix. I interviewed via email, except for Julie Schwartz, who lives nearby, so we were able to meet. For Lana Shlafer, I used quotes from her YouTube interview. With so many “voices,” I decided to structure the story like a comics-documentary, weaving the interviews together with a little history. I found that there was much in common among the native speakers, especially, but interestingly some differing attitudes toward Esperanto culture emerged as well.

When it was written, as a script, I sent it out to all the subjects for their approval, then I drew the comic. I went back and forth a lot with the subjects to make sure I didn’t make any mistakes in the Esperanto I use in the comic. As you probably have figured out, I don’t speak or read Esperanto myself. Working on this story has made me interested in learning it… Esperanto speakers seem to have a lot of fun!

Where was your comic strip published? What kind of reactions have you received?

The book, SubCultures: a Comics Anthology was published in September, including the story “Esperantists,” which is 12 pages long. As for reactions, i find that people are very interested in the subject matter — many people I talk to have little or no idea at all what Esperanto is. I’m starting to get some interest from Esperanto sources, such as yourself!

The book is available on my publishing website.