SignWriting List
December 11, 2011

Hello Steve and everyone on the SignWriting List -

Thank you, Steve, for this message below…My answers are below in-between your writing...

On Dec 8, 2011, at 9:52 AM, Steve Slevinski wrote:

Hi SignWriting list,

Before the end of this year, I was hoping to announce that we were going to be on the February 2012 Unicode ballot with my syntactic decomposition of the ISWA 2010.  This was going to encode Valerie's chosen SignWriting symbols, each with an international meaning.  There was no agreement on higher level script layout.   We wouldn't be able to write with the full script in Unicode, but we would be able to discuss the modern SignWriting symbol set in plain text regardless of the higher level encoding.  It was going to form a common foundation between historic SignWriting and Unicode SignWriting.  This, unfortunately is not going to happen in the near future.

For the new SW List members who are reading this message (and I know we have several new members)…for your general information…let me explain the background to all this…

Steve Slevinski is the designer and developer of SignPuddle Online, the software that we use to write SignWriting dictionaries and literature and documents. Steve has also done much more. He has worked with me and others to create a world standard for writing SignWriting by computer…including developing the SignWriting Image Server and other important developments. There are new developments in the works all the time because of Steve's inventive spirit ;-))

If you are not already using SignPuddle Online, I would like to encourage you all to do so. Go to:

SignPuddle Online

Ask questions here on the List. We will help you learn the software...

Steve and I and others, on a separate Unicode chat List, have been discussing the issues of placing the International SignWriting Alphabet (ISWA 2010) into the Universal Character Set (the UCS - commonly known as Unicode). Here is information about Unicode:

Unicode - What is it?

Michael Everson, along with Steve and myself, wrote a proposal in the Spring, 2011, and it was presented to the Unicode-related WG2 meeting in Finland in June 2011 with a good response from the audience, but it was not voted on by the Unicode committee. This was a disappointment. We then hoped that the same proposal could be voted on, in February 2012 at the next meeting, but now some committee members want to make some changes to the proposal. We are disappointed because we liked the original proposal.

So now, Steve, I would like to ask you…why do you feel it will not be voted on in February 2012? We are not done discussing things yet and you never know - maybe it will be. And also, I think both you and I need to relax about it because your work can continue without Unicode and it has to…Unicode will be good for SignWriting because it is an international standard, but if Unicode is not working well for programmers that is a big problem so it is better not to rush it - I have decided to relax about  it.

Of course, I only have this luxury to relax because of you, Steve, who are continuing to develop great software and that is all that matters I think - smile -

This is in stark contrast with the amazing search breakthrough I had in October of this year.  The difference isn't a few times faster, but several magnitudes of order faster.  Even without normalized data, I can search hundreds of thousands of signs and find exact matches or approximate matches.  We can have real time auto-complete, suggested spellings, and meaningful normalization tools.

Your searching routines are phenomenal and a major breakthrough. Thank you for developing them, and we are looking forward to the new routines you are working on…

Have all of you on the SignWriting List tried Steve's search routines for finding all the signs that use one or more SignWriting symbols? I will explain better in a new email message about searching SignWriting in SignPuddle...

Regarding this, Steve….. I think you are saying that you could never develop the same blazing fast search routines using the cumbersome Unicode? That the Unicode is too slow? If so, I am glad you are not using Unicode right now…we have no idea what will happen with Unicode and even if it is voted on, it may take years before it is really established…so you must move forward…and you are I know… THANK YOU!

The solution to the final piece of the puzzle was regular data that could be processed with simple regular expressions.  Blazing speed and meaningful results for all platforms, devices, databases, and programming languages with a simple, flexible and powerful abstraction layer.

Based on formal and regular math, my work has nothing to do with Unicode.  It utilizes a 16-bit font and an ASCII encoding.  It is the end result of 7 years of trial and error with a beautiful script and a simple mathematical model.

This is brilliant...

I am ready to put the unstable path of development behind and start a solid future based on a mature stable public standard.  I am preparing that standard as a 12 part series to be ready on 1/12/12.  This will form the basis for the standard.

I am reading it now…the Foundation of Modern SignWriting Series…

It is very impressive!

I am finalizing SignPuddle 2.0, which will use the same user interface as previous versions, but incorporates the latest search breakthrough. The form used to encode sign words as strings is final.  Any changes will be a different major version.  The XML files used to store the dictionaries and documents are defined with the SPML dtd.  The ISWA 2010, sign words, and the SPML files are the elements of the stable public standard.

Your stable public standard is already here and we are fortunate - thank you for doing this -

SignPuddle 2.1 will be a jQuery (JavaScript) update for the editors and user interface.  It will embrace modern browser support.  I am considering a series of add-ons to the Yii Framework.

SignPuddle 2.2 will be for touch devices and deal with the user experience of writing and editing.  Both iOS and the Android platforms will be targeted.

The SignWriting Image Server 2 is an unstable development version.  I will post the code on Github soon, but major parts of the code are not compliant with MSW v1.

The SignWriting Image Server 3 will be a standard compliant implementation of Modern SignWriting v1.  It will support viewing, editing, searching, sorting and more.  Development will be based on SWIS 2 and start early next year.  The viewer section will be production server ready and available as a MediaWiki plugin.

So that I can compartmentalize Unicode, I have divided the SignWriting Universe for my own sanity.

Modern SignWriting v1
ISWA 2010
ASCII encoding
Unicode: private use area
Syntactic decomposition
Historical foundation
International corpus
Full text processing
Stable design specifications

Modern SignWriting v2
Unicode encoding
Visual decomposition
Initial design stages

The Unicode process is still alive and kicking, but they will not have anything to propose for this coming February.  They are starting over with a visual decomposition of the ISWA 2010.  This may lead to better integration with the Unicode libraries.   The current goal is to support the ISWA 2010, so we may end up with a common foundation yet.

I've started 2 discussion groups on LinkedIn: one for each version of Modern SignWriting.  If you're interested in an in depth discussion, or know someone who might be, join one of the groups.

If you like what SignPuddle has done in the past or you are excited about what we'll do in the future, consider helping me build my online reputation and network.


As always you amaze me and I feel so fortunate and honored that you love SignWriting so much to dedicate your time and focus your work-life on these amazing software developments, Steve -

You have my undying support and always will -

And other programmers who are also dedicating your time and efforts on SignWriting software, I also thank you as well - every program is valuable and unique and needed.

Our biggest job now is to be sure to coordinate our efforts so that all the modern software can "talk to each other" - so I hope other developers will work with Steve…

Yesterday Stefan Woehrmann from Germany gave me a Skype chat. The Skype chat was supposed to last 10 minutes, and an hour later we were still enjoying the conversation - it was absolutely inspiring, Stefan! Thank you for working with programmers and developers in Hamburg, Germany, to develop a new program for Deaf Education called DELEGS, that now can be used for German Sign Language (DGS) and American Sign Language (ASL) and fully and totally coordinates with SignPuddle Online - I am really looking forward to teaching people how to use DELEGS!

It feels so good to be back to work again  - - I have missed you all -

Val ;-)

Valerie Sutton
SignWriting List moderator
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