On Chimpanzees, Translators, and Technology: #Haterzgonnahate

User experience (UX) is about understanding everything a user encounters along the journey to completing a task. Working in UX means observing the people, places and things that surround a user as they work and understanding the context. We UX types rely on techniques such as ethnography and are familiar with Jane Goodall‘s grounding study of chimpanzees as we seek to surface the ways that real people do real work in the real world.

Researchers in the wild, so the story goes, noticed how, one day, a chimpanzee used a stick to ferret out some tasty ants from their nest. Yes, ladies and gentlemen, the era of understanding the use of tools for work had arrived.

But, has the translation industry been paying attention to their own wildlife more recently? I was drawn to the Huffington Post blog article Why So Many Translators Hate Translation Technology by Nataly Kelly (@natalykelly).

Nataly writes about translation technology, but touches on why technology used for work fails generally: a poor user experience traced back to leaving out the real end user from the design and development process.

We all know it. The term crapplication has entered the Urban Dictionary.

Now, consider what many translators actually consider to be a translation “tool” or “technology”.

Your New Fancy Translation Technology is Here!  Microsoft Excel

Your New Fancy Translation Technology is Here! Microsoft Excel

Microsoft Excel probably (no, I haven’t done the research or care to, either) remains the most widely used piece of translation toolkit today. Sure, only 10% of the application’s functionality is used by 90% of translators, 90% of the time (sounds familiar?), but that’s what they want, it works, it’s available, and it’s relatively easy to use.

But, do translators associate the term translation technology with Microsoft Excel? I suspect not.

The purpose of technology used in work should be to augment the things that users love to do, and to automate the crap they hate and have to do. Such realization shouldn’t involve a self-conscious thought of “Hey, I’m using technology!” but just feeling great about getting stuff done simply and easily, finishing early, collecting the kids, hitting the pub, and getting paid promptly.

User experience is about empathizing with users so they’ll feel good about using tech in work sure, but it’s also about delivering real productivity, so there’s a return on investment when buying that expensive “solution”.

This stuff ain’t cheap.

This lack of empathy or understanding of real users exists in the translation industry with this “translation technology” stuff too, though not always. At times tools get it right, the tech is taken to, and is loved.

And then the upgrade or an acquisition comes along…

While I don’t agree with everything in the Huffington Post article, and I don’t agree that many translators hate technology, I am glad that Nataly Kelly has offered up some provocative points for consideration and debate, especially the UX-related one.

It’ll be a mark of industry professionalism as to how that debate unfolds. 

As to why translators are left out of the requirements gathering side of technology development is another question, but the answer is not unique. Oh, did I mention that I teach a course about that?

For too long, real end users have just had to “get on with it.” 

A bit like with those crapplications.

Localization World Dublin 2014

Proud to say that Localization World came to my home city, Dublin, in June 2014. And boy, what an event. I am told that there were 650 attendees. That makes it the biggest Localization World event yet.

Dublin’s a great place to visit, as well as to stage events in, so let’s see more industry events coming soon.

The Stavros S Niarchos came to Dublin's River Liffey in June, 2014. So did Localization World at the Dublin Convention Centre (in the background).

The Stavros S Niarchos came to Dublin’s River Liffey in June, 2014. So did Localization World at the Dublin Convention Centre (in the background).

The online conference program reveals the richness of content and diversity of speakers. I flew in and presented too, explaining how developers can make great UIs for enterprise apps by following some simple visual design rules. So, there is no need to go to art school for four years. A copy of my presentation is on SlideShare (yes, it’s non-downloadable. To download, well, you’ll just have to sign up for the conference in future, yeah?).

At least one of these people hasn't aged a day in 20 years, while the other is now channeling an inner Keith Richards. Or something.

At least one of these people hasn’t aged a day in 20 years, while the other is now channeling an inner Keith Richards. Or something.

In all, a great event. Watch out for more coverage in a forthcoming issue of MultiLingual magazine and check out the great pictures on Facebook.

Smart of the organizers to get #LocWorld clear of Dublin before real waffling started, too. Who needs PowerPoint?

Number Isn’t Up for Global Website ASCII URLs

Nice piece on NPR (U.S. National Public Radio) called Chinese Find Number URLs Easier Than Letters.  The piece has some interesting examples  from China about using numbers as homophones for well-known  Mandarin phrases because of lack of browser support.

For example, McDonald’s China website address isn’t www.mcdonalds.cn, it’s actually www.4008-517-517.cn. “5-1-7″ in Mandarin means something along the lines of “I want to eat”.

Chinese McDonalds website uses numbers not text in its URL.

Chinese McDonalds website uses numbers not text characters in its website address: www.4008-517-517

Native language, non-ASCII domain names, or internationalized domain names (IDNs) on website addresses are possible, but not all that common. That will change over time.

There are a lot of legacy practices and web technologies out there that need effective workarounds as well as being culturally acceptable to users who want to do business. 

Until, and if, IDNs become feasible, creative solutions such as numbers being used will continue. Interesting to see how Chinese companies migrate URLs and links to native character sets in IDNs over time, and what they do, if anything, with the number-based approach.

Localization: Culture and Context Cuts Both Ways

We often make the mistake of assuming that all source material intended for localization for a target country or region is in English and that conventions from the source locale content can be easily accommodated in localized versions.

But, here’s an example from Nintendo to show the kind of problems that can arise when localizing for another country, in this case for the US market localization of Tomodachi Life.

Nintendo came under fire from fans and gay rights organizations this past week after refusing to add same-sex relationship options to the game "Tomodachi Life." (Source:  CNET)

Nintendo came under fire from fans and gay rights organizations this past week after refusing to add same-sex relationship options to the game “Tomodachi Life.” (Source: CNET)

We apologize for disappointing many people by failing to include same-sex relationships in Tomodachi Life,” Nintendo said in a statement released Friday. “Unfortunately, it is not possible for us to change this game’s design, and such a significant development change can’t be accomplished with a post-ship patch.”(Source: AP via NPR)

What internationalization (i18n) teams need to watch out for to enable localization for global markets increases all the time.

The message is assume nothing, which is what i18n and its neutral code approach is all about. Investing time in knowing your market’s cultural, social, and political dimension pays off when developing an architecture that easily accommodates adaptations and changes for target markets.

Reverse engineering is expensive sure, but a loss of revenue from an inability to deliver a localization suitable for the target market and being on the receiving end of negative customer feedback is worse in the long run.

 

Silicon Valley and Localization: The Movie

Well…. almost. It’s a great video of a recent International Multilingual User Group (IMUG) meetup in Silicon Valley on the topic of Localization at Startups.

Localization at Startups :: IMUG 2014.04.17

Localization at Startups. Another great International Multilingual User Group Meetup!

Localization at Startups. Another great International Multilingual User Group Meetup!

A hot and popular topic, and one I’d love to see covered in other locales, too. Seems the Valley can’t get enough of this kind of insight. With good reason.

Are you listening, Enterprise Ireland?