Monday Jul 04, 2016

Citizen Developer as Citoyen du Monde: The Role of Composers

Interesting to see that Facebook has announced the launch of a multilingual composer tool that enables users to post status updates in different languages so that friends and followers can see the update in only their preferred language (45 languages are supported). 

This notion of composers is not new of course. They’ve been around for a while and are often encountered in the e-commerce and SaaS spaces. Amazon lets sellers create, customize, and brand their own online stores, for example. What is interesting from a user experience perspective is that composers are now part of the emergence of a global citizen developer role, a role that now finds itself responsible for tailoring the language in the UI of cloud applications.

Dutch Oracle Simplified UI SaaS Release 10

Oracle SaaS Simplified UI Release 10 in Dutch. The language can be changed using a composer.

The term citizen developer itself presents some difficulty and is, in many ways, a contradiction in terms. Nobody seriously expects governments, multinational corporations, and bodies of that nature to hand over their implementation or SaaS customization to “citizens” with basic “Hello, World” programming chops.

Instead, think of citizen developers as more about the empowerment of software owners themselves to make their own changes, be they branding, extensions, localization, or translation modifications. It’s all about enabling customers to take real ownership of their cloud software, without resorting to making source code changes or needing any real software development skills. It's a low-code or no-code approach if you like. In other words, citizen development abstracts away the complexity of programming and integration so that the user experience can be tailored to your heart's desire as if by magic. The tool du jour for the job of making your own digital world? Composers. The very word has an element of artistry to it.

Composers are more vital tools than ever now with the advent of SaaS, be they in the hands of the customers, implementation partners, user experience specialists, or design consultancies who don’t usually have, or need, deep-drive software development skills yet know what the desired result should be. 

Oracle SaaS offerings offer powerful composer tools to enable customers to really make the cloud our own. Check out this Oracle PartnerCast with Greg Nerpouni (@gnerpouni), Director of Applications User Experience at Oracle, discussing Oracle Applications Cloud extensibility:

Greg Nerpouni simplifies the world of extensibility for Oracle Partners.

Composers enable Oracle partners, for example, to make sandbox-safe user experience changes quickly and relatively cheaply for customers, freeing up their own development resources for more critical tasks. Given that 80% of enterprise software applications require customization of some sort, composers are a key part of the partner world's implementation and maintenance toolkit, and of course there is an Oracle PartnerNetwork extensibility specialization available reflecting their importance.

In the multilingual enterprise space, for example, a partner might be asked by a customer to make language changes across their suite of applications quickly and securely, ensuring that the changes are made in just the right places. That’s what’s happened in one case where Oracle PartnerNetwork member and UX champ central Certus Solutions was asked to change the out of the box German translation for performance to another word shown in Oracle’s simplified UI for SaaS. The customer wanted to use the English word instead. Language is a critical part of the UX; like everything else it must be designed.

German Simplified UI language customization

If you need the word Performance for your user experience; then so be it! German simplified UI customization by Certus Solutions using a composer (UI Text Editor).

Other examples might be the need to change all those U.S. English spellings to their U.K. variants; or to make changes in language that reflect how customers actually structure and run their business. For example, employee might be changed to partner. The label My Team is often changed to My Department, a language change that doesn’t require even require a composer tool, but can be done at the personalization level with just a click and overtype if you have the right security settings. In the past, translations for the word worker have proven problematic in Arabic, Brazilian Portuguese, and French, requiring modification for certain customers (let's not go there). There are many examples where composers can be used to change language to reflect identity and the real ways you do things . . . .

Oracle SaaS Ccmposer to change text in the SaaS simplified UI

Autumn? Fall? Who cares! Change terminology in the SaaS simplified UI easily with a sandbox-safe composer.

What is of interest to the translation world is that very few of these composer tools use localization industry standard formats or procedures, and yet seem the better for it. For example, although language changes are made directly into resource bundles or XLIFF files, they are done so at run-time, eliminating context problems. Composer tools rarely have any complex terminology look-up capability, offer TBX support, pack language QA features other than spell checkers, and they do not use translation memory or support TMX. Why not?

Well, they aren’t needed by customers or partners and probably would just complicate things.

Allowing a partner to make language changes is more cost-effective, faster, and a more secure solution than doing a retranslation or taking a UX hit by deciding to leave the language as is.

Perhaps as composers evolve, additional functionality that might resonate in the translation industry might appear in composer tools. But only if the customers and partners demand it. Regardless, nobody in the translation industry is going to be out of a job.

Wednesday Jun 22, 2016

Smart User Experiences and Man Versus Machine:
The Language Angle

Enter Parsey McParseface 

Yes, the whole Boaty McBoatface thing has now entered the language space.  

Boaty McBoatface: Your future of translation may lie in machine learning and related technology

Boaty McBoatface: Your future in translation may lie in machine learning and related technology.

Parsey McParseface, which is part of Google's SyntaxNet, an open-source neural network framework implemented in TensorFlow that provides a foundation for Natural Language Understanding (NLU) systems is out there. Google tells us:

"Parsey McParseface is built on powerful machine learning algorithms that learn to analyze the linguistic structure of language, and that can explain the functional role of each word in a given sentence. Because Parsey McParseface is the most accurate such model in the world, we hope that it will be useful to developers and researchers interested in automatic extraction of information, translation, and other core applications of NLU."

The Globalization, Internationalization, Localization, and Translation (or GILT) industry offers a fertile ground for innovation and exploring possibilities: from pop-up restaurant ventures to practical evaluations of the age-old man versus machine-type questions. I wonder could Parsey McParseface have a role in determining if a translation was correct or not, given the context (for example, as the UK's Daily Telegraph newspaper would so earthily have it, act as a "bolloxometer")? Or, whether the QA or real-time interpretation possibilities. . . .

Smart User Experiences and Partners

This is all fascinating stuff on one level. But it is a serious business on another. Machine learning is definitely a driver of smart user experiences, along with other areas.The Oracle Applications User Experience (OAUX) team is, naturally, exploring all these areas and what they offer for the smart user experience of ever-evolving world of work. Check out Smart User Experiences: Machine Learning and the Future of Enterprise Applications on the Voice of User Experience (VoX) blog for a great primer on what technology can do in the life/work domain.

Oracle partners, and customers too, need to be on board with these emerging technologies and explore their possible application for user experiences. Often, for partners in particular, emerging technology and research and development is a "chicken-and-egg" situation: they cannot sell something unless they have it; yet they won't have it unless someone asks for it! That said, we (OAUX) are here to help partners build solutions they can show and sell. The use of these emerging technologies and innovation is ultimately a design decision.

This is the kind of thing I had intended to talk about at Localization World 31 in Dublin, with a language angle naturally (yes, I even included Parsey McParseface). Alas, personal circumstances intervened, and I did not speak. Some other time perhaps.

Make Sense of the Smarts 

In the meantime, I am sharing the slides I had intended as a backdrop to the discussion. Perhaps they will help you orient yourself to the differences between machine learning, artificial intelligence, NLP, Big Data, robots, and more. They may even help you figure out if whether you might end up owning a robot or working for one, and what your future working life might look like.


Man versus machine, eh? I like to think of it as man with machine. These developments are, after all, a journey so we can arrive at a more human way of working.

Comments welcome.

Saturday Apr 23, 2016

Iconic #WearableTech: Gucci Translate Anyone?

With my interest in all matters translation, wearables, and fashion technology (#fashtech) related, this little innovation from IconSpeak naturally caught my eye.

It’s a t-shirt printed with icons that enables global travellers to communicate with others by pointing to the icons, doing away with the need for those "so-so" mobile translation apps or having to carry clunky phrase books into the bargain. The icons themselves are said to be easily recognizable worldwide and have been chosen to represent the most frequent translation needs of travellers.

IconSpeak World T-Shirt: Wearable tech taken literally

IconSpeak World t-shirt: Wearable tech taken literally?

Here’s what Travel + Leisure website has to say:

“The IconSpeak T-shirt design is surprisingly straightforward: it’s a series of 40 “universal” icons laid out in a grid. By pointing to one or more of the pictures, you can create a very basic message without having to speak a lick of the language. You’ll just have to find someone willing to play T-shirt charades with you. A taste of the icons you have to work with: an airplane, tools, an open book, camera, clock, bus, boat, a person seated on a toilet. Basically anything you need to portray day-to-day necessities.”

Yes, it's wearabletech being taken more literally. 

It’s always great to see innovation, but as a seasoned traveler and fashion fan, whatever about the idea of using icons in yet another curious ritual to interact with others (and there are some social limitations), I think the cut and colours of the t-shirts themselves might need the input of a more happening fashionista. However, you have to admire the simplicity of the idea.

You can read about IconSpeak’s inspiration on their blog. 

From a usability perspective, what kinds of things might be considered for keeping icon-based communication simple?

Check out this blog post from our user experience friends and Oracle Usability Advisory Board member EchoUser (@EchoUser) to find out: When Simple Becomes Complicated

Perhaps you feel there is more potential in using icons on clothes or other places too.

Find the comments…


Oracle Applications Cloud global user experience (UX): Culture, localization, internationalization, language, personalization, more. A globally-savvy UX making it all fit together for Oracle's worldwide partners and customers.

Audience: Enterprise applications translation and localization topics for the user experience professional (designers, engineers, developers, researchers)!

Ultan Ó Broin. Senior Director, Oracle Applications User Experience, Oracle EMEA. Twitter: @localization



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