Sunday Nov 21, 2010

Keeping It Simple, Yet Effective: Facebook's I18n Best Practices

I picked up a request on Twitter, asking for help in explaining the concept of "string concatenation" to a nontechnical audience. I struggled for a bit, and then remembered the excellent Facebook internationalization (I18n) materials. I sent them on, and was thanked. Job done. Here's how Facebook dealt with the issue:

concatenation.png

(Image copyright Facebook, 2010)

Notice how the word "concatenation" never appears at all? That's smart. The audience for the materials is not made up of seasoned developers or professional linguists. Why bring such a technical term into the conversation when it can be explained in simple terms--with examples too?

I've long maintained one of the problems with internationalization is that developers and linguists don't actually know how to communicate with each other--even when they think they speak the same natural language. Facebook has done a great job in solving that problem with simply worded I18n guidelines with real-world examples that everyone can understand. We should learn that lesson and apply it.

Wednesday Aug 18, 2010

Changing Language

Interesting post from the BBC about how the internet influences our language, citing examples from English, Ukranian, and more. How does this influence users of enterprise applications? What are their expectations about terminology and phrasing?

Only one way to find out. Ask them!

Wednesday Jul 07, 2010

Nuances Of European Social Media

Really like the resource Lost in Translation: Nuances of European Social Media, and so will you if you ever wondered if there was a European equivalent of SXSW! There are some good conference references as well as suggested Twitter followers. The following also caught my eye:

"Cultural differences. This can't be stressed enough: Europe is not just another USA. Europe isn't even Europe, so to speak, but a large number of individual countries. Or as David Weinberger would put it: Small pieces loosely joined. One example I like to give is the role of personal branding. It's almost a mantra in the US that it is important to build your personal brand. In Europe, this won't get you far. In Germany or the UK pointing out your successes is - except when done very tactfully - considered boasting rather than legitimate communication. It'll put people off. Culture clash, anyone?"

How this pans out in the enterprise space, of course, is another question, but the point about not making sweeping cultural assumptions is well made. On that subject, check out the articlea "Six Languages Appear on This Week's List of Emerging Facebook Apps" and "Facebook looks east to complete domination" (or should that be west, given the Facebook HQ's location?).

Monday Jul 05, 2010

African Localization and Mobile Opportunities

Another book I have just finished reading (disclosure: I am also a member of the Multilingual magazine editorial board and I was writing a review for that publication) African Languages in a Digital Age: Challenges and opportunities for indigenous language computing by Don Osborn, (HSRC Press). You can download a free copy from http://www.hsrcpress.ac.za/product.php?productid=2269.

One of the technological opportunities with very positive developmental (in the broadest sense ) potential is that offered by mobile phones and applications. Bear in mind the following quotes from Activtate 2010:

  • "70% of young Kenyans use social media, 80% have mobile phones - only 50% have an indoor toilet"
  • "Eric Schmidt (Google) - Internet more disruptive than electricity because it replaces economics of scarcity with economics of abundance."

When it comes to mobile, we should remember the importance of the African market, and its languages and cultures in our UX work.

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Oracle applications user experience (UX) assistance. UX and development outreach of all sorts to the apps community, helping to design and deliver usable apps.

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Ultan Ó Broin. Director, Global Applications User Experience, Oracle Corporation. On Twitter: @ultan

See my other Oracle blog about product globalization too: Not Lost in Translation

Interests: User experience (UX), user centered design, design patterns, tailoring, BYOD, dev relations, language quality, mobile apps, Oracle FMW and ADF, and a lot more.

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