Personalization and Design


NBA, Microsoft May Alter Global Sports Consumption

AI, Machine Learning, Personalization and Design

Marketing games for international venues, celebrating the Lunar New Year with Chinese characters on jerseys, or recruiting a global class of players, the National Basketball Association is no stranger to localizing its content. But deepening AI and machine learning technologies promise an approach to its global fan base like never before.

Spalding basketball in courtThe NBA announced in April that it has made plans to enter a multi-year partnership with Microsoft to create a more personalized, localized experience for its international fan base. But while fans around the world already enjoy watching NBA broadcasts in 47 languages broadcast in 215 countries, the partnership promises fundamental innovations to modernize fan interaction using artificial intelligence and machine learning technology.

One of the ways the alliance will change NBA content is by creating a direct-to-consumer platform on Microsoft Azure, Microsoft’s cloud computing service, which will provide data analytics, computing, storage, and networking that they anticipate will allow them to personalize fan experience “through state-of-the-art machine learning, cognitive search and advanced data analytics solutions,” according to the report.

Analyzing metrics around fan behavior is nothing new for the NBA, but with such data at its fingertips, the NBA-fan relationship may flourish like never before. NBA senior vice-president of direct to consumer Chris Benyarko said about the benefits of machine learning AI curating fan experience, “Instead of the fan having to pick and choose and turn them on or off one by one, the platform is now starting to behave like a game producer, automatically selecting and presenting the game in a different way.”

Deb Cupp, Corporate Vice President of Enterprise and Commercial Industries at Microsoft, said, “The AI eventually learns that I like to learn about stats, so it’s going to start presenting me more information about stats as I go into the game… It’s this experience where instead of just watching a game, it actually has the opportunity to interact in a way that matters to me as that fan.”

With fans in all different time zones who experience the game and consume content in a variety of ways, the NBA will be able to gather a global array of data to bring in new fans and retain old ones. What that will mean for sports remains to be seen, but the machine learning will likely provide invaluable information on fan behavior worldwide and grant the NBA a chance to solidify its place as a premier global sport.

Journalist at MultiLingual Magazine | + posts

Jonathan Pyner is a poet, freelance writer, and translator. He has worked as an educator for nearly a decade in the US and Taiwan, and he recently completed a master’s of fine arts in creative writing.


Related News:


The “Thank You All” Endangered Alphabets project launches

Language, Personalization and Design

Six months ago, when I was starting to plan my next exhibition of Endangered Alphabets carvings — my first in four years, and one that would mark the tenth anniversary of the launch of the Endangered Alphabets Project — I got a Facebook message from Kathmandu.

It was from a type designer named Ananda K. Maharjan, who had been teaching a workshop in non-Latin fonts including a spectacularly beautiful traditional Nepalese script called Ranjana that has largely fallen into disuse. For the final student exhibition, Ananda designed a stunning poster that said, in Ranjana, English and two other languages, “Thank you all.”

At once, three things struck me. One, I was blown away by the beauty of the Ranjana script. Two, I was delighted someone was reviving this endangered alphabet as an art form. But above all, I thought, This is what the world needs right now: not suspicion and divisiveness and bigotry but gratitude and openness to everyone, everywhere.

Not just “Thank you,” but “Thank you all” — a recognition that the world is made up of everyone. Not just those we like, or we do business with. Everyone.

The Endangered Alphabets Project is all about inclusiveness of indigenous and minority people; people who don’t usually get thanked or even noticed. And one way they are denied equality and respect is that their traditional alphabets or scripts are suppressed — not taught in schools, not used on signage, not accepted in a court of law, often not even understood by the culture that created them.

More than 85% of the world’s writing systems are in this sad situation, and when that happens, the entire written record of that culture — sacred texts, poems, personal correspondence, histories, the collective collected wisdom of that people — is lost. And with it goes much of their sense of identity, self-respect and purpose.

So with this, I had my theme. The Thank You All exhibition will consist of ten large carvings (to mark our tenth anniversary), each of which will say “Thank you all” in an endangered indigenous or minority writing system.

But it will do more than that. For each of the ten carvings, I’m going to commission the work of a calligrapher or type designer who, like Ananda Maharjan, is reviving their traditional endangered script. The exhibition then will act as a showcase for their art, and in turn it will show their community and the world that their script is vital, alive, a means of self-expression and a thing of beauty, expressive of their culture and their people.

The Thank You All series will also have a personal meaning. It’s a way for me to thank the thousands of people all over the world who have encouraged me, offered their expertise and wisdom, sent me photos and translations, and given the financial support needed to build the Endangered Alphabets Project and the Atlas of Endangered Alphabets. The first Thank You All carving was finished just before Christmas.

Cree "Thank you all"
"Thank you all" in Cree.

This first piece script is Northern Cree, furnished by Charles J. Lippert, using the vernacular-style Kisiska font designed by Chris Harvey (and available for free download at

The wood, sustainably harvested in Vermont, is maple — in fact, it’s an extraordinary slice from a maple tree that for many years was tapped for maple sugaring, leaving a pattern in its heartwood like a starburst.

Native peoples, Charles Lippert pointed out, were sugaring long before Europeans arrived. In fact, he added, “Natives still do sugar. Each Iskigamizige-giizis (sap-production moon), which is about April, tapped maple sap is boiled down, then finished to make Anishinaabewi-ziinzibaakwad, or Indian sugar,” the old name for maple syrup.

Other scripts under consideration include Manchu, Syloti Nagri, Mandombe, Mandaic, Ranjana, Javanese and Nüshu. After ten years of searching, I have managed to get in touch with the one calligrapher in the world who is creating artwork in Nüshu, the secret Chinese women’s script, and I’m delighted to say Nüshu will be included in one of my exhibitions for the first time.

The Endangered Alphabets Project’s Thank You All exhibition is due to premiere at the opening of the new Planet Word interactive museum of language in Washington D.C. on May 31, 2020. For more information about the project, visit, explore the Atlas of Endangered Alphabets at or see more carvings at

Tags:, , , , , ,
+ posts

Tim Brookes is the founder of the Endangered Alphabets Project. Born in England, he now lives in Vermont with an outspoken cat, a fearless rabbit and a lot of wood.

Related News:

Humor and AI: Does it travel?

Localization Technology, Personalization and Design

Conversational interfaces such as chatbots and voice assistants present many localization challenges — humor, for example. And that’s not even considering if the original content was all that funny to begin with.The secret to AI comedy must be in the data Click To Tweet

Humor: The final frontier

“Are there any Scottish people in the audience?”

Always a great start to a presentation at a conference. The response I received was, “You’re going to show that Scottish Elevator Voice UI video, right?”

I wasn’t.

Instead, I used the top jokes from the 2018 Edinburgh Festival Fringe as my opener to a workshop at ConverCon 18 on the subject of artificial intelligence (AI), personality, and conversational UI.

Of course, humor is an integral dimension of human personality and therefore part of that natural, conversational human-machine dialog. But humor has been called the final barrier for AI for good reason. There are many challenges.

I began my ConverCon workshop by telling the best joke from the Fringe.

“Working at the Jobcentre has to be a tense job — knowing that if you get fired, you still have to come in the next day.”

As soon as I recited the joke, I realized that it may not have been that funny to my global audience. Had they any idea what a Jobcentre is? It’s a British public service. In Ireland, the equivalent, an Intreo Centre, is offered by the Department of Work Affairs and Social Protection. In the United States, it might be called a WorkForce Center or One-Stop Center.

Conversational UI and the secret to comedy

Real US English examples of conversational interfaces, chatbots and AI can be tricky when it comes to humor.

Take this processing message from the Meekan scheduling robot on Slack. It makes a “witty” reference to hacking into TSA servers and No Fly Lists. I really winced at that one. I know what the TSA and No Fly Lists are, and I still didn’t get the joke.

Meekan scheduling robot on Slack (Image by Ultan O'Broin)

Meekan scheduling robot on Slack (Image by Ultan O’Broin)

This got me thinking about the challenges of humor and AI. If the secret to human comedy is timing, then the secret to AI comedy must be in the data, as well as the context.

Humor does have a place in conversational interaction, even in the most seemingly unlikely interactions, for example, Woebot. But humor needs to be done right.

Humor is not only the final frontier for AI, it’s a human personality trait that is easily lost in translation. Worse still, even in the original language, humor is not always that funny to everyone in a native audience. Of course, you don’t have to be Geert Hofstede to realize that humor doesn’t travel across cultures, but machines don’t get that. Yet.

So, as the localization industry rises to the challenge of dealing with AI, personality, humor, and the realization that no UI is the best UI of all, we can expect new talents will flourish to ensure that the conversational user experience resonates with the target audience. Do today’s translators need to have performing arts backgrounds or be comedians to enhance that local conversational interaction? I think storytelling skills are about to become hot property in every language.

Do today's translators need to have performing arts backgrounds or be comedians to enhance that local conversational interaction? Click To Tweet

Your punchline?

You may have other examples of humor and localization challenges from the world of technology. If so, share them in the comments!

Tags:, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
+ posts

Ultan Ó Broin (@localization), is an independent UX consultant. With three decades of UX and L10n experience and outreach, he specializes in helping people ensure their global digital transformation makes sense culturally and also reflects how users behave locally.

Any views expressed are his own. Especially the ones you agree with.

Related News:

How To Scale Your Personalization Strategy & Go Global

Personalization and Design

Businesses of all shapes and sizes make major personalization blunders on a regular basis.

Although the spread and advancement of the internet has made large-scale personalization easier from a technical standpoint, it hasn’t made it that much simpler. It still takes a lot of thought, research and careful execution.

Whether you’re looking to sell products or services, or just move your content into fresh markets, here’s how you can expand your personalization methods across the world.

Anticipate potential legal concerns

With GDPR having recently come into effect, a lot of people are concerned about the dangers of dealing with segmented data at all, let alone on a widely-international basis. They don’t consider that personalization strategies don’t inherently need to involve specific real-world customer data. It’s entirely possible to stick to generalized buyer personas and forgo the granular analytics.

Even so, every new country or region with its own national and local laws could present a new challenge to your operation, requiring your designs and materials to adhere to a slightly different set of regulations. The moment you start eyeing a market, do some research to learn about its restrictions, and be sure that you can straightforwardly navigate them before you approach it.

Research trends

Keyword research is invaluable for getting an idea of what things are popular in different places and discovering what kinds of terms get used by searchers in those areas. Add in tools like Google Trends and you have free access to an enormous amount of information you can use to better personalize your content for specific regions.

In addition, try utilities such as Answer the Public or to glean some of the most popular questions people ask about your particular industry niche. If users in a specific country are highly curious about an element of your business that isn’t as popular elsewhere, you can think about producing some detailed content on that element for that market.

Make use of local experience

The farther afield you go, the more likely you are to run up against regional differences that are quite difficult to break down. Differences in media consumption, pop culture, slang terms and even relatively mundane habits vary from place to place.

While you can certainly nail the basics of addressing particular demographics regarding things like income, age and occupation, it’s a lot harder to address more complex differences, and rarely a good idea to ignore them entirely.

Because of this, you should make good use of local experience by consulting area experts, such as localization service providers. Essentially, you’re looking for people who know the culture in detail and can both explain its nuances to you and review the materials you provide to see if they are satisfactory.

When local experience gets ignored, you see wild PR blunders, often involving phrases that are very tricky to translate accurately or terms that refer to entirely pedestrian things in some places but shockingly taboo things in others (think “fanny” in America and in the UK).

Differences in media consumption, pop culture, slang terms and even relatively mundane habits vary from place to place. Click To Tweet

Regional sites versus language selection

Your website is the cornerstone of your online operation, and thus your entire global operation, as you can’t have a genuinely worldwide office — but you can certainly have a worldwide website.

You have two options for catering to a global audience with your website: you can make it multilingual and provide a language selection option, or you can separate it into regional sites or subdomains.

For the sake of parsimony, having a single multilingual site is preferable in most cases, at least for smaller businesses — it also avoids the content cannibalization and language identification problems that can result from having a similar page for each of a variety of languages and/or locations.

Anyone running a store on an extendable CMS will at the very least be able to find an add-on, plugin or extension to assist with basic product translation. For instance, Shopify’s quick-setup ecommerce builder doesn’t offer native multilingual support, but Langify is a viable add-on. Magento, meanwhile, can handle multilingual store views out of the box (though the languages still must be installed as extensions).

The advantage of using a plugin of some kind of do this is that you can avoid the complications of trying to implement hreflang tags manually. When stressed developers set them up incorrectly, it causes lasting damage in rankings across various regional search engine variants.

Remember that people only vary so much

The global market isn’t all that scary, despite how much it varies, because people only differ to a certain extent. We all go online, use services and buy products to solve our problems and make us happier and more content. That applies whether you’re selling in Europe, North America, China or Australia.

Think of global personalization as a process of making minor tweaks, adding to what works in a certain locale and taking from what doesn’t. It isn’t something you need to overthink, and there’s no need to obsess over minor details — your localization vendor can help you do that, if that’s the route you’re going.

Keep your eye on the big picture, get the basics right, avoid any major errors, and focus on your fundamental business model. If you can do that, you’ll set yourself up for a successful global expansion.

Tags:, , ,

Patrick Foster is a writer and ecommerce expert from Ecommerce Tips — an industry-leading ecommerce blog dedicated to sharing business and entrepreneurial insights from the sector. Check out the latest news on Twitter @myecommercetips.

Related News:

Vive La French Tech! Chatbots, French Style

Language, Localization Technology, Personalization and Design

A Chat About Bots

Conversational UI, that natural interaction between human and technology, is a hot topic worldwide, and the localization requirements for creating a great contextual natural user experience are fascinating and challenging, none more so than in the case of chatbots.

La French Tech. See for more information!

La French Tech. See for more information on the French technology startup and investment community.

As Arle Lommel from CommonSense Advisory says: Chatbots pose challenges fundamentally different from what is seen with traditional content. The shift to conversational structures and the need to embrace “messy” terminology are among these. Click To Tweet

There are other challenges too. Plan ahead.

What’s Going On Globally?

Here’s a great example from France by way of an article featuring Amina Esselimani, a top French user experience design thinker, published on the Prototypr blog: Conversational interface for chatbot & voicebot: the French touch.

The article itself gives good insight into why chatbots should be used, and the methodologies involved. I was fascinated by the human-oriented design language used by Amina to describe her work, using phrases such as “happy path” and “repair conversations.”

Her comments about using the “Wizard of Oz” design requirements technique, engaging with conversational style content experts, and iterative testing with real users really resonated too. We've moved from user-centered design to human-centered design, and dealing with how humans actually communicate and simulating that kind of exchange can indeed be very messy in any language! Click To Tweet

I also checked out some of the chatbot solutions Amina worked on, such as the Oui.SNCF bot. I wondered if it had a French personality (personality is a critical design element in conversational UI) and what the tone would be my questions about the ongoing SNCF rolling strikes.

Hofstede's six dimensions of national culture. A useful starting point, but real users doing real jobs in real places are the best way to determine the appropriate bot personality for the job to be done.

Hofstede’s six dimensions of national culture, in this case comparing France with Ireland and the United States of America. Hofstede’s work is a useful starting point when developing a bot personalit, but real users doing real jobs in real places are the best way to determine the appropriate bot personality for the job to be done.

All utterances were handled very diplomatically, I must say, even making sense of my mangled French language utterances!

Out.SNCF chatbot available in multiple languages too.

Out.SNCF chatbot is available in multiple languages too. I stuck with French!

Alexa en Français

You might also like to read Wired’s fascinating, and sometimes humorous artlcle, Inside Amazon’s Painstaking Pursuit to Teach Alexa French in the run up to its launch in France.

Amazon Echo (Alexa) launch advertisement.

Amazon Echo voice assistant was launched in France in June 2018. Alexa was trained to be speak and act “French”.

Cultural differences create conversational landmines. And you just can’t be sure that everyone will like you. As it turns out, that as true for people as it is for Amazon’s Alexa voice assistant. Click To Tweet

More information on globalization methods for conversational UIs and chatbots?

To understand more of the challenges presented by chatbot and conversational UI design and the cultural considerations involved, then check out my SF Globalization presentation and handy checklist on the subject of chatbot design for  global and local audiences: “Alexa, Tell Me About Global Chatbot Design and Localization!”

All images by Utan O’Broin

Tags:, , , , , , , , , , , , ,
+ posts

Ultan Ó Broin (@localization), is an independent UX consultant. With three decades of UX and L10n experience and outreach, he specializes in helping people ensure their global digital transformation makes sense culturally and also reflects how users behave locally.

Any views expressed are his own. Especially the ones you agree with.

Related News:

In the future, smart homes will differ from country to country

Localization Technology, Personalization and Design

The mystical world where anything that connects to the internet — including the appliances, devices and machines used in our homes and workplaces — will become ‘intelligent’ enough to preemptively service our needs is fast approaching. Referred to as the Internet of Things (IoT), some designers are expecting to see more developments and changes to the concept of the home in the next ten years than we’ve seen in the last ninety.

Yet the integration of these technologies vastly differs across the world, with each nation taking an approach to hire a programmer for IoT development in their own way. In fact, the use of this technology can even be manifested differently between neighboring cities.

Purchasing power only partly explains this divergence. Cultural preferences and different prioritization for various areas of our lives are all shaping which smart home technologies of the future we’ll be presented with and eventually adopt in our homes. We can see the beginnings of this now, with curated product lines for individual markets.

Consumer priorities for smart technology across countries

In the United States, many of the technological advances for the home are driven by convenience. Technology that takes care of location-specific tasks like kitchen appliances that order, prepare and bring food to the table would be expected to be wildly popular in the American market.

There would, however, be a few localization anomalies appearing in health-conscious states such as California. In these cases, technology focused around supporting an active lifestyle, like automatic climate controls or fridges that prepare healthful drinks after a workout, would be expected to be more successful.

Conversely, in Japan, it is not so much convenience that consumers are looking for, but technology that assists in caring for a growing elderly population. Considering they have one of the highest life expectancies among all developed nations, this shouldn’t come as too much of a surprise.

Here, the IoT is expected to outfit people’s homes with appliances and new technologies such as companion robots that are aimed at caring for elderly relatives. These bots will also be able to provide remote monitoring facilities and complete household chores like cleaning.

Other countries like the UK have a higher uptake of smart energy meters that allow adopters to visualize their consumption and automate the billing process with their energy provider. Spain and Italy, meanwhile, have shown to be more attracted to smart watches.

Integrating smart technologies

One of the biggest challenges to the adoption of smart technologies in homes across the world is not so much the natural disinclination we have to changing our behavior, but more the infrastructure it relies upon. Additionally, the ability for different appliances and devices to “talk” to each other can bring about difficulties as well.

For example, your smart meter needs to be able to talk to your home climate control device to ensure that the device isn’t racking up a massive bill at the end of each month. You could also imagine this situation with your fridge and oven, where the former makes sure the oven has preheated to the right temperature by the time the food is ready to be cooked.

While brands are getting better at allowing for interoperability of products, the infrastructure it relies upon — internet connectivity — is somewhat lacking in varying degrees across nations. While more than 51% of the world has some sort of access to the internet, many developed countries including the US, the UK and Japan still lack 100% broadband coverage. This blocks large parts of their populations from ever being able to access smart home technology.

Once governments in these countries make good on their promises of universal broadband for all, not only will communication and the workplace be completely transformed, but home tech will take off in a number of different areas to service the priorities of each culture.

Tags:, ,
+ posts

Rae Steinbach is a graduate of Tufts University with a combined international relations and Chinese degree. After spending time living and working abroad in China, she returned to New York City to pursue her career and continue curating quality content. Rae is passionate about travel, food and writing.

Related News:

Adobe announces a new, potentially horrifying level of personalization

Personalization and Design

“I was horrified.” That was reporter Eric Wood’s reaction to “unified profile” — the idea of collecting every online data point about a person into a single system. Modern consumers, says Adobe executive vice-president of marketing Brad Rencher, are “everywhere — they’re on mobile, social and they’re in your store. And they have multiple touchpoints including your loyalty programs, commerce systems, your support pages.” With that data spread out, it’s hard to personalize marketing across platforms. That’s why Rencher’s keynote at today’s Adobe Summit in Las Vegas focused on consolidating it into one profile tracking every data point about you.

Personalization began innocuously enough. Ideally, the approach helps both consumer and company. People get annoyed when they’re constantly presented with ads for stuff they’d never buy — no man, for example, wants a barrage of tampon ads. Audience precision clears out the junk. It also makes company operations more efficient: If businesses can get the right message to the right person and the right time, they’ll waste less time and make more money. In personalization, localization found an easy home: after all, what’s more personal than connecting in someone’s native language?

Adobe announces new personalization

But as I sit in the dark convention center listening to Rencher’s keynote, I have to ask: how personal is too personal? He starts talking about a woman who goes online to book a hotel, then hears the phone ring. Just as I would, she gets distracted, forgetting all about her en medias reservation. As someone who’s actually had this happen, and wound up paying double for the hotel as a result, I think, so far so good. Then Rencher begins to brag about how an ad for the hotel could follow her around — not just Google AdSense, the program that drops cookies in order to display bounceback ads on subsequent sites you visit, but Facebook display ads, texts — basically everything I use to communicate. Here, buy me, look at this, don’t you forget about me! Rencher sees a world with full integration of all your data everywhere — a single, unified profile where every data point about your life inevitably interacts. “How do we create a unified profile that enables you [the Adobe customer] to deliver a unified experience?” he asks.

It’s creepy.

And in Germany, it’s essentially illegal. The General Data Protection Regulation (EU/2016/679), more commonly known as GDPR, is a European regulation that shifts the definitions of personally identifiable information (PII) and what companies are allowed to do with it. Rencher calls GDPR the “four letters that will impact all of us.”

On July 5, 2017, Germany became first to adopt this standard. And just as your unified profile would follow you around, this European guidance is moving into other countries. US adoption begins May 25, 2018. Because translation companies are the ones personalizing websites, apps, and other data collection points, GDPR might come for localization next. The web, as we often say, is international, after all. You could be a New Zealand company translating into Ewe for a client in Brazil, but it doesn’t matter. As long as anyone in a GDPR-enforceable country can click on that translated site, this affects you.

A single, unified profile where every data point about your life inevitably interacts... Creepy. Click To Tweet

“How many of you in your organizations are able to recognize an inbound web hit is coming from Germany and be able to treat that data differently?” Rencher asks, “These are not easy challenges to solve if you’re dealing with and using legacy systems. Stitching all that data together can take months if not years.”

In addition to regulatory difficulties, Adobe also has a hard time dealing with the ethical implications of unified profile. In a post-keynote presser, reporters from NewsCorp, CMO Australia, IT Business, TechCrunch and others railed Adobe CEO Shantanu Narayen, chief technical officer Abhay Parasnis and Rencher, asking the same question about user privacy again and again.

After stressing that the onus of privacy protection falls on the user, Narayen said, “I think the rich number of questions around data and privacy really show that it’s front and center on people’s minds — on the enterprise’s mind.”

The ethics around data collection, whether people should opt in or out, and how well users truly understand the decision, are a topic for another day. But in the meantime, the localization industry should be thinking about how to prepare for a swingback. As more users turn off cookies and turn on ad blockers to keep AdSense et al from following, “personalization” could become a dirty word. And personalization is how we sell. If a swingback comes — if the broader public tires of ads or data collectors tracking them across platforms — will localization need a new message?

Tags:, , , , , , , , , , ,
+ posts

Terena Bell is the senior director of communication for Lionbridge. She previously worked as an independent journalist who writes for The Atlantic, Washington Post, Fast Company and others. She is former CEO of In Every Language.

Related News: