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Tag: Context

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Smartling: Developing the Cloud Translation Experience

Blogos, Language Industry News and Events, Translation Technology

Smartling Logo

After meself and himself of Smartling met at the Websummit, I wanted to look at a forthcoming Smartling self-service offering suitable for software developers. When Jack Welde (@jwelde) (i.e., himself) gave me the nod, I got to it, taking the opportunity to reflect on the developer experience and enterprise translation, generally.

Offering translation “as a service” for developers faces two related issues: how to make it easy for busy developers to get stuff translated without disrupting their core activity, and how to build a business model out of all that. My main concern is the developer experience, but it’s obvious the Smartling startup puck is heading towards the enterprise.

Exploring Smartling

Smartling is a rising star, with 65 million USD in funding; regarded as the industry disruptor to watch in 2015.

Smartling packs a REST-like API to integrate with, and connect to, development environments for software resources of all sorts, web-based content, documentation, and so on. From a developer perspective, a PaaS ability to use APIs to hook up translation to IDEs, dev environments and source control systems, is a must-have feature. Eliminating on-premise hardware and consulting set up time offers more ROI and productivity.

It was easy for me to get going in the Smartling browser-based UI, uploading a Java properties file, and exploring the features.

Smartling uses a very cool Context Capture API to associate visual context to HTML content for translation. Connecting a rendered UI to translatable resource string IDs (offering a preview of the translation into the bargain) makes for a better final deliverable. Behind-the-firewall HTML content can be similarly contextualized using the Chrome Context Capture extension.

Previewable source and target strings shown in context during translation

Previewable source and target strings shown in context during translation

Externalization of content from code is key to having developers on your side. Most IDE and file formats have i18n/L10n support to abstract away translation risk, so Smartling has a great baseline to enable quality translation and development productivity alike, the translator UI protecting valuable coding goodness from damage during the source-to-target language change.

Smartling provides automatic extraction of a glossary for review, a way to include style guidance, and offers features in the translator UI to define and move about patternized placeables, dashboard reporting, and so on. Mucho flexibility, if you need it.

Extracted glossary entries

Extracted glossary entries

Smartling also enables customization of the translation workflow to suit business needs. For example, different translation workflow steps might be tailored to involve particular stakeholders before the translation is finalized (enterprise stakeholders, beyond end users, are that “political third rail”; forgotten with disastrous results).

Easy customization of translation workflow steps

Easy customization of translation workflow steps

I conjured up my own translations, but Smarting integrates with human and machine translation for a quality result.

What developers care about is a productivity solution in the cloud that resonates with their world of work, and that worked for me. I liked the Smartling approach. It was easy to set up, to integrate into processes, to see stuff translated in context, and to get valid translated files back for the build or deployment stage.

Understanding Developers

The “translation as a service” model is not new. GitHub, APIs, Python, Ruby, Node.Js, PaaS, and so on, are now standard parts of the developer lexicon. Yet, the localization industry continues to play catch up with developer community happenings, whether they be FOSS-based or corporate.

Developers are not translators, and don’t want to be. Empathizing with the developers’ world is the foundation for ideating together on smart solutions. Smartling has already done some awesome developer outreach such as the LinguaHack event in Kiev (others, please take note).

LinguaHack 2014 from Smartling on Vimeo. Click to launch.

Smartling LinguaHack Hackathon in Kiev, 2014

So, Smartling looks like a fine solution from the developer perspective; one for builders to get apps, websites and documentation translated easily and out there into the global market. It is, of course, an on-going story.

Smartling nails the notion that “one size does not fit all” when it comes to translation for developers, and from my explorations the solution hits the mark with cloud-based developer productivity and usability.

To use all Smartling features optimally is really an enterprise-level undertaking. Developers will never rush to attach contextual images or add descriptive notes to strings. Reviewing glossary extractions, creating translated terminology, and so on, are not developer competencies. Such things require a team: localization managers, translation coordinators, terminologists, information professionals, and others working further upstream in the software development lifecycle.

Enterprising Solutions

Enterprise translation requirements now go far beyond app resources, HTML sites, and documentation. It’s a complex business, and comes with critical performance, scalability and security prerequisites. Sure, it’s unglamorous, but as Oscar Wilde says, it’s better to have a permanent income than to be fascinating.

Enterprises need to see real ROI and have incentives to move from current solutions. This is true of on-premise to SaaS adoption generally; there are other constraints too. Like user experience generally, making that decision “depends”.

So, I’ll be watching where that enterprise translation puck goes in 2015 for Smartling, and for others.

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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.

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The Localizer's Best Friend: t()

Language in Business, Personalization and Design, Translation Technology

I’m always on the lookout for software development solutions that are smart, disruptive, novel, and that challenge assumptions to solve a business problem. I recently attended an SF Globalization meetup event in San Francisco hosted by Airbnb. There, I saw localization (and UX) convention stood on its head by something anyone working in developer relations would be proud to evangelize about. It was a great event, dinner was provided for free, and I learned how Airbnb built international product. It was a  story told with honest and candid insight by a multi-skilled team. Very refreshing views were heard, far too many to go into now.

The Airbnb engineering team used Rails, instrumenting a t() (translate) helper method as the foundation of an infrastructure to deliver quality translations. The responses to audience questions, especially to the one if Airbnb used a translation memory, “We use a normal SQL database….”, made me smile. I was immediately reading up more about the Rails i18n module.

The t() solution was built to meet a need and to suit the Airbnb business model. It handles plurals, context, locale changes, and so on.

Here’s the t() method process overview:

t() method used to build the Airbnb translation tool

t() method used to build the Airbnb translation tool

Here’s how the tool provides context for translators, using screen shots:

Screen shot capture in tool for translator context

Screen shot capture in tool for translator context

It’s good for handling singular and plural and other language semantics, too:

Singular and plurals in t()

Singular and plurals in t()

And of course, where would user experience be without enabling locale specifics:

t() handles locale variants, such as terminology changes

t() handles locale differences, such as terminology differences.

The event also revealed that Airbnb relied on community translation and Google Translate as a bootstrap translation tool, that’s another day’s blog. I am indebted to the Airbnb team for the use of these images here. I cannot share all the slides shown in the meetup, but you can read more about the t() method and how it took Airbnb into the Japanese market.

If you see Airbnb on the agenda at localization or UX industry events, check it out. Inspiring stuff. And, they must be doing something right, as they’re poised to become the world’s biggest hotelier

 

 

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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.

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DARE to be HyperLocal: Context and Language at the Mall

Language in the News, Personalization and Design, Translation Technology

I love this piece about regional language preferences from the San Francisco Chronicle blog, “Which Words Are Special to Californian?”. It offers us a look at the Harvard University Press Dictionary of American Regional English (DARE), described as “…an Urban Dictionary you can share with your parents and co-workers without fear of being disowned or encouraged to ‘retire early’.” Although it doesn’t contain some of the terms I’ve become familiar with from my time in Silicon Valley, the DARE is still insightful as to how enduring some terms can be once they enter the local vernacular.

Dictionary of American Regional English Map (sourced from www.daredictionary.com)

Dictionary of American Regional English Map (sourced from www.daredictionary.com)

The DARE is interesting and fun, sure. It reminds us that localization isn’t just about adapting from one major source natural language to another target language, but can be about adapting between variants of the same language too. But there’s a serious side to all this, and there are real use cases out there for taking these kind of language resources, to go much further, and to solve real user problems and offer great user experiences.

Consider that we are now in the age of the Internet of Things, of sensors, and of hyperlocal context. Combining these local dictionaries with sensor technology such as the iBeacons now used at Apple Stores in the U.S., or other sensors as wearables, will provide a very personalized user or customer experience in a preferred regional language at a much more granular level than we are used to now. This experience could enhance a range of activities: shopping, doing business, keeping fit, picking up the kids, simply living your life, whatever.

It’s all about context, people. Yes, there’s that word again.

Sensors, wearables, hyperlocal context, and using micro-dictionaries or other language resources, these are sort of areas that Language Service Providers, and other industry bodies interested in technology, should really be investigating and offering integrative solutions that are ready for others to go global with, when needed.

Maybe they already are. Find the comments.

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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.

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IUC44

Contextualizing Localization in the Time of Austerity 2013

Language in the News, Language Industry News and Events

I spoke at Localization World in London last week on the subject of Context of Use in User Experience and Use of Context in Localization. There are great synergies between the two  areas and given UX trends it’s clear that context is what makes for a great user experience and for a great translation too. Translation technology needs to provide for contextual translation without compromising source content. A rubbish translation won’t help the world’s best app design, and a simplified source string designed to facilitate 100% matching in all cases won’t help UX in any language either. You get the idea?

It was great to be back at this conference, and my, but how it has grown in size, quality and reputation since I was first involved nearly 10 years ago! The full program reveals just how rich the agenda has become.

For those of you who didn’t get to my session, I’ve included it in Slideshare format (you need to have the benefit of my delivery for it to come to life, so do come along to the next conference and hear it live). A list of useful resources is included on the last slide if you want to read more. And no, it’s not all about Silicon Valley! The presentation is here:

Making a great, modern, and compelling user experience is all about context. In any language.

Making a great, modern, and compelling user experience is all about context. In any language.

I has honored to also host a great presentation on what’s New in International Components for Unicode by Anubhav Jain of Adobe and Jana Vorechovska of Google who explained how smart open source technology dealing with gender, plurals, day formats, and so on enables great contextual localized experiences in the social media world (Google+ in this case). I also attended some of the Localization Unconference @ Localization World sessions which were as lively and candid as ever, and included probably the best vendor pitch I’ve seen for a long time.

Also loved the MicroTalks format; so very Pecha Kucha in intent. I would loved to have seen and heard more about video content and localization at the conference itself, but there’s always the next conference for that!

I would like to see reach out of these Localization Unconference and guerilla-style Pecha Kuchas happen around “big” localization events, especially as the cost of attending major (or any) conferences is high. Many key countries and regions that have a lot of value-add and insight to contribute the industry based on their experience – countries such as Spain and Ireland (there are others) – but are hurting bad economically. Spending money these days on travel and registration isn’t easy (even if you do have a job). And, let’s see how we can get younger folks involved from those countries too. They’re not the future generation of localization, but the present. Perhaps these “micro”, more ad hoc, events can even be held away from the main event location and happen in eh, more convivial surroundings just like the Dublin <Pub> Standards event (hint, this is nothing to do with publishing standards, really).

On that subject, I am told that Localization World is coming to Dublin in June 2014. There’s your cue…

Thank you to the conference organizers for putting up with me and putting on such a great show! Again.

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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.

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