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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?

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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.

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SDL Tados 2021

Conversational UI Language Design at LocWorld35

Language in Business, Language in the News, Personalization and Design, Translation Technology

Oracle Applications User Experience (OAUX) team member (and Microsoft Alum) Karen Scipi (@karenscipi) presented on the subject of Conversational UI in the Enterprise at #LocWorld35 Silicon Valley. Karen covered the central importance of  language design for chatbots and other conversational user interfaces (CUIs) for global work use cases.

Karen Scipi presenting on Conversational UIs in the Enterprise at Localization World in Silicon Valley 2017 (Image credit: Olga)

Karen Scipi presenting on Conversational UIs in the Enterprise at Localization World in Silicon Valley 2017 (Image credit: Olga)

Karen even developed two chatbot integrations for Slack introducing her topic. One was in English, the other was in Italian.

Italian LocWorld Chatbot Conversation Example

Italian LocWorld Chatbot Conversation Example (Source: Karen Scipi)

What’s a Conversational UI?

Chatbots and the alike are a very hot topic, wrapped up in the artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning (ML), natural language processing (NLP), and robotics part of technology’s evolution. However, user experience design insight and an empathy for how people interact with each other through technology in work, at play, or in everyday life makes the difference when creating a great user experience in any language.What could be more 'natural' than talking to a computer? Click To Tweet

CUI means we moved from a “user”-centric concept of design to a human-centric one. After all, what could be more “natural” that talking to a computer? Both humans and computers “converse” in dialog, and it’s the language design knowledge for such a conversation that’s critical to delivering a natural, human-like interaction between the two.

Examples of CUIs include Facebook Messenger, Slack bots, TelegramAmazon Echo and Alexa devices, and so on. Interaction can be via voice, SMS messaging, typing text on a keyboard, and so on.

In the enterprise there are a broad range of considerations and stakeholders that localization and UX pros must to consider. Fundamentally though, enterprise CUIs are about increasing participation in the user experience of work, making things simpler.

 

Oracle Conversational UI image showing the interaction and participation of humans and the cloud - in any language! (Source: OAUX)

Oracle Conversational UI image showing the interaction and participation of humans and the cloud – in any language! (Source: OAUX)

Localization of Conversational UIs

To an extent, the localization or language part of the CUI interaction is determined by the NLP support of the chatbot or other platform used: what languages it supports, how good the AI and ML parts are, and so on. However, language skills are at the heart of the conversational UI design, whether it’s composing that  user storyline for design flows or creating the prompts and messages seen by the human involved.

This kind of communication skill is much in-demand: It is a special type of talent: a mix of technical writing, film script or creative writing, transcreation, and interpreting. It’s a domain insight that gets right down to the nitty-gritty of replicating and handling how humans really speak and write: slang, errors, typos, warts and all. CUI language designers must even decide how emoji and personality can or should be localized in different versions of a chatbot.

Where’s the Conversation Headed?

The conversational UI market is growing globally as messenger apps take over. Localization and language pros cannot ignore the conversational UI space.

Karen will be speaking next at the Seattle Localization User Group (SLUG) in December (2017) about Conversational UIs in the Enterprise.Localization and language pros cannot ignore the conversational UI space. Click To Tweet

 

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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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Icons: Global UX Considerations Revisited and Translators without Borders

Localization Culture, Personalization and Design

I previously raised the issue of how context of use influences our perceptions of icons, and how globalization “best practices” and guidance about icons and graphics that we read on the web sometimes discounts context to the detriment of user experience.

One great example is the use of the Facebook Like icon.

Facebook 'Like' Button. A Thumbs Up to Global Cultural Design Considerations?

Facebook ‘Like’ Button. A Thumbs Up to Global Cultural Design Considerations?

Usually, we would be told to run a mile from body parts like this from a global design perspective, although the use of a thumbs up or thumbs down icon is frequently encountered in social media applications to indicate positive or negative user reactions to a subject.

Now, research from the Oracle Applications User Experience team, presented at the Oracle Usability Advisory Board meeting in Europe recently, confirms that use of the thumbs up and down icon, and some emotions (smileys to indicate happy or sad emotions) not traditionally associated with enterprise applications design, is acceptable to the vast majority of users, worldwide.

The pervasive, global use of the Internet and social media applications (Facebook in particular I would guess) and the nature of work and enterprise applications use (English as a language of business, globalization and outsourcing of work, multilingual operations, less distinction between personal and work life and technology, and so on) have influenced this acceptance.

You can probably think of other icons that might now be acceptable in places that a few years ago would not have been. Find the comments…

That said, the message from the research is clear: Don’t make assumptions about users or global markets. Research and test with real users in real situations doing real tasks. And do it again… and again… and again…. in real target markets, globally. It’s not hard.

On a related note, I love these clean water icons by way of the Noun Project (@nounproject).

Latrine clean water icon from The Noun Project Iconathon.

Latrine clean water icon from The Noun Project Iconathon. Image referenced from Flickr.

An excellent example of iconic context of use, they remind us of the importance of being able to clearly communicate development-related and health-critical information to those who need it, and volunteering where you can to make life better for everyone.

On that point, why not do something extra nice for Christmas, or the season that’s in it if you prefer, and support the Translators without Borders program.

Happy Christmas all!

Update (18-Oct-2013): The research informing the findings on the “Like” icon and others is now published as a chapter in a book on human-computer interaction (HCI).

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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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Thumbs Up to International Design Considerations?

Localization Culture, Personalization and Design

I’ve been reading Designing Social Interfaces by Christian Crumlish and Erin Malone. It’s a fine book written by two respected experts and provides more than 100 user experience design patterns, principles and best practices to use when designing social websites. Recommended!

Facebook Like Button. A Thumbs Up to Global Cultural Design Considerations?

Facebook 'Like' Button. A Thumbs Up to Global Cultural Design Considerations?

I was drawn to the “international considerations” section for the Thumbs Up/Down Ratings pattern. This pattern, it says, might present issues for some countries or locales, because:

  • Raised thumbs can be problematic in some cultures. Users may not understand the symbolism, or worse, the gesture may even be offensive.
  • There are cultures that don’t see things in binary terms as a thumbs up or thumbs down response, and may prefer some nuance that’s in between, and less absolute.
  • Some cultures may not like to criticize openly, or maybe only a thumbs-up option is best.

All a bit vague really in terms of identifying cultures might have issues, don’t you think? Plus, I am immediately prompted to ask: what is Facebook doing in such countries or regions? In Thailand, for example?

Plus, I am not sure if such culturally-based recommendations are always as black and white (oh, the irony) as claimed,  given the nature of internet technology, globalization, and especially without any knowledge of the user and context of use. The only way to find out is to do some usability testing, taking into account context of use.

That said, it’s always great to see international considerations included in UX design guidance, and we do with more!

The comments are open if you agree or disagree.

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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 Future of Web Translation: Haters Gonna Hate

Language in the News, Translation Technology

Just lurrve this TEDxCMU talk by Luis von Ahn of CMU called Duolingo: The Next Chapter in Human Computation. It’s all about smart people working together to solve worldwide information problems.

You know those annoying reCaptcha word combinations that you have to enter on some sites to verify that you’re a real person? Did you realize that they were part of a crowdsourced solution to digitize millions of words, for example twenty years of the New York Times? Again, CMU folks behind that one. Check out the video.

Luis goes on to tell us about Duolingo, a crowdsourced solution to translate the interweb’s information that solves those problems of motivating people to contribute translations freely and the lack of bilinguals. How? By leveraging the millions of people who want to learn another language. The solution is not only smart from a translation perspective, but much fairer in terms of language education too. Not everyone can afford those expensive languagelearning solutions.

Example of Duolingo-based translation shown by Luis von Ahn in the TEDxCMU video

Example of Duolingo-based translation shown by Luis von Ahn in the TEDxCMU video

Of course, Duolingo is now sure to attract the same decontextualized criticisms that Google Translate, Facebook crowdsourcing translation, and the rest of the community-based or ‘free’ approaches, attract from the ‘professional’ quarter. However, as Renato Beninatto points out, the battle is already won and nobody will be out of a job. So fess up folks while the rest of us call out such criticisms what they really are: a sales pitch for paid translation linked to fears about as credible as ye olde claims that the introduction of steam locomotives would turn cows milk sour (hat tip for analogy: @renatobeninatto), while being dismissive of those who desire to actually help the world to exchange information and communicate freely in any language they like (I don’t care if someone then wants to sell ads off the freely translated content).

The Duolingo.com site hasn’t gone live yet, but you can sign up for a beta preview. If you’re interested.

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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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¿Socially-Enabled What?

Language in the News

The mystery of Galvão birds. Twitter use in Japan and Brazil. Different trending topics in the US depending on whether you are black or white. The “wisdom of the flock.” How the new media doesn’t help us. “Imaginary cosmopolitanism.” How “we think we’re getting a wide view of the globe.” Except we’re not. We’re in social media “filter bubbles.” We don’t see the wider picture.

There are lots of people who don’t get the notion of true global connectivity, replacing the essence of global relationships between real people with a ’Globish‘ Anglo-American-centric debate about digital infrastructure instead. But, this guy coming up does.

If you want to move on past that tired social media guru “we’re all connected now through Facebook and Twitter” stuff (actually the second easiest job in the industry,) then he’s for you.

So, I urge you to view the very refreshing and insightful TED talk called The Need for Cultural Translation with Community Media by Ethan Zuckerman of Global Voices. PBS tells us his talk is about exploding “the big myth that the web is bringing us closer to other cultures or countries – when we’re on the web, we’re basically in our own small islands of our social networks.”

Ethan says we need “DJs … skilled human curators” who “speak the language of the West and of other cultures at the same time.” We need more “xenophiles,” those “bridge figures” who can and do cross cultural divides, rewiring information systems across language and culture so we get that wider picture.

The talk has subtitles in English and Portuguese different languages.

We need more Ethans too.

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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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