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Will Facebook Own Crowdsourced Translation?

On Tuesday, the Baltimore Sun noted that Facebook has applied for a patent for its crowdsourced translation application. The app, which has been in use since early last year, has helped Facebook quickly and efficiently translate its pages into different languages. Here’s how it works: the application presents text that needs to be translated to users who are able to translate it. Different users’ translations of the same text are then put up against each other, and other members vote on which one of the translations is the most accurate.

TechCrunch’s Jason Kincaid has some concerns about Facebook’s patent application. Many other sites also use crowdsourced translations, and those sites could be in jeopardy if Facebook’s patent is approved. As Kincaid explains,

“Now it’s up to the patent office to decide if the techniques employed by these other sites will represent prior art that would nullify Facebook’s patent. And you can be sure that’s what many people are hoping for — it would be highly frustrating for social networks down the line if they can’t leverage their own communities the way Facebook has.”

Of course, crowdsourced translations may be quick and efficient, but as some bilingual commenters on TechCrunch noted, the quality of the translations is often inconsistent. For example, commenter Viclava wrote that it took about a year before the Spanish version of Facebook was “readable” and relatively free of grammatical errors.

Hopefully, Facebook doesn’t end up owning the patent on crowdsourced translations for social networks. Crowdsourced translations can be a powerful tool to quickly and cheaply translate content into another language, and this is definitely valuable. However, in many cases it’s important that the content be translated flawlessly the first time. If your brand or image depends on a perfect translation, it’s best to go ahead and spring for a professional translation company.

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Crowd-Sourced Translation Goes Awry For Facebook

Facebook’s crowd-sourced translation app has helped the company translate Facebook into over 100 different languages quickly and cheaply. However, the company (and many of its users) just discovered one of the downsides of crowd-sourcing- vulnerability to online pranksters.

The problem was discovered on July 28th, when Spanish and Turkish-speaking Facebook users logged on to find their pages filled with profanity in both English and Spanish. For example, according to this article on The Register, the Turkish version of Facebook’s IM error message, which is supposed to read “Your message could not be sent because the recipient is offline,” was changed to say “ “Your message could not be sent because of your tiny penis.” That’s pretty much the only example that’s even printable.

Why did Facebook suddenly start cursing at its users?  Facebook’s translation app depends on users to vote for the most accurate translations for each piece of text. That works great, as long as the people are voting are honestly trying to be helpful. Unfortunately for Facebook, members of a Turkish online forum called Inci Sözlük worked together to create the profane “translations” and vote them up. This vulnerability is inherent in any sort of crowd-sourcing unless precautions are taken. For example, when young Canadian pop star Justin Bieber tried to “crowd-source” a stop on his world tour, his contest was hijacked by the internet pranksters at 4chan, who promptly voted to send him to North Korea.

Rik Ferguson, a security consultant at Trend Micro, told the Register that this prank should serve  as “teachable moment,” both for Facebook and for other companies that use crowd-sourcing:

“Perhaps it is fortunate that the hole has been exposed through a prank in the first instance and not something more nefarious. Any online service, whether it’s translation or reputation services, which solicits user generated content would be well advised to quality check that content before going live with it.”

Facebook Translates Comments

Facebook already connects hundreds of millions of users around the globe, and the site itself has been translated into more than 70 different languages. Now, it looks like the popular website may take its efforts to break down language barriers between users to another level by offering automatic translations for comments.

At the moment, the feature is only available to some users. When it’s active, it allows users to see translated versions of comments written in an unfamiliar language, as well to switch back and forth between the translation and the original comment. The translation program doesn’t work all the time, but when it does work it is apparently even able to translate some slang terms. So far, it’s been spotted translating Hebrew, French, Spanish, and Chinese. Read more

Google and Facebook Release New Translation Tools

Both Google and Facebook released new translation tools for websites over the past week. Both companies announced the new tools on wednesday, in honor of International Translation Day.

Google’s website translation gadget allows you to make your web content available automatically in 51 different languages. To use it, all you have to do is insert a few lines code into your page.

The code checks the browser settings of your site’s visitors to see what language they use. If their preferred language is different than the language your page is written in, they will see a banner offering them the option of automatically translating the page into their language. All they have to do is click on the magic button, and presto, your website is translated for them.

Facebook’s translation tool, called Translations for Facebook Connect, also translates the text of your page to make it more accessible to your visitors. However, it’s a little bit different…instead of automatically translating the text; it allows you to crowd source the translation process to other Facebook users. You also have the option to translate the page yourself. However, the translations only work for visitors who are on Facebook and log in to Facebook Connect.

These automatic translation tools are a great way to expand the number of people you can reach with your website. However, if you are aiming for viewers from a particular country or language group, it is still worth it to invest in professional translation.

As Jeff Chin of Google noted in his blog post announcing the new website translation gadget:

“Automatic translation is convenient and helps people get a quick gist of the page. However, it’s not a perfect substitute for the art of professional translation.”

Storytelling + Lovemark = Success?

Each day feels like the same. You wake up, get a shower, put your suit, close the door, grab a coffee, walk few minutes to take the tube, wait, change, wait, walk few blocks and finally open the door of your office. The story could stop here but you also go for fast food for lunch, probably check your Facebook account 2 or 3 times on your mobile, talk with your colleagues, buy some useless things on your way back home, open the door of your flat and finally sit down to watch some TV before going to bed.

Now is where the real story starts…

Which shower gel have you used? designer are you wearing? coffee have you drank? fast food have you eaten to? mobile phone are you using? TV show are you watching? If among your answers, there is Apple, Starbucks, McDonalds or Oprah, then according to Kevin Roberts (CEO of Saatchi & Saatchi) you are being exposed to some of the most powerful lovemarks present on the market. The main difference between “brands” and “lovemarks” is that you buy a brand but you love and adhere to a lovemark. That’s what lovemarks are all about, make you part of something, feel good and escape the reality for an instant or more. Read more

Facebook introduces two new languages

The internet giant Facebook has dramatically increased its target market by introducing Arabic and Hebrew. Many people will now find this social networking website much easier to use.

They conquered many problems during the production of the site into these languages including changing the sites layout so that it reads right to left and producing new software which recognises whether the user is male or female and adjusting the translation accordingly.

The addition of Arabic and Hebrew brings Facebook’s language total to 40 and there are over 60 more in development.

Buy the World a Coke

Coca-Cola may have gotten its start in America, but it’s clearly an international brand. As such, it markets to people in many different languages. On Facebook, Coca-Cola uses the social media site’s “geotagging” feature to localize the content it presents to viewers around the world. So, viewers logging in from America are presented content in English, while viewers logging in from Mexico see content in Spanish.

Unfortunately, back in August, something went amiss with the geotagging filters, and posts intended for the page’s Brazilian and Romanian-speaking fans were shown to American fans as well, according to Ad Age.

The result, especially for the post written in Portuguese (which many American readers confused with Spanish), was basically an eruption of online idiocy. Many American readers were apparently unhappy about being made to read a language other than English, and they used varying degrees of incivility to express their displeasure. Read more

Plurk post

Microblogging Service Plurk Attracts Asian Users

When it comes to microblogging, Twitter is king. However, according to this article on PC World, its sovereignty is being threatened in several Asian countries by upstart microblogging service Plurk, which offers the support for local languages and alphabets that Twitter largely lacks. Right now, Plurk is offered in 33 languages, including English, Chinese, Russian, and Hindi. It also offers support for European languages like Catalan and Irish. Compare that to Twitter, which only offers 5 languages: English, Spanish, French, Italian and Japanese.

According to PC World, Twitter founder Biz Stone has stated that company finds it difficult to offer localized services for Asian languages, which is why Japanese is the only Asian language Twitter supports.

However, Plurk appears to have overcome these obstacles with no problems. The company handles translations by enlisting teams of its users to translate. In PC World, Plurk’s founder Alvin Woon noted that this system made the translation process surprisingly fast, saying :

“When Plurk first launched, we had a translation system where the whole system was translated into 25 different languages in two weeks, and it’s all done by our users…I’ve been surprised at how many people want to translate Plurk into their own language.”

Overall, Twitter still gets much more traffic than Plurk. However, looking at the respective popularity of each service in different countries illustrates what a profound effect local language support can have. For example,  according to PC World, Plurk beats out Twitter for the title of top-ranking microblogging site in Taiwan, and it is also extremely popular in Indonesia and Malaysia.

The lesson here is simply that customers want to use products and services that speak their language. Translation services are important for international companies because they help increase customer satisfaction and customer loyalty.

Botched translation leads to tension between the US and Bulgaria

A botched language translation of a speech given by James Warlick, the US Ambassador to Bulgaria, at the  “Europe as a Global Actor” Conference last week apparently infuriated Bulgarian President Georgi Parvanov.  And since this is the age of the internet, President Parvanov took his beef directly to Facebook.

According to Novinite.com, during his speech at the conference Mr. Warlick took the liberty of commenting on an ongoing dispute between President Parvanov and his Defense Minister, Anyu Angelov, on how much support the Bulgarian armed forces should provide for international peacekeeping interventions. President Parvanov is firmly in the “stay-at-home” camp, while the defense minister wishes to continue to honor Bulgaria’s commitments to its international partners, expanding the armed forces as necessary. Read more