Two’s company, three’s a crowd

Last week the guys over at Common Sense Advisory put up a post about an interesting issue regarding NDA’s and what access third party companies may have to your confidential information.

The challenge comes as TSP/LSP’s tried to sign up for services or access to technology from organizations who use SDL (or Trados) software as their foundation technology (and host the solution with SDL). In many cases this software is hosted by SDL so, as it should, their mutual NDA (non disclosure agreement) included a clause similar to this:

“FIRM utilizes the Trados GXT solution for translation workflow activities. Trados GXT is licensed, hosted and maintained by SDL. LSP acknowledges that: (a) FIRM will use, process, and store price and other confidential data provided by LSP via Trados GXT; (b) SDL may have access to LSP’s Confidential Information in fulfilment of its obligations under its hosting agreement with FIRM; and, (c) FIRM is not in breach of its obligations under this NDA because of such use, disclosure, or access.”.

Source: CSA

Now nothing in itself about this clause is wrong. In fact it is the proper, legal and ethical clause to have in this type of document. But on the flip side TSPs have the right to be a bit skeeved out by the notion of agreeing to any contract that says one of your biggest competitors can see your data. I’m no lawyer but what also concerns me is one the clause doesn’t say, as it doesn’t appear to explicitly hold SDL to the same confidentiality (just that the “FIRM” is not breaching the NDA if this happens).

The CSA article has some good suggestions how SDL could start to fix this specific issue but I’m not sure if folks will ever be totally comfortable as long as the NDA requires SDL’s name to be there in some aspect. Data aside if I were in some of these TSP’s shoes I’d be even more concerned about my processes being visible – everyone has a slightly different way of managing their projects etc. & translation workflow tools are still in their infancy – I’d be terrified of the thought of having my competitor be able to see the hoops I’d been able to get my technology infrastructure to jump through.

Of course the C-level folks at SDL are reassuring everyone that a) the services division would never see the hosted content and b) that they’re working to resolve the issue but I think for the foreseeable future SDL’s reality is they’re going to have to battle the balancing act between the competing interests of software sales and those of growing their services division (while also steering clear of Anti-trust issues). If it isn’t this it’ll likely be something else.

Try rubbing your stomach in a circle and patting your head straight up and down (at the same time) for a minute – I think the challenge they face will become pretty clear.

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Surely there’s a TLA out there for this…

Got this email from one of our clients the other day:

What do you call the feature that allows your software to switch between French and English without losing the page you are on? Being able to do this without re-navigating the whole Website.

Do you use a term for this?

Now I can throw around techno-babble with the best of them but this admittedly stumped me as to how to describe this in a short concise way other then “you switch languages and it keeps you on the same page”.

As he’s an IT guy himself, and probably has an affinity for the art of techno-babble, I offered up “Context Sensitive Language Switching”.

Anyone know of a more common or simpler term? It’s a strange thing to have to describe as a “feature” (really it should be common sense).

As always comments welcome.

– Ryan

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A new entry in the SEO-misstep "Hall of Fame" & a word of warning for non-English sites

Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is a borderline Voodoo art form these days – It was a service we tried to offer clients at one of my previous companies back in 98-99 (our primary business was Web Design and CMS implementation).

At that time we had moderate to no success and the effort/cost to revenue ratio was virtually even or a slight loss. It took so much effort to keep on top of the listings that clients expected guaranteed positions etc. for the amount of money it would have cost, which we just couldn’t do – add to that the added risk of getting your client blacklisted and we really couldn’t see any upside to offering the service anymore and decided to exit the game altogether. (We ended up finding a third-party to service our clients, with slightly better luck, but still nothing spectacular).

From our brushes with clients doing SEO work over the past couple of years it’s become clear that even with the dwindling number of competitive search engines the job has only gotten more competitive and challenging – and riskier.

The folks behind BMW’s BMW.de site just found out just how bad you can get burned if you don’t play by the rules.

In a move that analysts say indicates a problem that still needs a solution, Google has removed BMW’s German Web site from its index for violating Google’s guidelines against trying to manipulate search results.

The move was first reported by Google employee Matt Cutts in a posting to his blog on Saturday. He said BMW.de had been removed last week because certain pages on the site would show up one way when the search engine visited the page but when a Web user opened the page, a redirect mechanism would display a completely different page.

Source: Yahoo

I had originally read that Google had merely reset their Pagerank to “0” – which would basically drop them way, way down in the rankings but a search for “BMW.de” turns up no results. As far as Google is concerned they no longer exist.

An interesting point that got brought up in the article was also that one of Google’s employees recently passed this warning on through his personal blog:

In 2006, I expect Google to pay a lot more attention to spam in other languages, whether it be German, French, Italian, Spanish, Chinese, or any other language.

In his most recent post he also indicated that Ricoh.de was quickly approaching the same fate.

integrating a multilingual site into an SEO strategy adds an interesting wrinkle to the process. SEO service vendors agonize over keywords and page structure to try and get the best possible pagerank – this is hard enough in one language. Translation professionals already work hard enough to ensure they provide a quality translation that retains the intention and context of the content – the reality is though when it comes to SEO considerations quality translation may not be enough.

The process of SEO itself is a translation of sorts – SEO professionals will take your site’s content and rework/rewrite it to try and create a page that a Search Engine will understand and respond to favourably, all while retaining the original meaning and context of your content. The challenge is between different languages the right keywords may actually differ.

What if in English users tend to search for “Content Management” but in French users generally search the equivalent of “Document Repository”? Unless you’ve got a translator who knows your industry inside and out and catches that difference you may take a major hit when it comes to your French search engine placement.

I’m sure in a lot of cases people have discovered this and have resorted to workarounds like doorway pages to try and correct some of those issues – but take not. BMW was lucky, their German site is the only one that got blocked so you can still get to BMW.com etc. but smaller vendors, where their multilingual sites may all be under the same domain, are going to have to tread very lightly going forward. Get your site blacklisted for pushing the envelope on your French language site and you’re going to find everything disappears from Google when the blacklist your .com domain.

It will be interesting to see how this plays out – I’m sure over the next year or so we’re going to see some interesting attempts at solving the challenge.

02/09/06 – Update: BMW.de fixed the issue and so did Ricoh.de apparantly. Result? A very quick reinclusion into Google’s DB. Source.

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