Clay Tablet introduces Partner Program

We formally announced our partner program today. We’ve been working on this program for several months now and feel it’s finally ready for the broader market.

In setting up the initial relationships it’s been great to encounter so many people who buy into the core belief that in order for the language & localization industry to meet the challenges ahead, and maximize their organization’s opportunity, it will be critical for everyone involved to take down the walls between the various technologies and platforms and actually begin to create (affordable) systems that allow content management and authoring systems and document submission portals to interact directly with a TSP’s workflow solution. Our initial program participants have all brought that mindset to the table and never fail to surprise me with the opportunities and ideas they’ve brought to the table.

Not a global ecosystem >>>

The buzzword of the past year has definitely been “ecosystem”, the irony of course though is that some players in the industry have actually been taking steps backwards to enclose their systems, closing off APIs or modifying License agreements to make the APIs off limits. If there are APIs available they’re typically hidden away behind costly SDKs or connector applications that are financially out of reach for all but the largest companies.

It’s unfortunate because what really needs to happen is the exact opposite. As technologists in this industry we desperately need to take the walls down and look to see how we can make our applications work together. One company we spoke with has to interact with over 20 different systems between all of their customers – that just isn’t scalable.

The answer also isn’t one giant system that houses all of the various workflows (especially not when multiple companies/vendors are involved). Yes, the lifecycle of a document is one giant “workflow”, but off of that master workflow are smaller workflow “eddies” that encompass a specific process (i.e. authoring or translation). The master workflow should move files through the process, allowing users to either handle the content with built in tools, when available, or intelligently pass it out to an external application for additional processing if required (i.e. translation) and then retrieve the content when the process is complete. (I plan on doing a more detailed post specifically on the workflow interactions later)

So much effort is expended today manually removing content from one system, packaging it up, sending it to a vendor so they can then unpackage it and load it into their own system – only to have to reverse the process again when content is sent back. Not efficient, not scalable and not very cost effective.

As the industry gets pulled along by the momentum of globalization & the Internet’s ability to open up broader markets (and produce vast quantities of content) the critical bottleneck will be capacity and not just capacity on the part of the human translators but also on the ability of service providers and their project managers to receive, process and return content in an ever decreasing timeframe.

Obviously, as evidenced by the announcement today, we’re looking for additional partners. If you’re a service provider or a technology company (CMS, Workflow, Translation Memory, Machine Translation etc.) who shares our view of where this industry needs to go we’d be happy to hear from you.

Photo Credit: Gizmos & Gadgets LLC – get your own terrarium here

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Bad User Experiences: What does "Soon" mean?

Over the past few months I’ve started to use “Linkedin” more frequently as I’ve started to see and hear more evidence that it’s starting to come into its prime as a business tool.

I booted it up today to add a connection and low and behold (after a few unsuccessful tries to even get the site to load) I get the following message:

LinkedIn will be back soon

LinkedIn is currently making improvements to the site and will return shortly with great new features. If you have any questions, please email us at

We apologize for the inconvenience and appreciate your patience. Thank you for using LinkedIn!

It’s friendly enough, and I’m sure was intended to give users like me confidence that a bigger and better LinkedIn is on the way. But what terrifies me about it is it gives me absolutely no sense of WHEN. Unfortunately on the web “Soon” is largely used on those “XYZ Company website – Coming SOON!” type pages that seem to never arrive. That message reads “Come back in a few days” not “minutes” to me.

What concerns me even more is the timing of this message – it’s mid-day on the North American East Coast, end of workday in Europe and the start of the workday on the West Coast. I’m going to go out on a limb and predict that probably means the vast majority of their user base is online right now.

It’s important as a global organization to remember that in general someone will ALWAYS want access to your site – something we try to really ensure our customers understand. While maintenance has to happen and it’s inevitable that despite best laid plans and timing, someone will always be inconvenienced, it’s good User Experience “karma” to give your users some idea of timing.

I’m sure lots of people are scratching their heads right now when a simple “We are performing maintenance and anticipate being down between 2 & 4pm EST” type message would have prevented any concern.

I’ve sent an email to them asking what “Soon” is – I’ll update if I get a response.

UPDATE: No response but right after I posted I noticed the message had been changed to just be “Linked in will be back Soon” with an apology for the inconvenience but no mention of improvements etc. – someone elese must have read it and thought “Hmm, that doesn’t come across like we thought it would”. As of a few minutes ago the site came back up as well…

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Interesting Site: World Language Map

I came across this site while wandering the ‘net the other day. It’s the site of Dr. Stephen Huffman, who has done a lot of work in the realm of language classification and as part of his process has created colour coded maps that overlay the languages spoken across the geographic areas.

The site has a handful of large PDF files like he image displayed above. Within them you can drill down into regions and see the prevelant langauges for each region. Defenitley worth a glance if you’ve got a few minutes.

Now if I can just squeeze a good deal on printing out of my wife that world map would make a pretty good poster for the office wall.

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It’s almost like they’re trying to make it difficult…

I got turned onto an interesting post by a German blogger named Nicole Simon, discussing (in a very restrained “vent”) her frustrations in trying to work with applications and online Web 2.0-type sites from North America.

In true blogger fashion her blog was in response to a post by Robert Scoble of Microsoft (who in turn was responding to a post by Jonathan Schwartz of Sun Microsystems). The question that kicked everything off was Jonathon lamenting the challenge of, “How do you get you message out to users/clients about your product or technology?”

You want people to adapt technology an learn about it? Well, do it in a way they understand and on a scale they will take notice. Which means: Speak in a language they understand and in ways they will care.

Nicole took the topic down a slightly different, but very relevant, tangent regarding her issues with applications that were designed with the North American audience in mind.

Take for example Google Spreadsheet. I tried it but exactly when hitting the third key it already made me close it again: I use my numeric keypad on the side. And we do use a comma instead of a point for numbers. Does not work in there, is not even configurable. Is that important? Well, probably not for you, reading this in English. For me, it is.

She goes on to cite several other examples including some Microsoft applications – The post is worth a read for anyone who is involved with the creation, development or localization of applications. Additionally she links off to a handful of other posts that were also quite informative (i.e. this link about the challenges of localizing software).

I was surprised by some of the outward hostility towards her thoughts in her comments (by other Europeans no less). She made the valid point about localization not being entirely a language issue though – she seems more than willing to use an application in English if necessary but with the spreadsheets example it was actually the issue of not being able to use a comma instead of a decimal that made the system unusable for her.

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