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Category: Dubzer

You matter to people across the world. Let it show on your Domain Dashboard.

by Anjali Gupta

In the real world, an address in Manhattan or Mumbai is valued at a premium to most places on Earth because it allows access – to people, to opportunities, to information.

On the WWW, every web address or domain is theoretically created equal. Information is power – can be reached, accessed, shared, criticized, glorified by anyone from any corner of the world. But this power is limited to those who speak your language. [Read: The next Internet revolution will not be in English]

You may have built a great application or game, or written a superb article on an interesting topic but your domain’s reach or “social score” is limited despite your best intentions, and the best intentions of your loyal users.

You think only giants like Facebook or LinkedIn have successfully tapped the enthusiasm of their users and translated themselves into other languages. But hey, you are a big guy – in the eyes of the person who may live halfway around the world but still cares deeply about your content or product. For that user and his social network your offering matters despite its language.

Our data shows that the actual size of the user community matters less. Translation happens because a few people care to push it along and make it happen! They care to request for it, or correct it, or even sponsor it in a small way.

If your domain has quality content and a few bilingual followers then you can start tapping into their intentions and gradually translate some of the articles into requested languages.

The key for you – the domain owner, is to uncover demand dynamically and create an ecosystem that allows translation to match demand. It should be a win-win. Contributors get social reward and recognition and you get human translated (hence readable) content.

This was the vision that shaped Dubzer’s Domain Dashboard for Translation.

Take a look at the dashboard for Mashable.com on Dubzer to see it in action.

I want my own translation dashboard. Want should I do?

  1. Add a few articles from your domain to Dubzer to auto-create your dashboard. In some cases, our users may have already added one of your articles and you will see it when you add one.
  2. Share the dashboard link on your website with online visitors, especially those that come from another country, or those that have made requests for translation.

To get things rolling quickly, you can announce a prize or a social reward – something that’s affordable to you and valued intangibly by your users. Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook offered a translator badge on the profile. Be creative. It all depends on who you are.  There are no rules – a contributor badge, a meeting with you, a custom T-shirt, a conference pass, or a gift certificate. You can even sponsor a cash prize to the top contributors based on your budget.  Just drop us an e-mail with the text and creative; we’ll announce your prize on your dashboard and help you connect with the winners once the translation completes. We’ll also alert other freelance and language enthusiasts about your Dashboard.

Don’t forget – your domain matters to people across the world, and will matter more once you embrace their language.  Let your domain dashboard show your intentions!

Awaiting your ideas to help us improve.

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Dubzer, Microsoft and Google are asking the same question. How will translation become ubiquitous? (Part 2)

by Anjali Gupta

This is part 2 of our earlier post with the same title.  There we  described the problem and what makes it interesting.  Here we share our story – our iterations and our learning since early 2009.

Our approach differs from that of Microsoft Research and Google; being a tiny product startup our bets differed from those of a research lab. In principle, all three approaches rely on the user community to contribute improvements to machine translation and store/retrieve/manage the contributed translations in the cloud. The metric for success is also the same across all three teams – improve the rate of translated sentences contributed per language.

Here’s our story:

The first few ideas we hashed out were inspired from popular Web 2.0 models that relied on the power of crowd contributions in different problem spaces. We tinkered with something similar to a Digg-like idea for translation and a Mahalo-like idea for translated pages for popular keywords. However, we found that voting something up/down had little correlation to it’s ability to gather translated sentences. A single contributor with the right motivation provides a better push for completion of the translation. The other search (SEO) based approach was painstakingly slow in gaining readership and it took a lot of manual effort to find search queries with good search volume yet were not answered well in the target language.

Battling Monetization vs. Gut at DEMO

After initial experiments and probing we decided to include a business model focus as well. Our best bet was to target businesses first. Our first offering was a virtual cloud service that could instantly enable any website or web application for localization. Just give us the original URL and we could take care of the rest.

This prototype was selected by Matt Marshall (CEO, VentureBeat) to present at DEMO, September 2009, San Diego. We were the only product company from India at DEMO and it was exhilarating to give live-demos of our working prototype at the conference.

The lessons learned at DEMO were invaluable. Small and medium businesses were not ready to spend their marketing budgets on secondary markets unless we took the onus/risk of proving its market value. Would you be willing to pay thousands of dollars for an unproven secondary market without any lead data? Given the length and complexity of the sales cycle, it was ideal to pitch this solution along with a range of other website/content services. Most importantly, this path was not going to bring us any closer or any faster to an answer for the original problem – how will the Web transform translation into an online and hyper-connected activity? An answer here could impact millions of existing users and bring new users online. This was definitely more challenging and a little scary given our competition was Google and Microsoft Research. But finally our decision boiled down to internally answering a simple question – which problem do we subconsciously think about in the shower?

Making Collaboration the Core

Back to the drawing board, we studied the dynamics of every crowdsourced model out there –  from social bookmarking, social answers, social videos, social shopping, community support services, and many others. The foremost goal with which we built the currently available version of Dubzer was to make it easy to translate web content collaboratively and share it with others. As we say on our home page “every page in our pool is continually improved by everyone who reads it”.  What did this goal mean for the product?

For instance, we made it incredibly easy to translate and share links. None of the others are doing this. We did not bet only on Wikipedia pages but on any URL where a user can now share Dubzer’s collaborative and flexible translation instead of inflexible machine translation.

We also lowered the granularity of the contribution required from each user. Made the process as easy as adding a comment on a blog. If you see an entire page that needs to be translated, you may never get started. But if all we ask is for you to translate a single line or submit a simple URL, you may do it. This approach has worked well for us. On Dubzer every sentence can be uniquely referenced and shared; for instance, you can tweet the Dubzer URL to a single sentence if you need to ask your friends for its correct translation.

Our goal was always user traction so we bet on collaboration. On Dubzer, several users can work on the same article each contributing to a different sentence and each aware of who is simultaneously working on other sentences. Articles bookmarked for translation on Dubzer have permalinks with different views for reading and editing making them easily shareable on Facebook, Twitter, and other social platforms.  Bloggers can use our embed option to embed the translated version and seek contributions from their readers.

Many language enthusiasts revealed their interest in a Vanity page.  We made the user’s activity available on his public profile on Dubzer (dubzer.com/username) where he can showcase his language skills and contributions to build credibility.

Did it work?

We’ve been out there since late July. Many submissions have the complete translation – The WikiLeaks CIA report, Steve Jobs’ speech at Stanford in 2005, and several articles from popular websites such as Wikipedia and Mashable.com are on their way to completion. Last week we released our FireFox addon MyTranslationShoes. We’ve also created communities on Facebook to help us actively engage language enthusiasts. These help validate ideas before building them into the product saving us both time and money.

That’s the story so far. A lot of learning has happened and a lot still remains to be tested. We’re breaking it down into achievable milestones as we go along.  The answer is not going to come easy and not in a predictable way as all good ideas have come from patience, persistence, and the invaluable serendipity!

We’re happy to share data and insights beyond the scope of this blog. We crave opportunities to collaborate with individuals or companies interested in similar problems. Do connect with us.

Dubzer, Microsoft and Google are asking the same question. How will translation become ubiquitous? (Part 1)

by Santosh

Thinking about how much content is created every day on the Web just makes our heads spin. Just getting a small portion of this content to another language ought to be valuable for some users. There is evidence to suggest that this might be true. However, evidence also tells us that the web is just as local as it is global.

We’re not the only ones who have been thinking about this problem. Dubzer was originally inspired by an old interview of Google co-founder Larry Page talking to a classroom of graduate students. Larry was very candid. He believed that there was a lot of information that is not available in the user’s language. He also said that the problem remains unsolved by purely machines.  The human part of translation cannot be ignored and we got thinking – may be a startup can approach it from the human side and find a solution. That thought in 2009 inspired the creation of Dubzer.

Along with Dubzer, Microsoft Research and Google have attempted various solutions to the same problem. They have learned similar lessons as we have, that mirroring content to create copies in another language alone is not enough.

Well, at least no one can fault us for not thinking big!

So what makes us different? In many ways we do operate a lot like a research lab. We embrace failure and focus on maximizing our understanding of how natural languages and the web interact. That is probably where the similarity ends.

We firmly believe in the power of natural selection and the ability of markets to self-select solutions. This is why we decided from day one that Dubzer was to be a product startup. If Dubzer cannot create sustainability, it probably does not deserve to be around. After all, a problem delayed is a problem denied.

We believe that content-owners, application developers are not going to solve this problem by themselves. For them, the economics of internationalizing content is a significant barrier. This is where we depart significantly from Google’s and Microsoft’s approach to influencing the Wikipedia / Wikimedia sphere to translate itself.

To help understand this better, have a look at how Facebook, Twitter, TED and Mozilla Firefox have managed to internationalize themselves. Since they lie in the intersection of popularity on the web and an international audience, they have been extremely successful in recruiting bilingual users and translators to help them cross over the language barrier. After all, a small percentage of several million is a significant number to create value through translation.

What we gather from these examples and from our own iterations/data is that given the right tools and the right incentives, online users are able to successfully surmount the language barrier.

How do we make this force available to the several million content creators who are online today? The key to solving this larger puzzle is to open up the constraints and connect the incentives. Over the next few months, we intend to answer this very question.

“If language had been the creation not of poetry but of logic, we should only have one.” – Friedrich Hebbel.