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The lack of multilingual affordances in modern software
By Thom Holwerda on 2017-08-06 20:52:19

Before I link you to the story this item is actually about, I want to tell you about one of my biggest frustrations with computer hardware and software. It's something that I have to work around every single day, and its consequences bother me almost every few minutes.

Hardware and software have no idea how to handle people who lead multilingual lives.

Like hundreds of millions of people, I speak and understand several languages, but on top of that, I use two languages every single day: Dutch and English. I switch between these two all the time, often even multiple times a minute when juggling multiple friends, clients, work-related material, entertainment, and so on. I might be writing an e-mail to a client in English, work on a translation in Dutch, WhatsApp with a friend in English, and write a Facebook post in Dutch - switching between all of these.

Software has no idea what to do with this. The most operating systems like Windows and OS X can do is offer a small icon somewhere tucked away to manually switch input languages, which is incredibly cumbersome and just wholly impractical to perform every time you have to switch languages. It gets even worse on mobile operating systems, which are heavy on the autocorrect (I cannot type on a touchscreen), so if my input method is still set to English while I'm typing something in Dutch, it gets autocorrected into meaningless garbage (it's only recently that both Android and iOS at least offer some form of true multilingual input).

It's even worse when it comes to these voice assistants the entire technology industry is trying to ram down our throats, like Google Assistant or Apple's Siri. Do you know what you need to do to switch voice assistant input language on an Apple Watch or Android Wear device? Are you ready for it?

You need to perform a full wipe and set up the device as new.

Since my use of Dutch and English is split about 50/50 - or maybe 60/40 - the end result is that for about 50% of the time, I cannot use any of these devices to reply to an e-mail or write a text message. While Android Wear 2.0 has a keyboard and handwriting recognition, I have no idea how to change the input language for those input methods. Even if I could by tapping around - the point of these things is that you can use them without having to look away from whatever you're doing (e.g. cycling).

And just in case you think this kind of multilingual use is rare or an edge case: just in the United States alone, dozens of millions of people speak both Spanish and English every single day. This is not an edge case. This is not a peculiarity. This is daily reality for possibly hundreds of millions of people all over the world.

There's countless other daily irritations that arise from this inability of software to deal with multilingual use (Win32 vs. Metro vs. Chrome vs. Office vs. etc., which all have their own input language switching mechanisms I manually have to keep track of), but the point I want to make is the following.

Because software has no idea how to deal with multilingual use, I know for a fact that very few of the engineers working on Windows or Office or iOS or WatchOS or Android or whatever lead multilingual lives, because any person who uses multiple languages every single day would be able to spot these problems within 15 minutes of use. If the manager responsible for WatchOS led a multilingual life, or had a bunch of people on his team that led multilingual lives, WatchOS would've never been released without the ability to easily switch Siri input language.

Despite what some low-level Googler claims in his rambling manifesto of idiocy, diversity matters. Or, as ex-Googler Yonatan Zunger puts it way more eloquently:

Engineering is not the art of building devices; it's the art of fixing problems. Devices are a means, not an end. Fixing problems means first of all understanding them - and since the whole purpose of the things we do is to fix problems in the outside world, problems involving people, that means that understanding people, and the ways in which they will interact with your system, is fundamental to every step of building a system.

If, at this point in time, you still don't understand the importance of diversity when developing products, you are beyond help, and have no place on any product development team.

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RE[9]: Comment by grandmasterphp
By CATs on 2017-08-09 10:41:02
> Would you support a Christian company that from say discriminate against Atheists, if part of the core values were Christian values, even if the business itself has nothing to do with Christianity? By your logic they should be able to.

If there is no obvious conflict of interest and it doesn't affect your work or how you work within the business I don't see why an employer should care if you hold abhorrent views, as long as you don't bring it to work.

Well exactly: believe whatever crap you want, just don't bring it to work and all will be fine (at work). But if your co-workers know about your retarded beliefs, then you obviously failed at not bringing it to work.
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RE[10]: Comment by grandmasterphp
By grandmasterphp on 2017-08-09 10:53:22
> But if your co-workers know about your retarded beliefs, then you obviously failed at not bringing it to work.

Discussions happen between people outside of work and at lunch, people add you on Facebook, people might know you previously from outside work etc etc.

In this case, I worked it out from some things she had said that wasn't overt and later my suspicions were when I was invited to a house party. The only reason I worked out most of this stuff is because I've read quite a bit about this stuff over the years and I know some of the tells.
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RE[11]: Comment by grandmasterphp
By CATs on 2017-08-09 12:17:51
You're talking about that palm-reader? That's not really related to this discussion, as no one was fired for believing in palm-reading. People get fired for being openly racist, sexist, homophobic, anti-semitist etc. Which totally makes sense in a modern society that treats all people as being equal and respects basic human rights. Racism, sexism, homophobia, anti-semitism — all of these try to rob people of their basic rights and the right to not be discriminated.
If an employer would refuse to hire an employee based on race, gender or sexual orientation, he would get hit with lawsuits so hard he would forget his own name. Same should apply to employees/peers. Be as stupid with your beliefs as you want, just please don't try to say (or even imply) that particular race/gender/sexual orientation is somehow less worthy.
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RE[10]: Comment by grandmasterphp
By Dave_K on 2017-08-09 12:33:29
> But if your co-workers know about your retarded beliefs, then you obviously failed at not bringing it to work.

I think you're underestimating the effort that some vindictive people will put into investigating and exposing a colleague's private life. Obviously that wasn't the situation here, but I've run into a few cases of people being fired after being outed by people who went digging for dirt.

Larry Garfield at Drupal is a recent public example. He didn't bring his personal life to work - nobody knew the details of his sex life until his kinky online alter-ego was doxxed.

Of course that didn't stop the "diversity and inclusion" crowd from demanding his expulsion from their safe space. In fact, a number of them argued that people should be monitored outside of work and fired/blacklisted if they ever privately express "problematic" views or behaviours. The fact that the Drupal code of conduct only covered things said and done in the work environment was highlighted as a major failing that needed to be corrected.

There was a similar case with Alison Rapp being fired by Nintendo after people sent her employer information about her "moonlighting" - although that drew a very different reaction from the same factions.
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RE[12]: Comment by grandmasterphp
By grandmasterphp on 2017-08-09 14:20:06
Look I know this might be hard for you to understand as you seem to be conflating two different things.

But thinking something vs acting are two very different things and we shouldn't be punishing people for the former because we are going to do what we do in the UK and Germany which is locking people up for telling jokes.
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RE[11]: Comment by grandmasterphp
By grandmasterphp on 2017-08-09 16:49:19
Allison Rapp was kinda a bit different she did do a rather tame photoshoot with her holding a Nintendo product.
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RE: This is why we are at the stage of needing more Humanit
By orfanum on 2017-08-09 20:09:07
Aghast I got voted down for this view. I guess the echo chamber extends beyond gendered issues. Not heard of the digital humanities?! The "Two cultures" argument actually runs both ways (or ought to).
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RE[13]: Comment by grandmasterphp
By CATs on 2017-08-10 07:00:04
> Look I know this might be hard for you to understand as you seem to be conflating two different things.

But thinking something vs acting are two very different things and we shouldn't be punishing people for the former because we are going to do what we do in the UK and Germany which is locking people up for telling jokes.

It is you who is conflating several very different things.
Thinking something is not a problem. Telling jokes about certain things is also not a problem (might be offensive, but these days everything is).
Telling certain things with serious face can be a big problem. That is why we put people in jail for threats to kill even in internet comments. You think it's just fine to let people walk around streets/offices/whatever shouting "Kill all jews!", "Death to faggots!", "Niggers must die!"? Boy, we are very different people...
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RE[14]: Comment by grandmasterphp
By grandmasterphp on 2017-08-10 09:30:40
> It is you who is conflating several very different things.

No.

> Thinking something is not a problem. Telling jokes about certain things is also not a problem (might be offensive, but these days everything is).

We have people going to jail in the UK for mean tweets and Edgy shock humour Youtube videos. This is happening now and in my Country.

> Telling certain things with serious face can be a big problem. That is why we put people in jail for threats to kill even in internet comments. You think it's just fine to let people walk around streets/offices/whatever shouting "Kill all jews!", "Death to faggots!", "*****s must die!"?

Sorry that is a straw-man of my position.

"Kill all jews" and "Death to Faggots" are calls to violence, which I think is a perfectly fine limitation to free speech.

I have already said that I find such views abhorrent. However saying "I don't think the holocaust happened and there is a conspiracy by the evil jews" is a belief (in a conspiracy theory) and not a call to violence.

> Boy, we are very different people...

Well yes we are totally different people if you completely straw-man my position into something completely different.

I think people should be as racist and as sexist as they like in their free time as long as they don't break the laws of the land. I fend up of people being kicked out of places for wrong-think and this guy at Google had the mildest opinions and they are making him out to be a monster.

Edited 2017-08-10 09:33 UTC
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RE[15]: Comment by grandmasterphp
By cdude on 2017-08-10 12:07:02
> I think people should be as racist and as sexist as they like in their free time as long as they don't break the laws of the land.

Where laws include harming others verbally. I fully agree with your take.

This days in germany the huge majority is pro same sex marriage. Just some weeks ago we finally got our government to put that into law - thanks to pressure due to upcoming votings. I was among the people forcing that to happen and partying hart to finally have it happen. Yet I would anytime defend these who where or are still against when someone tries to punish them, ie get them fired from there job, just becausen of that. We should follow ethical minimum standards when dealing with opposing opinions. More so if we are the majority and them are not.

There is a red line and Google crossed it. Just minutes ago I saw Facebook is in full swing to implement its huge new censor-department. Of course they got forced to by our government bypassing all kind of protection-laws. We are full ahead, as in close follower to UK, building up a surveillance and control state. 1984 was wrong, it took them 35 years longer. As usual the first victims will be idiots (ie homo-haters) and everybody is fine. But as usual it will not stop there since it never stops there. Thats what we call the politics of small steps. Something our government plays well since decades.

Edited 2017-08-10 12:22 UTC
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