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Why ar3 y0u t4lk1ng L33t 7o m3?

By 31st January 2017 No Comments

Last week, VoxSmart launched the latest version of its VSmart Control Center. We now have support for English (US and UK), Italian and German with more expected soon. Our CTO, Dr Richard Wheeldon, explains why this matters.

Working at UCL alongside Professor Sasse’s usability and security teams taught me a lot about both subjects but it wasn’t until I started traveling that I fully understood the importance of internationalization to both users and businesses. There’s nothing quite as fundamental to a usable interface as being able to understand what’s written on it. Similarly, there’s nothing more likely to turn away a potential customer than them not being able to understand it – yet it’s still common for compliance products to be restricted to English-only.

Following a complete re-write over the last year, we are now delivering on an aggressive roadmap to keep our user interface the most intuitive and easiest to use of any system for risk management of mobile communications on the market. And because of my experience, I was always determined that language support would be an early addition and we now have support for English (US and UK), Italian and German with more expected soon.

Internationalisation is hard. Anyone who says it isn’t, hasn’t understood it properly. It’s not just a matter of text substitution but it affects the handling of time, dates, currencies, layout, reading direction, data ordering (which in turn affects indexing), input validation and so on. Google, Microsoft and IBM all spend tons of time, money and effort in improving support for local languages but even the best and the biggest players sometimes get it wrong. Check out these fantastically useless Google Maps directions (https://goo.gl/maps/L4A5f6W8wmw) for getting from the Tsukiji fish market to the Tokyo Skytree. Why does it keep saying to cross “the road” or take “the zebra crossing” without saying which one? That’s because the Japanese use an addressing system which numbers city blocks rather than the road which means that hardly any of the streets in Tokyo have names. Google could have done something sensible like use local landmarks but they didn’t – it’s not something that would even occur to the average American or Englishman.

Internationalisation is also fundamental to our long-term goals. One of VoxSmart’s key selling point is our geography-neutral, carrier-neutral approach to mobile voice recording and compliance. We’re continuing to build out our service with new points of presence and new data processing regions to support our New York and Singapore sales presences. We’re also building new functionality for transcription and analytics – all of which is sensitive to the language being spoken. Even if were to restrict ourselves to our local customers in the heart of London’s financial district, we’d come across a wealth of languages. The 2011 census, for instance, showed over 100 languages spoken within the city. Therefore, it’s essential we continue to build on a multi-lingual base.

But what does this have to do with Leetspeak? Simply, that we made a point of adding locale support for Leetspeak at the same time as more functional European languages. We did this for two reasons. Firstly, because I’m a geek at heart and geeks like putting silly things in user interfaces. Google itself has support for Leet (hacker), pirate, Klingon and Bork, bork, bork! Try googling “Bletchley Park” for a subtle Easter egg – a reference to their code-breaking history. The second reason is more serious – we wanted to make sure we covered everything. Many languages use the same words for common things. For example, BlackBerry and Android being trade names never changed but we knew from experience that when we started to support other characters we’d run into issues. I’m looking forward to the day our users get to choose between Андроид and 검은 딸기!

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