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Jul 14, 2010: Globalizing a small publishing house's site

I've blogged recently about helping my clients address how to globalize their information architectures. You may know how much I like to eat my own dog food, so I've been wondering how Rosenfeld Media, as tiny as it is, could do a better job of engaging with UX practitioners globally. (I should note that we're already trying very hard; about 25% of our sales are outside the US, and last year we added a British fulfillment center to better serve the European market.)

My current thinking came to me in a two minute stretch while showering yesterday, so take it for what it's worth. (Man, it was a nice shower though!) But the following concept seems pretty low-cost and, potentially, useful in both symbolic and concrete ways. I'd love your feedback on it:

How it'd work

  • A "friend of Rosenfeld Media" who's a native speaker of a non-English language would volunteer to do the following:
    • Translate our tweets and post them to a language-specific RM account (e.g., "@RM_espanol").
    • Translate a page on the RM site (e.g., http://rosenfeldmedia.com/espanol/") that includes our mission, a list of our products, and links to those products on the RM site and, if available, from publishers who've translated our books (currently many of our titles have our are being translated into Chinese and Korean). Even better, translate each product's brief description.
    • Facilitate communications between RM and non-English speakers by serving as a go-between/translator.
  • The generous friend would in turn receive:
    • Copies of all of our books and webinars.
    • Prominent mention on the page for that language.
    • Our undying gratitude.
    • The good feeling of helping connect their fellow language-speakers with more good UX content.

Why to do it

  • It's a low-cost and potentially high-impact way to connect and engage with UX practitioners with whom we have minimal contact with right now. We're a small company, but we do genuinely care about non-English speakers; this might be a nice way to show it.
  • It has SEO benefits--more non-English speakers will find our products.
  • It's nice for the publishers we currently partner with on translations, and may be a nice incentive for other publishers who are considering working with us to translate our titles in other languages.
  • We'll learn more about new markets through both direct engagement and analytics, and might learn that there are certain markets that we should be more involved in.

Why not to do it

  • Our books are written in English; will providing information about our books in other languages actually increase our sales? (BTW, we don't really make any money on the sales of our translated titles.)
  • A volunteer could be a poor translator or act maliciously in a language that we don't know; we would be pretty vulnerable.

What do you think?

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Comment: Alexander (Jul 14, 2010)

I'm from Ukraine. We speak Russian and Ukrainian here(both are pretty similar, so you can hit pretty much all of the ex-USSR territories with Russian alone)...

My guess is there are people who would buy books from you and sell them here without knowing English at all to those in the know. I believe you should add minimal multi-language support.

O'Reilly is being translated and sold successfully here for instance...

Now, I doubt there's any fast and good money in this for you, but why not try the minimal amount of translation?

I volunteer to help you with Russian-speaking audience... I don't have loads of time for this, but still wish to be helpful to the community. And I have a degree in teaching English btw. :)

Comment: Germán Martínez (Jul 14, 2010)

Hi Louis,

I think translating book descriptions and creating language specific pages is a great idea.
And getting copies of all books for doing that sounds great!

I think there's a problem with translating tweets basically because twitts are really written in a temporal context.
For example it makes no sense to translate the 50% off for RM tweeps a day after. I really don't think someone will have the time to do that.

Btw, I'll be glad to help you with a Spanish translation.

Best,
Germán

Comment: mantruc (Jul 14, 2010)

Some off the top of my head, raw ideas:

I'm not sure if translating would be worth the effort in this case. My first guess is that you just get more mileage for keeping your English free of US-centric references (as in staying away from East-coast vs. West-coast language, or assuming people will know who celebrities and politicians are). Which BTW you already seem to be doing a good job at.

What I'm thinking here is if your books are published in English, then the people who are able to read them will be able to read your site in English. Otherwise they will just get frustrated from reading a website in their language just to find out they will not be able to read the books.

I'm not sure about your point of questioning quality or maliciousness out of volunteers. Yet I continue to be impressed by horrible translations into Spanish seen at US institutions that are honestly try to reach out.

Comment: Lou (Jul 14, 2010)

Alexander, I agree: minimal translation. Can't see how it could hurt? Except...

Javier: My concern with volunteers is only in how we could check their work if we don't speak their language. They could use poor grammar, be bad translators, or post that "Lou is an absolute jerk" or something like that and it'd be hard to know.

Alexander and Germán, thanks for the offer; duly noted!

Comment: Carolyn Snyder (Jul 14, 2010)

I wouldn't be too concerned about malice - UX folk aren't that type - but quality is another story. Some well-meaning student could make a hash of it. Perhaps it would be possible to get a quality-checker in that language? You probably know enough UX people to find someone with reasonable editorial skills.

Not sure why you'd put a lot of effort into translated books unless there's revenue to be had. How come there's not? (Rhetorical question - not expecting an answer.)

Comment: Lou (Jul 14, 2010)

Carolyn, the way it works with foreign rights (as I've been told and as I'm discovering) is that once you sell them, and get paid an advance, that's about all the money you'll ever see regardless of actual sales. There's no way to check the foreign publisher's books, nor any way to really enforce payment of royalties due (which wouldn't likely be enough to hire a lawyer anyway).

Comment: John Yunker (Jul 14, 2010)

Hi Louis -- I would check out how Facebook and TED promote their volunteer translators. They've both had very good success in this regard. The nice thing about featuring the translators is that they become co-owners in a sense, which will generally ensure a high-quality translation.

But be sure to manage user expectations as the other com mentors noted. You don't want people thinking the product is localized.

Check out how TED promotes its translators here:
http://www.ted.com/OpenTranslationProject

Regarding foreign sales, have you also sold digital rights? Perhaps you could sell only print rights outside the US and keep digital so that you could translate the book contents yourself and sell outside the US. This is something I'm now looking into myself...

Comment: Damien (Jul 14, 2010)

Hi Louis,

Most of your books are not referenced by Amazon (except amazon.com and Amazon.co.uk thanks to your storefronts).

Why don't you sell only one copy of each of your books on amazon.fr amazon.de etc.?
The books will be permanently listed on these websites (even if the only copy is sold) and you won't have to pay for a storefront.

Even if you won't satisfy all the demand via amazon, this may redirect potential consumers to Rosenfeld Media.

What do you think?

Comment: Christopher Moura (Jul 14, 2010)

I believe this is a great opportunity for people like me who discovered RM titles through a friend in a UX course in Sao Paulo, Brazil. Now, I always recommend RM titles...
And although our language is portuguese, most of brazilian UX students and professionals refer to books written in english.
I hope you move foward with this good idea!

Comment: sagasono (Jul 14, 2010)

Hello, Lou.

I'm from Japan.I agree your idea.
In my personal opinion, most of Japanese UX specialists can understand and read English articles smoothly.

But I believe your contents are valuable for any other (even non-UX) people in Japan. To capture your contents in Japanese would be good chance in many cases.

So, again, I agree your good idea!

Comment: Hanan Cohen (Jul 15, 2010)

Which reminds me of voluntary translations of pieces from Joel on Software

http://www.joelonsoftware.com/navLinks/OtherLanguages.html

If you read Hebrew, you can find a translation or two done by me.

Comment: Michael (Jul 15, 2010)

What i would like to do : lease a book to a french speaking customer for him to read a specific chapter. That would sometimes help me in my job.

Otherwise, i'm ok with your english books, and volunteer for a french translation (i'm french canadian, not from France). :)

Comment: Nam-ho Park (Jul 15, 2010)

Hi Lou,

Off the bat, I think it's a great idea. Of course quality of the translation is the main concern, and also the good UX'ers with great command of English in Korea tend to be really, really busy these days.

What will end up happening is a fall in commitment as time progresses and hence quality will suffer. Free books I don't think provide enough incentive to those skilled enough to translate, since they probably can just buy the book or wait for the full translation.

I think you may need to think about as 2 separate parts.

Part 1: translate the pages on RM site. This can be a one time push. I can get volunteers to work for this push.

Part 2: facilitate sustained communication. you can also have volunteers doing this, but tweets tend to get ignored during crunch times, so I'd recommend that the handful of volunteers be sent DM's to alert them of news they'll need to translate and pass on. As long as this is not a heavy burden on RM (how many countries are you thinking of expanding into?) or the volunteer, I think this should work well.

Most of the UX'ers in Korea are well connected via Twitter and a handful of orgs and events, so the Korean audience will be easy to reach. I can think of a handful of dedicated volunteers I can recruit besides myself.

Hope this helps. Best of luck~

Comment: Lou (Jul 23, 2010)

Thanks again all for the wonderful feedback and the many generous offers to help. I've got to mull this over, but I do still think that a simple single page for a variety of languages isn't a terrible idea. Tweeting, maybe not.

I'll likely come back to this in a few months, toward the end of the year. The idea is competing with around five other major ideas for Rosenfeld Media (as well as finishing my own book!).

My trouble, in general, is that I have a bad case of idea-itis. I keep coming up with ideas and some of them are actually worth pursuing. But I don't have the development cycles to keep up with the ideas....

Comment: torresburriel (Jul 26, 2010)

100% agree with @mantruc

Comment: Alexander (Jul 26, 2010)

Hiring your local bureaux to do the translation and then have the tweeps proof-read it is also the way to go.

Comment: HCG (Jul 26, 2010)

I would be glad to help you with spanish translation. Not only site's translation but also book translation if you need it :).

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