May 15, 2010

"'Halogen, your explanation makes perfect sense.'/'The 'Arabic is the default language when Google gets confused' thing rings true for me.'"

"The title of this post rags on Tea Partiers, but commenters here are displaying a free-wheeling intuitive style of thinking that is actually the mode used in coming up with conspiracy theories. Where are you getting this feeling of "perfect sense" and what kind of truth bell have you got in your head and when does it ring? When you hear what you want to hear?"

I comment — as Alizaria — on that AskMetafiter post I blogged about yesterday.

ADDED: Speaking of creepy things in Arabic-looking writing, look at this Google search that brought someone to my blog today.

20 comments:

Ken said...

Ann, the asertion is that the google code looks through a list of languages it can render and selects the first one. It is a theory -- quite plausible but unproven -- about how a particular bit of code works. Googling "default languages" is actually abit embarassing

Ann Althouse said...

@Ken Can you link me to an article about this? I want to understand how a map in English could have one item written in Arabic (and also why that writing would disappear when you try to zoom in on it). Is there something about Arabic on an English map that would make it unzoomable?

Ann Althouse said...

@Ken I Googled a bunch of things including the phrase "default language." If you think that was "embarrassing," you do a Google search that works better. Have you turned up any information about the theory that is asserted? Or are you just *telling* me -- for what reason I don't know -- that an assertion has been made. Yeah, I know it's a theory. If you are just agreeing with me that it's a theory and adding that it's "quite plausible but unproven," what do you think you are adding to the discussion? An assertion that it's "quite plausible"? Why is it "quite plausible"? An assertion that it's "unproven"? Where did you get the evidence of lack of proof? That's pretty hard to do unless you spent some time Googling for an answer, which I did. So tell me why you think somehow what I did is "abit embarrassing"? Your comment is embarrassing.

Pete the Streak said...

You go, Girl! Tell him what you REALLY think!

Matthew said...

I say this without any knowledge whatsoever of the specifics here. However,I used to be a system's programmer in another life (Mainframes -- real computers -- not thee desktop Tinker Toys!).

It is not uncommon for technology companies to outsource the production and testing of code. Much of this outsourcing in recent years has been to companies in places like the UAE and Saudi Arabia, where Arabic is the primary language spoken. The basic programming language might be standard (except for special sumbology demanded by the Arabic alphabet, etc), and the data that comes out the back end will, naturally be in Arabic.

Translation into various languages is typically (but not always!) done on the user side, rather than on the server side, and so when you see Arabic characters in place of English, it's probably because a) there's a bug that prevented immediate translation (Arabic turns to English, etc, but after a delay and not perfectly, or not at all), or b) someone's language support software may need an upgrade (just whose is anyone's guess).

I would think that IF the code was written by someone in Sand Flea Heaven, it would process, transmit and render data in Arabic, then depending on the local user's PC to do the translation bit through language support software.

It's also quite possible that I'm talking out of my ass, but hey, it's as good a theory as anyone else's, right?

dpoyesac said...

"I want to understand how a map in English could have one item written in Arabic"

But it's NOT written in English. Or, as Ken and Matthew said, it's this:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Language_localization

So, one the one hand, we have a possibility of secret or sinister manipulation... and on the other we have the possibility of a bug in a complex automatic system with thousands, if not millions, of lines of code.

I'm pretty sure a simple application of Occam's Razor makes the second case more 'plausible'. If anyone thinks otherwise, it is incumbent on THEM to explain why it is necessary to multiply entities.

Ann Althouse said...

@dpoyesac Thanks, but I'm not sure that Wikipedia article is written in English.

There are more than place names on that map. There are words like "golf course" and "country club." The map appears in English. I know you're trying to say something about the way maybe the page wasn't *written* in English even though it appears in English.

I wonder if there is some idea about copyright protection involved. I remember reading that map makers would deliberately put tiny mistakes on maps so that they could prove when someone stole their work.

AllenS said...

It's a not so much subliminal message.

edutcher said...

Matthew said...

I say this without any knowledge whatsoever of the specifics here. However,I used to be a system's programmer in another life (Mainframes -- real computers -- not thee desktop Tinker Toys!).

It is not uncommon for technology companies to outsource the production and testing of code. Much of this outsourcing in recent years has been to companies in places like the UAE and Saudi Arabia, where Arabic is the primary language spoken. The basic programming language might be standard (except for special sumbology demanded by the Arabic alphabet, etc), and the data that comes out the back end will, naturally be in Arabic.


Having worked with some programmers based in India, it seems counter-intuitive that they wouldn't get people who were at least bilingual in English for an English language app. Certainly the people corresponding with us were quite fluent in English (in some cases, better than most Americans).

PS Mainframes are just another PC peripheral.

PPS Alizaria - love to know what inspired that as a handle.

themightypuck said...

This gets into the philosophical weeds pretty fast. Conspiracy theories tend to be less plausible than bugs because there are a lot more bugs than conspiracies. The hypothesis doesn't prove itself, but there is a continuum of gut feelings about things that people have and that serve useful purposes.

Matthew said...

Counter-intuitive, yes, but some people will do anything to save a buck -- and there are other considerations, as well.

I used to work for a Japanese company who insisted that certain aspects of data processing operations take place ONLY in Japan for "propietary reasons". There were many occasions (when problems might arise) where I found myself as a go-between in conversations that spanned the globe -- with an Israli or Italian on one end, and a Japanese on the other -- and I was the only native English-speaker in the convo.

I think that was not so much a business consideration as it was a Cultural one. The Japanese programmers simply did not want anyone to know what they did, or how they did it (having eventually discovered The Secret, I wa squite disappointed; it wasn't all that impressive, and rather amateurish).

Some aspects of Computer programming are still dealing with older -- almost purely -- symbolic languages, rather than moving onto more intuitive/plain-language languages, like REXX, and so command of English is not always a requirement, or even a necessity.

Just ask all those programmers in Moscow and Taiwan who helped put their American counterparts out of work...

P.S. Mainframes Rule; PC's are things you get in the Cracker Jacks box, right?

Blue@9 said...

"There are more than place names on that map. There are words like "golf course" and "country club." The map appears in English. I know you're trying to say something about the way maybe the page wasn't *written* in English even though it appears in English."

Ann, a google map isn't a static image like a picture. It's a composite of layers of different information. That's why a lable like "golf course" may show up, but if another label is buggy, it may just default to Arabic.

edutcher said...

Matthew said...

...

P.S. Mainframes Rule; PC's are things you get in the Cracker Jacks box, right?

Especially since some PCs outperform a lot of mainframes.

Penny said...

"What kind of truth bell do you have in your head and when does it ring?"

Some of us long for the good old days when a quick trip to Snopes could clear up all the nasty rumors.

former law student said...

Especially since some PCs outperform a lot of mainframes.

I have my Cyber 70 assembly language manual around here somewhere. I miss those amber screen terminals.

Ann Althouse said...

"PPS Alizaria - love to know what inspired that as a handle."

If you click on the name over at Metafilter you'll get to my profile where it is explained.

I also wrote on AOL message boards under that name, mainly writing little movie reviews, some of which now show up in IMDB. For example here.

Ken said...

Ann
Since you ask. The suggestion was that the software had a BUG and that the bug looked like fairly common behaviour in software. (I say this as a software developer with over 20 years experience.) Here's the theory. The program needed to draw the name. For some reason -- a BUG -- it could not find a way to render it in English. I can think of several ways this might happen. When it fails to find what it needs to render in english it falls back on what was configured as the default -- in this case arabic. This -- falling back on a default -- is common behaviour HENCE the theory is plausible. The poster suggested arabic might be first in a list of languages as it starts with A. Can I call that plausible or will you write 50 words calling me redundant?

Here is another plausible theory. A stray bit of arabic text was left lying around in some file used in the rendering. A typo of sorts. This also is common hence is also plausible. It also explains why the arabic vanishes when you zoom -- and get a new rendering.

Anything can be configured as a default. 0 is often a default. If someone explained why your tax refund was 0 by saying a bug caused the program to use the default amount, would you goole "default amount" and expect to get a useful answer? I would think that ... embarassing.

Michelle said...

General Electric.
You owe me.
And you owe me since 1976.
That's the year I became deaf due to meningitis and the scam with all your " pretense".
So you tell RICKY the GREYHOUND, I am now on his
" ass" too.
And only because he has three kids that wanted OUTE of the PEDOPHILE - FRING, I will not be too cruel to him.
But you?
YOU?
The torturer of CHILDREN on HYDRA with DEDOONV?
If what they say is true, I am going to crucify you...and you
can laugh now.
But, " just you wait and see".
You'll he surprised.
I guarantee you.
And people that know me, know I mean it.
" KANSAS KINGS".
It's going to really make you a " POPER".

ayumiyu20 said...

wonderful work! the way you discuss the subject i'm very impressed. i'll bookmark this webpage and be back more often to see more updates from you.

ayumi
www.brfe.net

leeshink said...

spot on with this write-up, i like the way you discuss the things. i'm impressed, i must say. i'll probably be back again to read more. thanks for sharing this with us.

Lee Shin
www.trendone.net