Nick Harris

Archive for January 2015


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Supporting multiple languages in an app is hard. One of the hardest things is finding spot on translations.

Jay Graves tweet today, and my response, got me thinking about words that when translated seem benign but are completely different.

NewsGator Inbox, at one point of its life, supported a handful on languages. NewsGator outsourced the translation. We gave them our English string files and they gave us back translated versions. We would test them for UI layout but nothing else.

The nomenclature of RSS at the time was to refer to blog enteries as “posts”. When our partner got one of our translated builds they were not happy to see all blog enteries referred to as “fence posts” – the translation of the word our service used in all of our apps strings.

When writing my book I also noticed this. Wiley had multiple levels of copy editing and I realized as they went on that the purpose was to have copy that was easy to translate. It was a fascinating process.

I guess the moral of the story is that if you invest in translation, pay for a company that will know dialect and apply it wisely. Having a plan to verify the translations independently sounds like a good idea too.

Written by Nick Harris

January 20, 2015 at 6:23 am

Posted in Uncategorized

School of Visual Communication

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The debate about whether a software engineer should go to college seems to come up from time to time. Some of the best developers I know didn’t graduate from college as well as some of the worst. To me its really just a personal choice. But if you have the means and the drive to get the most out of a college experience, my advice would be to take it. You’ll be surrounded by thousands of people who are all there to teach and learn. That can produce some pretty unique opportunities that can have a major impact on your career later on.

At Ohio University I had one of those opportunities. Being a fulltime student while finding meaningful work that can kick start your career can be a challenge. With that in mind, the university setup a program where students could apply for on-campus internships. You had to interview in order to get hired for any position, so you would have a few real world interviews under your belt. If you found a good job you could pick up some great professional experience while also broadening your skills and talents.

My senior year (1999-2000) I applied and got a job building and maintaining the website for the School of Visual Communication. I spent most of my days in the Mathematics and Engineering buildings working on Sun/Unix workstations writing code. This job meant that I got to spend a least a couple hours a day in a school that (straight from their current website):

“…offers an interdisciplinary visual communication degree with four specialized sequences: informational graphics and publication design, interactive design; documentary photojournalism for newspapers, magazines and the Internet; and commercial photography.”

The work was great. I was able to create a JavaScript slideshow for the homepage showcasing student projects throughout the year. I also had to learn how to do all of it on a Mac, which at the time were Power Mac G4’s.

After a few months I had become friends with the administrators and professors. They liked me enough that they allowed me to audit any class I wanted. I took them up and sat through an entire quarter learning how to use Photoshop and other tools to design and create web sites. It was fantastic to learn along side people who were creating the layouts, color schemes and graphics that I would then put together with my code to build cool webpages (as cool as webpages could be in 2000).

I look back on that experience as the time I discovered the importance of design in technology. Its also the first time I realized that as much as I love Photoshop, I suck at it compared to professional designers.

I’m thankful I had that opportunity. I wouldn’t have had it if I hadn’t gone to college, and I don’t think I would be the software engineer I am today without it.

Written by Nick Harris

January 5, 2015 at 2:41 am

Posted in Uncategorized