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More on internationalization

The recent thread on zip codes lead me to consider something: there's more to making an application internationalized than just language of the error messages and buttons.

You have to handle the address format, money, decimal delimiters, date formats, etc.

What else is there? I'm sure I'm missing something from that list as it was merely off the top of my head.

Is there a book that handles internationalization issues?

How about problems having different forms for input (i.e. for non-US address formats), and correspondingly different database schemas? How does one address this?

I haven't put much thought into these problems, myself yet, but I'm assuming that somewhere there has got to be a book or web site that has information on all of these topics. Language is covered a lot, but I'm sure there's a lot of hidden issues I'm not seeing.

Anyone have any input?

Mike Swieton
Wednesday, October 22, 2003

That would be a welcome addition to a good library. That is , a book that thouroughly deals with internationalisation.

(note internationalisation not internationalization....there is a lot to be covered.)

Aussie Chick
Wednesday, October 22, 2003

Having said that, and coming from a non-US view point. I accept the 'US' formats as the standard on the Internet. I am not phased by everything being in US format, I almost expect it, understanding that it is a medium that the US market has taken a liking to.

Perhaps their is nothing wrong with everything defaulting to US formats. A standard is a good thing isn't it? does it matter that this standard is based on a country with a large economy.

The point is that it is a standard all the same.

Aussie Chick
Wednesday, October 22, 2003

Aussie Chick:

That may work on the internet (which is debatable, though I shall not debate it), I don't believe that is an acceptable general case. For instance, a financial application: I don't mind seeing a price in the local currency for a merchant's home country: I think that is reasonable.

However, an application for printing invoices must work with the appropriate currency for the customer's locale.

The topic may not be as important as it has been (I really don't know), but it still is very important.

Mike Swieton
Thursday, October 23, 2003

Aussie Chick - Was it the presidential visit today that made you so accommodating to a US format as a standard? I want to know that my tax money for fueling his plane made some difference in the international perception of the US. :)

m
Thursday, October 23, 2003

Aussie Chick wrote "Perhaps their is nothing wrong with everything defaulting to US formats." Personally I don't fancy the US formats, especially in paper sizes (use the A-, B,-, and C-paper sizes :-), weight, length, temperature, etc. units. Some things apply in other countries too.

True and good internationalisation is a big thing to do. One checklist can be found from HP's site at: http://h21007.www2.hp.com/dspp/tech/tech_TechDocumentDetailPage_IDX/1,1701,3622,00.html

In websites the one annoying thing is the address filling.  Some places even require state as a mandatory value although many other countries don't use those. (and usually it is also a drop down list with US states only). For various types of address formats please see http://www.bitboost.com/ref/international-address-formats.html

If you can't or don't want to use many formats, try to stick with ISO standards (like for date and time formats). After all they are quite widely used standards.

Reni
Thursday, October 23, 2003

Aussie Chick - do Australians spell it "internationalisation", then? That's the same as the British speklling, but I'd been pretty much convinced that that spelling was incorrect and that the Merkins had got it right (well, one out of three isn't bad - it should be colo_u_r and program_me_ as any fule nose). On the other hand since the English language evolves rather than being dictated by legislation maybe either way is acceptable.


Thursday, October 23, 2003

Reni wrote: Personally I don't fancy the US formats, especially in paper sizes (use the A-, B,-, and C-paper sizes :-), weight, length, temperature, etc. units. Some things apply in other countries too.

Well I agree, I think that the US has stuck with some not so good standards (nickels, dimes, Farenheit, Miles....), and I know the Americans are so used to these standards (and even abit bias towards them if they are honest) that often they will not admit to something different being better. And yet how many million US citizens use these methods without complaint.

Agreed, it would be nice if someone acted and ensured that the standard was the best possible standard. ie not default to the US standard.

And yet, I, just like the citizens of the US accept the standards no matter how bad they are.

Aussie Chick
Thursday, October 23, 2003

US spelling grates on my nerves. I can't stand the non-metric measurements. I hate the stupid backwards date format the US uses.

But I'm used to them and I'll put up with them. Unless it's a specialised app in one of those areas (eg I'd never use a US spellchecker, or some design app that forced me to work in feet), I'll cope. It's probably not worth the effort of doing things in all the different possible ways, because even though Americans are apparently incapable of grasping the metric system, the rest of the world manages to put up with their units. ;)

Sum Dum Gai
Thursday, October 23, 2003

Add to your to-do "searching" and "sorting".  :-)

Evgeny Gesin /Javadesk/
Thursday, October 23, 2003

My worst experience was not to select a US state, but had to enter a valid US zip code. If I remember it correctly, the zip code had to match the state.

Of course I understand how important this is, all the time there is a big Atlantic ocean in between.

Thomas Eyde
Thursday, October 23, 2003

A full list of resources on intnernationalization has been given before on this site. MS Press publish a book that covers the essentials.

The main thing with web forms and other databased fields is to make almost nothing mandatory.

Nearly everything optional? Yes. But everybody has a  last name at least. Nope, plenty of Indonesisans just have a first name, so you'd better have blank fields allowable for all name fields, and just check to see if a single one of the name fields has been entered.

For drop down boxes, have "other" as the first or second alternative.

Remember that some countries don't deliver post to the house; the postal address in Saudi Arabia is always a PO Box, and this appears to be common in South Africa as well, since I commonly get addresses that just have the "Postal Bag" number.

Now a useful trick for desktop applications is to put the country at the top of the information to be entered. This means that if they enter a US address you can have code that applies, such as code that will automatically fill in the town if you put in the ZIP code or vice versa. This of course can be done for other countries where the app is going to have significant use. On the web the question is whether the refresh time doesn't negate any time savings.

The problem normally either arises from ignorance by the poeple designing ecommerce sites, or control-freakery by somebody in the business chain - the, let'st stop all this non-standard information getting through. the trouble of course is that when the rule is hard-coded, then it becomes impossible to enter certain data at all without either a rewrite or getting the DBA to add it directly to the table.

Another "Aussie chick" Rebecca Riordian, has written an excellent book for MS Press called "Designing Relational Database Systems", where she states very clearly that from her decades of experience she has learned that best database design involves the minimum of constraints.

Stephen Jones
Thursday, October 23, 2003

Myu experience with metric versius non-metric is that the  British can mangage both (because in the late 60's the mandarins decided that Britain would be metric by the late 70's, so fraictions and feet and inches were downgraded in all the math books, which meant that in the early 80's there were loads of engineering firms complainting about innumerate apprentices who didn't understand 1/32") but most normal people find it impossible to work with the otner units without a conversion chart.

I am building a house in Sri Lanke, which uses feet and inches, so I have used those measurements for the architectural plans (and it took me a good six weeks to be able to think again in feet and inches instead of metres). None of the Saudi friends I have shown the plan too have the least idea what the measurements are.

Stephen Jones
Thursday, October 23, 2003

This is very old American soaps come in handy. I've been living in 90210 for a very long time now :)

Jeroen
Thursday, October 23, 2003

Stephen's right. I must confess I got caught up in all that, with the result that I like to measure small distances in metric (mm & cm), am comfortable with either yards or metres, but prefer Imperial for long distances. I would prefer to order my beer in pints, my petrol in gallons, but the size of my car engine in litres. Life sure is confusing for we Brits.


Thursday, October 23, 2003

I'm from the British generation that handles both Metric & Imperial as well, but certainly my children have (with a few exceptions) problems with Imperial and my parents (again with a few exceptions) problems with Metric.

An added complication is that Imperial and American units are not always *exactly* the same.  The best example is the pint. - the US pint is 16 fl.oz. the Imperial pint is 20 fl.oz. Both fl.oz. are the same, fortunately, but an Imperial gallon is 8 *Imperial* pints. 

Since the main use of the pint is for beer, I'm in favour of the Imperial version.

A cynic writes
Thursday, October 23, 2003

Microsoft has a good site on globalization and internationalization:
http://www.microsoft.com/globaldev
or for a step-by-step guide, start at:
http://www.microsoft.com/globaldev/getwr/steps/wrguide.mspx
(this guide covers issues such as Unicode, code pages, calendar and date/time, sorting, currency, numbers, addresses, phone numbers, paper size, measurement units, etc, etc).

For the other topic in this thread: I'm an Aussie living in the USA (for about 25 years) - I have adapted to some things (the strange spelling, I say "zee" instead of "zed"), but I still haven't really adapted to the US date format (I always write the abbreviated NAME of the month instead of the number, as in "Oct-23-2003", and when I hear an ad on the radio that says a "sale ends ten-thirty", I still start to look at my watch and think how many hours is that away before I realize that they mean "October-thirtieth").

I do wish that the US would switch to A4 paper (so documents that I get at work or home from other countries would print without any hassle) and completely to the metric system (the alcohol industry is already metric, soft drinks are sold by the liter/litre, car engine sizes are metric, etc). [I think it's funny that the US revolted against the British, but stubbornly keep the Brits' antiquated measurement system even though the Brits no longer use it; and also that the US invented "decimal" currency, but then divided it into "quarters" and "eighths" (long ago, there was a coin that was half a quarter in value, which is why the quarter is sometimes called "two bits"). No offence (or is that offense) intended to either country.]

I also think that the US should stop making tiny incremental changes to the paper currency every few years (to make it harder to counterfeit) and just go immediately to the PLASTIC, metallic-threaded, multi-color, etc printed currency that Australia introduced decades ago.

Philip Dickerson
Thursday, October 23, 2003

In Windows you can just call GetLocaleInfo() and get a ton of info for the user's installed locality -- all the time, date, currency formats, etc.

Ed
Thursday, October 23, 2003

May I say I wish the rest of the world would switch to Letter instead of A4; I do find it a slightly more aesthetically pleasing format.

Though perhaps we ought to compromise with a format that is half of each so that I can be sure that my docs will print the same whatever country I'm in.

Stephen Jones
Thursday, October 23, 2003

The U.S. tried to go metric in the 70's -- it was pushed in all the schools, TV weather gave temperatures in F and C, speed limits were also given in km/h... I wonder why it fizzled out?

Cubist
Thursday, October 23, 2003

Jeroen:
That is so funny, I was just about to make the same respone to Thomas (If I remember it correctly, the zip code had to match the state.). When I read your comment!!

I also have been living in 90210 for a while as well.

Aussie Chick
Thursday, October 23, 2003

If Britain is metric, how come highway distances are in miles, people give their weight in stones, and beer is served in pints.

pdq
Thursday, October 23, 2003

Because standardisation does not have to be standarised in a multi-industry sense to be a standard. (although I know that this thread is addressing internationalisation of standards).

Note the drinks come in 375ml cans, regardless of which company, paper come most commonly as A4 size, Cans come in 6-packs, eggs come by the dozen.....

Within the industry it is a standard, almost a bit of lingo, in a company we expect to learn acronymns etc that go with our business, I guess as a patron of a pub we need to learn names for the glasses.

And lets admit it asking for a pint of beer sounds that much better then asking for a 480ml of beer.

Aussie Chick
Thursday, October 23, 2003

---"And lets admit it asking for a pint of beer sounds that much better then asking for a 480ml of beer. "----

Probably because if you ask for a pint you get about 560 ml. There are twenty fluid ounces in a pint.

A litre of water weighs one kilo at sea level, so that is 35.2 fluid ounces. So a half litre is 17.6 fluid ounces.

Stephen Jones
Thursday, October 23, 2003

"A litre of water weighs one kilo at sea level"

And then further into the future the general person will have a greater understand of Einstiens General and special theories, and they will all be saying : why do we still use weights that are relative to the gravitational pull of the earth? Why do we not measure everything in mass (of course at this stage the equipment needed to do this will be commonplace)....

[Way off on a tangent here, my apologies to the original poster]

Aussie Chick
Thursday, October 23, 2003

A liter of water does NOT weigh one kilo.

Weight is a measure of force, and is in newtons. Kilograms are a measure of mass.

Chris Tavares
Friday, October 24, 2003

What's pedantry measured in?

Stephen Jones
Friday, October 24, 2003

Seeing as how the mass/weight distinction was pounded into me by a civil engineering professor, I submit that pedantry is measured in credit-hours.

Chris Tavares
Monday, October 27, 2003

I actually have to teach the goddam thing for Technical English. This semester I seem to have struck lucky.

I note that in the thread on how much programmers weigh, the units are not given. If they are in Newtons, I submit that we seem to have an exceptionally lithe collection of programmers.

Stephen Jones
Monday, October 27, 2003

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