How to do Internationalization wrong

First, I want to thank any software engineer who thinks about globalization, localization and translation and goes through the pains of resource libraries, satellite assemblies, bidirectional input, code pages, composite characters and Kanji backspace.

I’m really supporting all these efforts. But you have to understand what people are actually trying to accomplish and whether it’ll make it easier for them if your localization is at best simple-minded.

I work in Germany for a US company, so on my computers I need to use US English as the primary culture. My keyboards have US layout, IT installs US applications, my browser accepts en-us, en, de-de and de, and all that is fine with me.

However, some financial stuff is in Euros, so we change that and we’re using long US date formats only, so that nobody confuses months and days.

But, I do not necessary feel at home if some &expletive; chooses to decide about my locale from my IP address. That basically means, depending on the company proxy I’m using I’m presented with automatically localized and [terribly] translated Germanyish, Spainish, Singaporish or Great British content.

Actually my locale is en-de, but I’m not so arrogant as to expect this to be supported by anybody. So if you can’t support UI language, I’d rather want you to give a damn or at provide a way to let it be changed explicitly and honor that choice.

MSN is one of those clever sites. It’s even so smart it can claim this feed is de-de, just by looking at my IP address.

Yes, I can choose English-US as my permanent MSN language somewhere in Profile. However, that one is not very persistent and Spaces appears miraculously unaffected.

With MSN I actually think it’s a marketing issue, because they have to put the ads in the country of the advertised brand.

But I can’t see why this would affect my feed. Guys, there are people in the non-English part of the world who nevertheless have at least basic knowledge of the language!

Yet still, I could live with that. It’s not perfect, but what is, anyway. But software with wrong internationalization can actually showstop somebody and this is where I get angry.

In the early days also Windows Update was among the guilty. They early adopted Accept-Language, but chose to let the language version of the patches depend on that as well. Took me days…

Rule: Do not try to let your software outsmart its users.

Exception: If your legally bound to not let your software run in some countries, you might need to do so for due diligence.

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