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Writing Software for Worldwide Distribution Proves Difficult

michael posted about 10 years ago | from the least-common-denominator dept.

Microsoft 1391

lupa1420 writes "Insensitive computer programmers with little knowledge of geography have cost the giant Microsoft company hundreds of millions of dollars in lost business and led hapless company employees to be arrested by offended governments."

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The whole idea is crazy (3, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 years ago | (#10012295)

I don't get it.

Re:The whole idea is crazy (2, Insightful)

MrRTFM (740877) | about 10 years ago | (#10012419)

MOD PARENT UP - this first post is actually insightful for a change.

Come on - a US product is getting flamed for not knowing every fucking quirk of all other countries religeons, customs, languages, etc... I dont love MS by any stretch, but this is ridiculous - if you dont like it, dont fucking buy it.

Re:The whole idea is crazy (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 years ago | (#10012544)

how the hell is this Offtopic???

Specific Ocean? (5, Funny)

American AC in Paris (230456) | about 10 years ago | (#10012298)

From TFA:

The annual National Geographic Survey had thrown up the sad fact that only 23 out of 56 young Americans knew the whereabouts of the Pacific Ocean

Oh, cry me a river--like the Pacific Ocean is some big, important thing. I mean, you need to drive all the way to Sweden just to see it!

Re:Specific Ocean? (5, Funny)

Nos. (179609) | about 10 years ago | (#10012362)

As a Canadian, I've talked to many folks from the states over the Internet and trying to describe to them where I live is sometimes very difficult. One of the ones that I thought would work was saying I live about 80 miles north of the border between North Dakota and Montana. However, a lot of people still had no idea where I was talking about, and these are people who live in the USA!

Of course not! (4, Funny)

interactive_civilian (205158) | about 10 years ago | (#10012449)

Nos. said:
One of the ones that I thought would work was saying I live about 80 miles north of the border between North Dakota and Montana. However, a lot of people still had no idea where I was talking about, and these are people who live in the USA!
Of course they had no idea what you were talking about. Every US citizen knows that there is no such thing as "80 miles north of the border". There is no border! That is where the world ends! IIRC, there is a sign that says something like "Here there be monsters" and then a big drop off into the abyss because that is where one would fall off the turtle's back...

.

[/sarcasm]

Re: the grandparent post, that quote from the article got me too. I was wondering if they were showing an upside down map or something...

Re:Specific Ocean? (1)

grub (11606) | about 10 years ago | (#10012482)


Near Winnipeg? You never came out for "/. Beer Saturday" a few months back!

Re:Specific Ocean? (2, Insightful)

parkrrrr (30782) | about 10 years ago | (#10012493)

So you told them you live 80 miles north of a 200-mile-long north-south line, and you think they're confused?

I'm guessing you must live somewhere near Regina, but it's not entirely clear from your description.

Re:Specific Ocean? (4, Insightful)

DGregory (74435) | about 10 years ago | (#10012559)

I'm from Ohio, and when I've gone traveling to Europe, I've had to say "yeah, that's right... near Chicago" but a lot of people only knew where Florida or NYC or California were anyway. And others didn't even know where those were. (Whereas I can diagram on a map the Canadian provinces, many Canadian cities, European countries and cities, and various countries around the world. I'm special like that I guess.)

So while that's not as extreme as not knowing where the Pacific Ocean is... Americans aren't the only geographically-challenged people out there.

Re:Specific Ocean? (0, Redundant)

IGTeRR0r (805236) | about 10 years ago | (#10012545)

Actually, the Pacific Ocean borders the Western United States, and you can drive there from anywhere in North America.



Sorry, had to kill it, couldn't help myself...

Insular US (3, Informative)

Threni (635302) | about 10 years ago | (#10012306)

I've been to the States and seen some of the news and current affairs programs and seriously, it's like they're aimed at 12 year olds or something. This story doesn't suprise me at all!

Re:Insular US (0, Offtopic)

glenrm (640773) | about 10 years ago | (#10012344)

You poor bastard, here you are in the US and you spend your time watching new and current affairs programming, get thee to a LAN party!

If your going to be indoors spend your time playing Circle of Heros with less lag or pick up a US copy of DOOM 3.

Re:Insular US (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 years ago | (#10012360)

Go back to England, poofter. And don't make the good ole U.S. of A kick your British asses again. Betcha don't wear red the 2nd time around, geniuses.

Re:Insular US (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 years ago | (#10012402)

You're the second (American) fuckwit to have misread his post. Notice the tense used? You know what a tense is, right?

Re:Insular US (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 years ago | (#10012415)

I doubt the next time the French would be there to help you out.

Re:Insular US (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 years ago | (#10012363)

You must have been watching MSNBC.

Uh (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 years ago | (#10012376)

> The Spanish version of Windows used the word Hembra - meaning "woman" in Spain
> - for choosing gender. But in some Central American republics, notably
> Nicaragua, the word is an insult meaning "bitch". The programme was changed.

So the Spanish version has to be in Nicaraguan? I thought software was internationalised according to territory, not language?

Re:Insular US (3, Insightful)

Celt (125318) | about 10 years ago | (#10012389)

American news still reminds me of Starship Troopers, "Would you like to know more?"

Re:Insular US (5, Insightful)

Scoria (264473) | about 10 years ago | (#10012422)

There are over 30,000,000 functional illiterates here in the United States. 29,302,757 represents 10% of our population, rendering that a staggering figure.

And because it has been widely speculated that they are more responsive to advertising than any other demographic, the networks are probably catering to them.

Re:Insular US (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 years ago | (#10012442)

There are over 30,000,000 functional illiterates here in the United States. 29,302,757 represents 10% of our population, rendering that a staggering figure.

Yes and one of them is your President!

Re:Insular US (5, Funny)

Scoria (264473) | about 10 years ago | (#10012483)

Yes and one of them is your President!

"To the C students, I say, 'You too can be president of the United States.'" - George W. Bush, 2001

Re:Insular US (1)

chary (805596) | about 10 years ago | (#10012543)

"Zeus Almighty, get me a shotgun" - Plato

Re:Insular US (3, Informative)

N3Z (746334) | about 10 years ago | (#10012430)

Many news sources are targeted at an 8'th grade reading/comprehension level, so 14 year olds would be more accurate.

Re:Insular US (1)

LynchMan (76200) | about 10 years ago | (#10012525)

Many news sources are targeted at an 8'th grade reading/comprehension level, so 14 year olds would be more accurate.

The better written news brodcasts/papers/etc are written at an 8th grade reading level. The more popular news sources (NY Daily News, Philly Daily News, any FOX News) are at a 3rd - 4th grade reading/comprehension level.

Re:Insular US (1)

GoofyBoy (44399) | about 10 years ago | (#10012538)

Thats more due to the medium rather than the general population of United States.

The New York Times and Wall Street Journal are two good examples of good journalism in America.

here it is (-1, Redundant)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 years ago | (#10012308)

first post comes now.

Re:here it is (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 years ago | (#10012322)

j00 fail it.

not exclusive (2, Insightful)

Glog (303500) | about 10 years ago | (#10012317)

That problem is not exclusive to Microsoft employees. It's not like MS specifically hires programmers who have no clue where the Pacific Ocean is. I mean, that's a pretty big ocean - it's kind of hard to miss it unless you've never ever in your life looked at a map. But I am digressing - let the Microsoft bashing begin!!

Re:not exclusive (5, Funny)

slackerboy (73121) | about 10 years ago | (#10012388)

It's not like MS specifically hires programmers who have no clue where the Pacific Ocean is.

I hope not. Especially since Seattle is essentially on the Pacific Ocean.!

duh!!! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 years ago | (#10012429)

Don't you mean the Atlantic?

ob simpsons (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 years ago | (#10012326)

"Marge, anyone could miss Canada. All tucked away down there."

Re:ob simpsons (4, Funny)

whiteranger99x (235024) | about 10 years ago | (#10012453)

Another Quote:

Homer: (Looking at a globe map...country being Uruguay) Hee hee! Look at this country! 'You are gay.'

stupid management (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 years ago | (#10012328)

You mean that stupid management that can't write a product specification has cost micro$oft. And architects that can't anticipate future needs (how hard is it to see that a product could be used in countries other than the USA?)

If it's not in the spec. it's not the coder's responsibility. This is yet another management problem.

Que? (4, Funny)

mccalli (323026) | about 10 years ago | (#10012329)

From the article:
Perhaps the best known...was a colour-coded world map showing time zones, which showed the disputed Jammu-Kashmir region as not being in India...The mistake led to the whole of the Windows 95 operating system being banned in the country, losing large sales. For its replacement, Microsoft, Office 97, Microsoft removed the colour coding and sold 100,000 copies in India.

Office 97 replaced Windows 95? Yikes.

Cheers,
Ian

Re:Que? (1)

LEgregius (550408) | about 10 years ago | (#10012381)

MS has been known to use software to patch the OS, but I'm not sure if that's a mistake or one of those cases.

Re:Que? (1)

korea (615587) | about 10 years ago | (#10012441)

that confused me at first, but i think it's asserting that 95 was replaced by office 97. word processors must have been very powerful then :o

I wish I had a nickel... (2, Funny)

halivar (535827) | about 10 years ago | (#10012488)

I wish I have a nickel for everytime one of my friends calls with a computer problem, and when I ask what operating system they have its always one of the following:

1) Office 97
2) Office 98
3) Windows 97 (and they will refuse to be corrected)

23 in 56 can locate the Pacific Ocean? Seems a little high, to me.

Re:Que? (1)

j-pimp (177072) | about 10 years ago | (#10012520)

Office 97 replaced Windows 95? Yikes.

Need I remind you folks of the days when Office 97 was the fashizzle and people refered to their OS as windows 97 after some super computer geek (the last snotty ass teenager that looked at their computer before you) upgraded them to office 97.

Governments easily offended (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 years ago | (#10012330)

China, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, etc aren't exactly the nicest and most open governments in the world. The rest of the world wouldn't have been offended by the "mistakes." HEY CHINA, I recognize Taiwan as a country! BITE ME!

Plot for a book? (0)

955301 (209856) | about 10 years ago | (#10012332)

Or perhaps this could be the concept behind Hackers II?

Most of these aren't geographic errors... (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 years ago | (#10012341)

...they're failure to keep up with global geopolitical madness.

Lame article (5, Insightful)

jandrese (485) | about 10 years ago | (#10012355)

Most of the examples listed were problems that cropped up due to political reasons, not due to a lack of geography knowledge. No matter how you draw a map, where you place Kashmir is going to offend someone. The West Bank and the Gaza Strip are going to be contenious no matter where you place them. Microsoft did the only reasonable thing, they drew the maps to the favor of the richer countries (the ones that buy their software). Sorry Pakistan, no disputed territories for you.

Re:Lame article (1)

Saint Stephen (19450) | about 10 years ago | (#10012448)

There was an interesting article in the Mercury News about how the Olympics has a different idea of countries than everywhere else. At the Olympics, Puerto Rico and Taiwan compete seperately.

Re:Lame article (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 years ago | (#10012476)

Kashmir Smashmir..., who cares what Indians have to say, next time I drive past Indianapolis, I'll thumb my nose at them......

Re:Lame article (4, Funny)

Jonboy X (319895) | about 10 years ago | (#10012563)

Sorry Pakistan, no disputed territories for you.

Yeah, who cares about little piss-ant countries like Pakistan. Call me back when they have nukes...

*RRRINNNGGGG*

Oh come on (5, Insightful)

AKAImBatman (238306) | about 10 years ago | (#10012359)

From the article, it seems that Microsoft programmers have gotten in trouble because... wait for it... THEY READ A MAP. That's right, THEY READ A MAP. The results of their map reading have lead them into several political situations that there was little possibility of them being aware of. (Talk to the ***holes who make this stuff illegal and ARREST foreigners for READING A MAP.)

Americans may have a poor understanding of Geography, but I don't really see that being an issue in this case. All Microsoft could have done is more thoroughly research the area.

Re:Oh come on (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 years ago | (#10012426)

As long as you know where California and New York are, what's the point in knowing where the rest of the world is?

I mean, seriously, how much does the rest of the world really contribute to society?

Re:Oh come on (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 years ago | (#10012532)

RTFA. Microsoft did EVIL things like identify Taiwan on a map. Apparently ANY reference to Taiwan (even as the Republic of China!) is illegal. Same with several Middle East countries they so helpfully listed.

Other items which caused offence (5, Funny)

dwalsh (87765) | about 10 years ago | (#10012364)

Pacific islanders objected to the label "Here be Dragons!".

Several Arab countries resented being called either "Oil" or "Just terrorists".

Several former Soviet Bloc and Warsaw Pact countries objected to the name of their countries being followed by "(or whatever they are calling themselves this week)."

Not Just MS (5, Insightful)

cecille (583022) | about 10 years ago | (#10012367)

As much as we'd all like to think that this is just a case of MS screwing up again, I'm pretty sure this isn't just an MS problem. Besides, the article talks not just about simple geography, but of mistakes made about highly disputed geographic regions. There are a few in there where microsoft could have gone either way and still offended someone. Granted, stuff like that should have been checked, but the mistakes really aren't as simple as the post makes them out to be.

Re:Not Just MS (2)

Lovedumplingx (245300) | about 10 years ago | (#10012432)

It seemed to me that the majority of mistakes listed came from non-OS issues such as games produced by MS. And as unfortunate as it may be India, China, and Saudi Arabia are not the prime markets for these games. So I can almost understand why certain issues like these could be overlooked. Especially Churches being turned to Mosques! What do they think happened? Muslims served the Christians tea?

Someone will always be offended no matter what you do.

Something to Bitch About! (1)

twoslice (457793) | about 10 years ago | (#10012369)

The Spanish version of Windows used the word Hembra - meaning "woman" in Spain - for choosing gender. But in some Central American republics, notably Nicaragua, the word is an insult meaning "bitch". The programme was changed.

I guess they had something to bitch about!

Valid points (1)

TheOtherAgentM (700696) | about 10 years ago | (#10012370)

These are all good and well, when you are targeting a whole country/region for marketing, but there have to some instances in which Microsoft just laughs and continues business. I mean, I bet someone is mad that you can't set a time zone by his specific city. I can just see it now. "How come Los Angeles isn't on the city selection? It's a huge city. Tijuana? That's not even in the United States!" I'd be really curious to see how Microsoft would reply to a person like this.

Microsoft Revisionist History (1, Redundant)

LegendOfLink (574790) | about 10 years ago | (#10012374)

The mistake led to the whole of the Windows 95 operating system being banned in the country, losing large sales. For its replacement, Microsoft, Office 97, Microsoft removed the colour coding and sold 100,000 copies in India.

I never knew you could install Office 97 as a replacement to Windows 95! Stupid me always thinking I had to install an OS before I could install any applications.

Geography? (4, Insightful)

cascino (454769) | about 10 years ago | (#10012377)

Insensitive computer programmers with little knowledge of geography


If you read the article, you'll see the computer programmer's problems have nothing to do with geography... and everything to do with understanding and respecting differences in the cultures that may purchase MSFT products. I think showing the programmers where the Pacific Ocean is isn't going to do very much to make the software more culturally acceptable.

obligatory simpson quote. (1)

junkymailbox (731309) | about 10 years ago | (#10012378)

in true slashdot bashing style. Haha!
i kinda wonder if linux offends accidentally or not tho.

Re:obligatory simpson quote. (1)

liam193 (571414) | about 10 years ago | (#10012477)

I guess one of the benefits to linux is that two linux distributions can take two totally opposite sides of the same issue while running the exact same kernel, mail server, apache server, browser, etc. under their distributions logo. The issue with a closed-source application is that you have to pick one side in each conflict. Eventually you will probably run into a chain of people who can't utilize one of your apps because someone they do business with doesn't use it. Those people probably don't use it because someone they do business with hates your company for being "rude" to them. As a result, the middle person has no solution for a PC that interroperates.

Not too sure about this.... (5, Insightful)

jaguarxse (730735) | about 10 years ago | (#10012393)

Although something rings true in this about many USA citizens not having a 'global' view (World Series Baseball, World Wide Wrestling....erm, I don't think these are worldwide sports actually!), many of the points in this article would not be known without some pretty thorough investigation of political/geographical interests.

Re:Not too sure about this.... (3, Insightful)

hoggoth (414195) | about 10 years ago | (#10012487)

> without some pretty thorough investigation

You mean like READING?

I live in the same county of the same state I was born in and I certainly knew Kashmir is a disputed region between India and Pakistan, and I certainly knew China refuses to acknowledge Taiwan exists as a separate entity from China.

These aren't esoteric things. It's not that big a world.
I mean... don't any of you play RISK?!

This would never happen with Apple (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 years ago | (#10012400)

Mac users are too busy gaming to be worried over geography.

Re:This would never happen with Apple (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 years ago | (#10012475)

Gaming? Wouldn't there have to be games for macs first?

lack of geography skills (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 years ago | (#10012407)

Stupid Americans. Every fool knows that not showing the Jammu-Kashmir as being in India is an offence under Indian law.

Re:lack of geography skills (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 years ago | (#10012515)

And one wonders why third world countries remain third world countries.

Bad intel is to blame (1)

FerretFrottage (714136) | about 10 years ago | (#10012408)

See what happens when MS employees don't use Google to do their research.

Unfeasible (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 years ago | (#10012410)


Is everyone expected now to check every sample and image they get just in case it turns out to have something from the Koran in it or to use a phrase that China has decided is a national insult this year?

Doomed... we're doomed...

TFA makes little sense (4, Insightful)

kilo242 (774305) | about 10 years ago | (#10012413)

I did partly RTFA, and unless I'm way off on my understanding, Microsoft is blaming their lost business on people who have little right to be blamed for what they are being blamed for. Do the programmers really need to know about the world affairs - I thought that would be the job of the marketing or PR people.

Bigger problem I see (4, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 years ago | (#10012420)

Anyone else have a problem with governments detaining software engineers for something as trivial as a mis-marked map?

Passing the buck (3, Insightful)

dmayle (200765) | about 10 years ago | (#10012421)

hapless company employees

Talk about passing the buck. Some of the top problems in the article:

  • Microsoft employees were questioned by police in China, where it is an offence to refer to Taiwan as country or as the Republic of China. Now Taiwan is not referred to as country and all software worldwide avoids the issue by referring to places as "regions or districts".
  • Perhaps the best known, and one of the most expensive, errors was a colour-coded world map showing time zones, which showed the disputed Jammu-Kashmir region as not being in India - an offence under Indian law.

This isn't hapless employees. This is government oppression, and the bans on free speech necessary to pull them off.

if its cost MS billions (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 years ago | (#10012423)


imagine how much USA biz in general has lost to geo-ignorance

then again a stupid public is in the goverments interest, how else could you persuade people that Iraq (a country located thousands of miles away) was a direct threat to USA ? they even think its funny that man with his finger on the nuke button is a dunce

you should be ashamed

Master / Slave HDD (3, Insightful)

SirStanley (95545) | about 10 years ago | (#10012427)

Isn't this like that time some city legislation out in California decided to ban the words "Master and Slave" when refering to Hard Drive configurations because it was not "Sensitive" to African Americans?

Usual bullshit! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 years ago | (#10012437)

They make it sound like the issues are basic geography mistakes. Which they are not. Alot of it is political. Some of the mistakes where just that, mistakes.

This is also going to bring up the usual bullshit of how Americans are dumb because they cant point to Luxemburg on a map. How many Europeans can point out North Dakota on a map?

After reading this article... (5, Insightful)

numbski (515011) | about 10 years ago | (#10012439)

...I'm going to rant. :P

Usually, I'm an american that makes every effort to be understanding of cultures different than my own, and to try to understand why it is that the US is frowned upon by other cultures. We have a foreign exchange intern here from Europe right now, and we've had long conversations about why and how americans take their relative wealth for granted (even our citizens on welfare tend to be wealthier than many in smaller european countries!)

But this...this isn't a lack of sensitivity on Microsoft's part. It's a lack of toleration on the part of other cultures. Knowing full-well that this software was written by programmers of another culture, there should be a degree of toleration and patience that goes along with the process. Make the developer aware of the issue and give them a chance to fix it.

Honestly, if someone in another culture (India perhaps?) that wasn't sufficiently versed in US geography made a map that, oh...I don't know, put St. Louis in Illinois rather than Missouri, or show the Arch crossing the Mississippi River or something equally stupid, I suppose some might be offended (I can think of other, more controversial examples...), but more than likely we'd give them the chance to fix it first.

Americans may be stuck up, take a WHOLE lot of freedoms for granted, have lots of money, and think too highly of themselves at times to bother learning about other cultures, but I'll give you one thing:

Even some of the most annoying pricks I know seem to be more tolerant than some other cultures are to the average Joe. How pathetic is that?

Re:After reading this article... (1)

sQuEeDeN (565589) | about 10 years ago | (#10012527)

Agreed. They were hired as programmers and map readers, not geopoliticial experts. Taiwan is a separate country, Kashmir is disputed. The people who should be responsibile are the sales guys. They have the knowledge of the local areas, and they are supposed to be responsible for making sure the products meet the customer's needs. If they don't, send it back to the programmers. The programmers are in a far corner of the US. Let the experts do the auditing.

Bad MS Software Titles (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 years ago | (#10012443)

Yeah, I just don't see it...

I mean come on, what's wrong with software titles like Microsoft Allah Sucks Ass 2.0 and Microsoft Holocaust 3.1? I mean, what's so wrong with these?

Damn political correctness strikes again...

And don't forget the classics... (0)

Noryungi (70322) | about 10 years ago | (#10012455)

I think it was Ford, or another big car company, who sold a car called the 'nova' on the North and Latin American markets.

In English, 'nova' reffered to the exploding star, of course, not a very good name, but it still passed.

In Spanish, 'no va' actually means 'does not work' or 'does not move'.

The big company never understood why the car was not selling over in Latin America, until one spanish-speaking employee actually informed the top management.

The car name, unsurprisingly, has been changed.

Same reason why Nike does not sell a lot of shoes in Arabic-speaking countries. In English, 'Nike' refers to the Greek goddess of victory. In Arabic, 'Nike' (almost the same word) means f*king.

And I could go on... Don't you just love making fun of big multinational companies? =)

Re:And don't forget the classics... (1)

whiteranger99x (235024) | about 10 years ago | (#10012512)

I'm by no means a car expert, but I could've sworn that Chevy was the company that made the Nova :-)

Re:And don't forget the classics... (4, Informative)

jyoull (512280) | about 10 years ago | (#10012531)

Actually this needs yet another correction in a long successions of trying to shut down this myth.

the NoVa story isn't true, see Snopes for details http://www.snopes.com/business/misxlate/nova.asp [snopes.com]

no, that's an urban legent (1)

FooAtWFU (699187) | about 10 years ago | (#10012562)

Snopes sez [snopes.com] :

Claim: The Chevrolet Nova sold poorly in Spanish-speaking countries because its name translates as "doesn't go" in Spanish.
Status: False.

Conspiracy versus SNAFU? (1)

955301 (209856) | about 10 years ago | (#10012458)

reading this:

They were all seen as deliberate policy and so the offence taken was far greater as a result.

makes me think this is just the fodder of conspiracy theories. The problem is really that the people who come to these conclusions do not know the following axiom of society:

Don't attribute to organized conspiracy that which can be explained be sheer ignorance.

It reminds me of when I was tossed onto the tail end of a faultering project to computerize the Jamacain election system. One of my coworkers told me there was a conspiracy theory abound suggesting that the CIA was trying to destabilize Jamaica because the prime contractor was also a contractor for the CIA and the government in general.

In other news... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 years ago | (#10012459)

Doing Complex Things for Worldwide Distribution Proves Difficult. Film at 11.

In response to the affront of King George III... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 years ago | (#10012468)

...the Encarta 2005 image of the Pennsylvania commonwealth flag has been replaced by the Union Jack.

Article badly designed (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 years ago | (#10012473)

Personnally I like to snicker when I hear things like that from the US. But I think this article misses the point, or at least its introductions (the USers are lacking geographical education) does not match the rest (Microsoft insulted members of an ethnic group because of taboo informations).

Most of the problems mentionned are actually interesting ones because there is no "right" or "wrong" from a neutral perspective. Regarding Kurdistan, for example, it is not a country per se, but it does exist as a region. In my opinion, Microsoft was not "wrong" on that matter, at least not regarding geography.

Instead, it's more of a lack of knowledge about cultures, religions and what constitutes ethnic identity. The science that studies those aspects of humanity is called "anthropology" or "ethnology".

It's not the same as President Bush referring to Canada as a state of the US...

Love it! (1)

bobintetley (643462) | about 10 years ago | (#10012478)

The Spanish version of Windows used the word Hembra - meaning "woman" in Spain - for choosing gender. But in some Central American republics, notably Nicaragua, the word is an insult meaning "bitch". The programme was changed.

Probably just a slip - we're all MS' bitch :-)

you think that's bad... (1)

ArbitraryConstant (763964) | about 10 years ago | (#10012480)

I write oil-related software.

Oh, wait. We don't even have a non-english version.

Am I the only one... (1)

kleinux (320571) | about 10 years ago | (#10012490)

or does this make no sense at all?
Uruguay is a republic and proud if it but in Microsoft's Outlook in Uruguay, the company offended the government by describing Tuesday April 30 as the queen's birthday.

What the rest of the world is like (1, Troll)

Peter Cooper (660482) | about 10 years ago | (#10012491)

It's just shows you what the non Western world is like, really, when they get all upset about minor cultural oversights. They'll get over it and enter the bland world of fast-food, TiVo, billboards, and corporate drudgery soon enough though.

If a program accidentally showed Alaska as still belonging to Russia, I'm sure the US government wouldn't be delighted, but I can't see the developer getting arrested for it or the software even getting banned.

Honest Mistakes (2, Interesting)

copponex (13876) | about 10 years ago | (#10012495)

The article is crap. Among their blunders are:

- Referring to Taiwan as a country
- Not showing disputed parts of India in India
- Japanese employees mistakenly use Koran chants in a video game

Most of the people who were offended are governments who "demand" respect. And those kind of governments are the least likely to deserve it.

Nice Title... (2, Funny)

maggeth (793549) | about 10 years ago | (#10012498)

Writing Software for Worldwide Distribution Proves Difficult

In order to assist our beloved editors with coming up with more accurate titles, I have included a list of other titles that they can use for articles at thier discretion:

Light Speed Turns Out to be Really Fast
Windows Security Hole Discovered, Disavowed
Fall Elections May Descend into Chaos
Script Kiddies Demand More H@x, Fewer Firewalls, Higher Salaries
Microsoft PR Campaigns Foolish, Ineffective
Hot Grtis Proven to Make ANYONE More Attractive

Politics rather than Geography (3, Insightful)

eqkivaro (721746) | about 10 years ago | (#10012500)

If you read the article you realize that most of the mistakes made had nothing to do with geography.

"Microsoft employees were questioned by police in China, where it is an offence to refer to Taiwan as country or as the Republic of China"

How is this a geography issue? Taiwan recognizes itself as an independent country.

"A game called Age of Empires 2 offended the Saudi Arabian authorities because it showed victorious Muslim armies turning churches into mosques"

Again, how is this a geography issue?

I think this article is just bait for the daily MS bashing on /.

-chris

It's to be expected... (4, Insightful)

Cervantes (612861) | about 10 years ago | (#10012506)

I mean, really, how is a programmer in the states supposed to know that a valid spanish word, used in the spanish version of the program, is an insult in central america?

This sounds much more like a "lets point out all the funny fuckups from M$" article, and much less a diatribe on the difficulties of writing international software. Yes, they've made a few mistakes, and the occasional horrid judgement call (I mean, really, insulting all of Islam? Well, at least now we know better...). But some things, like the evil spanish word, referring to breakaway states as countries in their own right, or other such silliness, are just an "oops", where you wouldn't expect them to rightfully know better.

On that note though, what's up with the rabid nations emasculating anyone who dares suggest that Kashmir or Taiwan are separate countries? I generally find foreign media less crazy than US, but try reading an article from a chinese newspaper on taiwan sometime... it's almost frighteningly evangelical in it's belief.

And, finally... come on, AoE2? I thought the muslims replacing the churches was a cute touch, not insulting... I mean, it's a game, you have to change the game elements to fit the theme of whoever is winning... and you wouldn't expect westerners to know the details of how the muslims handled conquered peoples and their religion during the crusades...

redhat (1)

jd142 (129673) | about 10 years ago | (#10012516)

Didn't Redhat suffer a similar problem a year or so ago by including the Taiwanese flag, implying that they were a separate country?

It's the cost of doing business internationally. You wouldn't build a manufacturing plant in another country without investigating applicable local laws for zoning, environmental impact, building codes, why would you release software internationally without doing similar checking?

More Distros! (1)

TheLoneCabbage (323135) | about 10 years ago | (#10012522)

Tell me again why it's a "BAD" thing that Linux has a billion and 1 distrobution varieties?

Let every country build it how they like it. Customize it to their own little idioms, and language.

Though, to be honest, I'm amazed that MS manages to keep up with the vast number of cultural details and translations that it does. And overall does fairly well.

You could see this coming... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 years ago | (#10012529)

It just begs to be said... MS' programmers are Insensitive Clods!

Yet Another No-Va? (-1, Redundant)

grunt107 (739510) | about 10 years ago | (#10012535)

The Spanish version of Windows used the word Hembra - meaning "woman" in Spain - for choosing gender. But in some Central American republics, notably Nicaragua, the word is an insult meaning "bitch". The programme was changed.

This is one area that all vendors intending international release MUST pay attention. Although unintentional, these linguistic translations will kill sales. GM had this w/the Chevy Nova, which means 'No Go', and the Mexican market suffered.

When marketing to other countries, the culture needs to be factored in.

That said, other countries being offended by offerings in the USA (like the Koran chant in the video game) need to be scoffed at. Their culture is not the US culture and should not be considered.

I'm sorry... (1)

lordmoose (696738) | about 10 years ago | (#10012537)

but it's in our (Americans) blood to NOT know anything about the rest of the world.

Our ancestors were trying to get the f*** out of Europe and come to a new land were they could start a new life and forget about all the crap they had to put up with in the old world. This mentality has permeated throughout our culture, and I don't see it ending anytime soon.

It sucks that we had to bring slaves with us, and that we had to decimate the Native population. It sucks that Americans are low-ranking in many other school subjects.

But dammit, don't deny us our right to be geographically ignorant!!!

-insert laugh here-

Oh that's great! (5, Funny)

Pandion (179894) | about 10 years ago | (#10012549)

A game called Age of Empires 2 offended the Saudi Arabian authorities because it showed victorious Muslim armies turning churches into mosques. The game was withdrawn from sale in the kingdom

*cough*hagia sophia*cough*

Obligatory Non-Simpsons Quote (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 years ago | (#10012558)

"Beam me up Scotty! There's no intelligent life down here!"

Skeptical enquirer (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 years ago | (#10012560)

Most of the references in the article are fairly obscure. Even the educational elite among us would likely have tripped once or twice (or thrice). No doubt if Indian or Nicaraguan companies marketed software in the US, they would find some inadvertent way to offend our very tightly wound sensibilities.

As for the oft stated "fact" that Americans can't find anything on a map, I remain skeptical. What it tells me is that Americans don't like answering fool questions that are obviously trying to demonstrate superior knowledge on behalf of the question asker. If someone came up to me on the street with a geographical survey, you can bet I would flub the answers in the most creative way possible.
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