Apologies in advance for the multiple threads this site has recently developed – there are 2 active topics which I consider to be “ongoing” right now – productivity and finance, and I’m brewing up more tasty mind-beverages on those topics even as I type this.
Veering onto another topic entirely, though, today’s major preoccupation is international in nature. Right now I’m working n a talk I’ll be giving soon to a bunch of Korean developers in Seoul, regarding Flickr’s API. What’s interesting about this is the peculiar challenges it raises.
Firstly, I’m not 100% confident that my inevitably-slightly-manic English presentation will be all that understandable to a diverse group of Korean speakers. I’ve brewed up something of a defense against this – designing slides for the presentation which contain both an English component (so that the presentation matches the talk, and I know what’s going on, more-or-less), and a Korean translation. Hence the hurry to get the slides done – so that a Korean co-worker can translate! Nevertheless, it means that every design has to be somewhat “symmetrical”; and that there’s half the usual space per slide for any given concept.
But the really weird thing is how much uncertainty a foreign culture injects into the process of building entertaining presentations. In the circles I move in (amongst my fellow Flickr-ites, for example, and other talented presenters such as the lovely Mr Coates), the Done Thing these days is to illustrate one’s slides with somewhat-relevant photographs, usually as a background to the slide.
The approach makes a lot of sense for the Flickr team (we are, after all, in the business of hosting awesome photos), and has taken off in general due to the ease with which anyone can find good creative-commons licensed imagery through Flickr.
Using photography in this way also has the advantage of making the presentation immediately more visually appealing, and allows for a host of sly (or not so sly) jokes in the form of tangentially-related imagery, or flat-out visual punnery.
For example, one might illustrate a slide on the “flexibility” of various feed formats like this:
A bad pun, but good enough for a sympathetic laugh to humour the hapless presenter…
Such puns fall apart when you’re thinking in more than one language, though.
I don’t speak a word of Korean, so I have no reliable way of telling whether the concept of “flexibility” is as, um, flexible in that language. It’s quite possible that “human flexibility” and “versatility of web feeds” are two entirely different words. At which point the pun falls apart and I start to look like a pervert who likes pictures of people stretching their feet above their heads. It might still get a laugh, but for oh so wrong a reason.
I have no timely way of finding out which puns will work and which ones won’t, so my only sensible course of action is to limit the punnery as much as possible, which in turn limits the images I can use.
Even where puns aren’t involved, some concepts may not be universal. It took me 15 minutes of research to determine that, yes, Korea uses the “no entry” sign prevalent elsewhere.
And finally, there’s the issue of cultural sensitivity. I’m thinking of introducing myself with this awesome picture that Stew took of me wearing his “Bacon of the Month Club” nose…
…but I really should ascertain if there’s any Korean taboo around pigs or animal noses. Nothing says “awkward” like debasing your own image five and a half thousand miles from home.
This, in short, is like doing a vast, multi-cultural jigsaw puzzle. It’s kinda fun in a way, but also pretty weird.