ailon's DevBlog: Development related stuff in my life

End-to-End Experiences Do Not Scale Globally

9/29/2011 4:46:39 PM


I’ve been watching a live blog from Amazon’s new device unveiling yesterday. Jeff Bezos was repeating his “end-to-end service” mantra. I love the end-to-end experience idea … in theory. In practice I’m never able to experience it. Apple and Amazon are the best known end-to-end service providers. They are huge. They have a lot of weight. But even they don’t have enough power over content owners and/or don’t offer attractive services to content providers worldwide.

I own 2 Kindles. I read in English mostly and Kindle provides me with end-to-end experience most of the time. I love it! Except Mark Russinovich’s Zero Day: A Novel wasn’t available in Kindle format internationally for half a year. So I didn’t get any experience at all. But, yeah. Who cares!?

My wife reads in Russian and there are virtually no Russian books on Amazon. But Kindle is an end-to-end service and support for “obscure” formats like ePub isn’t a part of the end-to-end experience. So to read non-Kindle books on a Kindle you have to convert them to MOBI (provided they are not DRMed). It’s pretty easy to do with Calibre but it degrades your experience to a level lower than with non-end-to-end open market readers directly supporting multiple formats.

Our daughter reads in Lithuanian and there are basically no non-DRMed Lithuanian ebooks. So Kindle is just a useless piece of “premium product at non-premium price” for that.

And situation with books is actually much better than what goes on in the music and video area. So even before the Kindle Fire announcement it was obvious that it’s going to be US-only (or US + some Western European countries at best).

End-to-end experiences sound good in US. They are glorified by user experience advocates. But when it comes to worldwide scene, clunky duct taped Android experience dominates. That’s why it’s so huge. There’s no need for Amazon, Apple or Microsoft to strike a distribution license for Moldavian books to be available in Moldova. There’s some local company that would do that, because that’s their main market*. It’s crap and pocket change for the US juggernauts, but it’s the whole market for that little company.

Great end-to-end experiences are only great while you stay on course. One step off that course and you have a subpar experience, if any at all. Maybe someday these global corporations will manage to cover all the bases around the world. And maybe World Peace © will come too. Both are equally likely.

* P.S.:  I know nothing about Moldova and Moldavian books. Just a random country my brain picked.

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Local(ized) Developer Resources Are A Waste of Talent

8/31/2011 7:02:12 PM

Photo by Stuart Caie

Living in a small country forces you to learn English to some extent to be successful in any area and especially in programming. On the other hand, developers in larger countries like Russia, China, Japan, etc. can be successful with no working knowledge of English, because of large internal communities. And even for them, I would argue, being able to at least read in English is a critical skill that should be learned before everything else. That said it’s pretty obvious why large developer platform companies like Microsoft invest into encouraging local talent in these larger markets to blog and speak about their technologies in local languages. It’s an open market and whoever serves it best wins.

But, as I mentioned above, developers in smaller countries comprehend English technical texts as good (if not better) than in their native language. After all not many know all the “artificial” local technical terms. We may suck at writing and speaking (like I do), but we are pretty good at reading. It’s nearly impossible to be hired for a developer position without being able to read in English.

Unfortunately large corporations have a generalized view on local evangelism. Local talent in small countries is encouraged to blog in the native language, creating content that is either already available in English or that 0,0002% of world’s population can read. Usually both. I think it’s a wasteful practice. Instead of creating real value for the worldwide developer community (and for themselves) these talented individuals waste their time on work that shouldn’t be done at all or done by translators.

And market rules that are easily applicable in large markets do not apply here. Because, guess what? No one cares about reading a blog post about solving a general programming problem in Lithuanian. And if I’m looking for a solution to my problem and can only find a blog post about it in Hungarian it’s a waste of someone’s talent. I could’ve solved my problem. I could’ve subscribed to this person’s blog, followed her on Twitter and suggested my local evangelist to invite her to an upcoming conference. But none of this happens because the global policy is to foster original localized content.

I think it’s stupid.

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File Encoding in Visual Studio

11/5/2007 3:43:02 PM

It appears that there's no way to set default file encoding for new files created in Visual Studio 2005 through "Options" and it will save your files in UTF only if it encounters characters it can't save in your systems default non-unicode locale.

What does it mean? It means that if you develop a simple web site in a language of your system (Lithuanian in my case) and you hardcode some local text in your .aspx it will save in non-unicode encoding (Windows-1257 in my case) and when you move it to the server (or other computer) with other default non-unicode encoding all your localized text will be ruined.

What can be done about it? It looks like we have 3 options:

  1. manually save or re-save your files using "Save with Encoding";
  2. change your system language to "English" in control panel (this is kind of wrong);
  3. re-save Visual Studio templates (in Common 7\IDE\ItemTemplates) in UTF-8 with signature

Only the last option somewhat solves the problem but you'll have to go through all of the templates you ever plan to use and hope that this doesn't break anything.

Hopefully this issue will be addressed in VS2008. I had no time to play with the betas yet, so I have no idea if there are any changes in this area. Can anybody confirm this?

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