The Boston Diaries

The ongoing saga of a programmer who doesn't live in Boston, nor does he even like Boston, but yet named his weblog/journal “The Boston Diaries.”

Go figure.

Monday, October 20, 2003

We're secretly using Babelfish

To: <>
From: <>
Subject: RE: updated translations of into 8 languages [although I never responded or sent them email in the first place]
Date: Mon, 20 Oct 2003 03:36:29 -0400

Could you please check our updated translations of into eight languages, if you don't mind, at:

Do they look OK? If so, there's no need to reply. Simply paste the following code onto your web pages. This will make your web site readable by the 90% of the world who can't read English (for only $5 a month).

<script src=""> </script>



As unsolicited email goes, it could be worse (“Increase your mortgate by 3″ with all natural ingredients!!!!!!!!”) and I am curious as to the translations they've supposedly done.

So I check.

And yes, there on the page is Conman Laboratories in eight different languages (and I must say I do like the look of the Japanese, Chinese and Korean versions). But not everything is translated: ragtag, bug-free and what I can only assume are misspelled English words that didn't get translated. This to me screams “machine generated” translations—come on, if Google can fix my spelling, and even I can handle misspellings it can't be all that hard to handle.

Scrolling to the bottom of the page are some rather interesting notes:

Five bucks a month? That, I can see for a site that changes quite often, or adds content on a continual basis, but for a mostly static site? Not really.

I was also curious as to the HTML being generated since I am rather sensitive to these issues, and that's when I found out how TopSites is doing their translation. Right at the top of the page, I found the following comment:

<!-- BabelFish added base tag -->

Nowhere on TopSites' site did I see mention a partnership with Altavista's Babelfish. Not one. And given the garbage HTML being generated:

<html> <meta http-equiv="content-type" content="text/html; charset=UTF-8">     


<html lang="en-US">
<!-- BabelFish added base tag -->
<base href="">
<script LANGUAGE="JavaScript">
 var babelOrigUrl="";  if  ((null ==
parent) || (null == parent.BabelFishAdd) || ('TF' !=
parent.BabelFishAdd.babelTF)) { var i = new Image(); i.src =
'' }

  <title>The Boston Diaries - Captain Napalm

I'm not sure I would even use them, Babelfish or not. They didn't even bother to translate the title (although I'm not sure if this is a limitation of the pseudo-software TopSites is using, or of Babelfish itself).

So much for strict HTML 4.01 compliance. They didn't even bother to set the language code in the <HTML> tag like I did. Sheesh!

Think I'll pass …

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