We Americans mostly speak English (and exclusively English) and are so lucky to have so much technology in our own language. Imagine, for a minute, if we didn't. If you had to navigate in French or in Japanese. It would feel like dialing a telephone with mittens on.
Catalans dial with mittens every day because Twitter's interface is not available in Catalan. Twitter announced last week the translation into five new languages with plans for six more, none of which was Catalan. There is no logical reason for this. Catalan has more speakers than several of the languages proposed and has a vibrant, active online community. Catalan, for example, is the 13th most used language on Wikipedia with over 350,000 articles published in that language, many more than say, Wikipedia articles in Korean, Malay, Danish, or Hungarian, all of which have or are slated to have Twitter versions.
In fact Dick Costolo, Twitter's CEO, promised last year that Twitter would soon be found in Catalan. And yet the months pass by, and it doesn't happen.
Since I joined Twitter a couple of years ago, it has turned into one of the most important tools on my computer. It helps me learn new technologies, keep up with the ones I already know something about, connect with colleagues all over the world, and confirm if what I just felt really was an earthquake.
One of the best features of Twitter is the way it conveys what Tim O'Reilly and Sarah Milstein call “ambient intimacy” in their excellent work, The Twitter Book. Ambient intimacy is the connection that you feel for people who you follow by dint of the personal details that they add to their Twitter feeds.
And despite the luddite view that knowing what someone had for lunch is just too much information, knowing that they barbecue organic vegetables or can their own strawberry jam really does give context to the more professional information they might be sharing. In the same way that the real life examples in my books make the technical information more tangible, and thus more intelligible, knowing something about the people we are talking to online makes the information they share all the more valuable, and frankly, more interesting.
Which is a very long explanation of why I tweet so much about Catalonia and Barcelona and the Catalan language and Catalan politics and human castle building and calçots.
Albert Cuesta, a journalist in Catalonia, started a petition to ask Twitter to provide its interface in Catalan. I ask you to please sign that petition: http://act.ly/ns He's not even asking Twitter to do the translation, just to allow that the translation be made. And then please retweet and spread the word.
Today at 2pm EDT, 11am PDT, and 8pm local time in Barcelona (CET), we will tweet in unison our request to translate Twitter into Catalan. Please join us by adding #twitterencatala @jack @biz @dickc to your tweets.
Catalans, too, deserve the right to use this powerful tool in their own language; to dial without mittens.