Gathering in the town square
The MIT Technology Review has a short article on one of my main projects, called Meadan, which I’ve not discussed at all on this blog. Mostly this is because we’re still in development, but recently we embarked on a closed alpha test phase so this seems like as good a time as any.
From the article:
The basic idea is simple: it’s a website that brings English and Arabic speakers together around daily postings of news articles, broadcasts, and events that are of common interest, and it gives users a platform to communicate through dialogues, blogs, and other exchanges. All the while, it allows users to pinpoint their location so that people can share views across continents. The hard part is creating a system that allows users to express their ideas in their native tongue.
What’s really interesting about Meadan — apart from its small part in removing barriers to rationale discourse between the West and the Muslim world — is how it uses social networking technologies both to create communities (the “traditional” use of social networking) but also to enlist users to rate, edit, and correct the English-Arabic machine translation. Social networking as language feedback loop. What’s missing from so much machine translation is a sizable corpus of informal conversation (not bizspeak or medical parlance, for instance). This is what helps MT learn grammatical and dialectical nuance and this is precisely the kind of conversation we envision on the Meadan site.
Much more on this in the coming months, of course.