Following on the heels of Google and Twitter’s new speech-to-tweet service for Egyptians, a team of journalists and volunteers at Alive in Egypt have begun translating those messages from Arabic into other languages.
The Google and Twitter service utilizes the technology and engineers behind SayNow, a social telephony company Google acquired last week, to turn voicemails into tweets, which are appended with the hashtag #egypt. As our own Mike Melanson pointed out, the only thing missing was some way to translate these messages from Arabic into other languages.
Alive in Egypt was launched yesterday by Small World News, the international news startup behind the popular (but now defunct) journalism project Alive in Baghdad. The team is using its network of Arabic translators to crowdsource the translation of the messages left on Twitter’s @speak2tweet account, which now contains over 700 messages from people in Egypt.
Small World News Director Brian Conley was en route from Texas to Portland, Oregon when he learned about Google’s announcement about their collaboration with Twitter.
“Brian called me about the Google blog post,” said Steve Wyshywaniuk, co-founder of Small World News. “It hit him instantly that with the number of translators we’re connected to, he could assemble a team to help translate the calls.”
“We wanted to do something similar to Speak2Tweet, but were trying to figure out how to do it when that came out,” Conley told us via Skype. “Then I realized no one was coordinating translation, so I jumped in.”
Conley started reaching out to Arabic translators via Twitter and created a Google Docs spreadsheet from which they could collaborate on transcribing the messages and then translating them from Arabic to English, Spanish and German.
After the publicly-accessible spreadsheet started experiencing performance issues late last night, they created a private one for translators to use. The new spreadsheet uses the RSS feed from the Speak2Tweet Twitter account to automatically pull the latest messages into the document.
Once the original messages are transcribed and translated, they are manually posted to Alive in Egypt, a process the team is hoping to automate soon.