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Language Tempest At Orkut 948

Quirk writes "Reuters is carrying an article outlining an ongoing headbutting session between English-speaking users of Goggle's orkut and the Portuguese-speaking users of Brazil. The orkut site has more than 769,000 members; 41.2% are Brazilians and 23.5% are Americans. The sites are now mostly in Portuguese, and English-speaking users are complaining that the service is intended to be in English. Orkut is a service meant to develop by way of invitation, and the Brazilians claim since they are inviting their Brazilian friends it doesn't make sense to communicate in English. Brazilian internet users averaged an estimated 13 hours and 51 minutes in May, eight minutes more than for Americans."
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Language Tempest At Orkut

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  • SAO PAULO, Brazil (Reuters) - Brazil has butted heads with the United States this year on issues ranging from cotton subsidies to the war in Iraq .

    But perhaps none of the battles has been so personal as the one being fought on the Internet.

    Thousands of Brazilians have become devotees of Orkut ( []), a popular new social-networking site from Web search leader Google Inc.

    Orkut allows members to organize themselves into online communities of friends, and friends of friends, to discuss everything from chess to sandwiches.

    But the rush of Brazilians to join Orkut and rival social networking sites has upset some online users, who complain of a proliferation of messages posted in Portuguese, Brazil's native tongue.

    Some users have even started communities specifically for people to air their gripes on this issue.

    The United States has at least 153 million Internet users, compared with Brazil's 20 million. Still, Orkut said Brazilians dominated its membership roster in June, outnumbering Americans for the first time.

    The site says it has more than 769,000 members, making it one of the largest and most popular of its type on the Internet. About 23.5 percent of the users are from the United States, while another 41.2 percent are Brazilians.

    Iranians are a distant third place at about 6 percent.


    Orkut, named after Google software engineer Orkut Buyukkokten, made its debut in January and is still in the testing stages. Part of its allure is its exclusivity -- one can only join at the invitation of another member.

    "Orkut maps one's social prestige, and Brazilians are by nature gregarious," said Beth Saad, a professor at the University of Sao Paulo's School of Communications and Arts.

    Although more than one-fourth of Brazilians live in poverty, those who can afford Internet access have become avid Web surfers.

    In terms of time spent on the Internet, Brazilians edged out the United States in May for the second month in a row, according to Ibope/NetRatings. The market researcher estimates that Internet use for Brazilians averaged 13 hours and 51 minutes in May, eight minutes more than for Americans.

    The number of Brazilian visitors to community sites and online diaries rose 14.6 percent to 3.5 million in May from January, Ibope/NetRatings said.

    Tammy Soldaat, a Canadian, got a sample of Brazilian wrath recently when she posted a message asking whether her community site on body piercing should be exclusive to people who speak English.

    Brazilian Orkut users quickly labeled her a "nazi" and "xenophobe."

    "After that I understood why everyone is complaining about these people, why they're being called the 'plague of Orkut,"' she said in a site called "Crazy Brazilian Invasion."

    John Gibbs of Mountain View, California, has founded a community called "So many Brazilians on Orkut."

    "When the average Orkut user goes to look at community listings to see what's out there, he'll see a list populated with pretty much all Portuguese communities," Gibbs said. "This is highly frustrating since Orkut is not a Brazilian service."

    But Mateus Reis, a publicist who lives in Sao Paulo, said users should be free to write what they want, in the language of their choosing.

    "Since we can invite anyone we want at Orkut, and my friends are Brazilians, it doesn't make sense talking to them in English," Reis said in Portuguese. "I use the language I know."

    His compatriot Pablo Miyazawa has a more moderate view.

    "Brazilians have the right to create anything they want in any language they want," Miyazawa said. "The problem is to invade forums with specific languages and write in Portuguese. Brazilians are still learning how to behave in the Net."


    The Brazilians' ardor for the Internet extends to other community-based sites, and Web ent
  • Language barrier (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Monty845 ( 739787 ) on Saturday July 17, 2004 @11:04PM (#9728426)
    How have other major international sites dealt with the language barrier?
    • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday July 17, 2004 @11:12PM (#9728475)
      Set up a localized site, e.g. where everything's in Portuguese
      • by ( 643709 ) on Sunday July 18, 2004 @05:48AM (#9729904) Homepage
        it is probably not wise in this case. it shall be an internet community site and making barriers based on country borders in internet is imho futile. may be it wont take long before portuguese (or chinese, european or anything) will be majoriry language in internet in general. prepare for that. the only thing you can do now is to try fight back and invite english speaking friends. waht about me? well, its not my native language, but the native one - czech, is so small tah it cannot be dangerous in the next 500 years. And I would appreciate orkut invite.
      • by Nailer ( 69468 ) on Sunday July 18, 2004 @10:44AM (#9730800)
        Or better yet,, where the minority USA folk can go. :^)
    • by orthogonal ( 588627 ) on Saturday July 17, 2004 @11:20PM (#9728522) Journal
      How have other major international sites dealt with the language barrier?

      Você americanos sujos pensa de que você possui tudo, e Slashdot, mas é justo não assim.

      Fure seu hegemony internacional e seu McDonalds e seu Hollywood onde o sol não brilha.

      Pela maneira, eu sou amor o Mac Grande e esse Julia Roberts!

      [Google "translation" of above: "You American dirty think of that you possess everything, and Slashdot, but is just not thus. Hegemony pierces international its and its McDonalds and its Hollywood where the sun does not shine. For the way, I am love Mac Great e this Julia Roberts!"]

      [Original English source for the "Portuguese" response produced by Google "translation": "You dirty Americans think that you own everything, including Slashdot, but it's just not so. Stick your international hegemony and your McDonalds and your Hollywood where the sun doesn't shine. By the way, I'm loving it the Big Mac and that Julia Roberts!"]
      • by 0racle ( 667029 ) on Saturday July 17, 2004 @11:36PM (#9728603)
        You might have had a point if English wasn't the accepted norm for international communications and just something the States imposed on everyone. However English is the accepted language, so it makes sense that sites that are targeted at an international audience use English or keep everyone apart and just have localized versions. Not that I really care, I'm never invited to anything.
        • Re:Language barrier (Score:5, Interesting)

          by bugbread ( 599172 ) on Sunday July 18, 2004 @12:03AM (#9728763)
          And you're assuming that everyone who uses the net is using it for international communications. Many people could care less about people in other countries, and use the net for a plethora of non-international reasons. There's no reason for a Brazilian to use a non-native language which is the norm for international communications to talk with another Brazilian across town.
          • by Saeed al-Sahaf ( 665390 ) on Sunday July 18, 2004 @01:06AM (#9729071) Homepage
            Many people could care less

            Couldn't care less.

          • by Anonymous Coward
            I agree with you. The problem is that, from the article, people are being harassed by Brazilians for being, or thinking about going, English only.

            This whole issue will go away as soon as Orkut opens to the public and the Brazilians become minority users.
      • Re:Language barrier (Score:4, Informative)

        by JabberWokky ( 19442 ) <> on Sunday July 18, 2004 @04:39AM (#9729760) Homepage Journal
        Uhh... there are alternate language versions of Slashdot. The English one just happens to be the original and the largest.

        See [] and so on.


    • They havn't. (Score:5, Insightful)

      by autopr0n ( 534291 ) on Sunday July 18, 2004 @12:10AM (#9728799) Homepage Journal
      As far as I know, wikipedia's articles are completly seperate for diffrent languages. Most sites are single-language only.

      But that could be a solution for Orkut. Just have users select a language when they sign in, and shield them from everything not in that language -- if they choose. They could also set things up so users can let the system know what languages they can speak, and if they would be interested in receiving machine translated communications.
      • Re:They havn't. (Score:3, Interesting)

        by Alsee ( 515537 )
        machine translated communications.

        I just had a thought. Lets assume that over the next couple of years machine translation becomes routine in all areas of the internet, and that the internet continues to expand across the globe and into homes and schools. No matter what language you speak, most people speak a different language. Machine translated language could quickly become a substantial fraction of all text anyone reads. In effect machine translation could become the single biggest "language" on the i
    • by phasm42 ( 588479 ) on Sunday July 18, 2004 @12:47AM (#9728981)
      Here's one way of thinking about it. It seems the article is talking about users complaining that in a forum that started out as English, Portugese comments get posted and the language shifts to Portugese. I tried to imagine this happening on slashdot (for example, on this thread). At first I thought it wouldn't be any big deal. But then I thought, what if I was following a thread on slashdot, and suddenly it switched to Portugese. It'd be kinda like threadjacking. It's annoying to read an English thread, then someone posts a response in Portugese, because then I can no longer follow the thread. I'd like to read what that person said, but I can't. And any Portugese speaking people who were commenting would probably switch to Portugese if they posted any more comments too. Maybe I'll post something in English, and the response will be in Portugese. It really comes down to netiquette. Sure they have a right to comment however they want, it's just not polite to switch languages mid-stream. If you reverse roles (e.g. suppose I can read Portugese) and I post English comments in a thread that's all Portugese, then people start switching to posting in English, that would leave out all the Portugese-only people. Although creating a separate area may help somewhat, a better solution to the problem is just informing users how to behave better. If it was common knowledge, the community would police itself and frown upon that kind of behavior. I know polite internet conversation seems like an oxymoron to many, but for all the trolls and BS that gets posted on slashdot, it's pretty readable, and well-thought out arguments still happen.
  • Why Fight? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Cavio ( 217880 ) <> on Saturday July 17, 2004 @11:04PM (#9728430) Homepage
    If you are communicating with others in your circle of friends, you should speak the same language.

    If I'm in a restaurant, and the people at the table next to me are speaking Korean, it doesn't affect the conversation at my table in the slightest.

    I guess we could all switch to Esperanto, the Unitarian Univeralist of languages.
    • Re:Why Fight? (Score:3, Insightful)

      If the people at the table next to you are speaking Korean, it doesn't affect you. If your table is speaking English, that doesn't affect the other tables. But if the waiter only speaks Korean, it does affect you.

      Not knowing anything about Orkut, and not reading the article (surprised?) I would suggest that they handle this like they handle their existing site - offer it in as many languages as they can/want and let the users live with the choices.

      There's no reason to offer a site like this in just Englis
    • Re:Why Fight? (Score:3, Informative)

      by MrFlannel ( 762587 )
      Read the article. It mentions the fact that its more like the persons sitting next to you at the table, begin to try and speak to you in korean, and then expect you to be able to bend over backwards to communicate with them.
      • Re:Why Fight? (Score:5, Insightful)

        by driptray ( 187357 ) on Saturday July 17, 2004 @11:21PM (#9728524)

        its more like the persons sitting next to you at the table, begin to try and speak to you in korean, and then expect you to be able to bend over backwards to communicate with them.

        No, it's like the people at the table next to you start speaking to you in Korean, and because you don't know Korean you make a complaint to the management of the restaurant. There is no expectation on the English-speakers to bend over backwards, or do anything at all.

        But even that analogy isn't quite correct. I think the English speakers are upset because they are creating forums in the hope of developing communities of people they can be a part of, and their forums end up being overtaken by Portugese speakers. And so they are excluded from their very own creation.

        • by Sycraft-fu ( 314770 ) on Sunday July 18, 2004 @12:19AM (#9728847)
          English is the international language. It is, by far, the most spoken second language. It is the international language of finance, bussiness, diplomacy, flight and more.

          The problem is that there are just too many languages for a person to speak them all. Most people have trouble with more than 3 or 4, even if taught from birth (it gets more difficult later) and 15-20 is pretyt much the limit for even exceptional people.

          Thus there is no reaonable way you can expect everyone to know Portuagese, or any other language. However you can have a reasonable expectation that most people will have at least a functional proficency in English. Thus, if you wish to communicate with a worldwide audience, English is the language you should choose.

          I'm not saying people should always have to use English on the Internet, but it IS rather annoying to have people expect you should know their primary language when they want to communicate. I've had this problem in MMORPGs. People want to speak to you in French or Japanese or Korean or Spanish and so on. Problem is it is just unreasonable to ask a person to try and learn every one of the hundreds of languages on this Earth, much less the reality that most people DON'T know more than 1 or 2 languages.

          However, it's a fair bet most people have at least a basic English proficiency, and thus should be the prefered choice for online discourse if you intend to reach a worldwide audience.
          • by driptray ( 187357 ) on Sunday July 18, 2004 @12:52AM (#9729002)

            You seem to assume that when somebody speaks to you in a non-English language that they are either (a) expecting you to know their language, or (b) demanding that you learn their language.

            I don't think either of these assumptions is true. They're just trying to communicate the best way they know. If you can't speak their language you could politely say so ("sorry, I don't speak Portugese/French/etc."), or just say nothing.

            • by SmallFurryCreature ( 593017 ) on Sunday July 18, 2004 @04:09AM (#9729694) Journal
              The first thing anyone with at least some social skills should learn is how to ask in the local language if that person speaks another language.

              Just starting to babble in your own language to someone who may or may not speak it is the hight of impoliteness. You always ask in the local language wether someone else speaks your language or another mutual language. How am I supposed to know that your speaking god knows what or even asking me a question? You might be warning me that I am about to step into some dog shit or a nutcase.

              The only exception perhaps is english in holland. You can pretty much take it for granted that nobody in the world speaks dutch and english is pretty much a second language to us. We also don't really mind, we are a small nation in a big world and either we speak english or become like the french. Easy choice eh?

              Anyway this is all about speaking in the real world. Personally I think it would greatly help if people tried to speak in english on the net. Why? Esperanto or whatever is deader then dead dodo on the day of the dead. Bury it already. The net is about exchanging information easily and accross the world. Bit hard if we are going to keep up the existing language barriers. Imagine if everyone on /. posted in their local language. It would die an instant death. Most amazing are the anti-socials who go to an english forum then post a question in their own language and wonder why no-one responds.

          • However, English is slowly on the way out. This is nothing new, it has occupied a place taken by Greek, Latin, classical Arabic, French in different areas of the world and times of history. Simply, on a global scale.

            The choice of international language is mostly due to social dynamics, and the rise of China as an economic power is going to have consequences. Either they learn English, or we learn Chinese (besides I've been told that some parts of Chinese are quite easy - not the writing of course...). Span

        • Re:Why Fight? (Score:3, Insightful)

          by prockcore ( 543967 )
          No, it's like the people at the table next to you start speaking to you in Korean, and because you don't know Korean you make a complaint to the management of the restaurant.

          Nonsense. Brazillians are entering established communities and spamming them. It'd be much different if they set up their own communities.

          So it's like the people at the table next to you sat down at your table and started yelling at you in Korean. No shit you're going to complain.
    • Re:Why Fight? (Score:3, Interesting)

      by John Meacham ( 1112 )
      As universal languages go, lojban is much more interesting conceptually.

      or, if you are more visual, you might want to check out bliss-symbols.
    • Re:Why Fight? (Score:4, Informative)

      by WIAKywbfatw ( 307557 ) on Saturday July 17, 2004 @11:22PM (#9728530) Journal
      Yeah, I find it really arrogant that people are complaining about how others communicate between themselves. It's not like every American tourist that visits a foreign country starts speaking that nation's native tongue even when just talking to their travelling companions, is it?

      As an Orkut member I do find the behaviour of some of its users annoying (Orkut-wide and community-wide spamming by a very small handful of people, people who ignore the rules of the communities that they join, etc) but I find that it's not that inconvenient compared to what I've got out of my Orkut experience. I've made at least a dozen real-world friends that I regularly go out with, and several more that are online only at this stage, and that's only after three months' membership.

      Yes there are plenty of Brazilians on the site, and yes, they do have a tendency to join every community that even half interests them (it's like some people play a game of "let's see how many communities I can join", and they seem to do the same with collecting friends too) but that's not just a trait exclusive to them: users of other nationalities can be just as bad.

      I'll also point out that Portuguese isn't the only non-English language used on Orkut. I've seen several, including ones that you wouldn't immediately think of, such as Arabic.

      Live and let live is what I say. On Orkut and elsewhere.
      • Re:Why Fight? (Score:4, Interesting)

        by wmspringer ( 569211 ) on Sunday July 18, 2004 @12:07AM (#9728786) Homepage Journal
        The Iranians also; they seem to have hundreds of people on their friend lists and I keep getting mails sent to "friends of friends" that I can't read :-p

        For the most part, though, they speak English.
      • Re:Why Fight? (Score:5, Informative)

        by coaxial ( 28297 ) on Sunday July 18, 2004 @01:40AM (#9729213) Homepage
        Yeah, I find it really arrogant that people are complaining about how others communicate between themselves. It's not like every American tourist that visits a foreign country starts speaking that nation's native tongue even when just talking to their travelling companions, is it?

        Well I'm an Orkut member and I'll tell you what the problem is. The problem is that your inboxes are constantly filled with Portugese spam that is sent to "foo community." Every community has its share of Portugese spam. Whether it's US specific or not. It's really annoying. An easy fix would be language specific communities, but everyone is too lazy to join thoses...
    • Re:Why Fight? (Score:5, Informative)

      by doormat ( 63648 ) on Sunday July 18, 2004 @12:04AM (#9728771) Homepage Journal
      Yea but thats not whats happening. Its more like...
      • Start conversation with a bunch of people from around the world, speaking english, on some particular topic (ie Simpsons, Slashdot, etc)
      • Large number of Brazilians come in and hijack the group, flooding it with messages in Portuguese
      • Group becomes unusable for english speakers all around the world (not just us Americans)

      If the Brazilians were nice enough to fork and create groups that discussed topics in Portuguese, it wouldnt be a big deal. Orkut should have an upgrade right now, providing an "official group language" field for groups, so one can tell if they're joining the "Simpsons - English" or "Simpsons - Portuguese" groups. But many of the Brazilians walk in, act like they own the place, and hijack Orkut. I dont use it anymore for this reason.
      • Re:Why Fight? (Score:4, Informative)

        by igrp ( 732252 ) on Sunday July 18, 2004 @02:15AM (#9729326)
        Orkut should have an upgrade right now, providing an "official group language" field for groups, so one can tell if they're joining the "Simpsons - English" or "Simpsons - Portuguese" groups.

        It already does in a way. When you create a new group you can select the interface language. This does, however, not show up when you're not the community's creator.

        If you join a community that has a Spanish interface, chances are communications there will be in Spanish.

        I agree though that this doesn't really help with the problem at hand which is people taking over English-speaking communities and flooding them with foreign-language content (which is probably one of the rudest thing you can do on Orkut, as far as I am concerned - it's not that hard to start your own community).

        Google's Orkut dev team should probably have a look at this when they redesign the community section (and they should really really implement sub-categories while they're at it).

      • Re:Why Fight? (Score:3, Interesting)

        by Lars T. ( 470328 )
        Hey, sounds just like Americans in a non-English language usenet group - without the bitching about the stupid language people keep using.
  • Microcosm (Score:4, Interesting)

    by toasted_calamari ( 670180 ) * <> on Saturday July 17, 2004 @11:04PM (#9728431) Homepage Journal
    It's interesting, Orkut seems to be mimicing "real world" human society. This fight over languages looks a lot like the conflits over immigration that happen in every country. If anything, I would take this latest conflict as proof that internet forums can function as true communities, analogous to those in the physical world. In that sense, I consider this development to be an accomplishment for Orkut.
  • by Derg ( 557233 ) <> on Saturday July 17, 2004 @11:05PM (#9728433) Journal
    but due to the friend based invite model that this site employs, maybe the english speaking memebers of the site should start inviting more english speaking people, to equal if not overtake the brazillian tally.

    Just a thought
  • our just desserts (Score:3, Insightful)

    by bersl2 ( 689221 ) on Saturday July 17, 2004 @11:05PM (#9728438) Journal
    It's not like we haven't done it to everybody else.

    oh, and it's not Goggle...
  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday July 17, 2004 @11:06PM (#9728443)
    O SAO PAULO, Brasil (Reuters) - Brasil butted as cabeças com os estados unidos este ano nas edições que variam dos subsídios do algodão à guerra em Iraq. Mas talvez nenhuma das batalhas foi assim que pessoal como essa que está sendo lutado no Internet. Os milhares dos brasileiros têm os devotoes tornados de Orkut ( []), um local novo popular do social-social-networking do líder Google Inc da busca da correia fotorreceptora. Orkut permite que os membros organizem-se em comunidades em linha dos amigos, e dos amigos dos amigos, para discutir tudo do chess aos sanduíches. Mas as arremetidas dos brasileiros para juntar Orkut e locais sociais do networking do rival viraram alguns usuários em linha, que se queixam de um proliferation das mensagens afixadas no português, lingüeta nativa de Brazil's. Alguns usuários começaram mesmo comunidades especificamente para que os povos arejem seus gripes nesta edição. Os estados unidos têm ao menos 153 milhão usuários do Internet, comparados com o Brazil's 20 milhões. Ainda, os brasileiros ditos Orkut dominaram seu roster da sociedade em junho, outnumbering americanos para a primeira vez. O local diz que tem mais de 769.000 membros, fazendo lhe um do maior e mais popular de seu tipo no Internet. Aproximadamente 23.5 por cento dos usuários são dos estados unidos, quando outros 41.2 por cento forem brasileiros. Iranians são um terceiro lugar distante em aproximadamente 6 por cento.

    SOCIEDADE SELETIVA Orkut, nomeado após a Software Engineer Orkut de Google Buyukkokten, feito seu debut em janeiro e está ainda nos estágios testando. A parte de seu fascínio é seu exclusivity -- um pode somente juntar no invitation de um outro membro. o "Orkut traça o prestige social de one's, e os brasileiros são pela natureza gregarious, " Beth dito Saad, um professor na universidade da escola do sao Paulo's das comunicações e de artes. Embora mais de um quarto dos brasileiros vivam na pobreza, aqueles que podem ter recursos para o acesso do Internet têm surfers de correia fotorreceptora avid tornados. Nos termos do tempo gastados no Internet, os brasileiros afiaram para fora dos estados unidos em maio para o segundo mês em uma fileira, de acordo com Ibope/NetRatings. O investigador de mercado estima que o uso do Internet para brasileiros calculou a média de 13 horas e de 51 minutos em maio, oito minutos mais do que para americanos. O número de visitantes brazilian aos locais da comunidade e aos diários em linha levantou-se 14.6 por cento a 3.5 milhões em maio de janeiro, Ibope/NetRatings dito. Tammy Soldaat, um canadense, começou uma amostra do wrath brazilian recentemente quando afixou uma mensagem que pergunta se seu local da comunidade na perfuração do corpo deve ser exclusivo povoar quem falam o inglês. Os usuários brazilian de Orkut etiquetaram-na rapidamente um "nazi" e "xenophobe." "After que eu compreendi porque todos se está queixando sobre estes povos, porque they're que está sendo chamado o 'plague de Orkut, "' disse em um local chamado o brasileiro "Crazy Invasion." John Gibbs do Mountain View, Califórnia, fundou uma comunidade chamada o "So muitos brasileiros em Orkut." "When o usuário de Orkut da média vai olhar listas da comunidade para ver para fora what's lá, he'll vêem uma lista povoada com muito bonito todas as comunidades portuguese, " Gibbs dito. os "This estão frustrando altamente desde que Orkut não é um service." brazilian; Mas Mateus Reis, um publicist que viva no sao Paulo, os usuários ditos deve estar livre escrever o que querem, na língua de seu escolher. "Since nós podemos convidar qualquer um que nós queremos em Orkut, e meus amigos são brasileiros, ele doesn't fazem o sentido falando a eles em inglês, " Reis d
  • by bcrowell ( 177657 ) on Saturday July 17, 2004 @11:07PM (#9728447) Homepage
  • solved (Score:5, Interesting)

    by jjshoe ( 410772 ) on Saturday July 17, 2004 @11:09PM (#9728453) Homepage
    I solved the problem by changing the communities i run to English only. While this does not enforce people to speak in english it at least informs everyone the language they should be talking in if they dont expect their post to be deleted. I guess i'm missing the breaking news behind this.

    I think what would be more intresting is the rate at which amercians populated orkut vs brazilians
    • That seems fine (Score:3, Informative)

      Seems like a valid solution to me.
      And of course, it also seems perfectly valid for others to set up Portuguese-only, French-only, or whatever-only communities.
      I belong to some English-only communities, and to some Portuguese-only communities.
      Those are the only two languages in which I am capable of contributing. I guess I could probably follow discussions in Spanish or French, and I could probably get the gist of what was being said in Italian, but I am not capable of responding in any of these lan
  • heh (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday July 17, 2004 @11:09PM (#9728457)
    What is it with google and these services were you have to "know somebody".

    Half the reason I like forums on the internet is I don't know anyone there and I don't have to.

    I can pop in, post some shit, read some responses and then go back or not.

    I don't want to go on the internet with people I already know from real life. I go on the internet to get away from that. Just show up, discuss something and then leave. Like a bar or something.

    • Re:heh (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward
      The reason, I would guess, that Google is interested in social network based systems is because they are looking at the Semantic Web idea (or at least some of the technologies).

      FOAF [] is an effort by Dan Brickley/Libby Miller/Many others to create an open way to describe people - the world wide FOAF as opposed to the WWW. It shows the power of RDF in a practical (and fun!) way.

      Now, Lets say I'm Google. I spend millions on maintaining my marketshare with R and D; I'm going to realise sooner or later that go
    • Well (Score:5, Interesting)

      by autopr0n ( 534291 ) on Sunday July 18, 2004 @12:20AM (#9728855) Homepage Journal
      With gmail, I think it was

      1) an attempt to prevent the service from growing to fast. Most websites grow slowly, and that can help them fix problems. But with Gmail, everyone was going to get an account as soon as possible. So the invite system helped them moderate growth. Somewhat.

      2) It made a gmail account something precious. And made people want it. It was good marketing.

      I actualy got invited to orkut (intrestingly by my usernmae, rather then my real name). It was pretty annoying, and I gave up on it quickly.
  • by 56 ( 527333 ) on Saturday July 17, 2004 @11:10PM (#9728460)
    Why don't they just give their users the ability to filter by language? If you don't want to see the brazilian posts, you should be able to filter them out.
  • by AnthonyPaulO ( 732084 ) on Saturday July 17, 2004 @11:10PM (#9728461)
    I'm an American who's tired of hearing from foreigners that one reason why Americans are not liked is because we travel abroad to other countries and EXPECT them to speak english, as if they're expected to know our language. I'm a firm believer of "When in Rome, do as the Romans do" and when I visit abroad I try to speak as much of that nation's language as possible and keep a dictionary handy. I wonder if this is just another show of our much detested arrogance...
    • by NanoGator ( 522640 ) on Saturday July 17, 2004 @11:15PM (#9728496) Homepage Journal
      "I'm an American who's tired of hearing from foreigners that one reason why Americans are not liked is because we travel abroad to other countries and EXPECT them to speak english, as if they're expected to know our language."

      I'm sick of hearing this stereotype because all one has to do is look at a globe and it becomes obvious why we're not so fluent in other languages. It's not most of the USA can drive in a day and land in a country with a different national language. With the exception of Mexico (which gets so much tourism from us that English is relatively well understood) we have to hop on a plane at >$700 a ticket to visit a non-english speaking country. That's no small chore. I've been to Brazil twice, and each time it cost me $1,200 just for the ticket AND 24 hours transit time.
      All it takes is a little understanding, yeesh.
      • by Attaturk ( 695988 ) on Sunday July 18, 2004 @12:03AM (#9728764) Homepage
        I'm sick of hearing this stereotype because all one has to do is look at a globe and it becomes obvious why we're not so fluent in other languages. It's not most of the USA can drive in a day and land in a country with a different national language. With the exception of Mexico (which gets so much tourism from us that English is relatively well understood) we have to hop on a plane at >$700 a ticket to visit a non-english speaking country. That's no small chore. I've been to Brazil twice, and each time it cost me $1,200 just for the ticket AND 24 hours transit time.

        Sorry but geography is a pretty poor excuse. You could always have tried harder at school. =P

        Seriously though, from my experience it is more a matter of education than geography.
        Being English, English is surprisingly my first language. But I picked up much more French and German at school than I ever did in my adult life despite latterly travelling to both countries and indeed working and living in both for a time. And with a half-decent background in Latin I find most languages with their roots in Europe to be pretty easy - and that applies for countries I've never been to such as Brazil, for example. Learning something is never a handicap - not learning something is.

        Personally I think it's a cultural problem faced by the U.S. as a whole. As an observer it seems to me that American schools revere sports much more than they do anything else. You need to worship jocks less and geeks more IMHO, but surely that's de rigueur here at /. ;-)
    • Ya well I'm sick of hearing Americans whine about stereotypes and attempting to act hurt because 'nobody likes me.' Truth is Americans that show up somewhere, act like they're god and expect everyone to do things their way is the *norm*. If you actually make any sort of effort to learn something about the locals, you are in the minority. As such, it is to be expected that they are not going to want to have anything to do with you. Its a reputation your country earned so live with it. Your so proud to be an
  •'s just intended to be a service.

    The English-speaking peoples of the world need to understand that outside the internet (and soon to be inside) they are a minority in the world. 1/6 of the world speaks Chinese, about the same proportion speaks Hindi, and just under that speak Spanish. While it is common to speak English, it is not the be-all-and-end-all, and people need to start accepting that.
    • by Sycraft-fu ( 314770 ) on Sunday July 18, 2004 @12:32AM (#9728909)
      That whatever their primary language is, it is not the primary language of most of the world. Whatever your native language is, even Chinese, there are more people in the world who that is NOT their native language.

      So, this leads to a problem, how to communicate with the world. We all have different native languages. Well there has been, and is, a solution. English, while not even close to the largest primary language is by FAR the largest second language. Nearly every industralized nation, and many third world nations, teach English as well as their native tounge.

      Thus English is the international language. All air traffic control is done in English (so no matter where a plane comes form or goes to the crews can communicate), Likewise bussiness is conducted in English when there is a language disparity. If a Japanese bussiness does bussiness with China, English is usually the language of exchange since Chinese is very rare in Japan, and Japanese is very rare in China.

      So when one wishes to speak to an international audience, on the Internet for example, English is the best choice. Demanding that people learn your native tounge is unreasonable, as there are so very many (hundreds, if not thousands) languages out there. It is beyond the capability of any one person to learn them all. Even the most talented translators usually don't know more than 20, and they are extreme cases.
  • wanh (Score:5, Funny)

    by eekygeeky ( 777557 ) on Saturday July 17, 2004 @11:12PM (#9728480)
    "OK, I onlee kno teh english lang and i wanto no wh4t teh 0thre d00ds r saying!!!!! they sux00r! b1gt1meeee! WTF? OMG? cant tey keep thos guyzz 0ff teh inetrn3t? OMG. OMG." bleh. carl
  • by hrieke ( 126185 ) on Saturday July 17, 2004 @11:14PM (#9728486) Homepage
    I play a few online games and on one server the admin was yelling / kicking those who did not communicate in English.

    It's silly. The internet is global - the first W in WWW stands for World, and the last time I checked English was not the offical language of this planet.

    Those who are complaining should either mellow out or learn Portuguese.
    • Game server != world. If the admin wants people to speak one language, he's perfectly within his rights to do so... and there are some obvious practical reasons for that policy. What's so hard to understad about that?
  • by Animaether ( 411575 ) on Saturday July 17, 2004 @11:22PM (#9728528) Journal
    With regards to languages in general, that is.
    Let me just paste from what I dropped into IRC a while back :
    This is translated from a Dutch 'popular science' magazine (Kijk, for the Dutch viewers) :

    There are many languages in the world. Scientists estimate the number to be around 6,000.
    A few languages are doing very well. Chinese is the biggest language (in terms of numbers of speakers), and will remain so for some time to come. Tamil, Bengal and Malaysian are quickly gaining ground, as is Arabic.
    In contrast are languages (among which many regional African ones) of which on average one 'disappears' every day.
    A surprising find is that English isn't doing very well either. it is expected that by 2050, only 5.5% of the world's population will speak the language at all.

    Speakers in % of the world's population per language:
    English : 9%
    Spanish : 5%
    Hindi/Urdu : 4.5%
    Arabic : 2.25%

    English : 5.5%
    Spanish : 5.3%
    Hindy/Urdu : 6%
    Arabic : 5.2%

    Young speakers (age 15-24) in 2050 (x 1,000,000):
    Mandarin-Chinese : 166.0
    Hindi/Urdu : 73.7
    Arabic : 72.2
    English : 65.0
    Spanish : 62.8
    Portuguese : 32.5
    Bengal : 31.6
    Russian : 14.8
    Japanese : 11.3
    Malaysian : 10.5
    With regards to Orkut : As already stated.. don't bother visiting the Brazilian pages if you can't read them anyway.
    Vice-versa, if the Brazilian would want English readers to read it, write in English.
    With regards to the French : None of the doctors/nurses who helped a friend who was in a car wreck in France knew English. 'nuff said.
    With regards to the web as whole : English rules and will rule for a long, long time to come.
  • Stupid (Score:5, Insightful)

    by tftp ( 111690 ) on Saturday July 17, 2004 @11:24PM (#9728536) Homepage
    Ok, I see an article about Orkut. Go to Orkut web site to see what it is about. They tell me GO AWAY []. What a nice place!!! In other words, you can't make friends on Orcut unless you already have friends on Orcut...

    This Orcut thingy, therefore, may be good or bad, but since they are a closed (secret) society I see no way to judge it. I just walk away, not to be back any time soon.

    • by Peter Cooper ( 660482 ) on Sunday July 18, 2004 @12:15AM (#9728825) Homepage Journal
      then post here. Either I, or someone else, will be likely to come along and drop you one.

      (I'm not implying you want to join, of course ;-))
  • by jefferson ( 95937 ) on Saturday July 17, 2004 @11:37PM (#9728607) Homepage
    Maybe the Brazilians are dominating Orkut because lots of Americans, like me, have declined all their Orkut invitations. Friendster swept through my circle of friends a while back. Lots of people joined, and then we discovered that there's not actually anything to do there. Once the novelty wore off, we stopped logging in. Then several people (from a different circle of friends) invited me to Orkut, and I thought "why bother?" and declined the invitations.

    Once the Brazilians figure out how lame and useless these social networking things are, their numbers will drop.

  • by kbahey ( 102895 ) on Saturday July 17, 2004 @11:49PM (#9728677) Homepage

    Unless you have a majority of the visitors / participants that are multilingual capable, you have to separate the content of a web site by language.

    I say this from experience on several newsgroups, then forums over the years.

    It starts out simple: people who are early adopters often speak English, and can read English (e.g. programmers, ...etc. who know English anyway). Then as technology spreads among the less techno-elite, people who do not know English well want to express themselves in their native language.

    In languages that use a non Latin character set, there is a phase where internet communication uses Latin characters to represent their own language. I have seen at least Hindi and Arabic written in Latin alphabet, with some modifiers. (Even some Euro languages lost some characters, like Scandinavian and Germanic languages, where the "O" in Torvalds lacks the stroke in the middle, and the "A" with the small circle, ..etc.)

    There are various "dialects" used in these Latinized alphabets, and people learn one version or the other depending on where they learn it first.

    This becomes a transitionary phase on these forums, where people will express themselves using this Latin based alphabet to represent their own language.

    Then later, as their own language becomes more wide spread and accepted, more people get to use computers and the internet, and they perhaps do not know any language other than their own. This leads to them demanding that only their native language be used in forums that are about their country/society/language/...etc.

    Anyone who speaks a "foreign" language in those forums is reminded that the primary language is such and such, and not to confuse others. Some take this as a matter of national pride, some take it as mere courtsey, others take it as common sense, and yet others take it as a mere form of communication. Depends on who you are, your outlook, and your biases.

    That is what I have seen in several newsgroups/forums over the years.

    So, this is the phase that Orkut is at right now.

    Eventually, they may have to separate the content by language. Although there are barriers here, because Orkut is about "networking", and not just "discussions".

    It would be interesting to see how this turf war gets resolved eventually, at least for those who are like me who like to observe the new frontiers that the internet have defined/merged/melted/setup.

    P.S. In Canada for example, where there are two large groups speaking two languages, a majority of web sites give the option on what language to use at the very beginning. Forums are separated into two languages on many sites. There is a minority who are bilingual and can (and do) participate in the two camps. I imagine Hispanics in the USA, and Spanish speaking Anglos do the same on some forums.

  • by cosyne ( 324176 ) on Saturday July 17, 2004 @11:56PM (#9728714) Homepage
    I first scanned that as "13 hours and 51 minutes a day" and I was like "nah, I don't think I use it for much more than 12 hours."
    Gotta take my eyes away from the screen for a bit...
  • by BigDish ( 636009 ) on Saturday July 17, 2004 @11:59PM (#9728737)
    Reading this article about Orkut being so popular in Brazil, I decided to take a chance on finding a friend I had known for a couple years, but lost contact with after he moved to Brazil. I plugged in his name and *BAM* I see his profile and his picture.
    I sent him a message - hopefully he remembers me and responds. I just thought it was sort of cool to re-find him that way :-)
  • by dirtsurfer ( 595452 ) on Sunday July 18, 2004 @12:58AM (#9729032) Journal
    Orkut doesn't support international character encoding, so if you and your friends speak a language that doesnt use the Roman alphabet (Japanese or Chinese, for example), then you're just screwed.

    It's crazy seeing all these Japanese Orkut users [] (there are quite a few) posting to each other in romaji and broken English.
  • by pandemonia ( 238284 ) on Sunday July 18, 2004 @01:06AM (#9729073)
    Acredito que se trata de uma tendência absolutamente natural na evolção de qualquer rede social. O fato dos brasileiros terem tomado o lugar dos alemães ou indianos, foi parte por timing, parte por coincidência. Como um outro comentário mencionou, muitos norte-americanos acabaram ignorando convites para o Orkut por causa da febre do Friendster que já tinha passado por eles, enquanto essa febre jamais chegou aqui no Brasil.

    (espero que tenha bastante brasileiro por aí com pontos para moderar. abraço.)
  • by efbrasil ( 643489 ) on Sunday July 18, 2004 @01:16AM (#9729107)
    I'm a brazilian, who lives in Brazil, in Rio de Janeiro, a city where lots of tourists like to spend their vacations. Many of these tourists happen to be americans, of course.

    The great majority of the americans tourists come to Brazil without knowing a single word in Portuguese, which happens to be Brazil's official and only language. (this also apply to tourists from other countries as well)

    And i've never seen any brazilian complaining when a american tourist go, let's say, to a restaurant and try to speak in English with the waiter, although he's not talking brazilian official language. (and this happens a lot)

    I think it's the same situation.

    Oh, i also think that orkut-based spam in Portuguese sucks. But it sucks because it is spam, and not because it's not in English.

  • by coopaq ( 601975 ) on Sunday July 18, 2004 @01:25AM (#9729152)
    A friend invited me to Orkut. I signed up. It was fun. I logged on to message boards. Jimmy has a cat. It was fun like this post. People have pictures. It is neat. I like socks. Will you be my friend?
  • by TVeil ( 797943 ) on Sunday July 18, 2004 @01:49AM (#9729246)
    All this talk about which language to use seems to me to miss the point. If 40+% of a business's customer base speaks a certain language, it makes sense to me to not alienate that market segment and instead appeal to them. Imagine if McDonald's said "we are an American company and insist that everyone who comes to our restaurants speak English no matter where they are." The Internet is obviously a global market place. A company that makes their product difficult to use for their customers is missing an opportunity which another business will eventually take advantage of. Maybe even a foreign business...
  • by LuYu ( 519260 ) on Sunday July 18, 2004 @02:37AM (#9729414) Homepage Journal

    This statement is incredible:

    English-speaking users are complaining that the service is intended to be in English.
    Intended by whom? Since when are discussion forums "intended" or "required" to be exclusively in English. Is enabling communication not the point of the Internet?

    If these were French Canadians talking about "language preservation" in Canada, most English speakers would think they were absurd. Now, when the situation is reversed, English speakers think they have the right to behave in the same absurd way.

    These English speaking Orkut users are really being unfair. The fact that they cannot read Portugese is a result of the English speakers' ignorance and not the fault of the Portugese speakers. The Portugese speakers should be able to post in any language they like. If the English speakers do not like it, they can learn Portugese or use translation software to get an idea of what was said.

    These English speakers had better get a clue. Online, you are exposed to the whole world, not just your boondock neighborhood. People speak lots of languages. If they choose to remain ignorant, they should not blame others for that chosen ignorance.

    • Now, when the situation is reversed, English speakers think they have the right to behave in the same absurd way.

      That's the problem with people in general: They want things cushy for themselves, even if it means a great inconvenience for a lot of other people. I've seen it in whites, latin-americans, blacks, americans, europeans, south-americans, asians, homosexuals, heterosexuals, religious people, athiests, rich, poor, educated, uneducated, skinny, fat, tall, short, and everyone in between. In fac
  • by Stormwatch ( 703920 ) <.rodrigogirao. .at.> on Sunday July 18, 2004 @04:28AM (#9729733) Homepage
    from FYI's Blog [ ], translation by me:


    "The Brazilians in Orkut"

    For some reason I still do not grasp entirely, Orkut became a craze in Brazil. Nothing against the site, I also am a member, but suddenly everyone is talking about it. It became so pop, even Veja [Brazil's most important magazine] published an article about it.

    Thus far, that's ok. However, most of these people have not joined it to know people, or to take part in the discussion groups. They are only going to make a ruckus out of it.

    Dont ask me how this nonsense began exactelly, but all of a sudden I started getting emails inviting me to "join the brazilian movement in Orkut". It seems the idea was that we should invite other brazilians to enter in the site, to make the number of brazilians bigger than that of Americans.

    For what, you ask? Ah! It seems that someone named Gary, supposedly an american, somehow insulted the brazilians there. He said that we were a bunch of dicks who start speaking portuguese in american groups, something like that.

    And to prove that we are not ignorant indians, but educated and intelligent people, which better reply of the one than... to beat the USA in sheer statistics?

    The Saga continues, and it seems that Gary person was banished. However, "Gary's followers" started showing up.

    One of the countless messages I received came from one of these followers. I found interesting as the such individual had a nazi-styled photo, and had poor english. Tracking his messages, I found he spoke portuguese! It seems he had studied in Brazil (huh?), therefore things were like that.

    But that was just the beginning! Now, whenever I log in, I receive dozens of messages telling me I should change my photo to a flag of Brazil in the september 7th [brazilian independence day], or that I should change my photo to a flag of Iraq (?), or change my photo to a pic of the twin towers in the 4th of july!

    Seriously, why is our concentration of stupidity so high? I check the profiles of the senders of those childish messages expecting to find 15-year-old brats, and find 30-year-olds.

    Why can people from Iran, Japan, Slovenia, India, etc, keep civil, while we get in this nonsense? Ah, this bloated ego of ours... or, more precisely, our inferiority complex.

    And again, the joke is on us.

  • Iran? ! (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Alsee ( 515537 ) on Sunday July 18, 2004 @07:43AM (#9730161) Homepage
    The most interesing line in the entire article " Iranians are a distant third place at about 6 percent", and no one even seems to notice?

    Iran number 3 on Orkut! Hello! THAT is the story I wanna read!

  • Not an Issue to Me (Score:3, Insightful)

    by bedouin ( 248624 ) on Sunday July 18, 2004 @08:08AM (#9730215)
    I maintain a couple groups on Orkut, and at one point two Brazilians were speaking and commented, "I'm not sure how to express this in English." I quickly chimed in and basically said, "Then say it in Portuguese; if the content is juicy enough, the English-only speakers can paste it into Babelfish." I don't know Portuguese by the way.

    There's no reason multiple languages can't coexist in one forum. I suppose others are annoyed when they're the linguistic minority for a change though. Seriously, get over it; maybe you'll actually learn something new, even if it is only a word.

Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from a rigged demo.