Internet, Kannada, Softwares

ನಮಸ್ಕಾರ. Language barrier and World Wide Web.

I am a proud Kannadiga (ಕನ್ನಡಿಗ), not Kannadi or Kannadis as some “immigrants” in Bangalore call Kannada speaking people; It’s Kannadiga. I like the fact that I can use the facilities on Internet such as WordPress, Twitter etc for blogging and micro blogging and facebook, slashdot, lifehacker for information etc. With the population of over 1 Billion, India has just about < 10% (A total irrational guess, it could very well be 9.6305%) Internet users. While the cost to own a Computer or get an Internet connection are a little high for the common man, language barrier according to me is the biggest reason. I cannot expect my mom or my pa to blog on net in Kannada when s/he doesn’t know how to type in Kannada with an English keyboard. I have been using these blogging services for so many days but I never figured out an obvious way to blog in Kannada.

Recently, a couple of days ago, I came across this site called Quillpad. They have an easy way of typing Indian languages in english. What I like the most about this particular site is that it is very intutive unlike Gmail. Gmail’s Indian language feature, which can be enabled in the Settings -> Labs, in comparision with Quillpad looks very raw to me. Installing Baraha or other desktop softwares and then, typing over wordpress or other applications such as MS Word is the existing way of typing Indian languages.

A simple Google search pointed me to an other website called Lipikaar. They too have a similar portal but Lipikaar is far behind Quillpad in it’s technology. It was my mistake that concluded little too early. They do not use transliteration and hence, it turned out be faster to type in Lipikaar. A simple experiment of typing “namaskaara” gives the following results of Lipikaar (ನಾಮಾಸಕಅರಾ). I tried many times but I still couldn’t figure out the way to type namaskaara, which by the way on Quillpad results in this (ನಮಸ್ಕಾರ).  I should have tried nmsxkar on Lipikaar while I tried the Baraha way of typing, which worked well on Quillpad. While I would love to use Lipikaar considering the fact that they already have a firefox plugin, it gives me a feeling like I’m using Dvorak keyboard – Very good but different – against Qwerty, as I am so used to typing with Baraha.

Indian languages on internet is still a long way to go. We need to get Indians educated to use internet. This is a very precise market and a very untouched market. This to me is like the famous  Nike story where a salesman from Nike went to Africa in 1950s to sell their shoes. A market like Indic Languages on Net will still take a long time to catch up but once it does,  it will get saturated very soon with a very few players. A few things Quillpad should do if they already haven’t thought of it,

  • Easier shortcuts to switch to english. (Something like Ctrl+B for Bold). They can use Ctrl+Q.
  • Dictionary support for English to native languages and native languages to English  (I know what is Heerekai in Kannada but I didn’t know what is it called in English. Similarly, I don’t know what’s Cricket called in Kannada)
  • API their Engine. (Charge for the engine or give it for free for other monetary benifits. Upto them!). Why? Twitter hasn’t caught up like a flame because of the bird or it’s color. There are more than 800 Twitter and Twitter specific clients. Quillpad needs to jump into the bandwagon and make the most of it. Providing APIs and a few clients in open would invite a huge flock of users to use Quillpad and its services.
  • Firefox / IE / Safari / Opera / Chrome plugins. What if Gmail has a language tool in it’s mail compose? It sucks. If quillpad can provide me an alternative, they are in. Getting into the browser is the new way of getting into people’s houses. It’s the new way of taking control of PCs.
  • iPhone app won’t be too early either considering Quillpad itself is a little too early.

Communicating with Web developers for web based projects will pile in a bunch of ideas for any organization. Like Guy (Kawasaki) says, a lot of startups fail in a couple of years because they haven’t been touching base with their end users. I wish Quillpad & Lipikaar, all the best.

I really appreciate the efforts put into these products and the fact that they are open to public.

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4 thoughts on “ನಮಸ್ಕಾರ. Language barrier and World Wide Web.

  1. > They too have a similar portal but Lipikaar is far behind Quillpad in it’s technology. A simple experiment of typing “namaskaara” gives the following results of Lipikaar (ನಾಮಾಸಕಅರಾ). I tried many times but I still couldn’t figure out the way to type namaskaara,

    My friend,

    Instead of making short, quick judgments why not first try to investigate carefully how the methods are different?

    Lipikaar is very different from other transliteration-based methods. Quillpad and Google Indic rely on Transliteration, whereas Lipikaar does not which is why you get different results with Lipikaar.

    In order to type ನಮಸ್ಕಾರ in Lipikaar type “n m s x k a r”. That took fewer keystrokes, and wow – I don’t even know Kannada in the first place.

    In short, Lipikaar is designed for those who don’t have English as a first language. Check out the Kannada typing help page on Lipikaar for more details.

    Cheers,
    Santosh

  2. Neha says:

    Lipikaar is not based on “transliteration” and probably that’s why you felt the results were not accurate.

    It based on an SMS-style intuitive mapping. So you are not suppose to spell the word in English and expect to see it converted into Kannada but instead directly type the Kannada word without any ambiguity of its English pronunciation.

    So namaskaara would be ನಮಸ್ಕಾರ (nmsxkar)

    Lipikaar already has a FireFox plugin which is extremely popular and commonly used for writing emails, chat and blogging. Give it a try!

  3. @Santosh, @Neha,

    My mistake. Thanks for pointing it out. I tried the demo version online and assumed it to be similar to Google and Quillpad. I guess I need to checkout the firefox plugin, now that two fellows have pointed it out!

    Btw, I’m not being all too judgmental but I may be the dumb customer who developers assume while designing UI. I did look at the instruction of Suress for ಸುರೇಶ and assumed it to be similar to the Google’s and Quillpad interface. It will be good if guys at Lipikaar makes it clear.

    If any of you are one of those guys, you have a nice product there. Hats off to you.

  4. Hi Nithin,

    Thank you for the feedback and the correction. You are right, I’ll write to the Lipikaar team to let them know that they ought to make the style of typing much clearer.

    – Santosh

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