Forgot your password?
typodupeerror
Microsoft Software

Writing Software for Worldwide Distribution Proves Difficult 1391

Posted by michael
from the least-common-denominator dept.
lupa1420 writes "Insensitive computer programmers with little knowledge of geography have cost the giant Microsoft company hundreds of millions of dollars in lost business and led hapless company employees to be arrested by offended governments."
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

Writing Software for Worldwide Distribution Proves Difficult

Comments Filter:
  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday August 19, 2004 @09:37AM (#10012295)
    I don't get it.
  • by American AC in Paris (230456) * on Thursday August 19, 2004 @09:37AM (#10012298) Homepage
    From TFA:

    The annual National Geographic Survey had thrown up the sad fact that only 23 out of 56 young Americans knew the whereabouts of the Pacific Ocean

    Oh, cry me a river--like the Pacific Ocean is some big, important thing. I mean, you need to drive all the way to Sweden just to see it!

    • by Nos. (179609) <(andrew) (at) (thekerrs.ca)> on Thursday August 19, 2004 @09:42AM (#10012362) Homepage
      As a Canadian, I've talked to many folks from the states over the Internet and trying to describe to them where I live is sometimes very difficult. One of the ones that I thought would work was saying I live about 80 miles north of the border between North Dakota and Montana. However, a lot of people still had no idea where I was talking about, and these are people who live in the USA!
      • by interactive_civilian (205158) <mamoru&gmail,com> on Thursday August 19, 2004 @09:49AM (#10012449) Homepage Journal
        Nos. said:
        One of the ones that I thought would work was saying I live about 80 miles north of the border between North Dakota and Montana. However, a lot of people still had no idea where I was talking about, and these are people who live in the USA!
        Of course they had no idea what you were talking about. Every US citizen knows that there is no such thing as "80 miles north of the border". There is no border! That is where the world ends! IIRC, there is a sign that says something like "Here there be monsters" and then a big drop off into the abyss because that is where one would fall off the turtle's back...

        .

        [/sarcasm]

        Re: the grandparent post, that quote from the article got me too. I was wondering if they were showing an upside down map or something...

        • Re:Of course not! (Score:5, Interesting)

          by justforaday (560408) on Thursday August 19, 2004 @09:56AM (#10012570)
          Re: the grandparent post, that quote from the article got me too. I was wondering if they were showing an upside down map or something...

          Whenever I come across a globe that can be fully flipped upside down, I do so. It gives an interesting perspective on the world, especially considering "up" was chosen fairly arbitrarily...

          (Yes, I know, "up" was chosen because that's where North is, but try to remember the whole polar reversal thing that happens from time to time)
      • Re:Specific Ocean? (Score:5, Insightful)

        by DGregory (74435) on Thursday August 19, 2004 @09:55AM (#10012559) Homepage
        I'm from Ohio, and when I've gone traveling to Europe, I've had to say "yeah, that's right... near Chicago" but a lot of people only knew where Florida or NYC or California were anyway. And others didn't even know where those were. (Whereas I can diagram on a map the Canadian provinces, many Canadian cities, European countries and cities, and various countries around the world. I'm special like that I guess.)

        So while that's not as extreme as not knowing where the Pacific Ocean is... Americans aren't the only geographically-challenged people out there.
        • Re:Specific Ocean? (Score:5, Insightful)

          by BrianRoach (614397) on Thursday August 19, 2004 @10:07AM (#10012720)
          So while that's not as extreme as not knowing where the Pacific Ocean is... Americans aren't the only geographically-challenged people out there.

          There's only two oceans that lap up against US shores ... you'd think, perhaps, the names wouldn't be alien to the average US citizen.

          Beyond that ... I'm also from Ohio. I wouldn't expect anyone outside the US to know where it is :)

          Most Euro countries aren't 3000 x 1500 miles in size, made up of 48 separate states. Can you point out something other than London on a map of England? It's only the size of VA.

          - Roach
          • Re:Specific Ocean? (Score:4, Interesting)

            by k98sven (324383) on Thursday August 19, 2004 @11:43AM (#10014002) Journal
            Most Euro countries aren't 3000 x 1500 miles in size, made up of 48 separate states. Can you point out something other than London on a map of England? It's only the size of VA.

            Even taking size into account, most americans have very poor skills. Russia is huge. Most Americans still can't point out where Moscow is, much less Saint Petersburg.
            (And I'd be very impressed if they could find Volgograd, Novosibirsk or Vladivostok)

            Size isn't a good metric. Montana is big, but only has around what, a million people?

            Being an American with good geography skills, living in Europe, I can tell you that IMHO, more Europeans can find Ohio (or at least give its general area) than Americans can find, say, Yorkshire or Bavaria. (and they both have far greater populations than Montana)
        • Re:Specific Ocean? (Score:5, Insightful)

          by benzapp (464105) on Thursday August 19, 2004 @10:09AM (#10012735)
          Many people in Europe also conceptually know that where these cities/states are (NYC is in the east, Chicago is in the middle, San Francisco is in the west), but they have no idea the distances involved.

          Most people in France for instance, probably have no idea their country is only slightly larger than Texas, or that Alaska alone is larger than most of Western Europe.
          • Re:Specific Ocean? (Score:4, Interesting)

            by DGregory (74435) on Thursday August 19, 2004 @10:24AM (#10012950) Homepage
            You kind of have to go visit there to really understand the distances, no matter where it's at. I understand how big Alaska is, but if I pointed at Juneau (sp?) and Nome on a map, I wouldn't know how long it'd take to go from one city to another.

            But I've been to France and know that Paris to Lyon is a 6 hour drive, 2 hrs on the TGV. It's 7 hours from Columbus to Toronto, so it's easy enough to compare that way.
          • by dwheeler (321049) on Thursday August 19, 2004 @10:54AM (#10013378) Homepage Journal
            I don't think the difficulty people have in understanding differings scales is the same thing at all. Knowing what the locations of major features and countries of Earth is something that can be taught in school - and NEEDS to be taught there.

            But understanding the differing scale of things is much harder for human brains wrap around. Yes, they can be described by measuring distance or travel time, but it's hard to really understand differences in scale until you've been there. E.G., I remember visiting in the UK, and some people described "far away" villages which were closer than my daily commute. This is just one of the many reasons that you need to visit a place to really understand it.

        • by mwood (25379) on Thursday August 19, 2004 @10:13AM (#10012809)
          Robert Benchley wrote an essay which includes a list of handy phrases for Europeans visiting the U.S. One of them has someone newly arrived in NYC getting into a cab and asking to be driven to a hotel in Chicago.

          "So, this is America? That is too bad, I wanted Brazil."
        • Apples and Oranges (Score:5, Insightful)

          by brunes69 (86786) <slashdot@keirste ... minus physicist> on Thursday August 19, 2004 @10:40AM (#10013186) Homepage
          Think about this for a second.

          You are comparing ignorance of regional districts *within* a country (states) to ignorance of major world countries as a whole.

          Europeans not knowing where Florida is is a totally different thing to Americans not knowing where Sweeden is. One os a district, the other is a country.

          If you think Europeans should know where Florida is, then that means that Americans should know where South Wales is in the UK. Good luck on *that*.

          It is pretty much accepted knowledge worldwide that the vast majority of the US population has little concern with anything beyond its own borders. Just watch your average american 6'oclock newscast and count the international references. Compared to other countries' newscasts it should be embarassing.

      • thats because you don't have WMD. once we need to invade your country everyone in the US and their cousin in Iraq will know the location of your oil deposits.
      • As a Canadian, I've talked to many folks from the states over the Internet and trying to describe to them where I live is sometimes very difficult. One of the ones that I thought would work was saying I live about 80 miles north of the border between North Dakota and Montana. However, a lot of people still had no idea where I was talking about, and these are people who live in the USA!

        Maybe if you referred to some place in America we'd understand. :)

        Seriously, though, I have a friend who was moving from

      • by vida (695022) on Thursday August 19, 2004 @10:26AM (#10012990)

        A worldwide survey was conducted by the UN. The only question asked was:"Would you please give your honest opinion about solutions to the food shortage in the rest of the world?"

        The survey was a huge failure...

        In Africa they didn't know what "food" meant

        In Eastern Europe they didn't know what "honest" meant.

        In Western Europe they didn't know what "shortage" meant

        In China they didn't know what "opinion" meant.

        In the Middle East they didn't know what "solution" meant.

        In South America they didn't know what "please" meant.

        And in the USA they didn't know what "the rest of the world" meant

      • by Kevin Stevens (227724) <kevstev AT gmail DOT com> on Thursday August 19, 2004 @10:47AM (#10013283)
        Me and my friends about a year ago decided to come up w/ a single basic screening question to decide if a girl we met was halfway intelligent. We debated on what the one question should be, and finally decided on one: "Where is Kansas?" Where we would mark a point in the air for california and new york and then have them point to where kansas should be. You wouldnt believe where some girls pointed. Some thought it was somewhere around virgina, others in canada, one even pointed to some place out in the middle of the atlantic. And we weren't nitpicking either, you passed if you just pointed to somewhere approximately in the middle. The pass rate for a typical drunk girl was somewhere around 20%. We were astounded. We thought it would be something like 70%. So after seeing those dissapointing results, we did what any guy would do... and lowered our standards.
        • by switcha (551514) on Thursday August 19, 2004 @12:02PM (#10014265)
          Where we would mark a point in the air for california and new york and then have them point to where kansas should be. You wouldnt believe where some girls pointed.

          So you've got your hands held up in front of you to illustrate geographical locations. Maybe they were trying to poke you in the eye for being such a weirdo.

        • by JimmytheGeek (180805) <jamesaffeld@nospaM.yahoo.com> on Thursday August 19, 2004 @02:31PM (#10016006) Journal
          This is a good trick for you females. (There ARE some on /., dammit!)
          A very attractive, accomplished, intelligent woman played a prank on me. As a party game, she had me close my eyes and trace the outline of "the ideal woman". I figured the game was to get the guy to lose track and laugh at the deformed outline. Something along the lines of "Her breasts are 2 feet above her neck!"

          So I concentraited very hard.

          "Ok, show where her eyes are."
          "Show where her nose is."
          "Show where her hair comes down to."
          "Show where her breasts are and their approximate size"
          "Show where her navel is."
          "Show where her waist is."
          "Show where her hips are."

          I was focussing really hard as the bits got closer together, sure I was creating a monster.

          "Show where her vagina is."
          I put my finger out and felt a warm, moist cavity.

          I fell over laughing - she'd knelt and put her mouth on my finger. I was pretty surprised. And a bit embarrassed.
    • New Mexico USA (Score:5, Interesting)

      by sckeener (137243) on Thursday August 19, 2004 @10:17AM (#10012845)
      My favorite stat is that %25 of US citizens think New Mexico is not a state.

      Just imagine if someone invaded New Mexico and 25% of America were upset that we were sending troops there.

    • Re:Specific Ocean? (Score:5, Informative)

      by Brandybuck (704397) on Thursday August 19, 2004 @02:09PM (#10015752) Homepage Journal
      Why do people keep bringing up this misleading survey? Actually the survey isn't misleading, Just NetGeo's doom and gloom donation-seeking summary. Let me do a tiny bit to set the record straight.

      Yes, American school kids are largely ignorant of geography. But the survey also points out the gross ignorance of students in other nations. Reporters and pundits tend to forget this in their zeal to portray the US as a bunch of nincompoops. It is a good thing that this geographical ignorance in the US is highlighted, because it means that we can now move to correct the problem. But it does not imply that other nations are let off the hook!

      This was a survey done by a US organization for a US audience. Then the US media reported about are dumb kids. Then the non-US media came along and quoted the US media, and suddenly the whole world is awed at the stupidity of US schoolchildren.

      But if you look at the actual results, or merely read a bit further down in the summary, you'll find a slightly different story. That's what's not being reported: the US is not alone in its geographical ignorance!

      Some choice quotes: "Others outside the U.S., most notably young adults in Mexico, also struggled with basic geography facts. Young people in Canada and Great Britain fared almost as poorly as those in the U.S." [nationalgeographic.com].

      Or how about, "Young adults worldwide are not markedly more literate about geography than the Americans. On average, fewer than 25% of young people worldwide could locate Israel on the map. Only about 20% could identify hotspots like Afghanistan, Iran, and Iraq" [gtpcc.org], and "In France, 24% did not know that that their own country was a nuclear nation."

      It doesn't bother me that the world is picking the US for getting a "D" in geography. What bothers me is that the world thinks getting a "C-" in the same class is a resounding success!
  • Insular US (Score:3, Informative)

    by Threni (635302) on Thursday August 19, 2004 @09:38AM (#10012306)
    I've been to the States and seen some of the news and current affairs programs and seriously, it's like they're aimed at 12 year olds or something. This story doesn't suprise me at all!
  • ob simpsons (Score:5, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday August 19, 2004 @09:40AM (#10012326)
    "Marge, anyone could miss Canada. All tucked away down there."
  • Que? (Score:4, Funny)

    by mccalli (323026) on Thursday August 19, 2004 @09:40AM (#10012329) Homepage
    From the article:
    Perhaps the best known...was a colour-coded world map showing time zones, which showed the disputed Jammu-Kashmir region as not being in India...The mistake led to the whole of the Windows 95 operating system being banned in the country, losing large sales. For its replacement, Microsoft, Office 97, Microsoft removed the colour coding and sold 100,000 copies in India.

    Office 97 replaced Windows 95? Yikes.

    Cheers,
    Ian

    • I wish I have a nickel for everytime one of my friends calls with a computer problem, and when I ask what operating system they have its always one of the following:

      1) Office 97
      2) Office 98
      3) Windows 97 (and they will refuse to be corrected)

      23 in 56 can locate the Pacific Ocean? Seems a little high, to me.
    • Re:Que? (Score:4, Funny)

      by jav1231 (539129) on Thursday August 19, 2004 @10:10AM (#10012764)
      So would an Iranian version of Windows have the U.S. labelled as "The Great Satan?" This could actually get very funny. They could market regional versions even here in the U.S. Like label California as "The People's Republic of California" and market it to everyone who doesn't live in New York or California. Label Massachusetts as "Where the Kennedy's come from" for public school children. This could actually be fun.
    • Re:Que? (Score:4, Funny)

      by ClippyHater (638515) on Thursday August 19, 2004 @10:11AM (#10012770) Journal
      Sure, make fun that you can't replace Windows 95 with a version of office.

      But you Unix types wouldn't bat an eye if the text read "...replacing Windows 95 with emacs!"
  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday August 19, 2004 @09:41AM (#10012341)
    ...they're failure to keep up with global geopolitical madness.
    • by Lemmy Caution (8378) on Thursday August 19, 2004 @10:09AM (#10012749) Homepage
      You're right. I'm all for any reasonable and vicious mockery of the failures of the US educational (lack of a) system, but the violations detailed in the (uncharacteristically poorly written) Guardian article are really of a different sort. I mean, my Spanish is fluent, and I had no idea that hembra means bitch in Nicaragua.

      Also, one of the major errors - the inclusion of a chant of verses from the Koran in Kakuto Chojin - was made by Japanese developers.

      The article illustrates the value, more than anything, of hiring consultants for each and every country into which you intend to market a product.
  • Lame article (Score:5, Insightful)

    by jandrese (485) * <kensama@vt.edu> on Thursday August 19, 2004 @09:42AM (#10012355) Homepage Journal
    Most of the examples listed were problems that cropped up due to political reasons, not due to a lack of geography knowledge. No matter how you draw a map, where you place Kashmir is going to offend someone. The West Bank and the Gaza Strip are going to be contenious no matter where you place them. Microsoft did the only reasonable thing, they drew the maps to the favor of the richer countries (the ones that buy their software). Sorry Pakistan, no disputed territories for you.
    • by Jonboy X (319895) <jonathan.oexnerNO@SPAMalum.wpi.edu> on Thursday August 19, 2004 @09:56AM (#10012563) Journal
      Sorry Pakistan, no disputed territories for you.

      Yeah, who cares about little piss-ant countries like Pakistan. Call me back when they have nukes...

      *RRRINNNGGGG*
    • Re:Lame article (Score:5, Insightful)

      by poot_rootbeer (188613) on Thursday August 19, 2004 @10:59AM (#10013445)
      Microsoft did the only reasonable thing, they drew the maps to the favor of the richer countries (the ones that buy their software).

      No, the reasonable thing to do would have been to develop different versions of the software for each country where it is sold, so that in Windows India Edition the Kashmir region is displayed as part of India, while in Windows Pakistan Edition the Kashmir region is displayed as part of Pakistan.

      Microsoft appears to be trying to sell Windows as a global product, but there is no globally-accepted geography that can be used in it. Some degree of localization is necessary.
  • Oh come on (Score:5, Insightful)

    by AKAImBatman (238306) <akaimbatman@gmai ... m minus language> on Thursday August 19, 2004 @09:42AM (#10012359) Homepage Journal
    From the article, it seems that Microsoft programmers have gotten in trouble because... wait for it... THEY READ A MAP. That's right, THEY READ A MAP. The results of their map reading have lead them into several political situations that there was little possibility of them being aware of. (Talk to the ***holes who make this stuff illegal and ARREST foreigners for READING A MAP.)

    Americans may have a poor understanding of Geography, but I don't really see that being an issue in this case. All Microsoft could have done is more thoroughly research the area.
  • by dwalsh (87765) on Thursday August 19, 2004 @09:43AM (#10012364)
    Pacific islanders objected to the label "Here be Dragons!".

    Several Arab countries resented being called either "Oil" or "Just terrorists".

    Several former Soviet Bloc and Warsaw Pact countries objected to the name of their countries being followed by "(or whatever they are calling themselves this week)."
  • Not Just MS (Score:5, Insightful)

    by cecille (583022) on Thursday August 19, 2004 @09:43AM (#10012367)
    As much as we'd all like to think that this is just a case of MS screwing up again, I'm pretty sure this isn't just an MS problem. Besides, the article talks not just about simple geography, but of mistakes made about highly disputed geographic regions. There are a few in there where microsoft could have gone either way and still offended someone. Granted, stuff like that should have been checked, but the mistakes really aren't as simple as the post makes them out to be.
  • Geography? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by cascino (454769) on Thursday August 19, 2004 @09:44AM (#10012377) Homepage
    Insensitive computer programmers with little knowledge of geography


    If you read the article, you'll see the computer programmer's problems have nothing to do with geography... and everything to do with understanding and respecting differences in the cultures that may purchase MSFT products. I think showing the programmers where the Pacific Ocean is isn't going to do very much to make the software more culturally acceptable.
  • by jaguarxse (730735) on Thursday August 19, 2004 @09:45AM (#10012393)
    Although something rings true in this about many USA citizens not having a 'global' view (World Series Baseball, World Wide Wrestling....erm, I don't think these are worldwide sports actually!), many of the points in this article would not be known without some pretty thorough investigation of political/geographical interests.
    • > without some pretty thorough investigation

      You mean like READING?

      I live in the same county of the same state I was born in and I certainly knew Kashmir is a disputed region between India and Pakistan, and I certainly knew China refuses to acknowledge Taiwan exists as a separate entity from China.

      These aren't esoteric things. It's not that big a world.
      I mean... don't any of you play RISK?!

  • by kilo242 (774305) on Thursday August 19, 2004 @09:46AM (#10012413)
    I did partly RTFA, and unless I'm way off on my understanding, Microsoft is blaming their lost business on people who have little right to be blamed for what they are being blamed for. Do the programmers really need to know about the world affairs - I thought that would be the job of the marketing or PR people.
    • by shis-ka-bob (595298) on Thursday August 19, 2004 @10:01AM (#10012626)
      I agree with you on this one. Blaming the Microsoft programmers is especially off base for the example where the Koran was chanted in the background of a game. This was done by Japanese subcontractors and discovered when Microsoft did some tests. Their process found the flaws - this is a success for Microsoft's process management. The marketing people seemed to have then made a deliberate decision to ship anyway. Sohow does this show the insensitivity and ignorance of US developers?
  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday August 19, 2004 @09:46AM (#10012420)
    Anyone else have a problem with governments detaining software engineers for something as trivial as a mis-marked map?
    • by Mordaximus (566304) on Thursday August 19, 2004 @11:15AM (#10013665)
      Funny you should make a comment like that in your comments regarding this article. It's that exact lack of sensitivity to foreign policy and belief that got the engineers detained in the first place. (Although I don't know that the engineers themselves were responsible.)

      Read up on the history of Kashmir and it'll be clear that this isn't trivial. Besides, the engineers were detained for breaking a law... Maybe that law seems silly to you, but I'm sure there are tons of examples of from your homeland that seem silly to outsiders. Although, they are probably not likely to trigger a war.
    • by kbahey (102895) on Thursday August 19, 2004 @11:34AM (#10013901) Homepage

      I agree that it is a problem.

      But, put yourself in their shoes and see how it looks. As trivial as a map may look, there are political implications behind it. For example, in this case, an area inhabited by a ethno-linguistic minority asserts its independance, although the de facto situation is that this is within the bounds of a soverign state. What is worse, is that they see this as a conspiracy from more powerful countries to assert the reverse of the status quo.

      Some issues appear really trivial, but are really sensitive/contentious in other countries/cultures. Here are some examples:

      • Go to Greece and ask for "Turkish" coffee, and the most likely situation is that they will not serve you. You may even receive a lecture from the waiter too. Even mentioning the Turkish culture in an academic or historical sense to some Greeks will cause them to lose thier calm. The same can be true with Armenians too.
      • Calling the Persian Gulf "Persian" for the Arab states on the West coast of it. The Arabic name is "Gulf of the Arabs".

      Every culture has those "hot button" issues.

      There are many other cases I am sure, but you get the idea ...

  • Passing the buck (Score:3, Insightful)

    by dmayle (200765) * on Thursday August 19, 2004 @09:47AM (#10012421) Homepage Journal

    hapless company employees

    Talk about passing the buck. Some of the top problems in the article:

    • Microsoft employees were questioned by police in China, where it is an offence to refer to Taiwan as country or as the Republic of China. Now Taiwan is not referred to as country and all software worldwide avoids the issue by referring to places as "regions or districts".
    • Perhaps the best known, and one of the most expensive, errors was a colour-coded world map showing time zones, which showed the disputed Jammu-Kashmir region as not being in India - an offence under Indian law.

    This isn't hapless employees. This is government oppression, and the bans on free speech necessary to pull them off.

    • I beg to differ (Score:3, Insightful)

      by achurch (201270)

      This isn't hapless employees. This is government oppression, and the bans on free speech necessary to pull them off.

      Censorship, tough laws, whatever, but if you're going to do business in a country then you'd damn well better get yourself familiar with the way that country works. As the oft-repeated phrase goes, "Ignorance of the law is no excuse."

  • Master / Slave HDD (Score:4, Insightful)

    by SirStanley (95545) on Thursday August 19, 2004 @09:47AM (#10012427) Homepage
    Isn't this like that time some city legislation out in California decided to ban the words "Master and Slave" when refering to Hard Drive configurations because it was not "Sensitive" to African Americans?

    • by arkanes (521690)
      To clarify: They didn't decide to ban it, they just passed some referendum about requesting that hard drive manufacturers change the terminology. Unlike, say, China. Or India. Who _do_ outright ban stuff they don't like.
  • by numbski (515011) * <numbski@@@hksilver...net> on Thursday August 19, 2004 @09:48AM (#10012439) Homepage Journal
    ...I'm going to rant. :P

    Usually, I'm an american that makes every effort to be understanding of cultures different than my own, and to try to understand why it is that the US is frowned upon by other cultures. We have a foreign exchange intern here from Europe right now, and we've had long conversations about why and how americans take their relative wealth for granted (even our citizens on welfare tend to be wealthier than many in smaller european countries!)

    But this...this isn't a lack of sensitivity on Microsoft's part. It's a lack of toleration on the part of other cultures. Knowing full-well that this software was written by programmers of another culture, there should be a degree of toleration and patience that goes along with the process. Make the developer aware of the issue and give them a chance to fix it.

    Honestly, if someone in another culture (India perhaps?) that wasn't sufficiently versed in US geography made a map that, oh...I don't know, put St. Louis in Illinois rather than Missouri, or show the Arch crossing the Mississippi River or something equally stupid, I suppose some might be offended (I can think of other, more controversial examples...), but more than likely we'd give them the chance to fix it first.

    Americans may be stuck up, take a WHOLE lot of freedoms for granted, have lots of money, and think too highly of themselves at times to bother learning about other cultures, but I'll give you one thing:

    Even some of the most annoying pricks I know seem to be more tolerant than some other cultures are to the average Joe. How pathetic is that?
    • by stratjakt (596332) on Thursday August 19, 2004 @10:09AM (#10012738) Journal
      How many people do you think look at a map of America and think the nations capital is in the far northwest.

      Hell, plenty of Americans dont even know that the State of Washington has nothing to do with Washington in the District of Columbia.

      Hell, do they even know that D.C. isn't a state, it's a special district with it's own government?

      Do they know that Peurto Rico belongs to the US, but is it's own nation? I suppose referring to Peurto Rico as a state would offend some Peurto Ricans.

      The difference between this example and China or India, is it's not a criminal offense to mistakenly refer to Peurto Rico as a "state", neither in the USA or in Peurto Rico. It is a criminal offense to refer to Taiwan as a country in China.
    • by transient (232842) on Thursday August 19, 2004 @10:18AM (#10012872)
      put St. Louis in Illinois rather than Missouri

      It's hard to compare the Kashmir problem to anything in the United States because we aren't involved in any border disputes with our neighbors. The closest thing that I can come up with would be to say that Texas still belongs to Mexico. Even that is a stretch, because the Mexico-Texas border isn't disputed. Kashmir is a very real political disagreement that doesn't even have a border -- it has a cease-fire line! People have died over Kashmir, and I'm not talking about someone's ancestor five generations ago, I'm talking about earlier this year. I think it's undeniably insensitive for anyone to ignore that. Doesn't anyone at Microsoft read the news?

  • Honest Mistakes (Score:3, Interesting)

    by copponex (13876) on Thursday August 19, 2004 @09:52AM (#10012495) Homepage
    The article is crap. Among their blunders are:

    - Referring to Taiwan as a country
    - Not showing disputed parts of India in India
    - Japanese employees mistakenly use Koran chants in a video game

    Most of the people who were offended are governments who "demand" respect. And those kind of governments are the least likely to deserve it.
  • by maggeth (793549) on Thursday August 19, 2004 @09:52AM (#10012498)
    Writing Software for Worldwide Distribution Proves Difficult

    In order to assist our beloved editors with coming up with more accurate titles, I have included a list of other titles that they can use for articles at thier discretion:

    Light Speed Turns Out to be Really Fast
    Windows Security Hole Discovered, Disavowed
    Fall Elections May Descend into Chaos
    Script Kiddies Demand More H@x, Fewer Firewalls, Higher Salaries
    Microsoft PR Campaigns Foolish, Ineffective
    Hot Grtis Proven to Make ANYONE More Attractive

  • by eqkivaro (721746) on Thursday August 19, 2004 @09:52AM (#10012500)

    If you read the article you realize that most of the mistakes made had nothing to do with geography.

    "Microsoft employees were questioned by police in China, where it is an offence to refer to Taiwan as country or as the Republic of China"

    How is this a geography issue? Taiwan recognizes itself as an independent country.

    "A game called Age of Empires 2 offended the Saudi Arabian authorities because it showed victorious Muslim armies turning churches into mosques"

    Again, how is this a geography issue?

    I think this article is just bait for the daily MS bashing on /.

    -chris
  • by Cervantes (612861) on Thursday August 19, 2004 @09:53AM (#10012506) Journal
    I mean, really, how is a programmer in the states supposed to know that a valid spanish word, used in the spanish version of the program, is an insult in central america?

    This sounds much more like a "lets point out all the funny fuckups from M$" article, and much less a diatribe on the difficulties of writing international software. Yes, they've made a few mistakes, and the occasional horrid judgement call (I mean, really, insulting all of Islam? Well, at least now we know better...). But some things, like the evil spanish word, referring to breakaway states as countries in their own right, or other such silliness, are just an "oops", where you wouldn't expect them to rightfully know better.

    On that note though, what's up with the rabid nations emasculating anyone who dares suggest that Kashmir or Taiwan are separate countries? I generally find foreign media less crazy than US, but try reading an article from a chinese newspaper on taiwan sometime... it's almost frighteningly evangelical in it's belief.

    And, finally... come on, AoE2? I thought the muslims replacing the churches was a cute touch, not insulting... I mean, it's a game, you have to change the game elements to fit the theme of whoever is winning... and you wouldn't expect westerners to know the details of how the muslims handled conquered peoples and their religion during the crusades...
  • by Pandion (179894) on Thursday August 19, 2004 @09:55AM (#10012549)
    A game called Age of Empires 2 offended the Saudi Arabian authorities because it showed victorious Muslim armies turning churches into mosques. The game was withdrawn from sale in the kingdom

    *cough*hagia sophia*cough*
  • by hsoft (742011) on Thursday August 19, 2004 @09:58AM (#10012586) Homepage
    Here in Canada, we consider this color as "puke yellow", not "IT color". What a geographical mistake!

    I will not stop until the color changes!
  • Negative Article (Score:5, Informative)

    by guinsu (198732) on Thursday August 19, 2004 @10:01AM (#10012621)
    The article made it out to be very negative to Microsoft, when in fact most of the problems seemed to be government pissing matches. A few examples include refering to the "Republic of Tawain", which everyone but China recognizes, or making mention of the disputed Kashmir region, which 3 different countries seem to believe belongs to them.

    Notice that the fix for these problems wasn't to fix the map in windows, but to remove it entirely. That shows that it wasn't an "error in geography" on MS's part but that you can't get 2 governments to agree on geography and Microsoft was stuck in the middle.
  • by argStyopa (232550) on Thursday August 19, 2004 @10:10AM (#10012758) Journal
    Rather than blame the "insensitive computer programmers", perhaps we could look the other direction and realize that some people/cultures/religions are incredibly OVERsensitive, and catering to their peculiarities is just enabling them.

    I mean please. From the article:
    A game called Age of Empires 2 offended the Saudi Arabian authorities because it showed victorious Muslim armies turning churches into mosques. The game was withdrawn from sale in the kingdom

    The Korean government, objected because Microsoft software showed the national flag in reverse. The software had to be changed.

    The Spanish version of Windows used the word Hembra - meaning "woman" in Spain - for choosing gender. But in some Central American republics, notably Nicaragua, the word is an insult meaning "bitch". The programme was changed.

    Microsoft employees were questioned by police in China, where it is an offence to refer to Taiwan as country or as the Republic of China. Now Taiwan is not referred to as country and all software worldwide avoids the issue by referring to places as "regions or districts".

    Uruguay is a republic and proud if it but in Microsoft's Outlook in Uruguay, the company offended the government by describing Tuesday April 30 as the queen's birthday.


    Let's look at these.
    1) For Muslims turning churches into Mosques, yeah, that's HORRIBLY unrealistic propaganda. I have two words for you: Hagia Sophia.

    2) the Korean flag in reverse: so what?

    3) hembra: hardly an 'insensitivity' issue; it sounds like a genuine difference in dialect.

    4) China/Taiwan: boo hoo. If the Chinese want to dwell in their eternal house of reality-denial, that's fine. What's next, we should stop recognizing Philippines because Spain wants them back? (I don't see the US forcing MS to delete Cuba from the map...)

    5) The Queen of Uruguay: that's just funny. If someone accidentally or on purpose started referring to the US as a monarchy, they'd probably be hired as a spokesperson for the DNC.

    Maybe it's just a particularly American viewpoint, but this whole stuff about sacred cows (pun intended) is just silly historio/political dreck. If MS wants to bend over backwards to accomodate the Latvio-Armenian midget lesbian lobby for more sales, that's their call. But nobody should claim that failure to do so is anything but a business decision. The folks who get up in arms about the slightest little thing need to grow thicker skins and get the fsck over it.

    And yes, to forestall the /. counterpost wave: I know that the US has some of their own sacred cows, which I think are equally silly. But I'd also argue that the US has a long tradition of arguing but ultimately tolerating such things - crucifixes in urine, routine desecrations of our symbols like the flag, etc. - are practically part of the evening news.
  • Axe to grind? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Shoten (260439) on Thursday August 19, 2004 @10:13AM (#10012800)
    The writer talks about how the average person has trouble with minor challenges in geography (true enough), but then goes on to talk about Microsoft programmers:

    1, Not knowing where Jammu-Kashmir is, exactly, and not knowing that Indian law prohibits considering it part of anything but India. (Never mind that the law has its own counterpart in Pakistan; you can't avoid breaking the law on this one.)

    2, In a similar vein, having to offend Kurds so as not to offend the Turks with regard to the depiction of Kurdistan.

    3, Offending the Saudis by showing churches turned into mosques by invading Muslim armies...never mind that the exact opposite happens when a Christian army takes over a mosque in the game.

    4, Didn't know that "woman" in one dialect of Spanish means "bitch" in another.

    None of these things seem to me to be so hard to imagine. Do Nicaraguans know that the word "cracker" can be used as a racist term here? Do Indians know that the Argentines go completely apeshit when you refer to the Faulkand Islands as such, rather than by their preferred name for them? And his assertion that Microsoft leaves their employees facing arrest in other countries seems baseless; he didn't mention a single instance. The worst he came up with was "questioned," and that was for calling Taiwan by it's real name. It's not Microsoft's fault that China has a wild hair up their ass over that one, either.
  • by delus10n0 (524126) <delusion_ @ p d s y s.org> on Thursday August 19, 2004 @10:14AM (#10012820) Homepage
    http://weblogs.asp.net/oldnewthing/archive/2003/08 /22/54679.aspx [asp.net]

    The time zone map met a similar fate. The Indian government threatened to ban all Microsoft software from the country because we assigned a disputed region to Pakistan in the time zone map. (Any map that depicts an unfavorable border must bear a government stamp warning the end-user that the borders are incorrect. You can't stamp software.) We had to make a special version of Windows 95 for them.

    Geopolitics is a very sensitive subject.
  • Churches to Mosques? (Score:5, Informative)

    by Zarkonnen (662709) on Thursday August 19, 2004 @10:20AM (#10012906) Homepage

    "A game called Age of Empires 2 offended the Saudi Arabian authorities because it showed victorious Muslim armies turning churches into mosques. The game was withdrawn from sale in the kingdom."

    Just as a minor, semi-offtopic comment: Um, wasn't that precisely what happened to the Hagia Sofia? You can still see the faint traces of the crosses that were removed when the whole thing was turned into a Mosque. So even if turning churches into mosques wasn't normal practice, it did happen. To quote from a website about the Hagia Sophia [patriarchate.org]:

    "On Tuesday, May 29, 1453, Sultan Mehmet the Conqueror entered the vanquished city late in the afternoon and rode to Hagia Sophia. He was amazed at its beauty and decided to convert the Cathedral into his imperial mosque."

    (Disclaimer: No, I'm not trying to be inflammatory about religion, I'm just making a historical point.)

  • by spoonyfork (23307) <spoonyfork@NOSpAm.gmail.com> on Thursday August 19, 2004 @10:51AM (#10013348) Journal

    A game called Age of Empires 2 offended the Saudi Arabian authorities because it showed victorious Muslim armies turning churches into mosques. The game was withdrawn from sale in the kingdom

    I've been to some mosques that were converted from churches after wars. I even have pictures [comcast.net]. This happened. I could understand how some Christians could get a little miffed. Could someone explain how it is offensive to Muslims?

    Also, the geography "mistakes" in the article appear to be more policitical in nature than some developer not knowing where the Pacific Ocean is. Would I expect some developer in China to know about the controverial border between Michigan and Ohio that led to the Toldeo (Ohio) War? [michigan.gov]

  • Missing the point (Score:5, Insightful)

    by EdMcMan (70171) <moo.slashdot2.z.edmcman@xoxy.net> on Thursday August 19, 2004 @11:51AM (#10014096) Homepage Journal
    It is not the programmer's responsibility to be aware of these things. Public relations people should be there to supply them with information as well as check products before they are done. Programmers are paid to program, not be familiar with customs of other countries.

Optimization hinders evolution.

Working...