Hong Kong’s Surround App Translates Sina Weibo Content into English

surround-app

Read any news report out of China today, and chances are it’ll include a smarmy comment or two from a netizen on Sina Weibo. The 400 million-strong microblogging site is almost synonymous with the voice of the country’s young urbanites – so much so that there’s an online cottage industry (Tea Leaf Nation, Ministry of Tofu and China Digital Times among others) dedicated to translating cross-sections of it for an English audience.

But without fluency in Chinese (and a street-smart awareness of online slang), most of Weibo is near incomprehensible. That’s where Hong Kong-based startup Surround App comes in. It’s an upcoming English mobile client for Sina Weibo, with its first release planned for April 2013, offering a mix of machine and human translation to help you make sense of the content on China’s vast social networks. From trenchant social commentary to…um…Brad Pitt.

“It was inspired basically by my own frustration,” says co-founder Jeffrey Broer over my Skype interview with him, admitting that he can only speak about five sentences in Mandarin. “I’ve been in and out of mainland China for over 10 years, and there are all these fascinating people online that I want to follow, but I can’t. It was a whole world that I couldn’t grasp.”

Broer, the founder of another Hong-Kong based startup, Grayscale, put together a team of four late in 2012, and Surround App received about US$15,000 in seed funding (plus office space and technical guidance) from HK Accelerator.

Targeted at “language students, bloggers, micro-celebrities and managers in China”, Surround App plans to follow a freemium model – the free app will allow awkward machine translations (like copy-pasting a block of text into Google Translate) of all Sina Weibo content, helped partly by a slang database that the team is planning to build into future releases. Broer adds:

We’re still playing around with the specifics. But we’ll have monthly subscriptions that will feature human translations of specific accounts, a ‘curated’ human-translated daily news section, and packages for corporate clients.

Even with translation, the two challenges in engaging with Sina Weibo are figuring out who to follow:

We’re developing our own strong search databases for that, and we’ll present users with recommendations based on keywords.

Users will be able to make sense of the dense web of punning and wordplay that the network is famous for, and understanding those images people keep swapping. For that, Broer says:

We have a few ideas, such as optical character recognition (OCR) that we could use for images, but not planning to address that in our first release.

Built as a hybrid HTML5 app, Surround App will be available on all major mobile platforms. The UI will let you switch back and forth between the original Chinese posts and the English translations – a potentially interesting feature for language learners.

Surround eventually hopes to support multiple Chinese social networks – Broer mentions RenRen and QQ – though dealing with Sina Weibo’s 34,977 posts per second might keep the team occupied for a while yet.

SurroundPost-Translated
The post Hong Kong’s Surround App Translates Sina Weibo Content into English appeared first on Tech in Asia.
Loading...

Editor’s note:Yahoo Philippines encourages responsible comments that add dimension to the discussion. No bashing or hate speech, please. You can express your opinion without slamming others or making derogatory remarks.

  • No need for Revilla to visit son – prosecutors
    No need for Revilla to visit son – prosecutors

    Instead of filing an opposition, ombudsman prosecutors filed a manifestation yesterday expressing belief that there is no urgent need for Sen. Ramon “Bong” Revilla Jr. to visit his son at the Asian Hospital and Medical Center. “Based on the clinical abstract issued by the Asian Hospital on patient (Cavite) Vice-governor (Jolo) Revilla, which was submitted by accused Revilla in support of his Urgent Motion, Vice-governor Revilla is in stable condition and has stable vital signs, as of March 1, …

  • Troops overrun BIFF bomb-making facility in Mamasapano
    Troops overrun BIFF bomb-making facility in Mamasapano

    Government troops captured Sunday a bomb and weapons factory of the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) in Mamasapano, Maguindanao, the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) announced yesterday. Col. Restituto Padilla, AFP spokesman, said the captured bomb and weapons factory is located inside an area controlled by radical Muslim cleric Ustadz Mohammad Ali Tambako at Barangay Dasikil in Mamasapano. …

  • N. Korea fires missiles in anger at South-US military drills
    N. Korea fires missiles in anger at South-US military drills

    North Korea fired two short-range ballistic missiles into the sea and vowed "merciless" retaliation Monday as the US and South Korea kicked off joint military drills denounced by Pyongyang as recklessly confrontational. The annual exercises always trigger a surge in military tensions and warlike rhetoric on the divided peninsula, and analysts saw the North's missile tests as a prelude to a concerted campaign of sabre-rattling. "If there is a particularly sharp escalation, we could see the …

  • Couple married 67 years holds hands in final hours together
    Couple married 67 years holds hands in final hours together

    FRESNO, Calif. (AP) — After spending 67 years together as devoted husband and wife, there was no question how Floyd and Violet Hartwig would end their lives — together. …

  • How Islamic is Islamic State group? Not very, experts say
    How Islamic is Islamic State group? Not very, experts say

    CAIRO (AP) — Three British schoolgirls believed to have gone to Syria to become "jihadi" brides. Three young men charged in New York with plotting to join the Islamic State group and carry out attacks on American soil. A masked, knife-wielding militant from London who is the face of terror in videos showing Western hostages beheaded. …

  • Recruitment firm accused of worldwide scam
    Recruitment firm accused of worldwide scam

    Filipinos aspiring to work overseas should avoid dealing with a recruitment agency that has duped jobseekers worldwide, Labor Secretary Rosalinda Baldoz said yesterday. The National Bureau of Investigation has padlocked Global Visas Inc., which is based in Cebu. Baldoz said the agency’s parent company, ICS Global Visas Inc. based in the United Kingdom, has reportedly collapsed and left thousands of applicants without jobs.  “Global Visas was in the limelight this week, following its reported …

  • Lawmakers split on tax exemption for Pacquiao
    Lawmakers split on tax exemption for Pacquiao

    Colleagues of boxing champion Manny Pacquiao at the House of Representatives backed yesterday a proposal to exempt his earnings from his May 2 fight with American Floyd Mayweather from income tax. Internal Revenue Commissioner Kim Henares has urged Pacquiao to promptly pay taxes on his May 2 earnings, which are projected to reach at least $120 million (more than P5.2 billion). …

  • Woman with slain Putin critic says she didn't see his killer
    Woman with slain Putin critic says she didn't see his killer

    MOSCOW (AP) — The 23-year-old Ukrainian model who was with slain opposition leader Boris Nemtsov tearfully recounted Monday their last dinner in a chic Red Square restaurant and their walk onto a nearby bridge — but said she did not see the gunman who pulled the trigger. …

POLL

Should Aquino be held accountable over the Mamasapano operations?

Loading...
Poll Choice Options