Friday, 19 June 2009

Real-time Google Translate for Twitter

Following on from my previous post about how to use a Greasemonkey script in Firefox to auto-translate Persian tweets in Twitter here's another way to get Persian tweets into English. The Google System blog has a good overview of how to do this but you're here, and this can be a little clearer.

Go to Google Translate and copy the following string of text (it's searching for tweets with #iranelection in Persian) into the search box...

Twitter's front-end interface doesn't give you the option of searching only Persian/Farsi tweets, but the search does seem to support it by adding lang=fa to the query string.

Sadly the AJAX updater won't tell you if new tweets have come in since you've been looking at the page, but you can just refresh your browser and it should pull out any new ones.

And you can get a Google Translate button for your web browser here. Once you've got the button, just click it whenever you have Persian text on a page and it'll translate it for you.

Translate Persian Twitter messages with Google Translate... automatically!

UPDATE: Cyrus Farivar has refined this quick tutorial. Having trouble with this? Follow his instructions on How to use Google Translate to translate Twitter messages from Persian.

Twitter is being used to provide real-time updates about what's happening in Iran. Following the exciting news about Google Translate now supporting Persian it's now possible to automatically translate Persian tweets into English (or any other Google Translate supported language).

Quick overview

To be able to automatically translate Persian Twitter messages, you will need...

  • The latest version of the Firefox web browser
  • Greasemonkey plugin (a Firefox plugin that allows you to customise web-pages with little bits of Javascript)
  • Google Translate user script for Twitter messages (add Google Translate button to your Twitter page)
  • Make some minor tweaks to the user script (because Twitter switched to HTTPS and the script was written before Google Translate supported Persian)
Step by step guide

1. Download and install the latest version of Firefox. Skip this step if you already run Firefox.

2. Install the Greasemonkey plugin for Firefox (you may need to restart Firefox after this step). Visit the page and click Add to Firefox...

3. Install the Google Translate user script. Visit the page and click Install...

4. Update the user script. It was written before Google Translate supported Persian and before Twitter ran on HTTPS. Do this via the form that appears when you install the script, or select Tools > Greasemonkey > Manager User Scripts. Or right-click the little monkey-face icon in the bottom-right corner of Firefox and choose Manage User Scripts.

5. Add in support for HTTPS by selecting Google Translate and then add in* and https://** to the list of Include Pages...

6. Edit the user script by clicking Edit in the bottom-left corner on the bottom right (above). Or you can edit google_translate.user.js. Add a new line at line 88 with fa: 'Persian',

7. Save your changes to your script and close the Manage User Scripts box

8. Check Greasemonkey is switched on (you may need to restart Firefox first) by going to Tools > Greasemonkey > Enabled...

9. Go to your Twitter page and login.

10. Find a tweet in Persian from one of your (new?) Iranian friends. Hover your cursor over the tweet and you'll see the favourite and reply icons appear, along with a new friend a lowercase 't'.

11. Click on the 't' icon and your friend's tweet is automatically translated from Persian into English!


If you don't speak English or want to translate into another language, you can set another language as the default.

This script doesn't just work for Persian/Farsi, it works for all Google Translate supported languages. And it auto-detects them. So, you can add new friends from around the world to your Twitter friends list!

Google Translate's Persian very far from perfect. Bear that in mind when you're using this script!

Tuesday, 16 June 2009

Google Translate, Facebook and iPhone now support Persian/Farsi

Google Translate adds Persian

I started writing a blog post just before voting began in the Iranian presidential election about the lack of a Persian option in Google Translate. With so much content on the web in Persian, it would have been great to be able to do a quick and rough machine translation into English.

Searching Google brought up no news about any new languages coming up in Google Translate. There are questions on mailing lists asking if it was going to happen, but those asking were always redirected to this FAQ saying large volumes of bi-lingual texts were needed.

But now Google Translate supports Persian (even though it's a very rough alpha version):

We feel that launching Persian is particularly important now, given ongoing events in Iran. Like YouTube and other services, Google Translate is one more tool that Persian speakers can use to communicate directly to the world, and vice versa — increasing everyone's access to information.

Being a machine translation, it's not perfect. It will certainly lose some of the flavour of Persian, the flourishes and idioms (which always lose something in translation), but it's a start. Cyrus Farivar has more on the accuracy, but seems glad it's finally here (as am I!). You can use Google Translate to translate BBC Persian into English, translate Persian tweets into English and now, the entire Persian blogosphere!

YouTube relaxes rules to help Iranians

Google also relaxed its rules on classifying videos on YouTube after graphic videos of violent attacks by Basij members on demonstrators were removed. Google lived up to its "don't be evil" motto (especially after the hurdles Iranians had to clear in order to upload their videos in the first place).

Facebook launches a Persian interface

hanks to the work of 400 Persian-speaking volunteers Facebook now has a Persian interface that automatically detect browser language and displays accordingly. The company says...

Since the Iranian election last week, people around the world have increasingly been sharing news and information on Facebook about the results and its aftermath. Much of the content created and shared has been in Persian—the native language of Iran — but people have had to navigate the site in English or other languages.

Great news and a triumph of collaborative working from those involved.

iPhone 3.0 supports Persian

People in Iran were some of the first to get jailbroken iPhones. With the highly anticipated version 3.0 of the iPhone OS, they've now got a legit Persian interface!

Pic taken from Cyrus Farivar's blog

Twitter switches to HTTPS for added security

Twitter switched over to HTTPS to ensure extra security for its web-based users. It could just be a coincidence, but I suspect its also a response to the popularity of the #iranelection hashtag and coverage the service has been getting. I'll be uploading a user guide to getting Google Translate and Twitter to work together.

Wednesday, 10 June 2009

Iranian presidential elections - from the blogs

Tomorrow sees the culmination of Iran's presidential campaigns. Millions of Iranians will go to their polling stations and vote. Millions won't. Hundreds of thousands of Iranians in the diaspora will vote too.

The BBC does have a review of a documentary about Iranian teens and their lives, Mousavi and women's rights, a background to the election, questions about Ahmadinejad and how much support he still has, on the campaign trail (although it describes Ahmadinejad's supporters as salt-of-the-earth types and Mousavi's as internet nerds), the economy and rural communities versus debauched urbanites. New York Times has a video about the election. POMED is doing a good job keeping track of the election news in the Western press (more, more and more).

The opinion from a lot of Iranian English-language blogs has been there people should vote...

If even for one day, for one hour, for one minute over the past four years you have worried about a possible attack on Iran, if you have felt shame about things that have happened in Iran, about the way Iran has been represented to the world, or for words that were said by someone else but whose weight you have carried, consider participating in the elections and showing that you care. (source: From Berkley)

For many, this election is more than a renewal of allegiance. It's something with a real, tangible outcome. Maybe not the end of the Islamic Republic, but certainly an opportunity for a shift in power. And that's why the different factions are competing so fiercely and will stop at nothing to win.

Tehran has painted itself green. Mousavi voters are showing their support. And the support for Ahmadinejad from the trendy young people who've suffered so much (for fashion) under his presidency, boggles the mind.

Mousavi and Karroubi are not the ideal reformist candidates. They may have been able to pass the Guardian Council, but both have history.

Mousavi's political transformation from the President at the time of the 1988 massacres of political prisoners to becoming the hope and aspirations for a more open society is impressive. Azarmehr reminds us who Mousavi's (current) supporters were back then. Even giving Mousavi the benefit of the doubt, maybe he was weak, isolated, unable to interfere... he's still surrounded himself in his campaign with some disreputable thugs.

Blogs seem to be doing a better job than larger media outlets to give some insight into what's happening in Iran and also Iranian opinions on the election.

The daily news updates on the Iranian election campaigns from Iran Tracker have been really useful, especially for giving a flavour to the press coverage inside Iran.

Sunday, 7 June 2009

Swedish-Iranian stand-up comedians

It seems that stand-up comedy is popular in Sweden too. With several Swedish-Iranian stand-up comedians. And, even in Swedish, you can tell what the first joke is...

Saturday, 6 June 2009

Maz Jobrani explains ta'arof

Looking for a good, quick introduction to the Iranian concept of ta'arof? Starting at 8:10, Maz Jobrani explains ta'arof...

The ultimate list of Iranian stand-up comedians and comics

This list probably isn't definitive, but hopefully it's a start. Following the series of blog posts, for all Wikipedia contributors, lazy newspaper journalists, other bloggers and comedy fans, ladies and gentlemen, I present to you... the ultimate list of Iranian stand-up comedians.

This list of 28 comedians, stand-ups, jokers and comics, male and female, is almost entirely people in the Iranian diaspora and includes people who are half Iranian, have maybe never set foot in Iran and maybe don't know a single word of Persian. So some of them are only vaguely Iranian. And some may have only ever done one stand-up gig, but thankfully someone posted it to YouTube. Some have had their own TV shows, other merely bit parts. Some have crossed the globe and others merely become famous in their city's Iranian community.

Disclaimer: If you know of other Iranian or Persian stand-up comedians or other good videos of Iranians doing stand-up comedy then add them to the comments. Most of this information was found using Google and YouTube.

Friday, 5 June 2009

Photos from the Iranian presidential election campaign trail

From The Los Angeles Times

Mousavi and wife

Plus a gallery of photos from the National Geographic looking at Iran's historical sites.

Response on the streets of Tehran after the Mousavi/Ahmadinejad debate

The response on the streets of Tehran after the Mousavi/Ahmadinejad televised debate. A typical Tehran scene... A traffic jam.

More traffic jams...

Full presidential debate timetable

Air time: 1800-1930 GMT on IRTV3

  • 2 June: Karoubi-Rezai
  • 3 June: Ahmadinejad-Mousavi
  • 4 June: Mousavi-Rezai
  • 6 June: Ahmadinejad-Karoubi
  • 7 June: Karoubi-Mousavi
  • 8 June: Ahmadinejad-Rezai

Source: ISNA news agency.

Wednesday, 3 June 2009

The continuing problem of Guantanamo Bay

The US prison facility at Guatanamo Bay continues to be a thorny problem. Almost two thirds of Americans surveyed recently opposed closing the prison there. That's despite allegations of torture, the facility continuing to provide fuel for jihadi nutcases and suicide bombers and Barak Obama's promise to close the facility.

Those being detained at Guantanamo Bay are not going to be charged with any crime. For many, there's no evidence other than hearsay reports. Others have been tortured and their trials would reveal just to what extent. There's also the small problem that some of those detained and subsequently release have gone on to become involved in terrorism.

People detained for five years, tortured, never charged let alone convicted of a crime, held in solitary confinement, subjected to routine humiliation, unable to see their families, etc. may go home, get a job, keep a low profile. Or they may write a book about what they've been through. Or they may find they actually have a reason to be pissed off with the United States military and a government that allowed (or, if you like, encouraged) it all to happen.

Guantanamo will cease to be a problem for the US when it's closed. If they've not got enough evidence to charge the people there, they should let them go. And expect law suits to follow.

Tuesday, 2 June 2009

Iranian comedian - Ebrahim Nabavi

Ebrahim Nabavi is an Iranian satirist and researcher. Not really much of a stand-up, but interesting nonetheless.

Short clip in Persian

Short clip in Persian 2

Monday, 1 June 2009

Iran elections news and blog roundup

The upcoming presidential elections in Iran are getting lots of media attention. Add in several terrorist attacks inside Iran, the current US-Israel deadlock and attempts by Barack Obama's administration to take a more productive track with Iran, and the stakes are probably higher than they have been for an Iranian elections any time in the last twenty years.

The Economist takes a look at the campaign and expects the return of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad due in part to his support from outside Tehran. Much has been made of his bribes of potatoes for the poor, but I doubt the poor Iranian electorate will forgive a crumbling economy for a few days of food. Ahmadinejad can make better use of the terrorist attacks, defiance in the face of international pressure and his own conservative politics to rally his base. However, a high turnout, particularly from Tehran, could unseat Ahmadinejad. As could a strong showing from Iran's ethnic and religious minorities.

Everyone in Iranian politics is trying to spin current events to their advantage. All candidates have been working hard to convince the different powerful factions that they will not destabilise the Islamic Republic or disrupt the current arrangement.

Mehdi Karrubi has made it clear that despite being one of the left-wing revolutionaries, he's no threat to established power bases in the way that Khatami's 1997 campaign threatened to be.

Mohsen Rezai, making least use of technology, and with the lowest chance of winning the election, has been vocal about cleaning up corruption, criticising reconciliation with the West but making a public stand on discrimination against minorities. (Khatami did himself no favour being caught making jokes about Azeris.)

Photos of some of the children Mr. Mostafaie has defended. (Newsha Tavakolian/Polaris for The Wall Street Journal).

The Wall Street Journal's daily collection of news photos has included a photo essay about human rights, health and education in Iran, along with an article on child executions and how different presidential candidates have reacted and how those responses have been used by supporters of rival candidates.

Bloggers have been promoting their candidates using different campaign colours. As have people on the streets (more).

Mousavi, who has been criticised for being too ordinary and who has Khatami's backing has been using the internet wisely and getting backing from many bloggers. Much has been made of Facebook getting blocked for a few days and SMS text messaging being used as a campaign tool.

Probably for the first time since the founding of the Islamic Republic, presidential candidates' wives have been under scrutiny. Zahra Rahnavard, Mousavi's wife, has been praised as has the couple's hand holding in public. Pedestrian looks at touching and it's place in Iranian politics and the upcoming election. And Mousavi is apparently a secret Mossadeghist.

The Tehran Bureau blog has a great series five posts looking at different aspects of the upcoming election:

As the campaigns come to a head, different parts of the Iranian state and it's the support bases of the different candidates have clashes. The Iran Expediency Council issued a statement criticising Ahmadinejad's comments about the country's nuclear negotiations with the West.

The Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corp have been warned not to get involved in the election and the Basij (who have previously campaigned for Ahmadinejad) have also been warned.

A mosque in Zahedan was bombed and three men have already been hanged for the attack. One of Ahmadinejad's campaign headquarters has been attacked, allegedly by Jundallah (a Sunni insurgent group). The attacks have variously been blamed on Israel, the United States, Pakistani intelligence services, Jundallah and Iran's own security forces trying to rally support for hardline conservatives.

Tony Karon talks about how Benjamin Netanyahu is likely to derail Barack Obama's plans to resolve the conflicts in the Middle East. He also looks at what Netanyahu's faction in Israeli politics is willing to do to provoke Iran and why. The bottom line: Bibi and his friends needMahmoud and Mahmoud and his friends need Bibi and his friends.

Iranian comedians - a wordy introduction

This blog has been running a series of posts about Iranian/Persian standup comedians, but has tended to just let their comedy speak for itself. The New Statesman magazine in the UK ran an article on British Iranian comedians featuring Shappi Khorsandi, Omid Djalili, Patrick Monahan and Jody Kamali. It gives an introduction to the four and a bit of background to their comedy. Worth a read!