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Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 17 October 2018

Archiving website Storify to get Arabic translation thanks to Gulf volunteers

Device allows social media stories to be saved for posterity.

DUBAI // A popular social-media archiving site will soon be available with an Arabic interface thanks to the volunteer translation group Taghreedat.

Hundreds of volunteer translators in the UAE and across the Arab World are involved in translating Storify, which is expected to go live this year.

This year, Taghreedat volunteers also completed a translation of Twitter, and last month the non-profit group announced a partnership with the Wikimedia Foundation, the organisation behind Wikipedia.

Qatar-based Sami Al Mubarak and Mina Takla were the brains behind the launch of Taghreedat, which is now being supported by Abu Dhabi's twofour54 media cluster and is officially based in the UAE.

Storify, which was launched in San Francisco in 2010, enables users to search social-media sites and gather material together to form stories or timelines, which can then be preserved.

Postings to sites such as Twitter disappear over time, but with Storify they can be kept forever.

This makes it possible to trace and record how information about major events emerged on social media.

"There's a big need for this kind of archiving and for the culture of archiving, which people don't really have here," said Mr Al Mubarak.

"Storify was not available in the Arabic language, so we approached them and said we'd develop an Arabic version for free.

"Al Jazeera was the first media organisation in the Arab world to start using Storify to archive important events. It used it to monitor and assess public opinion on important matters.

"But adoption is greater in the western world; most Arab users are not really aware of the service. It's a new concept, a resource for Arabic internet users."

Taghreedat has also started work on the first free online dictionary of social media and computer terms.

Printed versions of such dictionaries exist, but they are designed for academics and use a formal style of Arabic.

"Seventy per cent of internet users in the Middle East are young, and these people don't really want complicated translations," Mr Takla said.

"Our project brings the viewpoint of the average Arab internet user who is not an academic, doesn't want to read a 1,000-page dictionary and wants simple terminology to make it easier for him to write about technology in Arabic.

"The academic translation of 'tweet' is totally different than the one normally used."

Mr Al Mubarak explained that the emphasis on being user-friendly was also about preservation.

"All the translations so far are very rigid and old school," he said. "If we give these to the new generation they'll never use them.

"They'll end up using English terms because they are easier to say and write."

csimpson@thenational.ae