Apr 28

Twitter Translate: Automatically convert tweets to your language

JavaScript, Tech with tags: , , , , 13 Comments »

Twitter Translate

I am having a lot of fun with the AJAX Language API. Last week I talked about the translation bookmarklet that lets you translate anything that you select in the browser.

This time, I whipped up Twitter Translate, which watches the tweets in the page, and if the content isn’t your native tongue automatically converts it and replaces it inline. It then adds a mini logo with “translated from …” which you can click on to see the original text:

Twitter Translate Example

It is probably easiest to quickly see it in action:

I think that I am so excited about this API as it is a vertical service that you can just use for free. Think back on how you would be able to integrate language into your applications in the past. You would either:

  • Have to work on the discipline yourself, which is crazy if it isn’t your core business
  • Find a vendor that has some product that you can use, all of which are very expensive.

Now, we can use this service for free, and the best part? It will keep getting better behind the scenes without us having to do a thing!

Apr 25

Translate: Select any text in the browser and have it convert to English (or your language)

Ajax, Google, JavaScript, Tech with tags: , , 7 Comments »

Translate Bookmarklet

I really liked getting the Ajax Language API out into developers hands as god knows we shouldn’t have to worry about translations. Now we can use the API and have the Google back-end do all of the work.

I have recently had a couple of scenarios where I really wanted a quick translation. I had a few twitter messages pass through my stream in French and Spanish. I had the answer to some technical issues show up on foreign forums.

So, I decided to create a Translate bookmarklet that allows me to select any foreign text, click on the bookmark, and a little window pops up with the English translation if it can work it out. Automatic translation is far from perfect yet, but for many scenarios you can easily get the gist (e.g. you wouldn’t want to automatically convert a book).

This is how I created the bookmarklet:

The source

First, I have the raw JavaScript source that will become the bookmarklet. There are a few sections of the code. First, we setup a method that will go off and call the Ajax Language API, passing in the translation and language that we want. This is where you would change the language code for non-English.

if (!window['apiLoaded']) {
  window.apiLoaded = function() {
    var language = "en";
    var text = window.getSelection().toString();
    if (text) {
      google.load("language", "1", { "callback" : function() {
        google.language.detect(text, function(dresult) {
          if (!dresult.error && dresult.language) {
            google.language.translate(text, dresult.language, language, function(tresult) {
              if (tresult.translation) {
                translationWindow(tresult, dresult);
              } else {
                alert('No translation found for "' + text + '" guessing the language: ' + dresult.language);

Then we setup a method that is able to display a window showing the result. I used the Prototype UI Window object if available, and good old alert() if not:

if (!window['translationWindow']) {
  window.translationWindow = function(tresult, dresult) {
    if (window['UI']) {
      new UI.Window({theme:  "black_hud",
                   shadow: true, 
                   width:  350,
                   height: 100}).setContent("<div style='padding:6px'>" + tresult.translation + "</div>")
                   .setHeader("English Translation")
                   .setFooter("Language detected: " + dresult.language)
                   .center({top: 20}).show();
    } else {
      alert(tresult.translation + " [lang = " + dresult.language + "]");

Next, we load the Prototype UI window code, and accompanying CSS resources by dynamically adding the resources to the DOM:

if (!window['UI']) {
  var pw = document.createElement('script');
  pw.src = 'http://almaer.com/downloads/protowindow/protowin.js';
  pw.type = "text/javascript";
  var pwdefault = document.createElement('link');
  pwdefault.setAttribute('rel', 'stylesheet');
  pwdefault.setAttribute('type', 'text/css');
  pwdefault.setAttribute('href', 'http://almaer.com/downloads/protowindow/themes/window.css');
  var pwblack = document.createElement('link');
  pwblack.setAttribute('rel', 'stylesheet');
  pwblack.setAttribute('type', 'text/css');
  pwblack.setAttribute('href', 'http://almaer.com/downloads/protowindow/themes/black_hud.css');

Finally, we load the Google API loader, and use the dynamic loading option with the ?callback=apiLoaded. This kicks off the main driver that we saw first, and if it is already loaded we call it directly (for multiple translations on the same page).

if (!window['google']) {
  var s = document.createElement('script');
  s.src = 'http://www.google.com/jsapi?callback=apiLoaded';
  s.type = "text/javascript";
} else {


This is the raw form, and we need to get the bookmarklet form, which you can just use right away if you are wanting English. For this, I use John Grubber’s makebookmarklet Perl script to do the conversion.

The Server

The Prototype UI code lives on the server, so I put a striped down version over there which just contains a combined Prototype + Window JavaScript file, and just the one theme CSS set.

In Action

Unsure what I am talking about? Just watch it in action:

UPDATE: I also implemented Twitter Translate to automatically convert tweets to your language.

Mar 05

Google Contacts API: Never give our your username and password again!

Google, Tech with tags: , , 1 Comment »

Neil on the Moon

How many applications ask for your Google username and password to get access to your contacts? A lot of new services offer the “feature” to map contacts on their service to your buddies. For example, you signup to Dopplr and want to map your contacts over.

Giving your username and password to your email is a Bad Thing ™, so we have wanted to put out an API that does what you really want (access to contacts) without opening up the entire farm (e.g. look at your email, or worse).

Sebastian Kanthak and his team have released the Google Contacts API:

It gives programmatic access to your contact list. The contact list is shared among Google applications like Gmail, Reader, Calendar, and more.

The Google Contacts Data API allows you to own your own contact data. We expect the API to be useful for a big range of applications. For example, developers can use it to:

  • Import a user’s Google contacts into their web or desktop application
  • Export their application’s contact list to Google
  • Write sync applications for mobile devices or popular, desktop-based contact management applications

The Contacts API allows developers to create, read, update, and delete contacts using the Google Data protocol, based on AtomPub. It also allows for incremental sync by supporting the “updated-min” and “showdeleted” parameters. Please take a look at our documentation to see all the options supported.

We know that this Google Data API is the most requested feed by our developer community, so we’re very excited about this release. We are committed to actively work with you to improve the Google Contacts Data API and we’d like to hear back from you in our Google Contacts API group.

I know many people have been waiting for this, and I am excited. What a day for tech!