Friday, October 17, 2008

Final (hopefully) Gmail RTL update

I've just received an update from users in Australia that the 'Right-to left editing support' option appears in their settings page.
Thank you Google! (finally)

I believe this completely and finally resolves the issue, so hopefully I won't be writing about it anymore. I'd just like to say how satisfying it is to see a positive change influenced by the voice of the people.

If anyone still has problems with this, drop me a line.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Gmail RTL update

I've received several reports from Gmail users that they now have the RTL/LTR buttons in the English interface. So far all reports came from users located in Israel's IP-address space, and I have been unable to see the buttons when using Gmail from the UK (Google Mail as it calls itself there), so my current conclusion is that the visibility of the buttons is dependent on the user's IP address.

There is currently no official word from Google on the subject, as far as I can see, so my theory is still to be verified (feel free to share your own experience if it adds to my observations either way). However, if my understanding is correct this should solve the problem for the great majority of relevant users for the great majority of the time (I'm assuming here that IP addresses in Arab/Persian/etc. speaking areas also have access to the buttons).
I imagine the limitation stems from the desire not to further complicate Gmail's settings pages.

The only thing missing now is a back-door to activate the feature when using Gmail from other countries. I could suggest a html tag along the lines of:

Google, if you please?

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Why write a blog?

My CEO has challenged me to explain why I keep a blog. He says he just doesn't get why most people write blogs - where do we get the presumption to think we have something so interesting to say we feel compelled to broadcast it to the world?

My first line of defence was that I have no such presumption and I don't mean to 'broadcast' my thoughts to anyone. The blog, I claimed, was just somewhere I can dump text, and then I'm able to refer people to it instead of having to repeat myself.

While this is rather true for a couple of posts (writing RTL and my name's spelling), it's a load of bull when it comes to anything else I've written.
I've realised long ago that I do have some pretty big presumptions about what I have to say to the world and about how much it would (or should) interest people.

I simply want to be heard. To feel that I'm being listened to. I like the attention.
It's a very basic human need, so I guess it's no surprise there are so many bloggers out there. As long as you don't expect people to read it, I see nothing wrong with it.

Yisrael, if you read this far, perhaps you could spare the time to read through the 'How Do You See the World?' post (it's the bottom-most one). I'd like to hear your answers.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

The Lemma of Infinite Formality

"For any statement, as trivial as it may be, there exists a finite set of more trivial statements, from which it can be derived."

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

How to write RTL in Gmail

This is useful for people who write right-to-left sometimes, as is done in Hebrew, Arabic, Persian and other languages.
So far I only have a solution for Firefox users, but I strongly recommend the browser to anyone. If you don't like 'messing around' with the computer and refuse to use anything but Internet Explorer, you're probably beyond my help anyway. Wait for Google fix this themselves, or write in English.

So if you use Firefox, install the Clippings add-on from the Mozilla site:
It's a good add-on. I recommend learning the basics of it for other uses as well.

Now download the Clippings export file I made from
It contains two clippings - 'RTL embed' and 'RTL end'. Each clipping is a single control character, U+202B and U+202C respectively, which start and terminate a region of RTL directionality.
To import the file into Clippings, right click any text-box in Firefox, select Clippings > Organize Clippings, in the dialogue click Options > Import, and select the file.

Your setup is now done. To switch to RTL in Gmail (or any other text-box in Firefox), simply right click and select Clippings > RTL embed. In most web pages, starting a new paragraph or aligning the text to the left will terminate the RTL region, but if you want to terminate it yourself you can right click and select Clippings > RTL end.

I've also defined shortcuts for the clippings (which you can change), but the shortcuts only work while input mode is English (once you start typing in Hebrew, for example, you have to switch back to English to use the shortcuts). Press ctrl+alt+v to enter Clippings' shortcut mode, and then 'v' for embed or 'f' for end.


Thursday, July 3, 2008

Why I changed the way I spell my name

I get asked this a lot. In fact, almost every Israeli who knows me well enough to feel comfortable asking this, did. If you know many Israelis, you'd realise that this means anyone who knows me at all (and some who don't really know me).
So if you also asked me the same question, and instead of taking the time to explain myself again I just referred you here, please understand. I am really tired of answering this question again and again. So tired, I took the time to set up this FAQ.

So the reason I don't use 'Nir' anymore, although it's the standard way to write my Israeli name in English, is that it causes people to pronounce it wrong. It's a bit hard to explain in writing, so feel free to skip the next paragraph and go straight to the links.

The problem is that that letter 'i' rarely makes the sound we were taught it makes when we learnt the ABC in the fourth grade - the 'ea' or 'ee' or 'ie' sound (note to native English speakers: not everyone can tell the difference between the three). I'm not entirely sure about the rules here, but it's got to do with the rest of the letters in the word, and specifically in the case of 'Nir' the 'r' following the 'i' comes into play. Consider the way the 'i' sounds in 'first', 'birth' 'shirt'. This is the vowel most English speakers use when they try to pronounce 'Nir'.

And now for the fun part: have a listen to how Mirriam-Webster pronounces the following words. It should make my point very clear.

If you want some more examples, you can try playing around with AT&T's Text-to-Speech demo.

So I decided to find a spelling that would cause English speakers to properly pronounce my name, or at least come close.
I've considered Near, Neer, Nier, Nere, Nyr and probably others. Near was the only one that I thought both English speakers and non English speakers would pronounce correctly, and didn't have undesired connotations (like Neer, which is too much like Leer for my liking).

If this explanation does not convince you, and you still think I'm making a mistake, please keep it to yourself. I am miles beyond being interested.
Thank you.