The Meedan Blog Archive

Meedan Translates Twitter

A couple of weeks ago here at Meedan we asked ourselves an important question: How can Meedan bridge the conversations taking place right now between Arabic-speaking users and between English-speaking users on Twitter?

In our search for a solution, we decided that we should look to the structure of Twitter and to normative user conventions as means to maximise the potential impact of translated Tweets. Here we highlighted a number of avenues to explore:

Twitter lists

Back in January, Twitter rolled out its new Local Trends feature. Now users could see the most popular topics being discussed in different parts of the world, which is great for those who want to see what’s trending in the UK, Brazil or Mexico. As yet, however, many other parts of the world have yet to be covered in the Local Trends feature. How, then, can we see the most popular topics being discussed in the Arabic-speaking Twittosphere?

Our response is to use Twitter Lists to curate lists of Arabic-speaking users in the Middle East based on four broad geographical areas:

Using these publicly available lists, we can check the pulse of what Arabic speakers are talking about on Twitter. A brief glance at the Khaleej list, for example, showed that several Saudi users were using Twitter to support a campaign to ban smoking in public places, with the hashtag #noPublicSmoking.


Conversations on Twitter are frequently built around hashtags, which provide a handy way to group tweets, based on a topic, in a feed that is open for other users to view and contribute to.

For Meedan, this is the conversation space we can use to build discussions around translated tweets and links. By adding simple hashtags to content we’re translating on Twitter, we can inject translations into hashtag feeds being followed by users around the world, creating and facilitating a conversation across languages.


Twitter’s function of @replies allows us to perform a couple of tasks essential for translation:

1) It allows us to engage with the user whose Tweets we are translating. Every time we translate a tweet, they will see it as a reply to their comment and, we hope, this will encourage users to further contribute to discussions.

2) Because clicking “reply” on Twitter and applications like Hootsuite adds a layer of metadata to Tweets, any Tweets we translate will be clearly linked to the original.

Our pilot project

On Thursday, August 26, 2010 we will be piloting our Twitter translation project with our team of producers and translators and experimenting with different ideas to see what works.

We’d love you to join us and give feedback on our pilot - you will find us posting translations of Tweets at the following hashtags:

#aren (for translations of ARabic > ENglish) #enar (for translations of ENglish > ARabic)