[Luis Rull @EBE07. Photo by Shel]
Luis Rull was a co-host of Evento Blog Espana [EBE07], in Seville, Spain, where I spoke in November. I got the chance to hang out with him and Biz Stone. He seems to have grown up a child of the global Internet communications revolution with an abundance of stories to tell. What interested me for the SAP Global Survey is the Luis' soon-to-be implemented Spanish-to-English translation service for bloggers. Spain has an abundance of bloggers. Very few post in English, although a good many of them read English language blogs. Like most people, Spanish bloggers are just more comfortable posting in their native language. But they see the need to join a larger and more more global network. That's where Luis' service will coe in, but I'll let him tell his story.
1. Tell me a bit about your background.
I was born in 1973 and raised in Seville. My father is a scientist whose research was about computer simulation of molecular dynamics. I played with mainframepunch cards and crayons before I could ride a bike.
In 1982, My father's work took us to Copenhagen where I met people totally different from my family and friends. I played with kids from Argentina to Russia, and from all over the world, letting find new ways to have fun. We kids were fascinated by the strangeness each other's toys, especially the new electronic stuff that we shared with each other.
I went to college in Granada where I got my first PC. My dorm friends used it to write essays and do homework. There were no networks. We shared with floppy disks. Toward the end of my degree studies, Internet Cafés began came to Granada and used them to email my parents who were already using it at the University of Sevilla.
When I got a grant I got a graduate studies grant at Pablo de Olavide University, I was given free internet access and I became the unofficial IT guy for my research group and friends. I found myself very comfortable teaching others about computers.
In 2004, I read an article about US politics and the rise of blogs. It motivated me to visit blogger.com at Google and start my first blog to keep my friends and family informed, but it also gave me a place, a notebook to write ideas as they came into my head, content that could not be published in any other place such as a scientific journal.
As I became more knowledgable about blogs and wikis, I kept helping others. Eventually, I moved into the private sector as a consultant. A new world was beginning and I wanted to be in it. I joined some wonderful internet entrepreneurs from Valencia and we founded Blogestudio.com.
Mainly, I teach clients how to communicate through their blogs and how to discover, store and share information with colleagues and clients. Now I am beginning my own company mecus.es with a great team in Seville, focused in Corporate Blogging and Knowledge Management, where I am developing a new service of translation for bloggers.
2. How did you come to co-produce EBE07? Why is it free to attend?
Some of Spain's blogging pioneers come from Seville. Two of them, José Luis Antúnez and José Luis Perdomo called Benito Castro and asked us to do a kind of summit for bloggers and Evento Blog España was born.
In 2006, Seville's state government, Junta de Andalucía, and Microsoft agreed to be sponsors, with the understanding they would respect our freedom to invite whoever we wanted. Suddenly we had a free place to do it and money to pay the flights and hotels of international speakers. When other bloggers heard about it, the all expressed enthusiasm. Friends and enemies, colleagues and competitors all enthusiastically offered support. We gathered a great group who knew each other online, but had never seen each other in person.
In our first year we invited Matt Mullenweg, and some of the most influential and interested people in some areas of blogging: Education, Politics, Technology, Ethics, Business, etc. We later discovered that the most interested conversations took place during the breaks and the beers & in tapas bars.
In 2007, the expectation was high and we grew from 200 attendants to 620. Our goal was to respect for the community. EBE 07 was organized for bloggers, and we tried treat them as queens and kings not as subjects. EBE07 was built on them, with low key sponsor presence, free admission and long breaks and social activities.
3. Let's talk about Spain in general. How any bloggers are there? What do they blog about? How many are in business v personal?
I cannot tell for sure, but the Spanish blogosphere is made up mainly of personal bloggers. The growth right now is incredibly fast. There are many more personal blogs than business or commercial blogs. The average audience per blogger is low but the long tail in Spain is really long. From MSN Spaces, to Bitacoras.com or LaCoctelera.com, small groups reign.
Business and professionals have just started to discover the value of blogs in the last three years. I believe that as they understand the profits of listening and gaining their own voice, they will all want to get into social media. There are a lot of resources to help them use the new tools. The number of talented Internet consultants is growing.
4. What other social media tools are popular in general and in business?
Places like meneame.net are very popular, but the management of recommended info thought blogs, twitter, google reader shared or del.icio.us are growing very fast, mainly because they are not very time consuming and are based on people you trust.
In business, the most important innovation is building relationships with people who share your interest through blogs. News alerts and data mining techniques need a lot of improving, but my opinion is that the heterogeneity blogs are introducing to companies and people’s minds have a lot of potential.
5. Is social media making its way into government, education and other large institutions? Why or why not?
I think it is only happening in a very small number of places. A few individual civil servant or teachers are using it, but only in a disorganized, decentralized way. The positive way of seeing it is that they are building their own way of using them. They are not following higher agendas or narrow paths. They are adapting social media to their needs, founding great things. My opinion on the lack of interest is that people on top do not want to lose the monopoly of knowledge and want to keep people isolated.
6. Most bloggers in Spain blog, of course, in Spanish. What are the pluses and minuses of that? Do many Spanish bloggers read blogs in other languages?
I cannot say numbers, but my opinion is that many influential bloggers get their influence by gathering information from blogs in English and writing about it on their blogs in Spanish. Many readers don’t have the time, interest or skill in English to get that information from those sources, and they trust these gatekeepers. The amount of information in English is huge and the additional effort only worthwhile for specific niches (For example: your hobby or you competitors)
On the other hand, most Spanish bloggers do it just to express themselves. They are not eager to reach large audiences, so they are not very interested in reaching English readers. But, the Spanish-speaking audience itself is huge because it includes Latin Americans. Internet is becoming more and more popular all over the world and our brothers from the other side of the ocean are no exception. The high quality of some blogs from Argentina, Chile or Mexico proves that.
7. I understand that you are planning to offer a translation service to bloggers. Why? What's the market opportunity?
The market opportunity is a two-way road. It’s obvious that English is the most common language in Europe. If you want to reach a large audience in Europe and USA, the easiest way is to write in English. Spanish companies are getting more and more investment from abroad and start-ups are beginning to think in a broad way about their market. The world is flat.
Automatic translators do not work properly with dense and rich blogs, so there’s room for professional translators here. The biggest cost for a translator is to specialize in the vocabulary of an area, for example, software. With individual blogs, we can take that away, because the language, special words and expressions are similar every time.
Our products do not only include professional translations but also the adaptation of their blogging software to it. Taking care of SEO matters, ease for clients and freshness of content, we offer the translation of a post within 24 hours. The blogger only has to blog in his or her usual way. We adapt the templates and take care of the translated version. The clients get an identical blog, with the texts in Spanish, with no additional time invested. We only have done it so far in WordPress, our favourite blog software, but we have researched others and would be able to do it as soon any client requests it.
8. Will it be just Spanish-toEnglish? Would you do English-to-Spanish?
We are also thinking about translation to Spanish. English, French and German are our first choices. We consider Spanish audience very attractive to some English-speaking bloggers all over the world. The consumption of social media in Spain is one of the fastest growing in Europe, and with the weight of Latin American audiences, our product is simply a good choice.
Translating into Spanish is also a good idea because Spanish tends to overrate foreign ideas and people, and that usually gives English bloggers a good first impression.
9. Let's talk longterm. What impact do you see over the next five years of social media on Spain? How about Spanish interaction with the EU and the US?
The shock in the last three years has been so hard that nobody can say for certain. Big media conglomerates had been trying so many defensive strategies that failed. Now, they all join almost any innovation offered to them. This is mainly because small media companies had been fast and imaginative and are succeeding in the growing market of digital audiences. You may see it in the number of newspapers that have easy access to social media tools such as del.icio.us, digg, technorati or meneame (a popular Spanish Digg-style site). You can even see in the content of some news in mainstream media: sometimes you see a TV newscaster saying something that appeared in a blog six days earlier.
It's obvious that the audio and video will have a great impact in blogging in 2008. The number of video blggers and podcasters are increasing in a rate higher than 100% per year. Self-producing audio-visual content is the big change in Spanish media.
The influence of US culture is huge in Spain. Although many Spanish companies are in joint ventures with EU companies, the audience is strongly demanding US content over EU content. With more translation from French, German and Italian we hope to change that.
About 52% of the Spanish population between ages 17 and 52 have Internet access and is growing very fast, according to trusted sources. They represent the more affluent and better education portions of our society.
Spanish people tend to be expressive and passionate about what they like. I see an explosion of quality content. Prepare yourself.
10. Additional comments?
Spain IT community is beginning to think about the world in a “flatter” way. Spanish Content generators will follow them