What's the context? A story about pairs.

We've finally found and purchased our "forever home" back in San Diego. We're now in Alpine, though we've considered places such as Fallbrook or Temecula. Some of the places prompt people to say, "that's far!"

We joke, "far... from where?"

Distance is a measurement of at least two locations. There's always an origin and destination, otherwise, you can't tell if something is near or far.
This week I've run into this observation (rant?) that there's some assumed, but sometimes missing, context across two other seemingly unrelated topics.

Language pairs

At work, I've been working to set up translation pricing models and note that sometimes, we're missing some important context. Namely, when managing a translation you need two pairs of languages... that should also include a pair of the language and its spoken location. :-)

The basic language pair is the source and target: which language you're translating from to which language you're translating to, respectively. But on top of this, languages can be spoken in different locations so you also have the language itself as well as where it's spoken, such as English spoken in the United States or French spoken in Canada.

I'll save any observations and witty (potentially ignorant) commentary for a future post on languages, language pairs, and locales.

The other context where unstated context might be an issue is about the color of text.

Accessible colors and contrast

If you haven't heard, or already posted on social media about it, my company merged with (into?) another which means a rebranding was in order. This time, the product naming discussion had an elegantly simple solution: drop the vendor company's name from the product name. So my favorite enterprise content management system is simply "Tridion" again. Or it is for all marketing and product discussions since already-released software typically don't/can't be renamed.

I won't mention much about the release called The User Interface Update... ;-) Though I am quite proud that the last "user interface update" had a more explicit name this time around.

But getting back on topic, our company rebranding including adopting a consolidated color pallete, which included some colors noted as "accessible."

But this week is all about pairs, people! A given color can't be accessible on its own. Just like distance needs a start and end, or translations need a source and target, an "accessible" color, at least to WCAG 2.x guidelines, needs to be part of a foreground or background.

Oh and for those who are familiar with color in terms of Web (and even non-digital) accessibility, the more familiar standard or guidance is that color shouldn't be used to convey information to users alone. So though you might mark required fields for some online form with some red, you should also denote such fields as mandatory with some textual explanation or symbol, like the seemingly ubiquitous red asterisk (i.e. "*").

So in short:
  • "That's far!"
    "Far... from where?"

  • "How do you translate, 'pair'?"*
    To which language? Spoken in what location?

  • "That's hard to see!" Against what background? With what text?
Finally, to be fair, most of the time you can assume some unstated context. Far means far for or from the person saying it's far. Mentioning a language probably means how it's spoken nearby, or where it originated. And an easy-to-see text color is against your standard document background.

It's when you don't have the context, but you need it to update a particular language pair and locale setting, for example, is when it makes a difference!

Edit: I want to add one more example that the adage to "measure twice and cut once" is a lie! Or maybe I didn't follow it correctly when I measured a surface twice but measured the material to cut only once. So the saying should probably be "measure source twice, measure material twice, and then cut once." But that wouldn't be as concise and memorable. ;-)

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