So after 9+ years at Dotsub, I figured it would be fitting to write a small post about my time there.
I can't believe it was that long ago that I joined a small team here in Ottawa to build the second version of Dotsub.com. Dotsub' founder Michael Smolens knew someone here in Ottawa that I had worked with on a consulting project. A few phone conversations later, I was ready to take the plunge and join a small startup.
There was a PHP prototype site in place, our plan was simple. Rewrite the site to be scalable and more extensible. Here is what Dotsub looked like in 2007.
In a few months, we hacked together a great foundation to build on. Two of us hacked away at the user interface and backend code, while one other hacked at the flash player. People don't remember how much more complex web video was in 2008. There was no
<video> tag, CDNs were insanely expensive, there were very few decent flash players. Accessibility on the web seemed like an afterthought at best. Most of the video players on the market did event support subtitles/captions.
All our effort paid off in our maiden release. Just before we planned to release the first version of our implementation of Dotsub, a video went viral. Now the PHP version of the site wasn't that bad, but it was completely unable to handle any type of load. We had to quickly release our version before the PHP site melted. One of the other developers did some brilliant tweaks to the PHP site to buy us a week or two to release.
Then a few weeks later, we released our version of Dotsub.
We stayed up all night to migrate the data and direct traffic to the new site. On release, the site endlessly crashed. After a few hours of cursing and coffee, we had isolated the issue. Turns out we had a single line of code that was getting needlessly executed and eating up all the CPU cycles. It just goes to show you, no first release is ever smooth.
While a lot has changed since that initial release, it was this version that was the foundation for so many of the amazing things we accomplished at Dotsub.
There are too many exciting things to list them all. So I'll pick out a few of my personal highlights.
Most people don't know this, but a Dotsub video titled 'Twitter in Plain English' was on Twitters homepage.
This was before Oprah joined Twitter. The 'Watch a video!' button played this video:
This video has over 9 million views and 99 different translations. All generated by Dotsub users and seen by millions of Twitter visitors.
We also participated in the TED Talks translation project. Translating thousands of TED Talks into hundreds of languages. This was all done by tens of thousands of TED volunteers. This project truly embodied Dotsub mission. We helped to spread knowledge across the barriers of language and culture. Helping them share their content with tens of millions of non-English speakers around the world.
Those are just two examples of the global impact Dotsub and it's users have made. From my back of the envelope math, we have shown captions almost 1 billion people in the world.
On top of all the great work completed by our user community, don't forget we are a business. Dotsub's platform coupled with our amazing professional services. Have provided captions and translations to some of the largest companies in the world. Amazon, Google, Microsoft, IBM, and many others have used Dotsub to caption and translate their videos.
While my journey at Dotsub has come to an end, I'll never forget the amazing things we accomplished.