Several days and a birthday have passed since I attended the Worldware 2011 conference and it is time for me to write up my impressions. Normally, I’d go back through Twitter time, looking at all of the interesting snippets that were tweeted. I’d take the snippets and put together a handy-dandy list of things I learned. This is what I’ve done in the past here and here and even here.

This time, I’ve decided to do something different. Maybe because today is my birthday and I’m waxing nostalgic. Or, I’m trying to test my memory. But, what I’d rather do is write about the most salient part of the conference that I remember.

The conference was small, but the people who attended were knowledgeable and interesting. People asked good questions and presenters had good answers. So, for this conference, it was the quality of the attendee that mattered, not the quantity of bodies in the room.

Most memorable for me was Bill Sullivan’s (IBM) keynote. It was fabulous. He was witty, interesting, fun, full of facts and figures, and his message was clear: Internationalization needs to be more important. Corporate executives at all levels need to start paying attention to globalization, internationalization, localization, and translation. The notion that most people read English is simply untrue. The idea that a half-day training class on how to write using Global English is just not going to cut it. Translating the first 3 pages of your website, only to have the remaining pages revert back to English, should be an embarrassment. Executives need to listen. And they are not.

I loved absolutely everything Bill said, and I agree with all of it. My personal frustration is that it feels like we are just talking to ourselves over and over. Almost like a broken record. I came away from the conference not knowing any more about how to get the CFO to care about the enormous amounts of money that he or she is wasting on translation (due to poor source content) than I knew before. I didn’t hear a clear set of ideas on how to get senior management to care about the rest of the world and stop being so US-focused.

Are we just talking to ourselves? Or, are we actually making progress?

To me, progress looks a bit like this:

  • Content development groups and localization groups work together towards a common goal.
  • The common goal is accurate, easy to read, and pertinent information for all readers in all languages.
  • Money is spent wisely to create simple source content, so that even more money is saved on better, faster, and cheaper translations (yes, you read that right –  I said “Better, Faster, AND Cheaper” – the seemingly impossible trifecta)
  • Development groups understand that the content is a product in-and-of-itself. And, like any product, creating it and internationalizing it takes more than one week.
  • Development groups plan for internationalization from the very beginning. They don’t scramble post-release as an afterthought.
  • Entire corporations are geared for worldwide product development, distribution, and consumption. We stop assuming everyone knows what we are talking about. We stop being blind to cultural differences and start being far more respectful of our foreign employees, partners, and customers.
  • And, I suppose, in the end, we all sit in a circle and sing Kumbaya.
Val Swisher
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