Silos. Everyone talks about them. Disparate groups of people in the same company, working on the same content, with absolutely no knowledge of each other. For example, technical documentation and localization. Or, marcom and localization. Or, technical support knowledge-base writers and localization. Pretty much any group creating content is a separate silo from the group responsible for localizing and translating that content.

Sure, there are some companies who have figured out that content creators and content translators should at least know each other’s email addresses. I’ve seen companies where the marcom group understands (and has a large stake in) the process and end product of localization and translation. They certainly know when a marcom campaign has flopped because the content either didn’t translate accurately, wasn’t translatable to begin with, or lost that emotional bang that marcom materials try to achieve. But, in general, content creators usually have painfully little interaction with localization and translation teams.

Let’s take the average technical writer. I know a lot of them. In fact, I used to be one. Technical writers are usually extremely smart, able to figure things out from poorly written specifications (or able to create documentation from absolutely no specifications), and most have an excellent command of English. Many of the writers I know spend a large amount of time working alone. Sure they are willing participants in team meetings, they meet with subject matter experts to clarify points, and they play well together. But, when pencil meets paper, most technical writers I know (myself included) prefer to have the lights set just so, the music playing just right, and block out the entire world.  How many times have you walked by the cube of a technical writer to find a piece of “caution” tape stretched across the doorway? You get the picture.

I don’t advocate writing by committee. Technical writing as a task is usually best done by an individual. However, if the content is going to be localized and translated, it makes a lot of sense, and a world of difference, if the writer and the localization team communicate. Perhaps including localization in the review process or post-review process would help. Or having a translator available to consult with on certain sentence structures or idioms would make the writing and translation of the content better, quicker, and cheaper. How about a brown-bag lunch every now and then?

For a long time, I have advocated having content creators sit side-by-side with the localization team. Share a cube wall. Have a chat at the watercooler. Find out what each person is working on. If we spent a bit more time collaborating, we’d spent a lot less money translating. We’d get content to the marketplace faster and the quality of the translations would be much better. In fact, the quality of the English source would also be improved. Afterall, if content is clear enough to be translated easily, it is clear enough for just about everyone to read and understand it.

So, let’s throw caution [tape] to the wind! Let’s chat. Let’s work together. Let’s create the best content that we can, translated accurately into every language we can think of.

Who’s in?

Val Swisher
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