Last week, I had the pleasure of attending Localization World in Seattle. It was my second time attending this conference and I had a great time. The first thing I noticed was the energy of the room. From the very first reception, there was an energetic and exciting buzz that filled the air.
I attended a number of presentations and I had the opportunity to speak with dozens of people. Here is a brief list of things that I learned:
1. There are more silos than simply content development and localization.
In a previous post, I discussed the vast silos between the content creation and localization functions, and the negative impact silos have on creating quality content for all users. At LocWorld, I learned that there are multiple content development silos throughout most organizations. Well, of course this makes perfect sense. The content created by the marketing department is frequently silo’d from the content created by tech docs. The content created by the technical support reps rarely mixes with content created by course developers. Coming up with a strategy for reuse across departments is a daunting task for even the smallest of companies. And the cost and efficiency implications are enormous.
2. Not enough attention is being paid to the quality of the source content prior to localization and translation.
Localization and translation professionals are forever looking for new and improved ways to deliver quality translations quickly and cost-effectively. This is not new. And they are getting very creative, coming up with complex technologies to help them achieve their goals. However, in the sessions I attended and the conversations I had, sadly little attention was paid to the quality of the source content. I kept reciting my mantra, “If the source content was of better quality, the translations would be better, cheaper, and faster.” I felt a little like a broken record. My thought was met with a lot of nods and agreement. But I didn’t see a real emphasis on finding ways to address the problem.
I could be wrong, but I think that the folks in the localization world feel that they can beat the source quality content drum all they want, but it doesn’t make any difference in the processes and products coming out of the development groups. Instead, focusing on the source comes across as finger pointing to the content development community. I can understand why the localization people have essentially given up on effecting change cross-departmentally. However, I think it is a real shame. At the end of the day, if the quality of the source content is so bad that translating the content is tricky at best (impossible at worst), then the readers of the content in the source language are also being done a dis-service. No one wins when source content quality is lacking.
3. Translation and localization of user-generated content is a growing concern.
Many of the people I met at LocWorld work for companies that have a lot of user-generated content. As more and more companies use collaborative tools to gather user-created information, the issue of translating and localizing that content takes on increased importance. I don’t think we have the answers yet, but I think this is an area that we should all be thinking about. User-generated content is only going to grow in volume and significance.
4. Do not underestimate the role of social media in all businesses.
Even the companies that thought they had escaped the freight train of social media are realizing that they need to pay attention. Social media is critical to the success of every business now. And social media has its own issues in the world of localization. Lionbridge has written an interesting whitepaper on this topic called, “Global Social Media Usage and the Language Factor.”
5. You meet the nicest people on Twitter.
I was really happy to meet so many of my Twitter friends at LocWorld. It was like a homecoming dance. We knew each other, but then again we didn’t. The connections made on Twitter are real connections, even though the medium is a virtual universe unto itself.