Unicode 30: Post-event Report
Fotini Limes, Globalization Partners International
The event featured a day of tutorials followed by two days of presentations, panels and discussions. The first day of tutorials was informative and addressed a variety of internationalization issues. Topics covered included character encodings, processing text in different languages, preparing for the localization of user interfaces, making applications "locale-aware," and learning the intricacies of internationalization for the web.
In a case study presentation,“Best Practices in Software Localization Process and Technology," IBM’s Elsebeth Flarup and Soeren Bendtsen demonstrated how building localization into the process during the design phase of development can help lower cost and improve time-to-market. The presentation covered “do's and don'ts” when creating translatable text, handling non-standard file formats, preparing workflow systems, and using verification testing, terminology management and translation memory systems.
A case study on eBay’s UTF-8 Database Migration presented by Nelson Ng, eBay's Chief Globalization Architect, addressed quite impressively the challenges of migrating over 100 databases with 18+ Billion textual data records from ISO Latin to UTF-8 while keeping the entire site online all the while. As a result, the entire global trading platform is now supported by a single code base (over 193 million people in more than 150 countries)!
Clearly, the impact of language and culture on internationalization and localization cannot be overstated as it affects every aspect of the software development cycle. In his presentation, "The Localization Process and Applicable Standards," Pierre Cadieux from i18N Inc. presented a sophisticated visual architecture of the localization process to illustrate the stages from content creation through change detection, text extraction, leveraging, workload, translation, and review. The model served as backdrop for a discussion about which localization standards exist and how they interact to support the localization process.
The conference’s more philanthropic side provided highlights as well. Andy Abbar detailed Microsoft's Local Language Program, a global initiative to provide localized desktop software and tools to customers through collaboration with local governments and language experts. The program aims to bridge the language and digital divides between emerging and developed markets, while preserving the language and culture of each locale. Meanwhile, Nicolas Negroponte, Chairman of One Laptop per Child and Chairman Emeritus of MIT Media Laboratory on "One Laptop per Child - $100 Laptop" delivered the keynote address on this innovative program. "One Laptop Per Child," which aims to create US$100 notebook computers for the world's poorest children, has rapidly gained popularity with academics, journalists, world leaders and global tech companies. As Mr. Negroponte put it plainly: "The biggest hurdle will be manufacturing 100 million of anything . . . The scale is daunting, but I find myself amazed at what some companies are proposing to us."
The question of the (last) day was posed by the keynote panel: "Where Would We Be Unicode?" As John O'Connor put it, "Why wouldn't you want to use Unicode?"
Obviously, the argument for Unicode is the need for deployment but the real challenge, and here every panelist agreed, is the need for education; experts involved with Unicode should mobilize by writing articles and joining news groups to educate those who aren't "in the know."
Overall, the conference was well attended and included a number of high-caliber presentations and sessions for a wide variety of users – from internationalization novices to experienced developers and programmers. A number of GALA member companies such as Basis Technology, Welocalize, InterPro, and Globalization Partners International (GPI) were present at the event, either as presenters, exhibitors or participants. Although the exhibitor line-up was small, participating at the Unicode conference as an exhibitor allowed GALA the opportunity to showcase our strength and relevance as an organization. However, I believe that the best promotion for an organization such as ours comes in the form of client-to-client referrals, so I was pleased to hear a localization manager from Texas Instruments suggest to the Globalization Architect at Orbitz to check out the GALA website in order to find a reputable localization vendor!!
Fotini Limes has worked in the localization industry for more than 10 years and has held various positions in Sales & Marketing and Account Management. Currently she is a Business Development Manager at GPI's headquarters in Washington DC.