E.g., 04/08/2020
E.g., 04/08/2020

Localization Unconference 2016 - Toronto

By: Marie Flacassier, Chief Operating Officer - BeatBabel

04 March 2016

This year was the third annual unconference in Toronto, organized by Oleksandr Pysaryuk (Achievers), Jenny Reid (Blackberry) and Richard Sikes (LocFlow Tech). The localization unconference was originally created by Ultan O’Broin of Oracle and Shawna Wolverton of Salesforce and popularized by Scott Schwalbach (the man with the pink shirt, just ask him why…) and Teresa Marshall (Salesforce). The concept is simple and as the name indicates, a modern alternative to the traditional and formal conference format. One day, many topics, conversations and discussions around themes that are selected by vote. Leading to surprising and sometimes heated debates…

Photo: Burckhardt Rueffer at Achievers, obviously!

For the past few years, Olex has been trying to convince us to brave the Canadian winter and join him for the Unconference. Unsuccessful until this January, when the 30˚C San Diego winter became too boring and I actually needed a taste of real winter. Slight moment of panic before leaving, as I saw the weather forecast plummet to minus 25˚C... Burckhardt was not quite convinced about our trip but we struck a deal when our good friend John Weisgerber, working for the smart XTM team from Rochester, announced he would come along! For many years, the three of us worked together in San Diego and nowadays he likes to tease me by reminding me of all the French I taught him. Back then, on a tough day, we would close the door of our office and my French swear words would play the beat to his AC/DC’s Hells Bells…

For the San Diegans, the unconference started with the best of omen. Snowflakes, quiet and majestic on a grey winter sky... Coming down to cover the treetops and the city skyline. From our Bed and Breakfast’s blue and purple stained glass windows, those soft flakes reminded me of fairy tales. Happiness lies in the beauty of simple, ordinary things and I was just a kid again, a little figurine dancing inside a snow globe. The good news was that if it was snowing, it could not be that cold. And there is nothing like a walk in a fresh winter morning to sharpen your mind and prepare you for a day of meiotic.

Photo: John, Marie and Olex

Richard likes to start the conference by knowing what keeps everyone awake at night. While some of us apparently have very sound sleeping patterns, others were worried about tools, quality, lack of industry talent, training and team motivation and of course how to keep up with technology… As the unconference started, Olex and I were declared Tweeters in chief and were kindly forgiven as we sometimes lost ourselves in our 140 characters posts or giggled with each other across the room, with puzzled looks from the audience.

So the Unconference took over the world and we debated for hours, taking turns, enjoying ourselves and each other’s company. It is hard to summarize all the discussions that often took us right back where we started. Tools that are supposed to solve all our problems and make our daily lives better, and yet the sheer plethora of them is creating more work for everyone and making recruiting an almost impossible task. With the amount of iOS and smart devices, file formats have multiplied exponentially, standards don't always seem to work and instead of being the masters of words, we have become the slaves of tools. 

Photo: Locunconf Alumni, Mildred's Temple Kitchen

Good project managers are a scarcity in our industry and staff retention is made more difficult by the constant pressure of unrealistic expectations and shorter turnaround times. Back-translation and client reviews were also discussed as part of the quality control process with lots of reservation from all of us. Termbases and glossaries are used to increase quality as well but it all boils down to who owns the terminology and who maintains it, as without this step, they too become one more tool to manage. The main challenge still to this day is that quality needs to come from the source, but how do you tell a programmer that he needs to use controlled English or a marketing writer that he should avoid sounding too original? How do we feel about "educating" our clients - is training them a good thing, or is it maybe too condescending?

As the unconference wound down, some of us braved the evening snow and wind to wrap up the conference at Mildred’s Temple Kitchen, where the evening took a turn for the unexpected. For dessert, we all thought the crème brulée was smelling a bit burnt... And as flames and smoke appeared on Eric’s back and his skin got scorched, we finally noticed the smell was not coming from the food. Eric's jacket and shirt had caught on fire as he was leaning against a wall, not noticing that a tea light on the shelf was slowly burning through his layers. An interesting closure to our eventful day.

In the morning, on our way to Niagara Falls, the day promised to be full of new adventures as our ride’s bouncing Buddha was smiling on us…

Marie - an unconference enthusiast!

Marie Flacassier

Marie Flacassier is the co-founder and Chief Operating Officer of BeatBabel, a San Diego-based localization company with partner offices in France, Germany and Spain. Before getting an MBA in International Business and focusing exclusively on localization management, Marie worked as a translator and project manager. Her diverse cultural background, education, and 20 years of industry experience help her daily in finding creative solutions to international business challenges.