GALA 2012: The View from Monte Carlo with New Eyes
By: Maxwell Hoffman (Adobe) - Adobe Systems Inc.
06 June 2012
Maxwell Hoffman shows us a glimpse of GALA 2012 Monaco from the perspective of a buyer and conference exhibitor. He gives key conference take-aways and his overall impression.
Seeing Localization Trends with a different lens
I had only been on board with Adobe for a couple of months, when I attended one of my earliest events, GALA 2012 in Monaco. I had just “left” the localization industry, and here I was, returning as a software tools vendor. This was my first localization conference in which I was not promoting translation services. So I had enough time and distance to view workflows, product requests and trends with new eyes.
Major Themes for Topics
At first glance, the scheduled topics did not have an obvious “focus.” This proved to be a healthy development. To some degree, localization has become more “mainstream” with the advent of DITA and increased awareness of topic-based authoring and CMS. At conferences which are not localization-centric, globalization and language-related issues are gaining increased visibility in presentations and break-out-sessions.
A few themes do stand out:
- Cloud and server based solutions: a much larger segment of the linguistic community has access to adequate bandwidth to access remote services.
- Machine Translation becomes the norm: still present as an issue, but now viewed much more as a “first draft” step that is just another part of the supply chain, rather than a competitive “threat” to smaller LSPs.
- Mergers and Acquisitions: more than one sessions focused on “how to survive” what appears to be a shrinking market. To some degree, this shift parallels what is taking place in tech comm in general; how to reinvent and rebrand yourself in an increasingly competitive landscape.
- Globalization of social media: This critical business component has moved up a notch and gained some well-deserved attention in at least one session. (This used to be what I classified as a “someday” priority with many LSPs a couple of years ago.) The increased demand for localized SEO has contributed to this.
The charm of the Riviera faded compared to critical business intelligence
The event itself was quite different from previous events, as anyone who attended can attest. There was literally no room for improvement in terms of conference organization. Every evening had an “ice-breaker” event or dinner with decent acoustics that made business “chat” possible. The “Film Festival” was a huge hit and warranted a reply. (I missed the first session with “Austin Powers.”)
Not only was the locale and Monte Carlo a stunning backdrop for serious discussions on language, but the actual hotel venue was “top drawer.” I have seldom seen any event with such effective traffic flows, for participants and vendors alike. Despite the beckoning beauty of nearby attractions, few people left the hotel during conference presentations.
Meeting rooms were packed, and post-presentation discussions continued for days. All of the after-hours events went overtime, with attendees obviously reluctant to return to hotel rooms or try their hand at the roulette wheel. Incidentally, if anyone thinks that localization professionals are “squares”, they should have attended GALA’s 10th Birthday party. Some attendees could replace the “solid gold dancers” if that Disco TV show is ever resurrected. Amazingly, everyone was energized, with nary a yawn during the next day’s procedings.
Trends observed from face-to-face discussions in our booth
Having attended dozens of similar events, I was struck by how far the industry (and the customers served) has moved from 18 or 24 month ago. Here are the dominant trends I noticed:
- Nearly everyone is either migrating to XML/DITA, or seriously considering it. Although the benefits of topic based authoring with inherent content reuse seem obvious, clients have been reluctant to make the “dive” into this more complex method of authoring data. (Actually, it only seems complex during project setup.)
Many vendors asked Adobe for advice on file conversion, where to find trainers, consultant, etc. There were a significant number of attendees who have clients with 1000s of pages in Word legacy files that need to be converted into some usable form of DITA. For many, FrameMaker was an obvious choice, and many discussions and demos on “how to’s” ensued.
- Content Management Solutions were sought. Surprisingly, many clients turn to their localization vendor for advice on which CMS system to use. This is not to imply that L10n professionals are unaware of good solutions, but the reality is that few of “us” in localization author or create very much content. Most of our work is to refine, improve and transform content into another language for an appropriate locale.
Takeaway message: prices and timeframes for implementing strong CMS solutions have dropped significantly over the past 2 years, and customers are ready to improve content management.
- A convergence of CMS and TM. A couple of years ago, Translation Memory and CMS were perceived as separate realms. There were several vendors and consultants present who have crafted innovative solutions for creating one user interface that can manage content via CMS and also manage updating and delivery of TM as well.
- Heavier focus on traditional documentation moving to mobile devices. A couple of years ago, most L10n presentations on “mobile” focused on apps or user interface localization. Based on feedback from over 60 attendees, it was evident that clients now are being pressured to deliver “page based” documentation more swiftly in portable formats on tablets and smart phones.
The obvious solution is a sensible implementation of single-source publishing that will output from one set of source files to Web, ePub, PDF and other formats. DITA can be strong foundations for this model, but is not absolutely essential, as demonstrated during Adobe’s RoboHelp/Tech Comm Suite presentation.
- Pain points with LQA. It can be the little stuff that gets us down, or “death by a thousand paper cuts.” Although an excellent model for LQA Review with annotated PDF has been well documented via blogs and videos for quite some time, attendees shared their frustration over the lack of awareness in large segments of the linguist community. It seems that especially in “exotic” languages, many linguists only know how to use the “sticky note” in PDF, and not the insertion, deletion or replace text tool annotations. Much time is still spent “interpretting” LQA comments in annotations, and worse, determining which portion of text the PDF “sticky” note relates to. As a result, we did dozens of 5 minute demos on PDF “round trip” reviewing, which enables comments and annotations from PDF to be directly imported “in place” into FrameMaker or RoboHelp files.
- Educating clients to the value of project management. It seems that this one will simply never go away. Many clients still think that they can consider a lower bid on a project which doesn’t specify essential project management costs. In many cases, when a client is lost to another vendor, the client is shocked to have “change order” charges for guess what; project management. This seems to be an area where the industry has made little progress educating clients.
- Frustration with training and retraining contractors. Many clients and vendors discussed how the workforce has become much more transient in North America, with a heavy dependence on unreliable pools of contractors. In many sectors, shrinking North American tech comm teams has reduced in-house business intelligence and the head count of critical subject matter experts. This has led to more misunderstandings about message intent in the authoring phase, with fewer experienced “eyes” to review content before it goes into translation.
- Rich media and video become higher priorities in traditional tech comm content. A few years ago, most projects I dealt with that had rich media or video were for marketing or product roll-outs for global markets. Our clients have nearly constant access to video and rich media on tablets, smartphones as well as workplace laptops; they are discovering the benefits of a 3 minute video that illustrates steps vs. 13 pages of static screen shots. Although much of the client-base hasn’t caught up with this trend, they are asking their LSPs (and Adobe) “how do I deal with this.” I noted that the demonstration of rich media in Adobe Tech Comm Suite outputting to PDF and ePubs attracted the strongest response and led to the most return visits to our booths for a second look. This trend no doubt extends to other software solutions as well.
Note: working with video is new to many people, LSPs as well as client content creators. There are few guidelines for how many minutes are appropriate for a task, or how many slides/captions should be inserted. I expect we will find presentations on this topic next year.
- Simplified English, finally. Although not a major theme at the conference, dozens of attendees I talked with were asking about appropriate tools to reduce the number of words used to constrain English content and make message intent more obvious.
- One document, many screens. As tablets and handheld devices multiply, the number of deliverables for LSPs is increasing dramatically. The majority of individuals I discussed this issue with were not yet migrated into DITA, and were seeking a transitional or “flexible” solution that would allow publishing of mixed content (structured and unstructured.) I’ll remain silent on one solution that comes to mind.
Take-aways from the Conference
In some sense, it seemed that localization has reached a critical “tipping point.” Not that L10n will become a household word, or the first bulleted item in business plans anytime soon. But by my estimation, this industry and its essential professional services has finally moved onto the radar screen of many mainstream corporations that treated L10n as an afterthought 2 to 3 years ago.
Are we living in “scary” times with many unknowns and lots of unpredictable change facing us? Certainly. But, it is also a time of incredible opportunity, not unlike the advent of “personal” computers and “desktop” publishing. On the surface, it appears that our tasks and deliverables have increased to an unbelievable level. Fortunately, there are a handful of vendors that are crafting solutions to help you keep up with this climate of constant change. Speaking of which, all of the vendors I spoke with had a good show and plan to return next year. Hopefully we will see even more booths with unheard of services and product offerings next year in Miami. I can’t wait to be there with you again and see how far we’ve come in 2013.
Maxwell Hoffmann is a 15 year veteran of the translation/localization industry, having most recently worked at Globalization Partners International. Since January, Maxwell has served as Adobe's Product Evangelist for Tech Comm Suite (FrameMaker, RoboHelp, Captivate, Acrobat and Photoshop.) He is a former product marketing manager for FrameMaker at Frame Technology (before acquisition by Adobe) and he has trained over 1,200 people in scalable publishing solutions using various tools as well as DITA/XML. By conservative estimates, Maxwell believes he has published over 1,000,000 pages in multilingual projects for various translation agencies.