E.g., 04/10/2020
E.g., 04/10/2020

The three biggest factors in the localization industry today? Metadata, community engagement, and talent management.

By: Smith Yewell (Welocalize) - Welocalize

24 February 2014

Smith Yewell, Welocalize CEO, looks at three key trends in our industry and how these changes will impact core business models for language service providers. 

1.  Big Data Becomes an Even Bigger Challenge

As more and more information is being produced by our translation management systems, we have plenty of big data, but what we need more of is metadata. Metadata is akin to giving a translator a valuable road map.  In highly automated environments, which are what large-scale translations rely upon, translators are receiving streams of words and sometimes, but not always, associated information about those words.  Without information (metadata), a translator is often driving blind without the content type and the purpose of the content. Metadata enables deeper time, cost, and quality analysis through the correlation of business information and translation information.  This is how we deliver “return on content” and not just translated words.

Metadata has the potential to make the biggest impact on quality outcomes.  Although quality scores viewed in an environment outside of business requirements provide an important linguistic view, without a business requirement correlation, the impact on the business is lost in translation. If localization activities are not directly linked to corporate goals and business objectives within a strategic framework, judging quality is putting the cart before the horse.  Welocalize has been an active participant with TAUS in working towards a strategic view of quality.  The TAUS Dynamic Quality Framework explains this concept. GALA is also working on next-generation quality assessment with its Multidimensional Quality Metrics (MQM) framework, created through the QTLaunchPad project.

How to provide metadata?

One idea is to create an information “container.” We started looking at this a few years ago with other GALA members as a part of the Language Interoperability Portfolio (Linport) project, one of the core deliverables of GALA’s Collaborative Research, Innovation and Standards Program (CRISP). Linport is an open, collaborative project, focused on developing a vendor-independent format that can be used by many different translation tools to package translation materials. The container includes metadata about the project/task, such as structured translation project specifications. Easy access to this metadata, as part of an automated translation workflow, would arm translators with the right roadmap (metadata).

Click here for more information on the Linport “container project”.

2.  Community Translation and Matching the Right Translator to the Right Content

Not all content needs to be translated to the same levels of quality so crowd, cloud, and community all have their place in a finely-tuned LSP supply chain model.

But crowdsourcing has always created nervousness in the localization industry, because it is often misconstrued as "free." I believe volunteers will never replace professional translators.  Instead, I believe that our industry will always rely upon a “crowd” – a community of linguistic talent, all with different skills and levels of expertise. The evolving challenge for LSPs lies in linking this talent to business requirements in a more efficient way, not project requirements. This is how we create value for customers.  This is how LSP leaders are deploying a “community” strategy that recruits, engages, retains, and rewards talented individuals.

The right linguistic resource, matched to the right content, with the right rewards provides the foundation for striking the desired balance between translation time, cost and quality. The greatest challenge in this area is the upper end of the market (brand content with high impact) and the lower end of the market (user generated content, UGC).  The solution to this challenge is a new approach to talent management.

3.  Managing Talented Communicators

Within our communities, there is an evolving shift in the process of recruiting and engaging talented linguistic resources of all types. It is not so much translation as it is “communication.” As we see so many new types of content emerging, in different formats and targeted towards various business objectives, leading LSPs are no longer recruiting translators per say, but talented communicators.  I mentioned UGC before. This is a good example. Translation of UGC does not require a translator with 20 years’ experience. As we see machine translation (MT) being successfully deployed for this type of content, you could be looking for entry level post-editing skills and someone who can work quickly, with higher volumes, at a lower quality bar.  It’s not a question of good or bad translation but simply a lower quality bar matched to the business requirement. This in turn will affect the way LSPs recruit and structure their vendor network model.


These three trends have been a long time coming and represent the need for our industry to relentlessly push towards adding greater value each year.  The leaders see the challenge, but they can also offer the evolving solution.  It is more than words.

Smith Yewell co-founded Welocalize with his wife Julia in 1997, building it to one of the Top-10 localization firms in the industry. Both Smith and Welocalize have been recognized in many ways including the Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year award, Deloitte & Touche’s “Technology Fast 500″ from 2000-2012 and the Inc. 500/5000 award from 2005-2012. Smith holds a BA in English from Tulane University. Prior to starting the company, he served in the US Army as a Field Artillery officer and received the Bronze Star for service in Operation Desert Storm during the first Persian Gulf War. Smith plays a very active role in our industry and serves on several Advisory Boards including The Rosetta Foundation , the IBM Open TM2 Initiative and the University of Washington Global Technology Communication Management program.(GTC).