I have noticed of late that every conference has a session or two that focuses on the future. Probably because many sense that change is in the air. Some of you may also have noticed that the protest from some quarters has grown more strident or even outright rude, to some of the ideas presented at these future outlook sessions. The most vocal protests seem to be directed at predictions about the increasing use of machine translation, anything about “good enough” quality and the process and production process changes necessary to deal with the increasing translation volume. (There are still some who think that the data deluge is a myth).
Some feel personally threatened by those who speak on these subjects and rush to kill or at least stab the messenger. I think they miss the point that what is happening in translation, is just part of a larger upheaval in the way global enterprises are interacting with customers. The forces causing change in translation are also creating upheaval in marketing, operations and product development departments as many analysts have remarked for some time now. The discussion in the professional translation blogosphere is polarized enough (translators vs. technology advocates) that dialogue is difficult, but hopefully we all continue to speak with increasing clarity, so that the polemic subsides. The truth is that none of us really knows the definite future, but that should not stop us from making educated (or even wild) guesses at where current trends may lead. (I highly recommend you skim The Cluetrain Manifesto to get a sense for the broader forces at play.)
Brian Solis has a new book coming out that describes the overall change quite succinctly. The End of Business As Usual (his new book) explores each layer of the complex consumer revolution that is changing the future of business, media, and culture. As consumers further connect with one another, a vast and efficient information network takes shape and begins to steer experiences, decisions, and markets. It is nothing short of disruptive.
I was watching the Twitter feed from two conferences last week (LRC XVI in Ireland and Translation Forum in Russia) and I thought it would be interesting to summarize and highlight some of the tweets as they pertain to this changing world and perhaps provide more clarity about the trends from a variety of voices and perspectives. The LRC conference had several speakers from large IT companies who talked about their specific experience, as well as technology vendor and LSP presentations. For those who are not aware, CSA research identifies IT as one of the single largest sectors buying professional translation services. The chart below shows the sectors with the largest share of global business. This chart is also probably a good way to understand where these changes are being felt most strongly.
Here are some Twitter highlights from LRC on the increasing volume of translation, changing content, improving MT and changing translation production needs. I would recommend that you check out @therosettafound for the most complete Twitter trail. I have made minor edits to provide context and clarify abbreviations and have attempted to provide some basic organization to the tweet trail to make it somewhat readable.
@CNGL Changing content consumption and creation models require new translation and localisation models – (according to)
@TheRosettaFound We are all authors, the enterprise is going social - implications for localisation?
@ArleLommel Quality even worse than Rob Vandenberg says: we have no real idea what it is/how to measure, especially in terms of customer impact
Issue is NOT MT vs. human translation (HT). It's becoming MT AND HT. Creates new opportunities for domain experts.
Dion Wiggins. LSPs not using MT will put themselves out of business? Prediction: yes in four/five years
CNGL says 25% of translators/linguists use MT. I wonder how many use it but say they don't use it due to (negative) perception (with peers)?
Waiting for translation technology equivalent of iPhone: something that transforms what we do in ways we can't yet imagine.
Tweets from Jason Rickhard’s presentation on Collaborative Translation (i.e. Crowdsourcing) and IT go Social.
@TheRosettaFound Jason of Symantec giving the enterprise perspective, added 15-20 languages to small but popular product, built tech to support this. Not just linguistic but also legal, organizational issues to be resolved in collaborative, paid-for product.
Is collaborative translation bad & not-timely?
#lrcconf Not so, a lot of translators = involved users of the content/product they translate.
Review process is different in collaborative translation. Done by voting, not by editors
The smaller the language gets, the more motivated volunteer translators are and the better collaborative translation works.
Is volunteering something for people who don't have to worry that their day-to-day basics are covered?
Does collaborative translation and collaboration mean that content owners "give up the illusion of control" over their content?
Enterprises do collaborative translation for languages they would/could not cover otherwise - true, for both profit and non-profits
Collaborative/Community will not replace existing service providers but open up more content for more languages
Language Service Providers could play an important role in community translation by building, supporting, moderating communities
It's not correct to say Community Translation = bad; Professional Translation = good
Microsoft appoints moderators with a passion for the project/language for community localization
>1,200 users translated Symantec products into 35 languages
If >1,200 were needed to translate 2 small-ish products, how can millions of translators translating 1 ZB be 'managed'?
@ArleLommel Symantec research: Community involvement in support often leads to ~25% reduction in support spend
“Super users” are what make communities scalable. Key is to identify/cultivate them early in the process
Jason Rickard: Dell is a good example of using Facebook for support. One of few companies with real metrics and insight in this area.
Jason Rickard: Symantec has really cool/systemic/well-thought ways to support community
@TheRosettaFound 21st generation localisation is about the user, about user-generated content - Ellen Langer: Give up the Illusion of Control
@ArleLommel Illusion of control? You mean we can have even less control that we have now? That's a scary thought!
@TheRosettaFound The most dramatic shifts driven by the web happened because communities took over - Imagine: 100000s of user translators translating billions of words into 100s of languages - control that!
Seems the deep and complex problems of localisation are a minute drop in the ocean of digital content management
@CNGL Discovery, analysis, transformation - Alex O'Connor tells how CNGL is addressing the grand challenges of digital content management
@TheRosettaFound Is the L10N industry due for a wave of destruction or positive transformation?
@ArleLommel Yes, Most of the mainstream technologies for translators are non-ergonomic and still in 20-year-old paradigms
Tweets from Tony Allen, Product Manager Intel Localisation Solutions presentation
@TheRosettaFound 30+ langs >200k pages >40% localised @ Intel's web presence. Intel: important to have user-driven content, interaction with the customer. Integration important, e.g. multilingual support chat. Integration, Interoperability key issues for Intel L10N. To figure out how content flows, without loss of metadata, interoperates with internal/external range of systems, is crucial.
2.5b netizens, >15b connected devices >1 zetabyte of traffic by 2015 and companies will interact with their customers using social media - type setups; new challenges for localization.
#intel says that interoperability standards are required for cloud to meet future demands. L10n must evolve to meet this need too.
@ArleLommel Alison Toon (#hp) puts it this way: “localization (people) are the garbage collectors of the documentation world”
@TheRosettaFound 600GB of data in Oracle's Translation Platform - We need concise well-structured content - then we're going to be able to deliver efficient translation services - How to get it right: analyze content, identify problems and throw it back into the face of writers and developers. I18N and l10n have to get into the core curriculum at Universities says Paul Leahy (of Oracle), since we spend too much time teaching it.
Tweets from Sajan / Asia Online MT presentation
@TheRosettaFound MT cannot perform magic on bad source text - user-generated non-native-speaker content is often 'bad'
MT errors make me laugh... but human errors make me cry - an old quote from previously recycled presentations... Asia Online
Dirty Data SMT - what kind of translations would you expect? If there are no humans involved you are training on dirty data, says Asia Online. Sajan achieved 60% reduction in costs and 77% time savings for specific project - a miracle? Probably no, let’s see.
Millions of words faster, cheaper, better translated by Sajan using Asia Online - is this phenomenal success transferable? How?
XLIFF contributed to the success of Sajan/Asia Online's MT project. Asia Online's process rejected 26% of TM training data.
Tweets from Martin Orsted, Microsoft presentation
@TheRosettaFound Cloud will lead to improved cycle times and scalability: 100+ languages, millions of words
Extraordinary scale: 106 languages for the next version of Office. Need a process that scales up & down in proportion.
Microsoft: We have fewer people than ever and we are doing more and more languages than ever
Martin: "The Language Game - Make it fun to review Office"... here is a challenge :) Great idea to involve community via game
How can a "Game" approach be used for translation? Levels of experience, quality, domains, complexity; rewards?
No more 'stop & go', just let it flow @robvandenburg >>Continuous publishing requires continuous translation. New workflows
Tweets from Derek Coffey, Welocalize presentation Are we the FedEx or the WallMart of words?
@TheRosettaFound TMS of SDL = burning stacks of cash - Reality: we support your XLIFF, but not your implementation
Lack of collaboration, workflow integration, content integration = most important bottle necks. Welocalize, MemoQ, Kilgray and Ontram working on reference implementation - Derek: Make it compelling for translators to work for us
It's all about the translators and they will seek to maximise their earning potential according to Derek.
Tweets from Future Panel
@TheRosettaFound Many translators don't know what XML looks like
Rob: more collaborative, community translation - Rob: Users who consume content will have a large input into the translation BINGO
Tony: users will drive localisation decision, translation live
Derek: future is in cooking xxx? Open up a whole new market - user generated, currently untranslatable content. HUGE market
Derek: need to re-invent our industry, with focus on supply chain
The end of the big projects - how are we going to make money (question from audience)
From service/product to community - the radical change for enterprises, according to Fred
No spark, big bang, revolution - but continuous change, Derek
Big Spark (Dion): English will no longer remain the almost exclusive source language
The Translation Forum Russia twitter trail has a much more translator oriented focus and is also bilingual. Here are some highlights below, again with minor edits to improve readability.
@antonkunin Listened to an information-packed keynote by
Doug_Lawrence at @ #tfru this morning. As rates keep falling, translators' income keeps rising.
@ilbarbaro Talking about "the art of interpreting and translation" in the last quarter of 2011 is definitely outdated
Language and "quality" are important for translators, speed and competence for (final) clients. Really?
Translators are the weakest link in the translation process
Bert: here and now translation more important than perfect translation
Bert on fan subbing as an unstoppable new trend in translation
Is Bert anticipating my conclusions? Noah's ark was made and run by amateurs, RMS Titanic by professionals
Carlos Incharraulde: terminology is pivotal in translators training < Primarily as a knowledge transfer tool
To renatobeninatto at who said: Translation companies can do without process standards < I don't agree
Evaluating translation is like evaluating haircuts - it's better to be good on time than perfect too late
Few translation companies do like airlines: 1st class/ Economy/ Discount rates – Esselink
Traditional translation models only deal w/ tip of iceberg. New models required for other 90%. Esselink
Good enough revolution. Good enough translation for Wikileaks, for example. Bert Esselink
In 2007 English Russian was $0.22 per word, in 2010 it dropped to $0.16
There's much talk on innovation but not much action - don't expect SDL and Lionbridge to be innovative
@ilbarbaro problem-solving is the most important feature translator should acquire - Don't teach translators technology, teach them to solve problems - language is a technology, we need to learn how to use it like technology - 85% of translators are still women
This is of course my biased extraction from the stream, but the original Twitter trail will be there for a few more weeks and you can check it out yourself. It is clear to me from seeing the comments above, that at the enterprise level, MT and Community initiatives will continue to gather momentum. Translation volumes will continue to rise and production processes will have to change to adapt to this. Also, I believe, there are translators who are seeking ways to add value in this changing world and I hope that they will provide the example that leads the way in this changing flux.
And for a completely different view of "the future" check this out.
And for a completely different view of "the future" check this out.