Notes from Localization World Seattle

I was hoping to write an in-depth review of each session I attended at LocWorld but I’ve got a crazy few days ahead and am traveling to the Unicode Conference next week.

So here are some thoughts from my experience there:

  • LocWorld had a record turnout — more than 500 people — which is very impressive given the state of travel budgets at many companies. Some attribute the turnout to Microsoft, but I believe they only sent 40 or so folks. I tend to view the localization industry as a leading indicator of the economy, much like the advertising industry, so I’m reasonably optimistic about 2011. I talked with a half dozen people from companies that have ambitious web globalization plans for the next calendar year.
  • I really enjoyed the one-day International Search Summit that preceded LocWorld. Rebecca Berkick from¬†Xerox gave an excellent presentation on her company’s global expansion and improvements. Xerox supports 160 web sites across 20 languages — with Hebrew coming soon (their first right-to-left language). More important Xerox migrated from using .com as the base domain for all local sites to ccTLDs. So instead of Xerox.com/index/dede.html, users in Germany see Xerox.de. This may seem obvious but it was a big undertaking — and Xerox is already seeing the payoff after only a short time. The single most important thing a company can do to improve not only its local search engine results but its overall “localness” is to use ccTLDs.
  • More than one presenter commented on how Facebook has shifted their search engine marketing strategies from link building to Like building.
  • I sat in on the Facebook session in which internationalization director Ghassan Haddad shared insights on his company’s translation crowdsourcing effort. Facebook leveraged its half-million volunteer translators to go from 2 languages to 75 in two years and he provided data to show a direct correlation between the launch of a language and a massive growth spurt in users who speak that language. His presentation was probably the most compelling argument I’ve seen in a long while for why language matters.
  • The “crowd” translated Facebook’s 200,000 UI words quite rapidly for a number of languages — just two days for French. But Facebook won’t wait until every last string has been translated before it pushes the site live — speed is more important than perfection. But despite the massive number of volunteers that have helped Facebook, Ghassan stressed that companies can have a successful crowdsourcing strategy with significantly fewer translators. And I’d agree ¬†— 10% of your volunteers will do 90% of the work. The question I would ask before proceeding is not how to build a crowdsourcing platform but is your content translation worthy? Also keep in mind that volunteer translators on Facebook are “known” — that is, there is no such thing as anonymous translation; this greatly reduces the risk of nefarious behavior.
  • The globalization of social networking was a hot topic. Many of the translation agencies (I mean, language service providers) wanted to know how to make use of Twitter, Facebook, etc. to promote their businesses. But I wondered aloud in my session if agencies are prepared for a future in which more and more content is not translated but is created locally. Translation agencies can and will play a role in this future environment, provided they realize there are many opportunities outside of translation.
  • Machine translation was also a hot topic, though it’s not something most companies feel they can act on easily. I see the large tech and tech-savvy companies embracing MT — and challenging their vendors to do the same. But mid-sized companies are just not there yet. Smaller companies are going to be the most interesting to watch, since they’re more open to any free MT or crowdsourced solution that works for their customers.

Next week, I’ll try to post some notes from the Unicode Conference — where I’ll be speaking on The Art of the Global Gateway.

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Author: John Yunker

John co-founded Byte Level Research in 2000 and is author of The Web Globalization Report Card. He also co-founder of Ashland Creek Press.

3 thoughts on “Notes from Localization World Seattle”

  1. Great post, the only thing I would point out regarding Facebook’s use of crowdsourcing is that it is not easy and not inexpensive to use crowdsourcing. Although, FB largely used their “crowd” to translate the content they did employ LSP’s to assist in the undertaking.

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