Less than 60 days until VizThink Europe…

DSC08788When I started at VizThink back in May, October seemed a long, long ways off. Now we’re under 60 days to go until the VizThink Europe conference and things are really starting to get busy.

Over the past couple of months Tom, VizThink’s CEO, has been posting a steady stream of facilitator, sponsor & programming announcements. As the weeks go by it’s shaping up more and more as a great lineup of people. Even if you were at the conference in San Francisco it’s worth taking a look at Berlin as, with only a few exceptions, the lineup of facilitators is entirely new. It is, for all intents and purposes, an entirely different conference.

I’m personally excited to meet (or reconnect with) many of the folks on the list already & especially excited about the Lego Serious Play based session with Per Kristiansen (watch VizThink podcast with Per here) – I have a feeling it’ll be one of the most popular sessions at the conference. If you want to see the full list of facilitators you can find it here.

DSC08637I’m also really looking forward to getting back to Berlin again – I was there last year (photos) for Localization World and I’m keen to explore the city a little more while I’m there. It’s a great city for a conference and there’s tonnes to do and see in the off hours as well (if you come definitely plan on staying a couple of extra days to see the city).

If you want to get some idea of content to expect conference I would suggest starting with our growing library of VizThink podcasts & webinars available on the VizThink blog – A lot of the podcasts are with facilitators who have already been announced so you should get some great insights into the types of topics or ideas you can expect to be covered.

If you have any other questions all of the information for the conference can be found at http://vizthink.com/vizthinkeurope08 and of course I’m around to answer them as well.

You can reach me through:

  • the comments here
  • my email (rcoleman (at) vizthink.com)
  • twitter: Me or the VizThink Account
  • skype: “ryancoleman”

I hope to see you in Berlin!


Walk Save €50 off the conference! Here’s a deal – drop me an email at rcoleman (at) vizthink.com and I’ll send you back a discount code for €50 off the conference that is good through August 31.

Of Standards and Methodologies: Defining best practices for the LSP

Back at Localization World Berlin I sat in on a session at during GALA‘s pre-conference day. The conversation, somewhat to the surprise of myself and some other product vendors in the room, wasn’t about technical standards but rather about trying to establish standards for LSP’s. These standards were in the context of operating procedures (tasks, process etc.) and at times got down to specific metrics or formats (quality measurement, fuzzy matches, etc.)

“Standard” is a funny word. To techies it often creates a sense of relief (if it’s actually been adopted) but to business operators like LSPs it can create a real sense of panic. During the meeting I noticed more than a couple people who clearly heard the word standard, had it used in the context of defining how they run their business and it was all they could do not to run screaming from the room.

At first I thought I was just going to end up zoning out for the two hours as the topic only had tangential interest for me but a few minutes in the conversation the discussion seemed to be stalling/circling a bit and, well, I’m the kind of guy who likes to jump into discussions with both feet just for the hell of it – so I chimed in.

My Concerns
My big concerns out of the gate were twofold:

  1. No specific focus
    The conversation was jumping from the 100,000 foot “Let’s examine and define our processes” right down to the 10 foot “how do we standardize fuzzy matches?” debate. To be successful the end result/goal needs to be clearly defined and those pushing it forward need to buy in. The reality is there are no wrong answers here but there needs to be one answer.
  2. The word “Standard”
    As I mentioned above the word Standard can freak people out. In this case I’m also not so sure it applied to the highest level view of what the group appears to be trying to accomplish. Subconsciously it probably sounds a lot better to say you’re working on establishing a “standard” rather than creating a “methodology” but there’s a lot of baggage that goes along with the word.

At some point in the discussion I suggested that perhaps “Standard” wasn’t the right word and perhaps “Methodology” or “Best Practices” were more appropriate. Initially I got the sentiment that folks were happy lumping them together under the same umbrella but eventually even Don DePalma suggested we get a jar and every time someone said the word standard they’d have to throw a Euro in it .

Lumping them together didn’t sit well with me at the meeting but I rolled with it. Upon reflection I think it actually does the process a disservice. While Standard, Best Practices and Methodologies all fall into the same, very broad group, I think they each speak to very different levels of definition.

Hierarchy of Business Practices
I’d like to step back for a second and layout how I view all of the different levels that come into play when trying to define a business model or process. Starting from the highest level, 100,000ft strategic view right down to the 10ft tactical level.

While the notions of Best Practices, Methodologies and Processes are separated by fairly fuzzy lines I thing there is still a sense of hierarchy between them:

BestPractices2

  • Best Practices:
    These establish the baseline expectation anyone should have of a Language Service Provider. They state what an LSP (or internal language department) should and should not perform as part of their business process. For example, best practices may dictate that an LSP has a Quality Assurance Methodology but not necessarily detail what steps that involves.
  • Methodologies:
    A Methodology covers a group of processes that an LSP will utilize to achieve a specific goal. A Methodology will detail what processes should be under taken to ensure they are putting out the highest quality translation. For example, the QA Methodology may dictate that each document must be peer reviewed and a client in-country review should take place. Again, in this case it won’t necessarily dictate what exact steps must be taken by each resource, just that they need to be involved and follow the prescribed review process.
  • Process:
    These are the isolated processes that combine to make a methodology. Processes will generally reference a specific cluster of tasks related to a specific competency. i.e. “Project Intake”, “File Preparation”, “Translation”, “File Review”, etc.
  • Tasks/Standards:
    Finally at the very base we have tasks and standards. These are essentially the building blocks of the entire system. These are the individual steps that a person must perform or a standard that elements of the project must conform to. Standards could be technical (XLIFF, TMX) or material (Standard for defining fuzzy matches).

It’s also important to note that components such as methodologies, processes and tasks/standards do not have to have exclusive relationships with the adjacent tiers. A Quality Assurance process may be reused in a variety of methodologies within an organization. And at the lowest-level standards and tasks will likely be reused numerous times across a business.

So Where to Start?

The toughest challenge is always, “Where to start?” – and this is where I think the conversation largely got stalled in Berlin. We were flipping back and forth between notions of Best Practices/ Methodologies & tasks/standards. Again, neither answer is wrong, but you need to pick one and roll with it.

At the end of the day, regardless of what level you start at the outcome has to approachable, attainable and agreeable (AAA) to the people who you want to have adopt it, in this case the LSPs.

If you start at the bottom then it’s important to pick a narrow, defined niche and explicitly define the task or standard. If it meets the AAA measure you should have no trouble getting organizations to adopt it, especially if it’s merely defining something they already do. People love to be able to say they comply with something.

My personal approach though would be to start at the very top. Define the broad best practices – by doing this you create the buckets that you will need to back fill with methodologies. Processes, tasks and standards. As an industry body GALA can, over time, begin to roll out sanctioned methodologies & standards but by defining a broad best practice it gives everyone a chance to contribute.

If GALA were to bring to market the “GALA Best Practices for Translation Service Providers” they could outline the methodologies and processes that a client should expect their translation provider to have adopted. These best practices should outline that the translator has a clear and stated policy with respect to fuzzy matches, a methodology for identifying and assigning ‘best fit’ resources to projects, a clear and stated policy on translation memory ownership, a defined Quality Assurance process, and so on.

By identifying these best practices GALA would have created a plan from which to build out all of the necessary methodologies, processes, standards & tasks. And best of all, as organizations begin to adopt these best practices they will in turn start to creat
e their own methodologies etc., as those get shared back into the community they can help shape and define the GALA standard. Additionally, a Bet Practices standard gives member companies something they can achieve without (potentially) having to radically alter how they do business – which makes it far more approachable.

These are just my thoughts on the issue – I hope the conversation continues as it is really worth having and I think, over time, could contribute greatly to the business of all GALA members.

A week in Berlin – Part Four

6:00

  • Alarm on the phone goes off – somehow it sounds 100x louder than it did yesterday

7:15

  • Knock on the door. This is getting to be a bad habit.
  • Robinson: “Meet me downstairs” Me: “uh, no. I’ll see you at the conference hall”
  • Seems I borrowed some of today’s fun for last night. This isn’t going to be a fun day.

7:45

  • Groggy and showered I step out into Alexanderplatz looking for the one breakfast I know my body will appreciate when feeling like this.

7:50

  • Huh? The McDonald’s in the train station doesn’t serve breakfast.
  • Lady behind the counter gives me directions to the other McD’s. In German.

8:00

  • Visualizing her hand signals I’m now heading away from the conference – hoping the McD’s is close (and I understood her gestures).

8:05

  • Success! Thank god for big signs. I can see the restaurant way down the block.

8:10

  • Walk-in, don’t even look at the menu – “Sausage & Egg McMuffin”
  • “Sorry, we don’t have it”
  • ????? this is getting worse…
  • “We have bacon”
  • Sure. (I think)

8:15

  • Kitchen is slow but I’ve got my food and decide to eat on the run.

8:20

  • Oops. Got myself turned around and went the wrong way. Again.
  • Decide to crack open breakfast. Bacon on top of scrambled eggs with bun on the side.

8:22

  • This is really bad.

8:23

  • Found a garbage can. Hope the conference has good food this AM.

8:30DSC08533

  • Made it just in time for Jaap’s interview of SDL’s CEO, Mark Lancaster.
  • (Common Sense Advisory did a great write up here)

9:30

  • Lancaster interview over. Some interesting topics covered (and not covered)
  • Time for booth duty :/

9:30 – 12:30

  • Neither Robinson or I have even had time to catch our breath. One person after another is in the booth. A couple of BIG conversations have us stoked – crossed off a couple of big goals for the show.

12:30

  • Lunch. I’m starving
  • Find a seat with Richard Sikes and later joined by Bob from McElroy.
  • Bob’s a great guy and enjoying his insights on the industry as he also comes from a software background

13:00

  • Relieving Robinson – my turn in the booth.
  • These lights (booth lights) are killing me.
  • One of them has the most subtle of flickers but today it’s having the same effect on me as a strobe light on a ship in rough waters.

14:00

  • Show is starting to slow a bit. Lots of people with luggage milling about and the exodus is clearly starting.
  • Stephen & Amy from GALA just came around – trying to get the prize drawing sorted out. Stephen is concerned about it dragging as there are 20+ companies giving something away this time.

15:30

  • Robinson’s other half, Sheena, should have arrived by now – he’s ducked back to the hotel to check and I’m packing up the booth.
  • Rented booths are great. “Packing” consists of throwing all our brochures back in the suitcase which we’ve perfected packing to within a few grams of the airline’s weight limit.
  • Technically the floor is still open so I leave a few brochures out but this puppy is unofficially over.

16:00

  • DSC08536Up in the hall for the closing session.
  • Missed the topic description but it seems to be about highs and lows of owning an LSP.

16:15

  • Arturo (Moravia) and Hans (Architext/Translations.com) are cracking me up – both seem like fun guys.

16:45

  • Session over – let the drawings begin!

17:00DSC08538

  • Some interesting prizes coming through:
  • A Marionette
  • An Authentic Italian Leather Bag (Made in Poland)
  • Wooden carving of a bird – should be fun to try and pack that. (Our partner Joe from Translated.net won that)
  • Another leather bag
  • Only two iPods – clearly the fad is dying…

17:30DSC08537

  • Drawings done, conference done.
  • Saddest part of coming out of the last session is walking back into the show floor – by the time we get out the exhibition floor is mostly torn down, in a matter of hours you’ll never even know any of us were there.

18:00

  • Back at hotel – agree to meet up at 18:30 for dinner w/Robinson & Sheena – the third wheel portion of my trip is about to begin.

18:20

  • Sitting in the middle of Alexanderplatz with my laptop, hoping to scam some free wifi.
  • No dice – but I do find a cheaper hotspot.
  • Call home via Skype & my trusty USB phone (getting some funny looks form people as I talk into my mouse)

18:45

  • Meet up with Robinson and a very tired Sheena
  • We head off in the same direction as the Thai place the other night – there was an Indian place that looked good and I want to try it out.

19:30

  • Finally get to the Indian place. Sticking to water tonight.

19:45

  • Finally get our food – appetizers are great. Main courses have no spice to them at all.
  • Food is good but we could have done with some kick, dishes are bordering on sweet!
  • All of us are fighting to stay awake – might be an early night.

20:45DSC08551

  • Starting the walk back – trying to figure out what the mom & child signs mean…

21:00

  • Hackesher Markt is a great district to walk through. Lots of life & restaurants. There’s a beautiful train station here as well but if it weren’t for the trains you’d never know it was there.
  • Each of the restaurants are built underneath the station itself so it just looks like a façade for the line of restaurants.

21:30

  • After dawdling back we’re at the hotel and calling it a night.
  • Cleaning up my photos for the day and trying to upload them to Flickr. This net connection sucks.

22:00

  • Watch some TV on my laptop (Always travel with a few shows downloaded to it) – don’t even get through one.
  • Zzzz….

All of my photos from Day Four

A week in Berlin – Part Two

Day Two: Localization World Pre-Conference

7:15

  • Woken up by banging on the door once again. I should probably get a travel alarm clock that isn’t my business partner.
  • I set the wake-up call through the TV. Surprised that didn’t wake me up. Odd…

7:30

  • Too fast shower and I’m ready for the day.
  • T-mobile freebie plan seems to have expired – that sucks. Free wifi @ conference though :)
  • Burger King for Breakfast. Ugh.

9:30

  • At the TAUS Machine Translation session. Jaap’s giving his rundown on the state of the industry and the importance of improved automation & using technology to make the process smoother/faster/more efficient. He can’t bang that drum loud enough.

10:30

  • Break time: Great to catch up with a bunch of folks from previous conferences, much different from the “meet everyone” mode of Localization World Montreal.
  • Back in the session – learning basics on how to rate the quality of machine translation. We’re looking at our own content that we sent last week and the folks at Cross Language ran through machine translation.
  • Oops. They asked us for content in French or German but didn’t mention we’d need to read the language too for this exercise.
  • Seems everyone sent German but almost no one speaks it. Anyone who speaks German now being spread through the groups.
  • Translation on our stuff is pretty good. Surprisingly the system even nailed a huge paragraph all in one chunk. No funny machine translations to share though :(

12:00

  • Lunch! My system doesn’t know what time zone it’s on yet so I’m not all that hungry but planning to meet the crew from VistaTEC (one of our partners) for lunch.

12:15
DSC08586

  • Grabbing lunch at the little café in the hotel. We’ve finally figured out how the menu works (it’s in three languages all mixed together)

12:40

  • Ham, Pineapple and Cheese sandwich. Yum. Food experience already better than it was in Boston.

13:25

  • Headed to the Standards session – description is a little vague but should be interesting nonetheless.

13:30

  • Uh-oh. This wasn’t tech standards, discussion is on establishing a “standard” for how LSPs should run their business. This could be a long couple of hours.
  • Hmm – this is getting talked about at a 100,000 feet view and at a two foot view at the same time. No real focus or goal here. Hans: “Discussion is circling the drain”. Yup.
  • [Name Withheld] is asleep. Not a good sign.

14:30

  • A few of us are now throwing ideas out trying to help the group define what exactly they’re aiming to create. We’re not actually LSPs so we can’t (shouldn’t ) take this by the horn – no one will bite though and run with any one idea.
  • Going to have to do a post on this. In a nutshell (I think) the challenge is they’re saying “standard” but intending “methodology”. Standards scare the bejebus out of people and unless it’s a tightly focused topic there will never be consensus.

15:30

  • Session over for now – it’s the right idea but I don’t think there’s any consensus on where it’s going.
  • [Different Name Withheld]: “Do you understand now why nothing ever gets done in this industry?”. No Comment?

15:30

  • Headed back to TAUS

15:35

  • Or not. Office phone system crashed and folks back at the office don’t know where the box is let alone how to fix it.

15:50

  • Unplug. Wait 30 seconds. Plug back in. — works for everything but humans it seems. Phones back up. SkypeOut test confirms it.
  • Thinking House should really try power cycling someone some time just to see if it works.

17:00

  • TAUS session over. Cross Language folks did a great job – sharp set of folks there.
  • Quick freshen up and meeting back up for drinks w/a couple of contacts.

17:30

  • No sign of our “over beers” meeting – lots going on though so probably just lost in the shuffle. Heading to Burger King for quick dinner.
  • Whopper (no cheese) Combo & a coke. Hopefully this is our rock bottom dining experience for the week. Burger King ban in full effect.

19:30

  • We’re at the localization world opening reception – party is crammed into the small lobby area seems no one has realized there’s a whole ballroom for us as well.

19:40

  • Done a whole lap. Can’t find the bar, yet everyone has drinks. WTF?

19:45

  • Ah-ha! Spotted a waiter with tray of beer – At this party the drinks come to us.
  • Drink in hand. Ready to Schmooze.

19:49-21:45

  • Lots of good conversation happening. (Only had to polish off my drink in quick fashion twice to escape some strange conversations.)
  • Thinking foreign language Karaoke would be an interesting ice breaker. Sing a song in a language you don’t speak.
  • Scratch that. Not sure who’d have to drink more – the singer or the spectators.
  • Got to say – in general the folks in this industry are a whole lot of fun. Sad I won’t be able to make it to LW Seattle.

22:00

  • Off for a second dinner with the folks from Language Weaver & Across – someone knows a restaurant a short distance away.

22:15
DSC08497

  • We’re through the sketchy “next to the railroad tracks” area and have come across a hopping square full of restaurants, patios & people. Apparently this isn’t what our host had in mind though. Still walking.

22:30

  • Can’t find the place we originally set out for but we’re now on a street that’s chock full of restaurants & bars.
  • Some bar is projecting Google Earth on the wall – neat.
  • Found a Indonesian/Thai kind of place that looks good.
  • Kirti just got the guy to agree to a free cocktail before we’ve even sat down. Nice.
  • They offer us a special group meal deal. 25 Euros each w/free cocktail. Kirti: “What if we don’t take the free cocktail?” Waiter: “20 Euros each”.
  • Wondering if maybe “free” has a different meaning here.

23:15DSC08495

  • Deep into the meal. Best food I’ve had in a while. Conversation is light and fun, both the Across and Language Weaver folks are a lot of fun to hang out with.
  • There’s so much great technology in general in this industry – don’t think we’ve even scratched the surface of what’s possible.

23:45

  • Heading back to the hotel. Energy only seems to be picking up on the street as we walk back. The “Friendly Ladies” are also out in full force now on the street.
  • DSC08496

  • With the exception of the railway line street the walk back looks like a fun area of Berlin – wonder what is was like during the wall era. Will have to makes ure to come back later in the week.

0:30

  • Bedtime.

All Photos from Day 2

< Part One | To Be Continued

A Hotel Made for Porn, Hastening Global Warming.

So here in Berlin we’re staying at the Park Inn hotel. It’s an interesting little hotel – a travel book one of my lunch companion’s had referred to its outside as “Remarkably Ugly” .

The inside, however, is an interesting, funky space – well except for the fact that the fact that it appears a former set designer for the adult industry conned his way into the interior design contract for their rooms.

First there’s the giant mirrored headboard:

DSC08489

Then we have the glass encased shower, essentially in the middle of the room:

DSC08483

Complete with rain-like shower head:

DSC08485

Strange side note: There’s no drain in the shower.

DSC08486

Apparently there are rooms elsewhere in the hotel (another lunch companion got one) that has a giant sunken tub in the middle of the room.

The Hidden Toilet
I’ll have to admit that I had forgotten that Europeans often put the toilet off in its own little room. So when I walked in the room and at first glance saw all the amenities, minus a toilet, I had a mini-“oh shit, is this some shared toilet hotel or something?” moment. It turns out it’s behind the frosted glass shower wall and you get at it through the door that looks just like a closet door.

Action, Camera, Lights!
Since you can’t make movies without lights they’ve made sure there’s plenty. This room comes equipped with a “Master” light switch just inside the door. Being environmentally minded I’ve been diligently turning it off as I leave the room. But, I came back in today to discover that as I flipped it back on the housekeepers had kindly turned back on EVERY SINGLE FIXTURE in the room. Seriously, it was like that moment in any alien-oriented movie when the door of their ship first opens.

It takes no less than eight light switches (Yes, I count these things) to turn off all the fixtures in this room and I barely need one light at a time depending on what I’m doing.

Wonder if they’d pay attention to a note?

“Please don’t turn on all the lights as I’ll just have to spend two minutes going through the room and turning them all back off when I return. Thx.”

I’d happily trade one or two light fixtures and use their power savings towards a free wifi connection folks!