Jessica Roland

Gengo Pulse on Globalization: A LocWorld and TAUS Founder Interview

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Localization World and Translation Automation User Society (TAUS) events are core venues for globalization professionals to share ideas, exchange stories and unveil new tools and services. Respective founders Ulrich Henes and Jaap van der Meer have been at the cutting edge of the translation and localization industries for decades, watching (and themselves changing) the field at large. We’re glad to have them on our blog to talk LocWorld, TAUS and the wider world of all things globalization.

Welcome, Ulrich and Jaap! Could you tell us when you first met and how you’ve intersected over the years?

Ulrich: As I recall, our first in-person meeting was at a Software Publishers Association (SPA) conference in San Francisco in the late eighties. The Localization Industry Standards Association (LISA, now defunct) had a panel that included Jaap, representing his company, INK. I was new at AlphaCRC, seeking visibility by asking the panel lots of questions. We got to know each other there, and then we actually started collaborating on the Dublin Localization Summits in 1999. Jaap came to the first LocWorld in Seattle in 2003 to lead an MT workshop. That evolved into him running the program management for Localization World for 3 or 4 years, while I managed the business side with Donna Parrish of MultiLingual Computing. Then Jaap started TAUS and decided to focus just on that, and Donna and I took over the LocWorld program, with help from Daniel Goldschmidt.

Jaap: In the years since TAUS was founded, I’ve had many opportunities to collaborate with Ulrich; for example, on joint TAUS and Localization Institute quality models and training. And then of course, we have a well-established pattern of co-located and contiguous TAUS and Localization World events. It has been good working together.

Ulrich: Yes, it has been great working with Jaap. We both share a strong belief in service to the localization industry, and we are going to be working even more closely together in 2014! Starting in Dublin in June, every Localization World will have a TAUS track within it, in addition to the actual separate TAUS events that will continue to run back to back with LocWorld. You heard it here first!

Those working in translation and localization often talk about LocWorld as the big marketplace for buyers and sellers to meet, versus TAUS events being more intimate discussion and debate forums. Is that your intent?

Jaap: LocWorld is the industry’s biggest event, and is indeed the “meeting place” for the industry. TAUS grew out of my having run a lot of sessions at academic conferences in the late ’80s to early ’90s. Doing that, I became intrigued with going beyond the scientific side of translation to explore how translation affects business. TAUS was formed to help businesses foster globalization technology innovation, measure results, benchmark deliverables. It eventually grew to include the concept of sharing translation data. These are all themes of TAUS events.

Ulrich: Donna and I both see Localization World as a community center for the industry: a safe, transparent, functional industry forum for conducting business, where it’s clear what’s commercial versus not. In 2014, starting with Dublin, we’re embracing the community concept even further, adding a job fair with a professional development track and a consultants’ roundtable.

Both the LocWorld and TAUS conferences have had excellent keynote speakers over the years. Which one or two of those speakers are most memorable to you in terms of disruptive innovation, and why?

Ulrich: For disruptiveness, I would pick Wired’s Jeff Howe speaking at LocWorld in 2007 on crowdsourcing in translation, when he was working on his first book. He had not thought previously about connecting the crowd to translation, but our conference pulled the pieces together, and it was disruptive because crowd translation was not a concept people were familiar with at that time. And look what has happened! Or Adam Greenfield at LocWorld Berlin 2010, talking about “The Dawning Age of Ubiquitous Computing”. Or Wired’s Chris Anderson talking about “free” translation as the industry future. These three speakers definitely foreshadowed important disruptions to the industry.

Jaap: I wouldn’t put this in the “disruptive” category, but another one that I found very enjoyable was Robert Lane Greene (of The Economist) at this year’s LocWorld in Santa Clara. I liked his fresh approach to language analysis, although I don’t think English will become our lingua franca. TAUS believes the world will trend toward linguistic diversity. Then at TAUS, we just had Genevieve Bell, Intel’s “resident anthropologist” talking about how context and language are influencing the future of computing— fascinating.


How would you characterize the major phases of disruptive innovation you’ve seen over the years? What defines it as disruptive for you?

Jaap: In TAUS, we talk about three phases of industry evolution: globalization, integration, convergence. Translation memory, workflow and centralized language assets are all examples of tools that were created to facilitate product and website globalization. Then, companies started connecting these globalization tools into other kinds of systems such as content management systems and authoring tools. But now we are coming to the age of convergence, where translation is everywhere, like a utility. It’s a huge change, and we have many options to choose from. Only 10,000 or so organizations control the $20B translation market at the moment, but there are a billion global internet users who regularly click on a button for free, real-time translation. This is part of convergence, and will accelerate with wearables like Google Glass and NTT Docomo’s instant translation glasses. The translation industry is trying to close ranks around these changes, but a lot is being driven from outside the industry.

Ulrich: I really enjoy working with Jaap as a visionary! My focus is more on facilitating communication within the industry, but I would agree on Jaap’s comments— this is the way we’re headed.

At Gengo, we talk about the various choices for translation approaches as being a “buffet” from which customers can mix and match according to content need. As we start seeing translation crowdsourcing as a service working its way into the buffet, what do you think the criteria are for using it successfully alongside the other choices?

Jaap: A “buffet” suggests a broad range of options. The old way of doing translation, as one quality fits all, in one direction, is gone. The new way is to profile our content, segmenting it according to utility, timeliness, sentiment, audience, purpose, etc. We started the TAUS Dynamic Quality Framework precisely because quality goals are no longer static. Higher quality is needed for some projects, and less so for others. If we work together on criteria for profiling and create shareable industry intelligence and a clear reference for buyers and sellers, the market will be less chaotic.

Ulrich: We heard during the early roundtables a common lament about no tools, or only proprietary tools; now we have a plethora of tools, many interoperable. Clay Tablet is an example of advancing interoperability in industry. In five years, all the interaction and cross-inspiration will have changed the industry landscape.

How can globalization buyers and sellers encourage disruptive innovation in the future? How do you see disruptive innovation fitting in with “translation everywhere” in the years to come?

Jaap: This is the very topic of a current article on the TAUS site, It’s Time For A Big Idea: The Human Language Project. The European Parliament has issued invitations to present on various challenges with multilingualism in Europe. There is new funding in 2014 and there is openness to doing something big! A few years ago, we could point to just one or two companies who were leading disruptive innovation. Today, disruptive innovation is viral thanks to the internet and improved search tools.

Ulrich: Disruptive development is a natural process. If we put out new ideas that successfully pass the  “cheaper, faster, better” criteria, they are likely to be adopted. Some will eventually be discarded. Some ideas will lead to others down the road. I see my role as creating events where these can be discussed, leading to industry implementation. Learning and discussing with industry colleagues is one of the best ways to foster your own company’s innovation!

Thank you so much, Ulrich and Jaap, for sharing your thoughts with us, and also for the inspiration and opportunities for collaboration you both provide to the industry!


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Jessica Roland
Jessica Roland
Jessica is Senior Director of Sales Development at Gengo. She comes from the client side of localization, with 15+ years of taking software products and websites global, for companies like EMC/Documentum, Yahoo! and Glassdoor. She loves working with industry colleagues to help influence the direction of globalization technology and practices, building toward a future where translation is everywhere!