Technical communicators have influenced the localization industry for many years. The tools they adopt and the processes they follow impact what we do for localization. For instance, in the 90s they adopted RoboHelp and FrameMaker for online help and manuals. Then in the early 2000s some migrated to FrameMaker and Webworks Publisher in an attempt to use only a single-source. Recently they transitioned over to using FrameMaker, Flare, X-Metal and AuthorIT in structured XML authoring mode. The localization industry has had to pay attention to their moves and adopt the tools and processes they adopted to deliver files in all the languages and formats they required.
So this is why we sought an opportunity to meet them, see things from their perspectives and participate in this year’s STC conference in Philadelphia on June 1st to the 4th. To experience this fully and make good use of our time, we decided to participate in speaking and exhibiting as well. It was GlobalVision’s first STC conference.
The best way to get to know a large group well is through a survey and interviews, and so we set out to poll 50 or more technical communicators about their latest technology trends. We ended up talking with 72 attendees. We kept the focus of our survey and discussion on more generic technologies because we wanted to keep our analysis unbiased and did not want to promote specific tools or products.
One of the questions we asked was: “Please rank the significance of these topics in technical authoring: Web 2.0 Technologies, Online Collaboration, Crowdsourcing, Wikis, Single-Sourcing, Controlled English and Terminology Management. If not familiar with the topic please mark N/A.” Below are the results from our 72 respondents:
Single-Sourcing had the highest score; 68% ranked it high or very high with 42% as very high and no one raked it as nil! We can relate to this view since more and more projects we’ve been processing lately are implemented in structured XML outputted to help, web and docs. So this was not a surprise to us and confirmed the ongoing trend in the industry.
A bit of a surprise was the high ranking of Terminology Management; 67% ranked it high or very high. Our experience has been that most technical communicators don’t have time to invest in managing their terminology. At GlobalVision, we have advocated the importance of terminology over the years and invested significant resources and energy into gvTerm, our terminology management portal. We’d love to see the sentiment present in the survey materialize into action and see more technical communicators take a proactive approach to DVD (Discover, Validate and Deploy) terminology. It is no secret that consistent and well defined terminology greatly simplifies and facilitates localization tasks.
It is also interesting to note that 50% of our surveyed audience marked crowdsourcing as not applicable. We relate this to the likelihood that the concept of crowdsourcing is foreign to many and when it was understood, it was deemed as not applicable to their activities, despite the enormous success that Wikipedia enjoys!
So what can we draw from this survey? Simply put, single-sourcing is regarded as a technology that can cut down on cost without a significant shift in process. Our hope is that the savings in time and cost will be invested in terminology management and quality source. As someone at the conference’s opening panel told the attendees: Think more, write less!
We also asked technical communicators to rank the significance of different technologies in localization. I will present you our findings in a following blog. Stay tuned!