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Worldware Conference Summary – Not as Good as Being There

In March I attended and presented at the first Worldware Conference, which took place in Santa Clara, California in the heart of Silicon Valley. I became really excited about this conference as it proved to be the first to directly target business issues around software internationalization and globalization. Too often in other conferences, the focus is very low level on technical issues, while missing greater business planning and operational issues that affect every organization that looks to build and maintain world-ready products. In fact, that issue had been a long running annoyance for me when attending conferences like Unicode and LocalizationWorld. So I was eager to get involved in Worldware and sat on its board as well.

The conference had outstanding material, and featured various business leaders from well known world software brands. The downside was that the conference was not particularly well attended. There were probably a total of about 70 people there, including speakers, but at least we all got to know one another. Presentations featured executives from companies like EMC, Microsoft, Linden Labs, Oracle, Mozilla, Sun, Adobe, Yahoo!, Intel, various industry consultants and of course me.

Here’s a few items from my notes and memory, in little particular order:

  • Don Depalma, of CommonSense Advisory, had some excellent data showing return on investment and overwhelming customer preference for software which was internationalized with locale sensitive language and formatting support. His numbers were of the Holy Grail that managers have been asking for. A big point was that even when end-users are perfectly capable of reading, writing and speaking English, they vastly preferred software in their own language to the point where they made choices and spent more in line with that preference. Don had data broken down even per country. I can’t wait to poach some of these slides.
  • Common points were that i18n is an enabler for localization and ultimately revenues. A way to waste a ton of money is to pursue localization before you’ve properly internationalized.
  • Organizations like Mozilla and Linden Labs are making great use of crowdsourcing to enable new features and localization. So if you have a product which has an emotional type of rabid following, crowdsourcing is a relatively new form of getting help, though it needs its own adaptation for management.
  • Some companies, like EMC, must simultaneously ship for all top tier locales when releasing new products. So globalization isn’t an afterthought.
  • Executives don’t understand internationalization but understand the cascading effect.
  • Invest in internationalization expertise. Too expensive to “wing” it.
  • Empower product teams
  • Create i18n boot camp training
  • Some companies demonstrated that they have built whole organizational frameworks to support internationalization. Particularly Intel and Yahoo! presented how they are using technologies for automatically auditing global readiness. Happy to say Globalyzer got many accolades.
  • There was a lively Agile (extremely popular development methodology) discussion as it relates to internationalization. This is because if i18n is built into the product development from the start Agile works great. When there are Agile cycles and i18n on existing code going on simultaneously, both efforts are very unlikely to synchronize well. Lots of reasons for this, which would probably make a great future article for this newsletter. This issue came up multiple times and Tony Jewteshenko gave a whole presentation session on it (but I wasn’t able to attend that one).
  • It’s extremely difficult to take back a language after you release for a particular market. So consider that request for your software in Klingon carefully.
  • How you communicate around the world will empower your organization.
  • Brand recognition
  • Market Share
  • ROI
  • I presented along with Daniel Goldschmidt on how to get an i18n effort going
  • Technical buyer, vs. Management objectives
  • Need to get a good plan for budget approval first, design second
  • Showed Globalyzer 3.0 and scanned some open source code
  • Demonstrated a project plan
  • Daniel broke down i18n projects into a 3 phase approach
  • Transportation – moving data from A to B
  • Application – doing something with the data (e.g. sorting)
  • User Interfaces
  • Then we both talked about keeping software world-ready and answered questions
  • Kamal Monsour of Monotype Imaging gave a most informative presentation showing intricacies of digital fonts in languages like Arabic and Hindi.
  • I was on a panel along with Ed Watts of Oracle and Mike McKenna from Yahoo! on Assessing and Quantifying efforts. Ed emphasized the role of pseudo-localization. Mike was his usual incredible reservoir of information and experiences both organizationally and on the technical side in supporting i18n. I talked about how we essentially have had to learn to estimate and execute internationalization projects and still make a profit, and that’s why we’ve created tools and methodologies to do so.
  • Aaron Marcus of Aaron Marcus and Associates gave a presentation on cross cultural user-experience design showing many cultural differences, certain scales by which cultures accept power hierarchies and how that shows up in site design.
  • Mike McKenna showed a fabulous presentation on trends in internationalizing which featured several i18n initiatives at Yahoo! As a bonus, I got a Fight Mojibake sticker (ghost characters), which is now on my notebook. In particular, they work to get people enthusiastic and understanding that they are creating products for the world. He also talked about how his team supports i18n with tools like Globalyzer. Thanks Mike.
  • Barbara Burbach of Cisco talked about staffing models, including outsourcing for i18n and l10n. She felt i18n outsourcing for an existing product was a good idea, as it keeps the core development team focused on new features. For new products being internationalized from the beginning, she preferred in house engineering.
  • Tex Texin (i18n Guy) discussed how he has worked with various teams to promote internationalization, and how decisions were often affected. He also gave Globalyzer a nice recommendation. Tex was formerly in charge of internationalization at Yahoo! and NetApp, both of which are Lingoport customers. Thanks Tex.

I’ve missed a ton in this quick summary, as I haven’t managed to master being in two places at once and couldn’t have attended all the sessions.

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