Posted in Uncategorized

Adobe Day @Lavacon 2013 – Val Swisher Says It Starts With The Source

Ladds_1
Ladd’s Addition Rose Garden
Photo from http://www.rosegardenstore.org

Val Swisher was the next to last individual to speak at the Adobe Day at Lavacon 2013 event. For those who are regular readers of this blog, you know that my love for all things Val Swisher has no bounds. I’ve always been able to take her easy-to-digest information, and absorb it quickly into my brain, as well as relay her knowledge to others.  When I looked at Portland Gardens to compare her to, I chose Ladd’s Addition Rose Garden.  While it’s not as well-known (unlike Val, who is very well-known), this particular park, according to The Rose Garden Store,  was one of four rose gardens especially built from the Ladd estate, in which the design included these gardens coming together to form the points of a compass. I often think of Val as my compass, as she has never steered me wrong with her information or with the wisdom and fun that she’s shared with me one-on-one.

Val’s Adobe Day presentation centered on talking about source English terminology in a multi-channelled, global world, and how terminology affects structured authoring, translation and global mobile content. She started the talk by reminding us that historically, we’ve always created content, whether it’s been on cave walls, through stenography, through typewriters or eventually on word processors. In every instance, consistent terminology has been essential for structured authoring and content. Managing terminology is also essential for translation and for reuse.  She stated that prior attitudes used to be that the more complicated the writing was, the more “fancy” the product was. Today, that’s definitely not true.  She used the example that I’ve heard her use before, but it’s so simple itself that it’s a classic. Her example involves writing for a pet website. If multiple words meaning dog are used, there can be problem with reuse, because you can’t reuse content if you use different words.

Val_example_dog
Here’s the example Val showed.

Val pointed out that it would be an even worse situation if technological or medical terminology was used instead.

Val continued by saying that when it comes to  XML, reuse , and terminology, you cannot realize the gains of structured authoring if you’re not efficient with your words. Terminology is critically important to gain more opportunities.

ValSwisher
Val Swisher explaining how to approach content from a translation perspective.

Translation comes down to three elements– we’re trying to get better, cheaper, and faster translation output. We MUST use technology to push terminology and style/usage rules to content developers. In order to make it cheaper, we need fewer words, reused words, and reused sentences. It’s impossible for writers to know or even know to look up all term and usage rules. We MUST automate with technology. For example, “Hitting the button” is not translatable, but “Select OK” is fine!  She said, “Say the same thing the same way every time you say it.”

For better translation, translation quality needs to improve and meanings need to match in order for better machine translation to be a possibility. Bad translation comes from the source itself.  If the source information is problematic, then the translation will be problematic.  The best way to save money and time is to say the same thing, every time, using the same words, and use shorter sentences. For machine translation, don’t go over 24 words in a sentence.

Faster translation is seen as content that takes less time to translate, needs fewer in-country reviews, and gets to market more quickly. The key to delivering global mobile content is responsive design, global mobile apps, text selection is key, and terminology is the most important element. Val showed this example of how translation in responsive design isn’t working, where the Bosch websites are not exactly in synchronization:

The mobile website on the left looks nothing like the English language version on the right.
The mobile website on the left looks nothing like the English language version on the right.

The simpler the design is for the website–especially in mobile, the less you have to tweak it. This is especially true where consistent terminology is important, because consistency is needed for structured authoring. Creating truly faster, cheaper, and better translation enables a true global responsive design. This is not a simple task, as there is no such thing as simple, even when writing about complex concepts. Even if you think you’re not translating, your customers are, so the content needs to be very clear. The scary part of this is that some companies use Google Translate as their translation strategy, which is risky at best. To use something like Google Translate as the translation software, the content had better be tight, clear, and consistent.

One of the things I enjoy with Val Swisher’s presentations is that it all comes down to common sense, and she breaks it down into easy manageable parts for those of us–like me–who might not have thought about the context of language for structured authoring, and the consequences for not strategizing content to include translation considerations.

I highly recommend checking out Val’s blog for other great insights.

(As always, Val–if you’d like to add or correct anything here, please do in the comments below!)

Posted in Uncategorized

Everything’s Coming Up Roses! : Why I’ll be going to Adobe Day at Lavacon 2013

Ethel Merman can't wait to go to Adobe Day at Lavacon 2013--and she's been gone almost 30 years!
Ethel Merman can’t wait to go to Adobe Day at Lavacon 2013–and she’s been gone almost 30 years!

A little more than a month from this writing, Adobe will be hosting an Adobe Day event at the 2013 LavaCon Conference on Social Media and Content Strategies. It will feel a little sentimental for me, because I felt like I had come into my own when attending the same event last year. I remember my excitement at hearing all the speakers and learning so much information from them as a newly-minted technical communicator. All the information that I soaked in during last year’s Lavacon Adobe Day was put to good use, as I was able to use the information when speaking at interviews when I was job searching. I’m confident that the information I learned at the event helped me get the job I have right now.

Now, I’m excited that Adobe is bringing the event back to Lavacon this year.  I think I’m just as excited as last year, to be honest! Having now attended two Adobe Day events (the other being the one at the 2013 STC Summit), I know I’m in for a great time.

AdobeDayLavacon2013AdAdobe has adopted a theme around the location of the Lavacon Adobe Day, namely around Portland, Oregon’s nickname of “The City of Roses.”  I got to thinking about this, and it seems totally appropriate.  If you think about it, technical communicators are the gardeners and landscapers of content and technical communication. We need to sow and care for our documentation as if they are our gardens and plants.  I know that I grow with each event with my own knowledge, and that’s why I like attending them.

And how is it that we describe growing roses? I believe the expression is that roses are “cultivated”, which implies to me that they aren’t just grown, but they are carefully tended to, bad stuff weeded out, and they are pruned until they are just right, much like technical communication should be.  If these steps are done correctly, diligently, and thoughtfully, rose plants should bloom in full.  The same applies to our documentation–our gardens! The speakers at Adobe Day will be helping us learn the tools and methods we need to make our “gardens” grow!

I’ve seen many of the speakers listed for the event before, speaking about different topics. They always have fantastic insights. I’m also looking forward to seeing some other presenters that I haven’t heard from before.  The great thing about Adobe Day events is that isn’t never the same thing twice.  Topics change and shift with the times, and the talks reflect of that reality.  World-class experts helping us all learn how to make our “gardens” grow on a global scale? Priceless.  The fact that the event is FREE and that it’s not a big info-mercial for Adobe is an added bonus. Adobe makes a very concerted effort to make sure that the event is topic-centric, not software endorsement-centric.  Their goal is to help technical communicators grow in knowledge, and the thought leadership they gather for each of these events are top notch.  Who wouldn’t want to go to something like that?

As I said earlier, I feel that I grow each time that I attend an Adobe Day event.  I’ve already seen how it has helped open my mind, and that knowledge has given me a boost both in job interviews and in the workplace.  I bring back the best ideas to help me not only grow my own career, but to also help the company I work for grow with the times as well.  The last thing any company needs is to be in the weeds, and these talks definitely help with the weeding process of what best practices are to be used. The best ideas are cultivated and presented to us!

So, if you are going to Lavacon this year, or if you are going to be in the Portland, Oregon area on the morning of October 20th, I strongly encourage you to attend this great event. I’ll definitely be there in full force, and I’ll be covering the event live through my Twitter feed as well.

If you do decide to go, be sure to register at the link below, so they know you are coming. They say there’s no such thing as a free lunch, but that’s included in the event, too, so sign up here:
http://adobedayatlavacon2013.campaignsandevents.com/

See you there!