getting started in tech comm, global communication, localization

5 Things You Need to Know about Global-Ready Content, Part 1

September 22, 2014

A couple of weeks ago, I spoke to one of Dr. Pam Brewer’s classes at Mercer University via web cam. We had a great conversation about global-ready content and why it’s important. Here’s a summary of what I told them:

Global-Ready Content Defined

Global-Ready content means applying technical communication best practices stringently and consistently. Localization adds a layer of complexity to your content development process. In the traditional process, 50% or more of your localization costs are associated with DTP. And, anything you do to help alleviate these costs also helps the audience of your source English content.

Global-ready content has these characteristics:

  • Active
  • Consistent
  • Culturally neutral
  • Simple
  • Structured
  • Well-written and well-edited

1. Plan for the Future

Always design with the world in mind, even if you aren’t yet translating your content. It’s a lot easier to design it right in the first place than it is to retrofit it. If your company has a website, it’s potentially a global company.

Content Strategy

The Language of Content Strategy defines it as, “The analysis and planning required to develop a repeatable system that governs the management of content throughout the content lifecycle.” What this means is that you have to look at your content holistically, and that includes localization. Your strategy and architecture should support and facilitate localization.

Information Architecture and Design

The Language of Content Strategy defines it as, “The art and science of structuring content to support findability and usability.”  The information architecture is the technical side of the content strategy. It is what allows you to actually implement your strategy effectively.

If you only remember one thing, make it this: Design with the world in mind. That means making sure that all your structures, processes, models, etc. all support and facilitate both source content development and localization (and I’m including visual content in this…)

2. Build a Solid Structure

Build a solid structure/architecture, one that won’t collapse under its own weight or get blown away with the first problem that arises. Make it flexible and scalable.

Workflow

Think about how your workflow supports these things:

  • Multiple users
  • Status tracking
  • Version control
  • Multiple output formats
  • Process efficiency
  • Localization
  • Content chunking
Shows the Author-IT CMS workflow at high-level. Multiple authors contribute to database and then output content in multiple formats

Courtesy of Author-IT Software Corporation

Content Modeling

Creating content ‘chunks’/components/modules allows you to send only the untranslated content to the vendor, which saves 10% or more of your localization costs because vendors charge you even for 100% matches. This charge is because the human translator has to do context verification. Sending only new or modified content eliminates this.

Reuse facilitates consistency. Instead of rewriting a note, caution, or warning every time it’s needed, you write once and reuse. Same thing with graphics, tables, regulatory information, and other content that’s used in multiple places. It bears mention, however, that consistency doesn’t equal quality. You also need to also spend time internationalizing the content to ensure that it is clear, concise, and accurate. But, that’s a whole other discussion.

Shows the text, graphics, and tables as separate content chunks that can be re-combined in multiple ways for different output formats

Courtesy of Author-IT Software Corporation

Structured Authoring for Intelligent Content

Once you have identified how to properly chunk your content, you need to structure it well so that it can be more intelligent. The structure of your XML needs to facilitate flexibility and scalability, as well as support localization. Yves Savourel’s book, XML Internationalization and Localization is a deep dive into the technical aspects of structuring your content for localization.

Good Metadata

Metadata is the key to happiness in a content management environment. It’s what allows you to find, manage, and use your content. When you add localization, suddenly you need to think about which metadata needs to be translated and how you are going to expose it to the translators.

Make this the 2nd thing you remember: Hard-coded strings are bad. Metadata needs to stored in such a way that you can easily identify and extract the strings that need to be localized.

Stay tuned for Part 2, where I will share items 3-5 on the list of 5 things you need to know about global-ready content.

 

 

conferences, global communication, localization, Uncategorized

Lavacon: Interview by Matt Sullivan

September 5, 2014

Last week, Matt Sullivan interviewed Terena Bell and me about our upcoming Lavacon (www.lavacon.org) presentation, The Space Between Us: Managing the Expectations between Technical Communication and Localization.

It was great fun talking to Matt and previewing our presentation.

You can view the interview on Matt’s blog: http://www.mattrsullivan.com/tc2ls006-interview-kit-terena/.

Lavacon is 12-15 October in Portland, OR. Register before 13 September to take advantage of the early registration: http://lavacon.org/2014/registrationecontent/.

31-Day Blogging Challenge Wrap-Up

April 30, 2014
amphora-403615_1280

I’m not sure what happened to April (or the second half of March for that matter).

With the 31-Day Blogging Challenge (#31dbc), I started out strong, with posts every day. Then, life happened, work got insanely busy, and it’s been a month since I last posted. I was a bit discouraged by this failure at first, but I learned a few things along the way.

For veteran bloggers, this information might be something you already do, but for us newbies, it was helpful advice:

  • Block out time in your schedule every week to blog. For me, just putting it on my to-do list isn’t enough. I need to plan time in my schedule where I don’t answer the phone or schedule meetings during that time.
  • On days that you have time, write multiple posts so that you have filler material when you are slammed with work. I was too literal about the directions in the challenge. I only wrote one post a day, even on the days when I was on a roll and could’ve written more. It took me awhile to realize that I could set the publishing date in WordPress.
  • Jot down your ideas when they occur to you. I carry around a small notebook where I can jot down ideas when they occur to me, even if I’m not near my computer. The trick is remembering to look at it later when I’m staring at a blank screen.
  • Set a publishing schedule. Publishing content on a regular schedule helps your readers know what to expect.
  • Publish a few posts before publicizing the blog. Several people recommended this to me when I started. They suggested getting some blog posts up and getting into the habit of posting regularly before you start marketing the blog. It’s good advice because it allows you to decide if you are serious about the blog or not. I will start publicizing the blog more widely once I have some more of my website pages filled in. I hope to launch both by the STC conference in Phoenix.

What recommendations do you have for maintaining your blog? Post your comments here.

creativity, Uncategorized

Zentangle: Getting the Creative Juices Flowing

March 18, 2014
indian-art-467709_1280

Day 17 of the 31-Day Blogging Challenge (#31dbc)

jpg of a zentangle tree; pen and ink drawing

Zentangle Tree by Kit Brown-Hoekstra

At an STC conference a couple of years ago, Andrea Ames, Brenda Huettner, a few others, and I were sitting in the bar. Andrea told us about this cool meditation technique that involved drawing. She then introduced us to Zentangle. For the next hour, we drew shapes on pieces of heavy paper that looked like bar coasters. Andrea instructed us in the most basic shapes and we all drew the same thing. Yet, everyone’s drawing came out differently.

I was hooked! I don’t do it as often as I would like, but when I do, it always amazes me how different my drawings look, even if I use the same shapes and patterns in the drawing.

Andrea uses it to play with patterns that she often then incorporates into her incredible quilts. Brenda has done some really cool stuff using the outline of an animal, plant, or object. My niece drew a face and used the zentangle technique to draw her hair and clothing. Mine are still pretty rudimentary, but the point is to play and have fun, not to be perfectionistic.

As technical communicators, we spend so much time using the analytical side of our brain that we often don’t nurture the creative, non-verbal side enough.

I did the Zentangle Tree yesterday. It’s the first time I’ve tried to draw and actual object rather than abstract patterns. It took me about an hour. When I started, I was feeling a bit stressed about work, but by the time I finished, I felt calm but energized. And, the solution to a thorny problem popped into my head as I was working on this.

I find myself needing to be reminded to step back and play a little. Try this out if you need a mental break! The Zentangle website has insteructional videos and an online store where you can order supplies.

I also found a book, The Art of Zentangle by Walter Foster, at the library. It contains even more patterns and ideas. Have fun playing!

Uncategorized

Blogging Challenge: An Update

March 17, 2014

Day 16 of the 31-Day Blogging Challenge (#31dbc)

Well, you might have noticed that I missed a few days this past week. Life happened, and between work, STC, and home, the blog fell by the wayside for a few days. But, it’s been bugging me that I haven’t worked on it.

Lesa Townsend (the 31-Day Blogging Challenge leader) says that this is normal and that it’s OK as long as you don’t quit. She’s been great about sending suggestions and ideas every day, and my topic idea list keeps growing and growing.

One thing I am realizing is that I need to block time out in my schedule at least once a week to do the blog. And, if I’m feeling inspired or have a lot of pent-up creativity, I can create multiple posts and either schedule them to publish automagically, or push Publish on a day when I’m not feeling inspired.

With work travel every other week for the foreseeable future, this knowledge will help me keep posting even during my busy times.

I realize this isn’t earth-shattering news to anyone who has been blogging for awhile, but for us newbies, it was helpful advice.