Soap! in Krakow, 2-3 October

Technical communicators will meeting in Krakow, Poland on 2-3 October for two great days of sharing knowledge and networking at the soap! conference. Attendees of the 2014 UA Europe conference back in June already know about the great people you can meet at soap!

You can still register until 29 September!

If you are attending, we’d love to hear from you in the comments – or contact us about writing up a report for the conference. That way, everyone will be ready to book their 2015 ticket for soap!

Logo for Soap! conference in Krakow

Agnieszka Tkaczyk shared some of the history of the soap! conference:

The original soap! conference in 2013 came about because we felt a hunger. There were no conferences organized in Poland and no way to network with other tech comm specialists. We existed in enclaves which often did not know about one another. And we looked to the West for knowledge. Meanwhile, it turned out Polish tech comm people developed knowledge of their own. And they did not inherit any of the turbulent past of Western tech comm. They could start fresh, with new ideas and new ways. They did not have to go through “product is king” or “content is king.” They could start with “user is king!”

The first conference was an unexpected success. It turned out there were more of us than we ever anticipated and the whole community was even more vibrant than we expected. This year we would like to invite you to another soap! conference here in Krakow on October 2-3. If you come, you will get a chance to meet technical writers, training developers, UX designers, marketing people, project managers, product developers, and entrepreneurs. We want all of their points of view to mix and cross-pollinate. We want new ideas to emerge. We want to be there on the ground floor when the fresh tech comm market is being reshaped.

Visit the soap! conference site for more details about the speakers. Follow the conference on Twitter at @soapconf with the hashtag #soapkrk to keep up with the news.

Check out the infographic on the soap! conference. Are you ready to become a soaper, as Pawel Kowaluk puts it?

Infographic about Soap! conference

October 15th Watercooler Chat: Terminology Management

by Jen O Neill
To kick off the autumn, let’s discuss a topic that is fundamental to our work as technical communicators, even if we never translate; managing our terminology.

Some questions to perhaps consider in our discussion:

  • How are we currently managing our terminology, in the source language (which for many of use is probably English) as well as for translations?
  • Who manages terminology?
  • How do we select terms?
  • How much information do we collect about terms?
  • Is terminology shared across the company?
  • How integrated are the terminology needs of source and localised content?
  • What about between documentation and software?
  • How often is a glossary maintained?
  • What tools do we use to manage terminology?
  • What are frequent problems managing terminology?

Date and time:

Wednesday, 15 October. It’s at 18:00-19:00 CET (GMT +0100) / 12.00pm-01.00pm ET
(Daylight saving time is in effect for both times shown)

Phone-in details:

The Watercooler Chat is informal. No speaker, no PowerPoints, no audio recording. It’s moderated. It’s free. Bring your experience, ideas and questions to share and discuss with fellow communicators located around the world.

VoIP and telephone numbers for around the world will be provided closer to the date of the chat to those who register.

Registration:

Prior registration is required – register on Eventbrite.

Links for information on the topic

There’s a lot of info out there on the web about terminology management. Some items to possibly read on the subject before our chat could be:

The results of our recent member survey

by Jen O Neill

We’re currently planning our Watercooler Chats for the next year and recently asked our members what topics you would like to discuss and when would best suit you. The results are shown below. We have 83 members and had 13 responses; a 15.6% turnout. Low, but it still lets us see how to do our Watercooler Chats over the next year.

Day and time of our monthly SIG Watercooler Chats is changing

From October onwards, the chats will move to the second Wednesday of the month at 6pm CET (12 noon ET).

Agenda for the next three months

Based on member feedback for topics to discuss, the chats for October, November & December will be:

  • October 15 = Terminology management
  • November 12 = Prioritising and determining the ROI when internationalization technical content
  • December 10 = Getting started in and planning localization projects

Results of the survey

What type of work do you do? (More than one answer is possible)
Type of workPercentage
Technical writing in English70%
Manage a documentation team46%
Technical writing in a language other than English31%
Manage/co-ordinate localization projects31%
Other15%
Translation7%

Which categories of topics would interest you the most for discussion? (Ranked in order of preference)

  1. Localisation and translation issues
  2. Internationalisation issues
  3. Intercultural issues in the work environment

What’s your experience in internationalisation and translation?
Amount of experiencePercentage
More than 6 years39%
No experience23%
Up to 3 years23%
3 to 6 years15%

What’s your experience in internationalisation?
Amount of experiencePercentage
More than 6 years38%
No experience31%
Up to 3 years31%
3 to 6 years0%

What’s your experience working with intercultural issues?
Amount of experiencePercentage
More than 6 years62%
Up to 3 years23%
No experience8%
3 to 6 years8%

What topics would you like to discuss in our chats? Proposed topics are listed below. Ranked in order of preference:

  1. Documentation standards for global content
  2. Developing a global strategy for your content
  3. Terminology management
  4. Impact of the business environment when producing content for a global market (e.g., mergers & acquisitions, outsourcing, virtual teams, organizational silos, cultural issues)
  5. Metrics and localisation
  6. Getting started in and planning localization projects
  7. Localisation and agile
  8. European Union directives and their impact on documentation
  9. Working with English as a second language and with multiple versions of English
  10. Regulatory/legal issues related to the European market
  11. Translation memories – Getting the most from them
  12. Working with localization service providers

Topics proposed by respondents:

  • Translation management technology and workflow
  • Component content management in multiple languages
  • How to demonstrate ROI and priority of internationalization

Which day of the week would you prefer the Watercooler Chats to be held once a month?
Day of the weekPercentage
No preference54%
Wednesday39%
Tuesday (current day)7%

What time of day would you prefer for the Watercooler Chats?
Time of dayPercentage
18:00 CET (12.00 pm ET)46%
17:00 CET (11.00 am ET)39%
19:00 CET (1.00 pm ET)15%

Small world, Far world

by Jen O Neill

Looking for work in another country isn’t an easy task and the recent economic downturn has only made it harder. Our digital world has made the world seem much smaller, but the reality of moving around it for work is often the opposite; the dream of working in another country can often seem far away.

I recently received a CV from a young Serbian woman seeking a position in marketing here in Brussels. Recently graduated and with a few years’ work experience in economics, she now wants to reach out and work in another country to get international experience. I’ve done such a move myself on a few occasions and highly recommend it.

Unfortunately she has several obstacles in her way. However, there are things we can all do to help increase our chances of finding work abroad.

Watch your language

Obviously it’s important that your CV doesn’t have any typos and grammatical errors. However, working in another country can often mean living with another language. If you’re writing your CV in a language other than your mother tongue, get the text checked by a native speaker. Don’t know any native speakers? Get to an online forum and ask for help to edit your text.

Do your homework on the country’s work environment

Someone apparently told the Serbian woman that it would be easier to get a marketing job in a multinational as the work would be in English. Her CV Profile states that she’s looking for an opening position in Marketing. Unfortunately she’s no experience in the domain, her written English isn’t good enough to do copywriting and she doesn’t know Adobe InDesign. If a potential employer had read past the quirky English in the CV, they’d have given up at this stage. Few companies will hire a beginner who needs work papers. They can hire locally.

It can be a risky decision to do a career change when looking for work in a country where you need work papers but don’t have any practical experience to offer in your new career direction. Get as much experience as you can before seeking work in another country. You need something to sell!

Research the job market and types of companies in the country that interest you. The Serb was fluent in several languages but only in one (English) of the three important languages for working in Brussels (French and Dutch also matter). Realistically she may have a better chance of finding work in Germany as companies there may be more commercially active in the Balkan region than companies based in Belgium. So her knowledge of that regional market could perhaps be a selling point to a German company. Understand what the market is looking for.

The challenge to get work papers

The unfortunate reality is that work papers can be hard to get. Few companies will hire you directly from another country without first meeting you. You will increase the chance of finding work by going to your desired country for a month or more (the longer the better) and making as many face-to-face contacts as possible to hunt down that opportunity made for you. It can take time to knock on all those doors and follow up leads. Simply mailing out CVs isn’t enough.

When a company wants to hire someone from outside the EU (which is 28 countries), they need to be able to show the authorities that they couldn’t find someone in the country suitable for the job on offer. Another condition prospective employers may need to meet could be the minimum salary level that they can offer. In Belgium, for example, it is currently nearly 40,000 euros ($54,000) a year for a skilled position (salary reference). In other words, you won’t get work papers to do a low paid job. You need skills and experience.

It’s hard looking for work in another country, particularly if you’re not based there and will need work papers. It takes determination and focus to chase a dream and make it happen.

Watercooler chat: Translation Quality: Pain or Pleasure? Tuesday, May 27

Our next Watercooler Chat is Tuesday, 27 May. It’s at 17:00-18:00 CET (GMT +0100) / 11.00am-12.00pm EST
(Daylight saving time is in effect for both times shown).

The topic for this month’s discussion is:

Translation Quality: Pain or Pleasure?

This discussion will focus on how we manage the quality of our translations.

Some questions to perhaps consider in our discussion: What is acceptable quality for your translated content? How do you measure translation quality? What issues impact translation quality in your company? What are your big pain points on achieving good translation quality? Do you do in-country reviews? If you don’t pay for 100% matches in your translation memory, does this have any impact on quality? Do you use a localisation style guide? If you do, how does it help the translation quality of your content? How do you manage translated terminology? Is it harder to achieve good translation quality for some languages compared to others? How do you handle resource restrictions that could impact translation quality (e.g., time, budget, access to in-country reviewers, inadequate term bases)? How much do issues in your source content impact quality of the translated content? Do you have a process to help ensure good quality translation?

Registration and phone-in details

Register at Eventbrite today.

The Watercooler Chat is informal. No speaker, no PowerPoints, no audio recording. It’s moderated. It’s free. Bring your experience, ideas and questions to share and discuss with fellow communicators located around the world.

The call-in details are sent out closer to the date to those who register. Telephone numbers for around the world are provided as well as a webinar link for VoIP.

Cheers,

Jennifer O Neill

Manager, STC Europe SIG

Watercooler chat: Managing our source language terminology, Tuesday, April 22

Our next Watercooler Chat is Tuesday, 22 April. It’s at 17:00-18:00 CET (GMT +0100) / 11.00am-12.00pm EST
(Daylight saving time is in effect for both times shown).

The topic for this month’s discussion is:

Managing our source language terminology

This discussion will focus on how we manage the terminology of the source language we work in, which for most of us is probably English. Although terminology is often discussed in the context of localisation, many terminology problems start in the source content.

Some questions to perhaps consider in our discussion: How are you currently managing your English terminology? Who’s the audience for it? How do you distribute it? How do you select terms? How much information do you collect about terms? Is terminology shared across the company? How closely integrated are the terminology needs of documentation and the user interface being documented? What are the sources of terminology problems in your company (e.g., mergers & acquisitions, outsourcing, departmental silos, English as a second language, tools, …) How often is your glossary maintained and who’s in charge of maintaining it? How integrated are the terminology needs of the English and localised content?

Some useful links on the topic are:

The topic certainly has my attention as I’m giving a presentation on “Taming Terminology” at the TCeurope colloquium, 25 April, in Aix-en-Provence, France.

The Watercooler Chat is informal. No speaker, no PowerPoints, no audio recording. It’s moderated. It’s free. Bring your experience, ideas and questions to share and discuss with fellow communicators located around the world.

Registration and phone-in details

Register at Eventbrite today.

The call-in details are sent out closer to the date to those who register. Telephone numbers for around the world are provided as well as a webinar link for VoIP.

Cheers,

Jennifer O Neill

Manager, STC Europe SIG

March Watercooler Chat: Global Standards, Tuesday, 25 March

Our next Watercooler Chat is Tuesday, 25 March, at 17:00-18:00 CET (GMT +0100) / 12.00pm-1.00pm EST.
(Note: Summer time in operation for North America)

The topic for this month’s discussion is:

Are global standards worth the effort?

We’re increasingly working in flexible teams spread around the world, impacted by global and regional market needs, with demanding work environments impacted by mergers and acquisitions as well as limitations on available resources. Yet companies and communication teams still want consistency with content and branding. Consistent branding is probably easier to achieve but what has been our experience with achieving consistent and reusable content across teams and frontiers? What facilitates the implementation of consistent standards across multiple sites worldwide? What does it mean to be a truly “Global team” focused on achieving workable shared standards?

What has your experience been on introducing global documentation standards across multiple sites worldwide? What have been your successes and failures? How do style guides and content strategies cope? How easy has it been and how have such policies survived time? What have been the challenges breaking down silos scattered across countries and cultures?

Let’s share our stories and experiences and learn from each other.

Our Watercooler Chat is informal. No speaker, no PowerPoints, no audio recording. It’s moderated. No prior registration is required. It’s free. Bring your experience, ideas and questions to share and discuss with fellow communicators located around the world.

The call-in details are sent out in a separate email to discussion list members. Telephone numbers for around the world will be provided as well as a webinar link for VoIP.

Cheers,

Jennifer O Neill

Manager, STC Europe SIG

Let’s chat about… cultural differences at work

by Jen O Neill

In this month’s Watercooler Chat we discussed the cultural differences we can encounter when working in a global environment.

Coping with different Englishes

All of us taking part in the chat were Anglophone and worked in English. However, we all worked with colleagues and customers scattered around the world for whom English isn’t a first language.

Some of us worked in environments where there can be different versions of English in use across the company worldwide; US, UK, Indian, Australian. It’s not always possible for technical communication groups to expect that only one version of English can be used in documentation worldwide. Regional markets can have their own demands. We need to understand local as well as global situations. There was also the challenge of ensuring correctly written English from globally dispersed writers who used another version of English in their own country.

China and documentation standards

Chinese manuals. Infamous. Often incomprehensible. The “contaminated English” found in many Chinese manuals often seem to be covered in the fingerprints of Google Translate (or an equivalent tool). The English can be amusing but it’s also frustrating to understand and challenging to rewrite.

The reality is that most Chinese companies only sell within China. So when selling internationally, they write their English manuals using the same practices as when they write documents for their own local market. The content is often more descriptive than instructional.

Manuals are usually written by engineers (an increasing number of whom have been trained in the US) as well as translators, whose training may not always produce a good quality of English. The concept of technical communication is in its infancy in China. Few Chinese writers are familiar with the principles of information design.

Chinese companies still have a long way to go in appreciating the benefit quality documentation can have on their profits.

Phone etiquette

We all regularly teleconferenced with colleagues located worldwide. Although great for work and for developing working relationships, a common problem encountered was poor sound quality. This could be due, for example, to people phoning in from their desks or cars, or using mobile phones.

Distracting background noise makes it difficult to clearly hear what’s being said. Native speakers can also speak too quickly. Unfortunately people may not speak up to say that they can’t follow the conversation, either through shyness or for fear that their English could be considered too poor. In a successful teleconference, everyone needs to understand phone etiquette.

Accents can cause problems. Unfamiliar ones can be difficult to understand over a phone line, particularly if there are no visual cues to help. Video conferencing is great but not everyone has access to it.

We all agreed that it’s important to write up the meeting so that everyone is clear on what was discussed and agreed upon, particularly if some may have had problems hearing or understanding what was said.

It takes practice and patience to get used to working with different accents as well as the English spoken by those who don’t have English as their first language.

Great chat

We had a great informative chat with everyone participating and sharing their experiences. Yet cultural differences don’t just cover language and national issues. Unfortunately we ran out of time to discuss the other hot cultural issue, corporate culture, and how it differs around the world.

February Watercooler Chat: Cultural Stories, Tuesday, 25 February

Our next Watercooler Chat is this Tuesday, 25 February, at 17:00-18:00 CET (GMT +0100) / 11.00am-12.00pm ET.

The topic for this month’s discussion is:

Cultural Stories

Many of us work on international projects and may have also lived and worked in different countries. What have been our experiences working and living with different cultural norms? What unintentional cultural faux pas have we or colleagues done that caused awkwardness or problems at work? What knowledge can we share with fellow professionals to avoid potential issues and develop better working relationships across cultures?

Let’s share our stories and experiences and learn from each other.

Our Watercooler Chat is informal. No speaker, no PowerPoints, no audio recording. It’s moderated. No prior registration is required. It’s free. Bring your experience, ideas and questions to share and discuss with fellow communicators located around the world.

The call-in details are sent out in a separate email to discussion list members. Telephone numbers for around the world are provided as well as a webinar link for VoIP.

Cheers,

Jennifer O Neill

Manager, STC Europe SIG

STC members – share your thoughts with STC

The STC office sent out a survey a few days ago inviting all STC members to participate in an in-depth survey about your membership experiences. In case you missed that mail, we are sharing the link and request here on our blog.

There was a general membership survey earlier in the year, and this survey expands on some of that feedback. You do not need to have participated in that survey to complete this one.

The in-depth survey takes about 15-20 minutes. STC appreciates your responses, which will be kept confidential.

The STC in-depth membership survey

The survey is open through 10 January 2014.

STC thanks you for your time and thoughtful assistance!

Happy holidays and a happy 2014 to all!

PS Have you renewed your membership for 2014, or are you thinking about joining STC? Renew or join today at stc.org.