Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Preparing for a conference

In two weeks on December 14 and 15 I will speak at a conference in Vienna. I was surprised when I was asked to speak at the Language Standards for Global Business. What is it that I can bring to the table. Yes, I proposed a Wiki for Standards at the Berlin conference and yes I am a member of the Wikimedia Foundation language sub committee and yes WiktionaryZ is a big user of standards. I am still shocked and awed that I was asked.

Now that I am getting used to the idea I find that standards were increasingly taking up my time. Standards are crucial for the projects I am involved in. When they fit a need, you do not need to explain and argue why individual choices were made, you refer to the standard. When you export data and you implement a Standard for the format like TBX, LMF or OWL, you hide the complexities of the database and you provide the export in a stable, mature way that allows people to build upon.

The problem with standards however is, that there are so many of them. Also many of the standards work cross purposes by focusing on single issues. This lead to separate standards for the Internet, for libraries all indicating languages.. This plethora of standards and requirements prevents interoperability. It also prevents the general adoption of these Standards.

As I learn more about Standards, I find myself with WiktionaryZ at the cutting edge. How to publish content for a language like Bangubangu ? As far as I know there is little or no content on the Internet at all. I am pleased now to have the Babel templates for Bangubangu. But as the content grows, how do we get the search engines to find it, it is here where appropriate Standards can make a difference.

In preparation for my presentation I have looked at other conferences and I find that many are very much driven by commercial needs. Needs that do not necessarily take into account what is in the long tail of the industry that is represented. The maturity that can be found in translations between the languages of economic power houses like America, Japan and Germany are worlds apart of the African court rooms where the defendant is lucky when he understands the judge or a witness. Here there is often no translation and the tools that are available in the translation industry are not available even for the translation of court papers.

My problem for the conference is that there is so much that I would like to address that I have to concentrate and make what I will say count. The good news is that is open for business. When people interested in standards take an interest and collaborate we may address all issues and get a better understanding what all these Standards are there for and more importantly, how they interrelate.

The challenge will be to build a community that understands that it is only collaboration that will make their Standards relevant and integrated with other Standards that are not relevant to their business

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