One of the unique aspects of the translation and localization industries is the breadth of contributors and skill sets that actually get the work done. I remember standing in line last summer for the ferry to Ellis Island and marveling at the number of languages being spoken simultaneously and the number of cultures represented in one huge line. But for that moment, (2 hours actually) that line was a community with a single purpose. Despite language barriers, everyone shared the excitement of the historical adventure to come.

No, the San Diego-based WorldSummit organized by Idiom Technologies didn’t offer a cross-country trek to the Status of Liberty. It did however, offer an opportunity for an impressive group of professionals with multiple skill sets and cultural backgrounds to come together and share the excitement of where the industry is heading and what it can achieve along the way.

Blending technical writers, brand managers, and marketers from varied organizations with translators from multiple countries, LSPs, university professors, industry researchers, and analysts is no small feat. But for that moment, (3 days actually) WorldSummit fostered community and conversation amongst those who research, those who groom the next generation of translators, those determined to author source content with globalization in mind, those faced with the nuances of dialect and locale, and those who provide the services and technologies so necessary for this complex work.

With Mary and I both attending, we got to compare notes and reactions as we moved through various user sessions, informal conversations, and social events. One clear pattern we both noticed is the power of human connection; IOW, the power of face-to-face, passionate conversations. Without belittling the impact of Web communities, I am standing firm on the notion that there’s nothing like eye contact, body language and the sight of folks waving their hands to speak to fuel the adrenaline of a community conversation. It’s positively contagious. Here’s some examples of the adrenaline I’m talking about:

  • Mary’s user panel, “Evaluating and Selecting a Globalization Management System – Best Practices,” included real-world advice from Brian Shorey – Cisco Systems, Alma Siller – Continental Airlines, and Mimi Hills – Sun Microsystems. This was not a panel of “nirvana” stories told through predefined slides; this was an honest and thoughtful discussion of the approaches each participant used to pave the way for success (including some colored commentary on the challenges to expect along the way!)
  • Keynotes on translation quality and the future of technologies were passionately delivered by well-known researchers such as Jaap van der Meer and Alan Melby. The wealth of history these two brought to the table resulted in many a cramped finger as the audience scribbled furiously.
  • Machine translation’s potential to resolve time to market challenges and its intersection with human expertise was absolutely hot, as John Yunker notes over at Global by Design. Whether more acronyms are useful or confusing, it is quite clear that the pool of worldwide translation talent may not be able to keep up with demand.
  • And I’ll not soon forget the students from Kent State University and California State University Chico, who cheered their professors with more enthusiasm than I’ve seen at a technical conference for some time.

Whew. Documenting the varied participants and choosing my highlights was tough enough. Pulling off the event was surely another story. Kudos to the Idiom team for achieving a well-rounded and extremely organized event.