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Excited about tcworld India 2016

I’m delighted that I’ll be attending tcworld India 2016, on 25-26 February in Bangalore. This is an annual conference organised by tekom Europe and TWIN (Technical Writers of India). Let me know if you’re planning to come!

This will be my first trip to India, and of course my first time at tcworld India. I was lucky enough to attend the related tcworld conference in Europe in 2012, where I learned a lot, met many technical writers, and caught up with friends I’d previously met only online. I’m expecting tcworld India to be at least as great. 🙂

At the moment, I’m having fun putting together my two presentations for the conference. I’ve been invited to give the keynote at the beginning of the conference, which is a huge privilege. In addition, my proposal was accepted to present a session on API technical writing.

Keynote: The future *is* technical communication

Preparing the keynote presentation in particular is a lot of fun. I’m exploring the march of technology, the way we deal with it, and in particular how it’s affecting the way we communicate. Here’s the introduction:

Over the past few years there’s been quite a bit of discussion about the future of technical communication. Now let’s look at the world in a different light:

The future *is* technical communication.

People’s understanding of the world is based on technical communication, and getting more so by the minute… (join me at tcworld India to hear the rest!)

Later presentation: API technical writing

Later in the conference I’ll speak about APIs and API documentation. APIs are a hot topic in our field, and technical writers with the skills to document them are in high demand. Have you ever wondered what API technical writers do and how they go about it? I’ll demonstrate some easy-to-use APIs, examine examples of API documentation, and give some ideas on getting started in this exciting and rewarding area of technical communication.

The conference program for tcworld India 2016 is looking good. I’m looking forward to meeting the speakers, organisers and attendees. And I’m looking forward to exploring Bangalore!

Tekom tcworld 2012 wrapup

I’ve spent the last few days at Tekom tcworld 2012, a technical communicators’ conference and trade fair in Wiesbaden, Germany. What a huge event! It was great seeing old friends and meeting new people. Thanks to the tcworld organisers for a successful, rewarding conference.

My introduction to the conference was the speakers’ orientation session hosted by Michael Fritz, executive director at tcworld and Tekom. Here are some statistics that Michael gave us about this year’s conference and trade fair:

  • 2400 participants registered for the conference
  • 1300 more people registered for the trade fair
  • 158 lectures, of which 52 are in English (the others are in German)
  • 49 workshops, of which 16 are in English
  • 17 tutorials, of which 6 are in English

Yes, a huge event.

Notes from some sessions

I’ve blogged about most of the sessions I attended. I hope these posts are useful to people who couldn’t make it to the conference and to people who were there but couldn’t attend these sessions:

Atlassian and K15t Software at Tekom tcworld

Atlassian and K15t Software had a booth at the trade fair. I popped in a number of times over the three days of the conference, to chat to the team:

There was a steady stream of people interested in Atlassian software, K15t’s software and services, and wiki-based documentation:

Lovely Wiesbaden

Before the conference started, I spent some time wandering around the sleepy spa town. There are more pictures on my travelling bookmark’s blog: Autumn in Wiesbaden, Germany.

Thanks to the organisers, delegates, exhibitors and speakers at Tekom tcworld 2012. It’s a great show!

Irreplaceable young professionals at Tekom tcword 2012

I’m at Tekom tcworld 2012, in Wiesbaden. I’ve decided to attend a presentation in German, because the presenter is a friend: Johannes Egenolf of K15t Software. Let’s see how much I understand!

Johannes’s presentation is titled, “Wie man sich als Berufseinsteiger unersetzlich macht“. In English, “How to make yourself irreplaceable as a young professional”.

The room was packed! This is obviously something many people are interested in.

Johannes is speaking without slides. Brave. He has just a few notes in one hand, a microphone in the other. He’s bathed in a gentle purple light from the overhead projector. He’s telling his life story with smiles and gestures.

I didn’t understand much of what Johannes said, but his passion and enthusiasm shone through. I heard him talking about vision, about thinking about technical documentation in different ways, about being open, and about making use of social media.

After the presentation, I chatted to another attendee who said that Johannes’s personality and enthusiasm were great. “He’ll never have a problem in making himself indispensable to a company, with such a personality,” said the attendee. Nice. 🙂

Selecting a translation vendor at Tekom tcworld 2012

I’m at Tekom tcworld 2012, in Wiesbaden. This morning I’m attending a session called “Considerations in Translation Vendor Selection”, by Bernard Aschwanden. This is a topic close to my heart, as I’m keen to start planning for the translation of our own documentation.

Here is the blurb that Bernard published for his session:

When a company identifies a need for documentation to be translated into new languages for both existing customers and new customers it is important to ensure you choose the right translation vendor. In doing so, it is necessary to identify options (with associated costs and risks) for meeting current demands, processes for handling future translation requests, and a big-picture strategy for documentation translation needs across product lines and worldwide needs. Learn about key considerations in vendor selection, and identify the factors that matter most to a successful partnership.

Bernard joined us via a remote connection. He became sick just before the conference began, so he recorded his presentation, and joined us via Skype to answer questions. What’s more it was 4 a.m. for him, so kudos that he was able to string a coherent sentence together!

Role of a translation vendor

The role of the vendor is to be a partner, working with you to identify your needs and manage people and processes. They should help with localisation as well as translation. Localisation means making the images and concepts and ideas understandable to a local audience.

The vendor should always provide you with the translation memory. If they don’t provide it, don’t use the vendor.

Should you translate yourself or outsource?

Some things to consider:

  • Are you comfortable with sending your content outside?
  • Are you happy with the changes in processes that will be required.
  • Associated costs, both short and long term.


Make sure you identify everyone who is involved: Reviewers, authors, translators, managers, outside vendors, your clients… the list is long.

Ways to get started

  • Talk to people at conferences and make other uses of word of mouth.
  • Join interest groups.
  • Read industry articles.
  • Do web searches.

Then narrow down your options, by Googling the vendors, checking their websites, sending them an email.

Make sure you have a good list of questions to ask potential vendors, based on what’s important to you.

Start building relationships with a short list of vendors. Schedule a demo, set up in-person meetings. Ask them to walk you through the process. Then discuss the results with your team.

Important questions

These are some initial questions to ask the vendor:

  • Does the company outsource its work, and to whom?
  • What languages do they manage, and which are their specialities?
  • What industry do they specialise in?
  • Do they have a recent client list and references.
  • What is the rate of turnover for the translators?
  • What is their industry ranking?

Bernard then took us through a number of more specific questions. If you’re intending to take this further, it’s worth getting the list of useful questions to investigate. The questions revolved around fees, technology and tools, managing of the translators, workflow, and more.

It’s important to note how responsive the vendor is to your questions, and what your overall impression is of the organisation.

Getting a sample translated

Send the vendor a sample and ask them to do a translation. Make sure the sample is realistic.

Do a workflow model. Assess the result, and show it to the stakeholders who will use it.

Have a systematic way of scoring and comparing the results of the chosen vendors.


It’s important to identify the total costs. Make sure you specify which parts of the job you will do in-house and which parts you will outsource.

Find out about these costs:

  • Per word.
  • Total engineering effort to set up the system.
  • Editing and proofing.
  • Project management.
  • Layout, graphics, tables.
  • Review of the material.

You can save on costs by:

  • Content re-use.
  • Translation memory. Words that are matched one-to-one will need reviewing, but not full service. Make sure you own the translation memory.
  • Using just one firm. You may get a discount for doing all languages with one vendor.
  • Doing some of the tasks in house. For example, in-house review by a subject matter expert, or layout.

Common mistakes

Bernard closed with some points to note:

  • Know what you need. Go in prepared. Be up front about what you need, so that the vendor knows everything they need to know.
  • Build trust, on both sides.
  • Get the credentials of the vendor. Check their online presences, also on Facebook and Twitter. This will give an idea of how professional they are and what image they are putting out for people to see.
  • Find out all of the costs.
  • Don’t let the vendor use you as a test case.
  • Make sure the vendor has experience in the industry you work in.
  • Understand their quality processes, and make sure you know how they handle verification.

At the end, there was plenty of animated discussion from the floor. Audience members included translators, translation vendors, and people interested in hiring a vendor. This is a topic dear to many people’s hearts!

Engaging your readers via social media at Tekom tcworld 2012

I’m at Tekom tcworld 2012, a technical communicators’ conference and trade fair in Wiesbaden, Germany. Late yesterday afternoon it was my turn to present a session. The room was just about full, and I enjoyed speaking to such an appreciative audience. Thanks to everyone who attended!

My presentation is titled “Engaging Readers in your Documentation – How and Why with Social Media“. The slide deck includes a number of useful links and references. If you like, you can download it from SlideShare or from the Tekom tcworld conference site:

Hint: On SlideShare, click the “Notes on Slide n” tab (next to the comments tab) to see the speaker’s notes for each slide.

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