TAUS recently attended an inspirational event in Amsterdam organized by Aspiration Tech in partnership with Floss Manuals and Translate.org.za, and supported by Open Society Institute and Ford Foundation.
Around 70 people from all over the world came together to discuss translation challenges in the context of open content, open source tools, and open communities. Inspiration came from watching translation providers, such as dotSUB, Meedan, and Global Voices, and tools developers, such as Apertium, TikiWiki, and Worldwide Lexicon, share their expertise and give guidance to participants needing knowledge on how to achieve their aims. TAUS was in a parallel universe where the type of sharing that TAUS facilitates for the translation industry was also taking place.
Agenda goals included looking at open standards driven translation, open APIs, mapping and reviewing use cases, documenting state-of-the-art in community translation and more. Disparate interests and levels of knowledge were satisfied with a highly flexible bottom up approach to agreeing session topics and ample use of breakout sessions. Everyone that wanted to was able to present their ideas, products or services. Sessions notes were made immediately available to all using a wiki.
Just as at the end of the TAUS event on Open Translation Platforms there was a tremendously energizing feeling that participants were genuinely willing to work together to affect positive change. Unlike after TAUS event, there was a book sprint immediately following OTT09, which produced a manual on open translation tools within five days.
Even before the event the TAUS team had began to wonder whether the two parallel universes of open translation tools should or even could collide in the not too distant future. California hippie meets Silicon Valley techie; why not. Then the discussion turned to open corpora for machine translation. And wow; whereas translation buyers and providers often need to be convinced that separating infra from lingua is really needed, everyone here bought into the idea straight away. This reporter thought great, something significant to contribute, and gave his all in pitching the TAUS Data Association, and then wallop, he found he had missed the point ...it seems the price tag free is all important to some, even at the cost of independence, neutrality, scalability and sustainability.
Three other breakout sessions this reporter participated in included translation standards, where there was a comprehensive introductory discussion of localization industry standards and XLIFF was identified as standard needing more attention by open source developers. A second session on learning from the Meedan project, which is using the IBM machine translation engine to translate news stories (EnglishArabic), and has recently reengineered the operating model to include post-editing volunteers. And perhaps the most productive of the three sessions, during translators who volunteer vs. volunteers who translate people from five continents shared their experiences and came up with a high-level set of good practices, which were fed into the open translation tools manual.
The event was undoubtedly a priceless experience for many participants. Two weeks on, the good vibes are still evident in articles and blogs about the event. And thinking about open corpora, this TAUS team member is reminded that while we often share common goals, we just as often have very different ideas about how to achieve them.
Thanks to Aspiration Tech and all the people at OTT for warmly welcoming TAUS to this new community.