Tag: opinion

Free sample of Erin Vang’s facilitation

by on Aug.04, 2011 , under facilitative leadership, localization, program management

A record­ing of the webi­nar panel dis­cus­sion I mod­er­ated yes­ter­day is now avail­able here.

Bridg­ing the gap between soft­ware devel­op­ment and localization

If you’re involved in soft­ware devel­op­ment, local­iza­tion, inter­na­tion­al­iza­tion, or glob­al­iza­tion, you should watch this for a great intro­duc­tion to the issues par­tic­u­larly with regard to stake­holder aware­ness, edu­ca­tion, com­mit­ment, and communication—it was a lively panel with more than a few “hot but­ton” top­ics get­ting lively debate, fea­tur­ing a num­ber of indus­try experts:

  • Val Swisher, Founder & CEO of Con­tent Rules
  • Dan­ica Brin­ton, Senior Direc­tor of Inter­na­tional at Zynga
  • Dale Schultz, Glob­al­iza­tion Test Archi­tect at IBM
  • Edwin Hooger­beets, Senior Inter­na­tion­al­iza­tion Engi­neer at Palm
  • Adam Asnes, CEO & Pres­i­dent of Lin­go­port
  • Erin Vang, Prin­ci­pal Prag­ma­tist of Global Prag­mat­ica LLC®

Free sam­ple of Erin Vang’s work as a moderator

If you’re in charge of set­ting up panel dis­cus­sions or con­fer­ences for your com­pany and you’re won­der­ing whether engag­ing a pro­fes­sional facil­i­ta­tor as your mod­er­a­tor for the event is worth­while, you might want to watch this as a free sample—see how I work to make the con­ver­sa­tion more valu­able for the audi­ence mem­bers and panel par­tic­i­pants. I work as an audi­ence advo­cate to ensure that the event deliv­ers the con­tent that was promised, that it’s lively and inter­est­ing, and that we get past the buzz­words, spin, and hot air right away—we get right into the content.

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Bridging the Gap Between Software Development and Localization

by on Jul.28, 2011 , under facilitative leadership, localization, program management

Erin Vang mod­er­ates panel dis­cus­sion on soft­ware l10n

Cross-posted from Lin​go​port​.com

So, you’ve devel­oped a new soft­ware appli­ca­tion, and have high aspi­ra­tions in terms of sell­ing your appli­ca­tion to a global audi­ence. Now what? Prob­lems often arise between devel­op­ers, local­iza­tion man­agers, and busi­ness man­agers due to per­ceived lack of sup­port, time, and money.

This lack of under­stand­ing can lead to great frus­tra­tion within the devel­op­ment tiers. Join us for an hour long online panel dis­cus­sion and learn how some of the best known indus­try thought lead­ers are con­tribut­ing to bridg­ing the gap between soft­ware devel­op­ment and local­iza­tion.

The panel fea­tures the fol­low­ing indus­try thought lead­ers and experts from the soft­ware devel­op­ment, con­tent devel­op­ment, inter­na­tion­al­iza­tion, and local­iza­tion industries:

  • Val Swisher, Founder & CEO of Con­tent Rules
  • Dan­ica Brin­ton, Senior Direc­tor of Inter­na­tional at Zynga
  • Dale Schultz, Glob­al­iza­tion Test Archi­tect at IBM
  • Edwin Hooger­beets, Senior Inter­na­tion­al­iza­tion Engi­neer at Palm
  • Adam Asnes, CEO & Pres­i­dent of Lin­go­port

Online Panel Discussion: “Bridging the Gap Between Soft­ware Devel­op­ment and Local­iza­tion”
Date and Times: Wednesday, August 3rd at 9:30am PT / 10:30am MT / 11:30am CT / 12:30pm ET
Registration: Register for free @ https://​www1​.gotomeet​ing​.com/​r​e​g​i​s​t​e​r​/​9​6​4​4​1​5​249
Where: Your desktop

Erin Vang, Owner of Glob­al­Prag­mat­ica will be facil­i­tat­ing the online panel dis­cus­sion. Erin has over twenty years of expe­ri­ence in sta­tis­ti­cal soft­ware doc­u­men­ta­tion, qual­ity assur­ance, project man­age­ment, and local­iza­tion, most recently as Inter­na­tional Pro­gram Man­ager for the JMP Research and Devel­op­ment at SAS, and pre­vi­ously with Aba­cus Con­cepts and SYSTAT. She is cur­rently design­ing a local­iza­tion pro­gram for Dolby Lab­o­ra­to­ries.

This pre­sen­ta­tion is intended for tech­ni­cal man­agers, soft­ware engi­neers, test engi­neer­ing man­agers, QA man­agers, inter­na­tion­al­iza­tion and local­iza­tion man­agers, tech­ni­cal writ­ers, con­tent devel­op­ers, and any­one want­ing to learn more on how to opti­mize their global soft­ware releases.

We’d love to hear from you. Please send any ques­tions or top­ics you’d like to have dis­cussed dur­ing this panel to Chris Raulf @ chris (at) lin​go​port​.com.

Update 4 August 2011

The record­ing of our panel dis­cus­sion is now avail­able here.

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North America from the outside in and the inside out

by on Aug.30, 2010 , under localization, random

This arti­cle was orig­i­nally pub­lished in slightly-edited form by Mul­ti­lin­gual mag­a­zine, Sep­tem­ber 2010 and is reprinted here with per­mis­sion. Erin Vang would like to thank Mul­ti­lin­gual for gra­ciously con­sent­ing to repub­li­ca­tion of this arti­cle in the Glob­al­Prag­mat­ica blog.

In 1998 I planned a trip to Nor­way and set about edu­cat­ing myself. In addi­tion to the usual stack of guide­books, lan­guage books, and cas­settes, I picked up a copy of Nor­way: Cul­ture Shock! A sur­vival guide to cus­toms and eti­quette. I hate being the Ugly Amer­i­can when I travel, so I wanted to learn some of the lit­tle niceties that would help me blend in.

I enjoyed the book, but it felt inside-out and back­wards to me somehow—all kinds of behav­iors and cul­tural details that I con­sid­ered nor­mal were explained as if they were com­pletely bizarre. It was aston­ish­ing to me that, for exam­ple, the book went to the trou­ble of explain­ing that you shouldn’t ask Nor­we­gians how much money they make. You shouldn’t expect Nor­we­gians to divulge much about them­selves to strangers, or even for that mat­ter to friends. When vis­it­ing a Nor­we­gian fam­ily in their home, you should decline offers of food and drink at first and only relent after repeated offers are made. Fur­ther, an offer of “cof­fee” doesn’t mean a hot bev­er­age. “Cof­fee” means a full lunch spread, with open-faced sand­wiches, a vari­ety of side dishes, per­haps some fruit soup, and at least an assort­ment of cook­ies if not cake for dessert. If you’re lucky, there will be left­over dumplings and ham, sliced and fried up together.

Well, duh! That’s nor­mal, isn’t it?

Isn’t it?

I should prob­a­bly men­tion that I grew up in the snow belt of North Amer­ica in a series of small towns set­tled in large part by Nor­we­gian and Ger­man immi­grants and still pop­u­lated mostly by their descen­dants, who tell Olé and Lena jokes and would call a Norwegian-Swedish cou­ple a “mixed mar­riage.” It turns out that I grew up with a Nor­we­gian sen­si­bil­ity about things.

Even­tu­ally I turned to the “About the author” sec­tion in the back of the book and learned that she was an Asian woman who had mar­ried a Nor­we­gian man and moved to Norway.

So the book was inside-out and back­wards for me! Osten­si­bly it described Nor­we­gian cus­toms, but I learned more about which Nor­we­gian cus­toms seem odd to an Asian and in turn what the Asian norms are. I also learned how my sense of nor­mal dif­fers from the rest of North Amer­ica, because the very things she pointed out about Nor­we­gians are the traits that have made me stick out since I left the snow belt.

North Amer­ica from the out­side in

I’ve since had the priv­i­lege of trav­el­ing quite a bit in Asia and Europe as a local­iza­tion pro­gram man­ager, con­tin­u­ing my inside-out cul­tural learn­ing over din­ners and drinks with my local­iza­tion teams and in-country colleagues.

What par­tic­u­larly strikes me about Japan is its quiet, com­pact order and elab­o­rate atten­tion to man­ners, and upon return­ing home from Japan I’m always star­tled by how big, messy, and casual we Amer­i­cans are. We think noth­ing of tak­ing a sip of a beer as soon as it arrives, and if we pause for a toast, it’s just “Cheers!” with much noisy bang­ing of glasses, and no atten­tion to whose glass clinks higher or lower. We walk down office hall­ways talk­ing in full voice, we’re more likely to call some­thing sar­cas­tic into our col­leagues’ open doors than to notice whether they’re busy, and by the time we’ve gone past three people’s offices, we’ve walked past more space than a dozen com­pa­ra­ble Japan­ese office-workers would use, and all of it is messier.

Over din­ner in Korea one night I learned what I’d never noticed before in years of sam­pling Korean music, dance, and the­ater: that it reflects mil­lenia of sad­ness. Korea’s long his­tory is full of inva­sions, wars, cul­tural loss, and great depri­va­tion. Korea’s clas­si­cal and folk arts express the reserved, wary sad­ness of a peo­ple rav­aged for tens of cen­turies by neigh­bors in every direc­tion. A Korean attend­ing an arts fes­ti­val in North Amer­ica would be stunned to see singers smil­ing, actors laugh­ing, dancers frol­ick­ing, and per­form­ers of all types mak­ing joy­ful eye con­tact with their audi­ences. Korean arts serve a more impor­tant pur­pose than enter­tain­ment and fun: they remem­ber loss and strug­gle, they record per­se­ver­ance, they offer per­spec­tive about daily chal­lenges in a con­text of sur­viv­ing the unsurvivable.

North Amer­i­cans think we are famil­iar with Chi­nese food until we actu­ally visit China and are con­fronted with the real thing. Theirs is a cui­sine of poverty, mak­ing the most of scarcity by using parts of the ani­mal we call scraps, using plants we call “weeds,” and using elab­o­rate tech­niques and richly lay­ered fla­vors to make them all palat­able. We might think that “Amer­i­can food” would seem sim­ple and deca­dent to Chi­nese vis­i­tors, but in fact they are as per­plexed by our foods as we are by theirs. The thing that puz­zles them the most? That our foods come in big hunks and sep­a­rated piles—think of a din­ner at a typ­i­cal Amer­i­can steak­house, where your plate comes with a huge hunk of meat, an enor­mous baked potato, and a pile of one veg­etable, all arranged so that noth­ing is touch­ing. I was star­tled to dis­cover that the foods my Chi­nese col­leagues pre­ferred were those that min­gled meats and veg­eta­bles in one dish, all in one-fork pieces, such as a casse­role. Their com­fort had noth­ing to do with the fla­vors and every­thing to do with shapes!

North Amer­ica from the inside out

What most North Amer­i­cans prob­a­bly don’t con­sider is that we are all out­siders in North Amer­ica. Our planet’s third largest land mass after Asia and Africa is home to twenty more nations besides the biggest three, Canada, the United States, and Mex­ico. We are all out­siders in twenty-two of those coun­tries. Nar­row­ing the focus to just the US, our nation’s young his­tory is one of myr­iad immi­grant and native cul­tures set­tling tiny pock­ets of a vast con­ti­nent. Cul­tures have blended to a cer­tain extent with those of the other peo­ples in the vicin­ity, and the result­ing regional iden­ti­ties per­sist to the present. The lines are start­ing to blur in the age of national and global tele­vi­sion, radio, and inter­net, but the poten­tial for cul­tural con­flict and mis­un­der­stand­ing is far greater than many peo­ple real­ize. I’ll share a few of the more amus­ing exam­ples from my own life.

When I left my Nor­we­gian enclave in the snow belt and arrived in Chicago for grad school, I couldn’t fig­ure out why my friends never offered me any­thing to eat or drink when I vis­ited. It wasn’t until some fel­low Norwegian-Lutheran-Minnesotans from my alma mater joked about our com­mon ten­dency to turn things down three times before accept­ing that I real­ized what the prob­lem was. My friends did offer me drinks and snacks, but out of Norwegian-American habit, I always said some­thing along the lines of, “Oh, I’m fine–no, thank you.” But that was that! My friends didn’t real­ize that the first three times you offer some­thing don’t count!

I spent about a dozen years work­ing for SAS and trav­el­ing fre­quently to cor­po­rate head­quar­ters in Cary, North Car­olina. Much later I found the Cul­ture Shock! series book on the Amer­i­can South and finally began to under­stand some of my expe­ri­ences there. When my col­leagues had responded to one of my ideas with, “Bless your heart!” they weren’t grate­fully com­mend­ing my cleverness—they were say­ing, approx­i­mately, “Oh, you poor baf­fled freak… you just don’t under­stand any­thing.” When they called me “Yan­kee,” it wasn’t a slight as I thought; they were just acknowl­edg­ing that I was dif­fer­ent. When I jok­ingly called myself a “damn Yan­kee” once, I was cor­rected with a smile: “You’re not a ‘damn Yan­kee’! You’re just a Yan­kee. Damn Yan­kees are the ones who don’t leave.”

We’re all outsiders

When a friend of yours grieves a death in the fam­ily or is recov­er­ing from surgery, do you send flowers?

What on earth for? What good are the flow­ers going to do any­one? Where I’m from, we make a tuna noo­dle hot­dish com­plete with crum­bled potato chips on top, and we bring it over to the house, hot and ready to serve, in a casse­role care­fully labeled with our last name on a piece of mask­ing tape. We do this whether we like tuna noo­dle casse­role or not, because it’s what is done.

Being an out­sider in North Amer­ica is not a priv­i­lege reserved for vis­i­tors from other countries.

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The controversy about R: epic fail or epic success?

by on Apr.28, 2010 , under JMP & JSL

Sta­tis­ti­cians and data ana­lysts are in a ker­fuf­fle about the recent remarks of Ann­Maria De Mars, Ph.D. (Pres­i­dent of The Julia Group and a SAS Global Forum attendee) in her blog that the open source sta­tis­ti­cal analy­sis tool R is an “epic fail,” or to put it in Twit­terese, #epicfail:

I know that R is free and I am actu­ally a Unix fan and think Open Source soft­ware is a great idea. How­ever, for me per­son­ally and for most users, both indi­vid­ual and orga­ni­za­tional, the much greater cost of soft­ware is the time it takes to install it, main­tain it, learn it and doc­u­ment it. On that, R is an epic fail.

And oh, how the hash­tags and com­ments and teeth-gnashing began!

Nathan Yau’s excel­lent Flow­ing­Data blog recaps the ker­fuf­fle nicely, and his post has accu­mu­lated a thought­ful com­ments thread, as has Dr. De Mars’, to both of which I added my thoughts, expanded here:

To make my prej­u­dices clear, I’ve spent sev­eral decades in com­mer­cial sta­tis­ti­cal soft­ware devel­op­ment (work­ing in a vari­ety of R&D roles at SYSTAT, StatView, JMP and SAS, and Pre­dic­tum), and I now do cus­tom JMP script­ing, etc., for Global Prag­mat­ica LLC.

I can say with hard-won author­ity that:

- good sta­tis­ti­cal soft­ware devel­op­ment is dif­fi­cult and expen­sive
– good qual­ity assur­ance is more dif­fi­cult and expen­sive
– design­ing a good graph­i­cal user inter­face is dif­fi­cult, and expen­sive
– a good GUI is worth­while, because the eas­ier it is to try more things, the more things you will try, &
– cre­ative insight is worth a lot more than pro­gram­ming skill

Even com­mer­cial soft­ware tends to be under-supported, and I’ll be the first to admit that my own pro­gram­ming is as buggy as any­body else’s, but if I’m mak­ing life-and-death or world-changing deci­sions, I want to be sure that I’m not the only one who’s looked at my code, tested bor­der cases, con­sid­ered the impli­ca­tions of miss­ing val­ues, con­trolled for under­flow and over­flow errors, done smart things with float­ing point fuzzi­ness, and gen­er­ally thought about any given prob­lem in a few more direc­tions than I have. I want to know that when seri­ous bugs are dis­cov­ered, the knowl­edge will be dis­sem­i­nated and somebody’s job is on the line to fix them.

For all these rea­sons, I tem­per my sin­cere enthu­si­asm about the wide open fron­tiers of open source prod­ucts like R with a con­ser­v­a­tive appre­ci­a­tion for soft­ware that has a big company’s rep­u­ta­tion and future rid­ing on its accu­racy, and prefer­ably a big com­pany that has been in the busi­ness long enough to develop the para­noia that dri­ves a fierce QA program.

R is great for what it is, as long as you bear in mind what it isn’t. Your own R code or R code that you find sit­ting around is only as good as your com­mit­ment to test­ing and under­stand­ing of thorny com­pu­ta­tional gotchas.

I share the apparently-common opin­ion that R’s inter­face leaves a lot to be desired. Con­fi­den­tial­ity agree­ments pre­vent me from con­firm­ing or deny­ing the rumors about JMP 9 inter­fac­ing with R, but I will say that if they turn out to be true, both prod­ucts would ben­e­fit from it. JMP, like any com­mer­cial prod­uct, improves when it faces stiff com­pe­ti­tion and attends to it, and R, like most open source prod­ucts, could use a bet­ter front end.

And now let me make my case for R being an epic success.

I like open source soft­ware. I use a bunch of it, and I do what I can for the cause (which isn’t much more than evan­ge­lism, unfor­tu­nately). For me, the biggest win with open source soft­ware is that it makes tools avail­able to me, and oth­ers, who don’t need them enough to jus­tify much of a price, but who can ben­e­fit from them when they’re afford­able or free. When an open source tool gets some­thing done for me, or eases some pain at least, I’m not that picky about its inter­face, and I’m will­ing to do my own val­i­da­tion (where applicable).

I can’t say that I love using Linux, but as a long-time UNIX geek and Mac OS X bigot, I am glad Linux is avail­able, I use it for cer­tain things, and I think it’s a whole lot bet­ter than Win­dows and other OSes, espe­cially when Ubuntu builds work out. (I’ve had trou­ble get­ting JMP for Linux installed on Ubuntu, but that’s prob­a­bly due to my own incom­pe­tence.) OpenOf­fice is kind of a pain, but it’s bet­ter than pay­ing Microsoft for the priv­i­lege of endur­ing the epic fail that is Office, and it has much bet­ter sup­port than Office for import/export of other for­mats. I love it that any num­ber of open source projects are devel­op­ing such fab­u­lous tools as bzr ver­sion con­trol, which I use daily, and that the FINK project is port­ing a whole bunch of great open source UNIX wid­gets to Mac OS X.

I think it’s won­der­ful that some of the world’s great­est ana­lyt­i­cal minds are using R to cre­ate pub­licly avail­able rou­tines for power-analysts. I love it that stu­dents and peo­ple who can’t afford com­mer­cial stats soft­ware, or who won’t use it enough to jus­tify buy­ing a license, have a high-quality open source option, if they’re will­ing to work at it a bit. I think it’s great that peo­ple who think Excel is good enough can’t make a price objec­tion to upgrad­ing to R.

I believe that democ­ra­tiz­ing inno­va­tion and pro­lif­er­at­ing ana­lyt­i­cal com­pe­tence are good for us all. I count on projects like R and Linux to push com­mer­cial devel­op­ers to make bet­ter prod­ucts, and to force pric­ing and licens­ing of those prod­ucts to remain rea­son­able. Monop­o­lies are good for nobody, includ­ing monopolists.

Long live the pro­po­nents of R!

What do you think? Do you trust open source stats code? Do you think R’s inter­face is good enough? Is JMP’s any bet­ter? How heav­ily do you fac­tor qual­ity of doc­u­men­ta­tion into deci­sions about software?

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