Tag: sweatshop

Desktop publishing crimes (or, How not to do DTP)

by on Sep.25, 2009 , under localization, program management

Today I read a blog entry from the always wise, usually amusing Sarah O’Keefe at Scriptorium that got my vehemently-agreeing-with-her dander up. First, hurry off to read this entry at her blog, and then read all the other entries on her blog, and then come back here if you want to know why I’m so exercised this morning.

After I retweeted her link to the page and replied several more comments on Twitter (where you can follow me if you want), I posted the following comment on her blog:

An important point well made, Sarah. You go!

If I had a nickel for every manually-inserted page break that did nobody any good, I would be camping today instead of working.

Heck, if I had a dollar for all the localization so-called “DTP experts” who were the ones insisting on inserting those manual line- and page-breaks and insisting that certain categories of font changes were essential (they weren’t, they were just ugly), I would be camping someplace exotic today.

The saddest thing of all is that most of the tedious, time-consuming, error-prone, delay-intensive manual formatting busy-work that I’ve had to just about break fingers to prevent could more easily, effectively, and aesthetically-pleasingly have been accomplished with approximately one day devoted to reading the manual per DTP “expert.”

Why knowing about the most basic of DTP features is considered optional among people who call themselves DTPers is beyond me.

Which is why at the beginning of every l10n project, I’ve insisted on spending some time with the DTP staff to teach them the basics of the tools that their employers haven’t supported their learning.

Which is my sneaky segue into the real crime of the localization industry: that many of the most respected vendors are operating sweatshops.

The real DTP crimes in the localization industry aren’t so much all the manual formatting and time-consuming stupidity that I’m railing about above. The real crime is that smart, talented, good people are doing DTP for their employers (those big-name translation vendors you’ve heard so much about) without benefit of any kind of meaningful training.

Look, international DTP is challenging. When you go from one language to another, you introduce a mountain of typographical and other layout complications. When you also have to deal with the over-formatted, under-designed crap that a lot your customers are delivering to you, it grows even harder. When you add in the multitude of tools (many of them poorly chosen, archaic, primitive, or just plain weren’t-any-good-to-begin-with) that the customers are using and expecting you to use, also, what you have is a total nightmare.

So why on earth are those poor people’s employers, the localization vendors, not equipping their people with a snowball’s chance in hell of surviving these challenges?

Why don’t their so-called “DTP experts” know the basic and intermediate features of at least the top tier of available tools?

Why, when I got in up to my elbows with my vendors’ “experts” to help solve problems, did I invariably find that these experts didn’t know even the most basic things about how to design styles or apply tags?

Because many of those so-called “top shelf” localization vendors are basically running a sweatshop. They are hiring inexperienced people who have the most basic of qualifications (e.g. they’ve got passable command of more than one language, a trait not to be undervalued by any means), chaining them to a chair in a cubicle, and throwing unreasonable amounts of work at them, and their “support” is limited to easy access to coffee (which might not even be free) and limited access to the documentation of the product from two versions ago, which is the last time they paid for even a single-user license let alone the site license that they should be buying. And then they wonder why the DTP software makers don’t show a greater interest in making the l10n and i18n improvements that they need.

And this, my friends, is why you must do an in-person kickoff meeting at your vendor’s site, for every project, in every language: to make sure that that’s not the vendor you’ve hired.

When you’ve done this a few times, you will understand why you should pay a little more to a less famous vendor who does it right.

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