Lost in translation

Lost in translation

on Dec 16, 10 • by Patti Murphy • with 1 Comment

  Do internationalization and localization take the fun and flexibility out of documentation? And here’s the answer: You betcha, sister! At the risk of starting a brawl in the documentation department, I’m going to respond  to my manager’s post about our new policy to facilitate the translation of our wiki...

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Do internationalization and localization take the fun and flexibility out of documentation?

And here’s the answer: You betcha, sister!

At the risk of starting a brawl in the documentation department, I’m going to respond  to my manager’s post about our new policy to facilitate the translation of our wiki . It’s a policy I refer to unaffectionately as the Stamp-Out-Fun-and-Flexibility policy.

And yeah, I know that internationalization and localization are important to humanity and, um, sales. It’s just that making things more translatable makes documentation less agile and less fun.

1.    Wikis are agile until you’re not allowed to edit them

The great thing about our wiki is that we can update it during development and post release. Customers don’t need to wait until a new version is published. It’s always current.

The policy sucks because: We’ll have to have a “freeze-by” date to get material out of translators. Changing the docs will lead to higher translation costs. So that run-on sentence and that wrong instruction will go unfixed until the next round. The PR fix that has user impacts will go undocumented until the next release.

2.    So long community

All along, we’ve encouraged customers, partners and internal teams to edit our documentation.

The policy sucks because: Now, we’re going to have to say, “No editing. Yeah, yeah, I know we said to go ahead and edit, but really what we meant was don’t edit.” Our “yes, go ahead and edit” was mistranslated.

3.    Google loves fresh meat.

For SEO, churn is great. Search engines love to have fresh material to crawl all over.

The policy sucks because: Less content churn is bad for findability.

4.    A fun, engaging tone makes documentation more readable.

A light tone, particularly in error messages, can defuse frustration.

The policy sucks because: Our writing will have to go back to being dry, dry, dry. No more “Why you’re here”.

What are the predictions on the outcome of this fight? Well, I lift weights occasionally, but Helen fights dirty. It’s anyone’s guess, but I think I’m going to lose this one. That’s okay. I’m used to it.

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