Crazy situation: Customer responsible for translation?

Subject: Crazy situation: Customer responsible for translation?
From: Geoff Hart <ghart -at- videotron -dot- ca>
To: TECHWR-L <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com>, Trina Pearce <tpearce -at- ubiquitysoftware -dot- com>
Date: Wed, 02 Aug 2006 12:02:16 -0400

Trina Pearce reports: <<My company has decided that we will not translate our docs. Our customers will be responsible.>>

Thanks for the tip... I'll be calling my stockbroker shortly. <g> A tad less facetiously, this isn't necessarily a bad thing. You haven't provided enough information for us to make an informed judgment on this situation, so a few general thoughts:

If the goal is to simply eliminate a necessary expense that nobody understands to be necessary, the company is simply being foolish. It will be seen for what it is: an attempt to shift the cost to the customer, and I can't imagine any customer accepting this graciously. If there are alternative programs available, many customers will adopt that solution. You might remind your managers that there are also clear legal concerns: although the translator is going to be the first line of responsibility for any errors, your company may also be dragged into any lawsuits.

If the customers are not already experienced in translation and localization, the possibilities for disaster are numerous: errors of interpretation, stupid errors (pasting the wrong text into the wrong place), failing to keep the documentation in synch with the English, linking to the wrong help topics or printed cross-references, and on and on and on. That's doubly true if they don't have quality control procedures at least as tight as your own and staff who will be dedicated to the translation process.

You'll also have to figure out how to handle copyright. The original English is copyrighted in your name, but copyright for the translation is probably in the hands of the translator if they're not doing this for you as a "work for hire". And if you insist that the translation be copyrighted in your name, I can imagine the customers laughing in your face. "What... you want us to do all the hard work and then hand it to you for nothing so you can sell it to someone else?"

On the other hand, if this is being seen as an opportunity to work with customers to provide documentation in the form they need, with the goal of giving them full control of a process that has thus far been frustrating and outside their control, this can be a very good thing indeed. If you also take the opportunity to benefit from their experience working with the documentation, and request feedback that will let you improve your documentation next time around, this is also a good thing. You'll have all kinds of issues with quality control, but these are manageable, and the payback from direct customer contact may justify the hassle.

<<So now, our doc team is faced with the task of determining what type of files to provide our customers with so they can have the documentation translated.>>

The only people who can tell you this are the customers. You're already placing a huge burden on them by making them responsible for translation, so you might at least try to ease that burden by working with them to find out their needs. At a minimum, they'll need your source texts and they'll need to work with the programmers to figure out how to effectively translate the software interface.

<<For several reasons, as you can imagine, our team doesn't want to hand over the source Frame files to the customer.>>

I can imagine several reasons, but no _good_ reasons. If you're really concerned about document security, send them a printout and make them retype everything: they'll hate you and take out mafia contracts on your senior management (not necessarily a bad thing), but at least your documents will be safe. If you're concerned about making a bad situation at least tolerable for the customer, send them whatever file format they request, including Frame. You control the original files, so why do you care what happens to copies of those files?

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Geoff Hart ghart -at- videotron -dot- ca
(try geoffhart -at- mac -dot- com if you don't get a reply)
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Crazy situation: Customer responsible for translation: From: Trina Pearce

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