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OSCAR: Visioning the Future of Standards

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Gérard Cattin des Bois, OSCAR ChairSince its founding in 1996, OSCAR has been a leader in the development of open standards for the localization industry. OSCAR began with the realization that the young localization industry needed standards for data interchange—a way of moving data from one linguistic application to another that would prevent users from having their linguistic assets tied to one tool.

TMX, TBX and SRX can serve as the basis for real projects and work, not just data migration.

The obvious target during this first push for standardization was translation memory (TM), which at the time was a relatively new technology for most users. Since then, the need for interchange has only increased, as the volume and use of TM has increased exponentially. Early OSCAR members also realized the need for interchange standards for terminology and began addressing that problem based on promising work being done in ISO Technical Committee 37. The result of this twin effort was Translation Memory eXchange (TMX) and Term Base eXchange (TBX), XML standards that allow the interchange/exchange of data between computer-assisted translation tools.

After the completion of TMX, OSCAR realized that simply passing TM data between applications was not enough to ensure that it could be reused. Different applications segmented data differently, and this in turn led to problems for re-use. Thus, the current Segmentation Rules eXchange (SRX) initiative was born; today it is nearing its first major release. Tools implementing SRX in conjunction with TMX enable other tools to understand how a given TMX file data has been segmented. This exposed segmentation, in turn, enables these other tools to better recycle translations.

By adopting OSCAR standards, tasks can be accomplished that no single tool can do on its own.

Each of these standards was initially conceived to facilitate data exchange, but in an ideal world, they would do far more. Each of these standards, when implemented as application file formats in their own right, allow for the creation of files that can be used by anyone - anywhere, with any tool. TMX, TBX and SRX are process- and platform-agnostic, and can serve as the basis for real projects and work, not just data migration. By adopting these formats for actual work on projects, tasks can be accomplished that no single tool can do on its own. Files based on OSCAR standards can be reparsed for different tools and manipulated using simple tools and filters, thus saving organizations time and money.

If OSCAR standards are intended only to promote exchange, then they represent another process that must be added to tools. If, however, they are viewed as integral and foundational pieces of a multilingual workflow, then all tools can operate on the same file format, and processes can be simplified because tools can be used on the basis of their strengths. For example, if Trados handles one task very well, but Déjà Vu handles another task better, I could use a TMX file with both tools, allowing each to do what it does best. It is this sort of collaboration between tools that I see as becoming more and more important in this industry, and OSCAR standards are what will provide the foundation for this collaboration.

Novell understood that, by adopting a standard format for their multilingual resources, they were simplifying their process, not making it more complex.

I first realized this potential when I learned that Novell had switched all multilingual resources for its products to the XLIFF format. Like OSCAR standards, XLIFF was designed for interchange, but the developers at Novell understood that, by adopting a standard format for their multilingual resources, they were simplifying their process, not making it more complex.

Recent developments with .Net and Java have made it increasingly simple to create small programs to accomplish simple tasks. When combined with platform- and process-agnostic formats, they open the possibility of custom-processing of linguistic resources outside of any established tool, while still allowing for reuse of those resources with existing tools.

Ultimately, the vision of OSCAR is maximal flexibility and transparency. As companies adopt and leverage OSCAR standards and use them, they will find that their processes can become simpler and more streamlined, and that their options will increase: (1) the option to use new/different tools, (2) the option to do things that present tools don’t allow, and (3) the option to work with different vendors, regardless of tool choice.

Adoption of OSCAR standards (and certification) by tools must increase.

The vision of OSCAR is that OSCAR standards will provide a foundation for a platform on which data and business rules (such as word counts) can be reused, exchanged and made transparent, for the benefit of all in the industry. However, this vision of OSCAR has not yet been realized. Within OSCAR, we still have significant work to do, and adoption (and certification) by tools must increase. OSCAR also needs to facilitate the use of TMX, TBX, and SRX by converting them to name spaces so that data in these formats is more easily usable by various tools and other standards.

In this industry, we are all experts, but often we have our heads down while we work at our problems, and it is hard to see the big picture or to understand how to make our work easier. Moving forward, we need to articulate the current pain points of our industry and work to fix them together. OSCAR is a great forum in which to move the industry forward. This is the value I see in OSCAR.

OSCAR is the visionary vehicle that enables us to surface and address the pain points.

OSCAR intends to assemble those experts and companies that have the time and energy to identify and eliminate these pain points to improve the future of the industry. OSCAR is the visionary vehicle that enables us to surface and address the pain points experienced by all organizations operating in more than one language.

OSCAR belongs to the entire GILT industry, not just to the companies that are represented within OSCAR. This work impacts all segments of the industry. We therefore would like to invite each industry segment to participate in this visionary exercise. OSCAR will kick off this visioning effort during the LISA conference in San Francisco in June. We invite all parties interested in this visioning exercise to come and submit their pain points for further discussion.


Reprinted by permission from the Globalization Insider,
14 April 2004, Volume XIII, Issue 2.1.

Copyright the Localization Industry Standards Association
(Globalization Insider: www.localization.org, LISA:
and S.M.P. Marketing Sarl (SMP) 2004

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