There is a lot of international, multilingual, and multicultural activity in Vancouver. Also, there’s a thriving tech scene. But there’s no place for the people in the intersection of those two circles — those interested in and working on the internationalisation, localisation, and multilingual aspects of technology projects — to get together and share ideas. I think there ought to be.

And I’ll even propose a name: IMLIG1604, the I18n L10n M11l I6t G3p (Internationalisation, Localisation, and Multilingual Interest Group) for North America’s 604 area code. If you can decipher the title, you’re in the club!

Among Silicon Valley’s many quirky charms is IMUG, the “Original Multilingual Computing User Group”. Founded in 1987, its monthly meetings have collected 10-100 people to hear a speaker on some aspect of technology internationalization, localization, or multilingual computing. I was one of the early speakers, back in 1990 or so, explaining about Japanese language support on MS-DOS. Since a lot of internationalization happens in Silicon Valley, many of the IMUG speakers were experts in technologies like Unicode, OpenType, and localization, and in products like the iPhone, Facebook, PostScript, and Mac OS. Even more interesting was the attendee base, which ranged from oddball language enthusiasts to some of the luminaries of Silicon Valley language and technology, such as Joe Becker (one of the creators of Unicode), Donald Knuth (demigod of computer science), and Lee Collins (long-time i18n engineer for Mac OS). IMUG continues to this day; last month, they heard from Matt Sanford, lead engineer of Twitter’s International team, on “Internationalizing Twitter“.

Vancouver may not be quite the hotbed for i18n that Silicon Valley is. But we do have i18n here, and I keep running into people who are interested in the topic.  I think the time has come to summon interesting speakers, and aggregate ourselves.

Here’s a few possible speakers to get us started.  If you know of others, please post a comment nominating them. A number of these topics have a ready affinity to existing groups, so we could perhaps start by co-sponsoring with the appropriate group. Maybe we could even drop this topic and speaker into their existing meeting series.

  • Vancouver-born Twitter client HootSuite has an iPhone app, which was just localised into five languages (En, Ja, De, Es, and Pt). I know CEO Ryan Holmes pays close attention to non-English traffic on HootSuite, and is building business in Japan. Maybe Ryan and/or his i18n engineers could come to speak. Possible affinity with VanDev, Vancouver’s Software Developers Network.
  • There are non-English Language BC bloggers. My BC Polyglot blog directory lists some of them. It might be interesting to assemble a panel, and find out how they pick topics and build an audience. Possible affinity with the Vancouver Blogger Meetup Group.
  • John Yunker and Midge Raymond of Byte Level Research produce an annual Web Globalization Report Card. The 2010 edition is just out, and has fascinating information on how 225 top global web sites engage the world. They are fairly nearby in Seattle, and perhaps could be persuaded to come up here and talk about it. Possible affinity with the International Internet Marketing Association (IIMA).
  • Vancouver-based Clearly Contacts has a Japanese-language web store serving the Japanese contact lens market, and they point out that they handle customer service in 13 languages.  Talking to their Japan business development and customer service leads about how they serve that market from Canada would no doubt be fascinating.
  • We are a North American hub for English as a Second Language Schools. Perhaps a panel from the schools could have something interesting to say about how this business works and how it contributes to Vancouver’s cultural diversity.
  • We have a few i18n and l10n service providers in town, and staff from those companies might be good speakers.
  • There are of course Translators and Interpreters, and it might be interesting to hear from them about how their business is in this area.

Why the “1604” in the name?  Well, it’s to be read as “+1-604”. 604 is the area code for the Vancouver and Lower Mainland area. Using this suffix allows for other IMLIGs elsewhere. As an i18n group, we couldn’t assume that the only IMLIGs will ever be in North America, so it seems appropriate to put the country code, +1, on the front.  But Twitter won’t allow “+” or “-” in user names, so “IMLIG+1-604” becomes “IMLIG1604”.

I’m not sure whether I’ll actually get away with the name IMLIG1604. I like the way it evokes other names like “IMUG”, “Miss604”, and “Hummingbird604”. IMLIG is an acronym, and perhaps we can do better than that.  “Imlig” also appears to be a personal name, perhaps of Swiss origin. That might prove to be a conflict.  But it’s certainly a distinctive name, so the brand is ours to build.

Would you like to help me get this group started?  Would you like to show your support by attending some of the meetings? Start by following I’ll post updates about this project there. And if you know someone who would be a good speaker for this group, post a comment below with their name and why they are interesting. I also welcome suggestions for how best to structure and run this group. (I feel a little dirty for creating yet another acronym. Maybe we could come up with a better name, more descriptive yet still poetic?)

Want to run an IMLIG in your own area? I’ve reserved as a hub for pointing to other IMLIG groups.