Another stimulating Internationalisation and Unicode Conference (IUC36) just finished up last week (October 22-24, 2012). As usual it was rich with interesting people, stimulating subjects, and inspiration. My tutorial, Building multilingual websites in Drupal 7 and Joomla! 2.5, was well-attended and seemed to go well. My final paper and slides are posted at the preceding link.

My top celebrity moment was Vint Cerf’s keynote presentation, “Bit Rot” – A Disaster Waiting to Happen. His role in inventing TCP/IP and fathering the Internet electrified this room of software engineers. But his wit, vivaciousness, and sharp insight kept him approachable. His topic was preserving digital artifacts over time, on the order of centuries. Many others have spoken about digital preservation, at Unicode conferences and elsewhere. He introduced the term Digital Vellum, meaning a virtual framework in which all functional elements needed to preserve and render digital objects could be implemented. This includes everything from software emulators to modified patent and copyright concepts, in addition to the physical medium which the term “vellum” evokes. He also pointed to his work on Digital Object Identifiers, providing unique and persistent identifiers.

The most inspirational moments came in talks by Michael Kaplan, Microsoft, on Building the Phonetic Keyboard for Cherokee,  and comments about Cherokee keyboards by Marc Durdin, CEO, Tavultesoft Pty Ltd, in his talk on designing keyboards, From Typewriter to Touch. A few months ago I was contacted by the Musqueam nation, the first nation on whose traditional and unceded lands most of modern Vancouver B.C. sits. They were exploring how to adapt cell phones to support their language. These Unicode conference talks inspire me to pursue that idea further.

The most outrageous act of devotion to the conference was surely Michael Kaplan’s delivery of three talks — by video link — from his hospital bed — having broken his hip a few days earlier, and still taking painkillers! Michael received a Unicode Bulldog award in 2008, and continued to earn it this year.

And perhaps the best virtuoso tour de force was the talk by Thomas Milo, of DecoType, on Arabic Typography. Not for him any abstract, or prepared slides. He simply went to the front of the room, opened a PDF file with draft pages from a forthcoming book on Arabic typography, and opened the tap on his fount of research, language skill, experience, and opinion. He made sure to start by stating his conclusion, to be sure it wouldn’t get cut off due to time. Then the force of nature flowed until the timekeeper (me, as it happened) cut him off. When that book is published, I want a copy, and I want him to autograph it.

To see the paper and slides for my tutorial, see the archive page Building multilingual websites in Drupal 7 and Joomla! 2.5. See you next year, at IUC37!