November is the worst month of the year where I live, and this time around nearly everyone in my office had the same idea: take vacations to someplace warmer and less depressing. We wanted to go to Turks and Caicos, Mexico, San Francisco. With this goal in mind, our office finally made the switch to working in the cloud. It was kind of perfect because content-wise, we were working on the cloud computing issue. So we switched our server to a cloud-based system that synced automatically, updated our software licenses and temporarily hugged one another goodbye.
Naturally, I intended to test this system to the best of my ability. So for a month, I took an around-the-world trip, logging on in an apartment in Brooklyn, a café in Milan, a hostel in Lisbon. In Europe, I could sightsee during the day and then work in the evening, when it was morning back home and everyone else was online. In fact, things all went pretty smoothly until I got to rural Thailand.
I was there to rock climb, on a peninsula reachable only by boat. Mind you, there was still internet. At least in theory. I found a restaurant advertising it and got in ten minutes of work before the thing kicked me off for good. I started asking around and everyone said the only place with reliable internet was the bar; you had to buy the internet separately but you could use it all day.
Of course, you couldn’t actually use it all day because there were no plugs: the bar consisted of several raised wooden platforms overlooking the Andaman Sea. So while my newly-found rock climbing buddies drank beer and chatted all around me, I furiously tried to dummy the magazine on a connection that was still so slow that our cloud-based server took half an hour to update. While the dummy was saving at a tortuously casual pace, I’d get a few minutes of conversation in.
It was an enormous relief after that to get back to the office and be able to discuss things quickly, face-to-face, with my colleagues. It was even a relief to have hard copies and multiple screens rather than just my laptop. It was a relief that when I hit “save” in an online application, it saved rather than crashing. I also tended to work longer hours at my desk with sleet beating on my window compared to sitting at an outdoor bar by the Andaman Sea. Or even as opposed to sitting at a café in rainy Milan.
The nature of the localization industry, of course, is that you’re nearly always working with someone off-site — over good internet connections and bad. It’s the way the world is going. It behooves us to remember it, and to try our cloud-based tools and ideas in less than ideal circumstances just to make sure they’ll hold up.
And perhaps most of all, remember this: just because it’s there doesn’t mean the cloud should replace in-person interaction entirely. For discussing an individual comma on a page with your copyeditors, no set of tools can come close to the intuitive sense of a hard copy and your index finger.