Nov 27, 2014

Kilgray's new memoQ website!

I hate it. But only the first page. Call me old-fashioned, but I can't drink enough coffee to get sufficiently wired to appreciate the hyperactive pace of multielemental, multidirectional motion on a page like that. There is no sense of the calm competence that for me is typical of the excellent team behind that site. Instead, images flip, logos zip and words fly and I think, "Get me the Hell out of here!". Face it, too much of modern web design sucks, especially when it is aimed at teenagers with an attention span of about three seconds.

The rest of the site, however, is a considerable improvement over the old site, which reminded me a bit of the old Winchester House in California: lots of good stuff to be found, but on the journey to get there, you might wind up on a staircase that ends in the ceiling. Although I have used that old site for 6 or 7 years now in its various iterations I was often unable to find things like the webinat schedule or a particular mysterious back alley that led to the training resources I knew were there somewhere. Over the years I sent a lot of "Where the heck is... ?" e-mails to my contacts at Kilgray when hours or days of searching left me stranded, thirsty and desperate in the middle of some desert on God-knows-what continent.

No more. The overlarge, multi-column menus that show up under the categories across the top may take a while to read (pack a lunch and a few bottles of water just in case), and my eyes have to go over them a few times to find a particular item, but things are, for the most part, where I expect them to be, which is great progress. So what if the design still won't win any awards? I am saving time to get where I want to go on the whole.

And that's really what's important to me. I can see that I will be able to find the product and reference information I need with much greater ease* than before, and if that works for me, this will probably be even more true for most other memoQ users.

* assuming that I do not go blind due to the poor contrast with the light-colored font!

Nov 26, 2014

Life at the bottom: Manta/Orbe translations

Two days ago I received a most curious e-mail from a Mr. Guillermo Chiosso, associated with a bulk market bogster, Manta/Orbe, known for its bottom-tier rates and reported history of complaints from those who have worked with them. In this e-mail, which appears to have been sent to hundreds of translators and interpreters in IAPTI and possibly others, Mr. Chiosso writes of an upcoming defamation suit against the current president of that organization, Aurora Humarán because of an article at

which was linked in a "news" page curated by Ms. Humaran using the keyword service. In the rambling, defamatory letter distributed to so many translators and interpreters, Mr. Chiosso claims that Ms. Humarán authored the piece in question, which is clearly not the case. My blog posts and those of others are featured all the time in such collections, where curators are presented with the results of a web search according to criteria of their interest and then choose interesting bits to share. But offering a link to an article is not quite the same as authoring, and if it were, I shudder to think how long some bylines would be.

What is going on here? Lately, I have noticed what seems to be a trend of aggressive escalation by representatives of the bulk market bog of language services, who are constantly innovating in the efforts to drive the sector toward demonetization. The excessive spin-doctoring responses to my recent post on Translators Without Compensation (TransWC) aka TWB and the many public and private threats I personally received in association with that article before the organization's founder and president resigned are further examples of the intimidation tactics which now seem popular among driving forces in the lower strata of Linguistic Sausage Production. The timing of Mr. Chiosso's missive is, of course, coincidental, but it is interest to note how careless he and in particular another individual are about reading the sources subject to their complaints; one can only hope that they are not or no longer involved in content review activities for documents of importance, because I am not sure I would trust the results.

The tactics employed here remind me a bit of the logo and motto of the Sherwin-William's paint company: "Cover the Earth". But unlike the pleasant colors and tones offered by that manufacturer, here the cover is falsehood intended to direct the attention away from unsavory practices such as spamming, exploitative rates and questionable ethical practices. In issuing their threats, both Mr. Chiosso and the blowhard who misdirected his mistaken outrage against me both claim to have consulted counsel, but when the basic facts of the text in question are examined, it is hard not to call the competence of counsel - or the information provided to counsel - into question.

I hope that Mr. Chiosso will issue the apology due soon and that some of us at least can return to what we do best.

Nov 25, 2014

My first project with memoQ 2014 Release 2

When I got my first look at the test version of the upcoming memoQ release, memoQ 2014 R2, I argued with  Kilgray that it ought to be called memoQ 2015 instead, not only because the year 2014 is almost over, but because this software represents a major break with the old interface design. Kilgray likes to point out that there are not so many new features being introduced here - perhaps a mere "dozen" give or take a bit - but just one of these - the new ribbon interface - has its own 50 page manual. Meu deus.

On the whole I am coming to view the rapid pace of development for some CAT tools in a rather negative light. I rather like the current memoQ 2014 release, but I am not even close to coming to grips with the 70+ new features introduced earlier this year (which has probably grown to 100+, depending on how you want to count them). I think back to my experiences as a corporate systems consultant in the archiving and document management sector and those working with a state department of transportation before that, where many thousands of networked workstations and other systems had to be managed for maximum productivity and minimum disruption. It took me a while back then to understand why, after many months of thorough testing at enormous cost, an upgrade for  something like Internet Explorer was permitted for the version two whole numbers below the current one. I eventually learned that these big organizations were not so dumb after all: being on the "leading edge" is too often the same as the "bleeding edge", which can have considerable, unanticipated costs.

This is the reason why for years I have advised my clients and colleagues not to consider new versions of any tool for routine production use until several months at least past its release date, and to use "roundtrip testing" in every instance to ensure that a technically usable result can be obtained from every project. Ultimately, Kilgray and others are going to have to determine whether constantly stirring the feature pot in a way that too often makes established workflows obsolete is in the best interests of their clientele and market future. Despite all the trendy talk of the benefits of disruption and "creative destruction" I am unconvinced that this is the case.

However, I do see very good reasons for the major changes to the interface in memoQ 21014 Release 2, and I think that new features like the limited sharing of online translation memories and termbases (with an open API in the future to allow access by other tools I'm told) are an excellent intermediate stage for those who aren't quite ready to move up to a team server solution like memoQ Cloud or the greater access capacity of the full memoQ Server license but who still need realtime data sharing for projects with a partner from time to time.

Kilgray's blog has a good post describing the basic shift in the logic of the environment from cataloging commands as one might in a library or inventory system to organization by the normal sequence of work. This makes a lot of sense, and this is also the way I teach new users to use the software, with small sets of features organized according to the sequence of typical work.

After spending about a week just staring at the new ribbons, I decided to do my first small, low-risk commercial project with the test version. Everything went quite well, but I had to fight a sense of disorientation as I kept looking for commands in the lower area of the screen, which is now free for viewing more files and file information in a project. In some cases, I had to get used to clicking on the little arrows under icons rather than the icons themselves. Nothing I needed was difficult to locate, but as a longtime user of memoQ with many ingrained habits, I will take some time getting used to this, after which my work will probably proceed even more smoothly. In any case, it is clear to me that new users will find their way more quickly with this new, workflow-based interface.

This impression of greater ease for new users was reinforced by remarks from a colleague in my office a few days ago. Her professional background prior to her activities in translation was as an educational psychologist and adult education teacher, and when I began to complain about how awful the new ribbons were and how uncomfortable I felt with them, she patiently explained how I had it all wrong and why the new design was much more logical and easier to use. Years ago I teased SDL Trados users who bitched at first about the change from the nasty old over/under TWB interface to the tabular working environment of SDL Trados Studio only to become enthusiasts later when they realized how much their workflows had improved; I fear that I will also become a just target for such teasing.

I don't want to admit it, really, but I am already beginning to like those awful ribbons, which are perhaps rather useful after all. And if I really don't want to look at them, they can be hidden with just a click, leaving me with even more working space on my screen. So all right, I'll say it. Reluctantly. Good job, Kilgray.

Now who is going to re-do all the screenshots and videos for my tutorials?