May 29, 2012

memoQfest 2012: another great year and great things ahead

Some say translation technology has gone to the dogs, and
this was certainly the case in Budapest this year as Ajax
and Benny noted to their satisfaction.
Although I was first asked to consider memoQ by a client of mine in 2007 and actually began to look it a year later, I was very skeptical about the software when István Lengyel convinced me to take a break for the first memoQfest at the Benzcur Hotel in Budapest in 2009. I had seen interesting progress in the year I had tested the software, but it was simply too immature for my needs and lacked nearly all the features which were most important to me. About a week before the conference, Kilgray released a version that barely met my minimum requirements for a small portion of my clients. I was impressed and actually did my first bit of commercial work with memoQ - a press release - the night before the conference began. The event itself was a blast, and I was convinced that this team had the right stuff or at least the potential to make it.

The next two years confirmed the wisdom of this leap of faith as the company raced from strength to strength despite a few stubbed toes; the advance of memoQ clearly played a role in improving other leading tools like DVX and SDL Trados, the latter borrowing generously from Hungarian innovation or using it and the unmatched service ethos on the Danube as an inspiration to overhaul the catastrophic mess of legacy Trados and enter the modern age of CAT tools, even surpassing memoQ in a few points, though with the current Renaissance of creative development in what appeared just a few years ago to be a dead-end IT ghetto, it's not an easy guess as to who will stay ahead anywhere for long. These are indeed good times for users despite the renewed threats of lock-in posed by the current misguided server politics of most providers.

Nonetheless, Kilgray's rapid growth has not been without difficulties, and despite anticipating most of the challenges long before they arose, the team doesn't always put in the performance its demanding fans expect. This is often to be expected when a company experiences the exponental growth which can obscure long-turm interests in the confusing melee of daily business. And the product which seemed so fresh and clean just a few years ago is beginning to look like a car that has been taken on too many roatrips without a good cleaning, has hauled too many dogs and needs new tires. But last week I saw clear signs that there may be a new Maserati getting a tune-up in the development garage. The hints regarding memoQ 6 and the company's further roadmap led me to scratch of most of the items on my technical gripe list. The organizational wishlist has gotten longer, but it's clear that the "refactoring" process at Kilgray is not limited to the software, so I think I can trust them as I did four years ago when few could have anticipated the company's impressive track record.

I almost did not go to Budapest this year. When I read the published schedule, it sounded far too skewed toward corporate interests, a bit like a sell-out now that server sales revenue has far surpassed that from Translator Pro licenses. And bad calls like the confused differences in implementation of versioning features in memoQ 5, weariness from providing support for issues arising from a lack of professional service consulting in the sales process with some of my agency clients and my own stupidity of forgetting to vaccinate my puppy against rabies before the trip (which required me to leave him with someone else for the first time) had me considering a week of vacation at home.

That would have been a mistake. I only expected to draw value from one presentation - regular expressions by Polish guru Marek Pawelec - and even there I didn't expect to understand very much. Instead, every one of the rather random sessions I attended had a lot to offer, even for a freelancer. The agency presenters who talked about their approaches to challenges in complex translation projects shared a great deal of information that is directly relevant to my agency and direct client business and can help make it better. And the general talk on refactoring your business through innovation by Richard Brooks, which I expected to be the biggest hot air balloon of the week, was the absolute highlight for me. I might even have gotten something out of the Asia Online keynote on machine translation, though an idiotic quote I read from the speaker about how we need to get on the MT boat or drown suggests perhaps not. I do hold out some hope he might have been misquoted or taken out of context, however. It's the least I can do in a world where people still believe in the Tooth Fairy and US Republican politics.

When Kilgray releases the videos of the talks, do watch them. I do hope the sound and picture quality will be good, because too often I really did wish I could have been in two rooms at once.

The Twitstream shared a lot of the gritty details of the presentations; the hashtag #memoQfest or an archive established by a Ukrainian user will show these for a while at least. And I'll be drawing on the tweets, my other notes and the memories of conversations in the breaks to share insights, many quite trivial, all of which confirm that memoQ is the right choice for most of my translation IT needs. The only thing I'll say now is that in memoQ 6 the versioning features will be the same in all editions of memoQ. Big deal. For some of us.

Oh yes, and next year's memoQ fest might not be in Budapest. If I weren't visiting that city with some frequency now for dogs, I might be disappointed, because I love it and the rest of the country I have seen, but the change is unlikely to be a problem, because what makes Kilgray's memoQ truly great is not the venue and not the rather good technology, but the people: the ones who make it and the ones who use it.

1 comment:

  1. I think you will find the quote from Asia Online taken out of context. It refers to the fact that there is a huge wave of content that humans cannot possibly keep up with. This is growing rapidly every year. Today human translators only translate 0.00000067% of all new text content. MT is the only way that much of the remaining content can be translated due to volume, time and cost constraints. There is simply too much content that is well beyond the capacity of the human translator population. Many organizations have come to the same conclusion, including research from Common Sense Advisory.

    LSPs want more of this new content and the quote was made in the context of the LSP.
    To see the specific context, please view the webinar "The Evolution of Translation: What LSPs need to know to survive and prosper in the rapidly evolving automated translation world." Slides and video are available.
    The most recent Asia Online newsletter also puts this in context

    You will see from both of the above that it clearly states there will be more work for translators than ever before, but that LSPs need to include translation automation to survive and prosper.


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