Jun 3, 2013

Innovation? No comment. A black mark for memoQ 2013.

Update August 2013: problem solved.

"This comment thing is the last straw. I am definitely not upgrading to the new version of memoQ!"
The response from a friend who asked me to show how the comment function in memoQ had devolved in the latest version (memoQ 2013, aka version 6.5) revealed the frustration of a user whose main interest in new product features for much of the past year has been how to disable or avoid them. Unfortunately for her, there appears to be no escape from the latest innovation, which one member of the memoQ Yahoogroups list suggested would become known as Commentgate. This may be a good example of the old adage "if it ain't broke, don't fix it".

The old comment function has been at the heart of my use of memoQ for years, and the ability to export comments to share with my clients was one of the main reasons I pushed Kilgray to introduce the bilingual RTF table exports which are so popular for editing and translation. Comments added in a word processor (such as Microsoft Word) could be re-imported to the memoQ project and reviewed. It was all very quick and simple.

The old memoQ comment dialog with a personal note on edits required
If the comments included questions about a text or a term, the response in the comment column of the RTF table would be included when the bilingual file was re-imported, which was often convenient for editing purposes. A record of questions and answers could be maintained fairly easily in the editable comment field.

All that has changed with memoQ 2013. Disastrously so in the initial release on May 31. In their eagerness to implement an LQA quality assurance model relevant to only a minority of users, mostly the sort of agencies who prefer metrics in place of actual quality, Kilgray dynamited the previous straightforward, robust comment function, adding dropdown selection fields for "severity level" and scope.

That wouldn't be quite so bad despite the extra steps needed to add a correctly classified comment now if it were possible to edit the comments. It is not possible to edit comments in memoQ 2013 in the current release. Nor are all the comments included in an RTF table export. Only the last comment is included; all others are lost:

If a comment is altered in the bilingual RTF file, when the bilingual is re-imported to the project, a new comment is created and classified as "Information" applicable to the entire row:

This is all really a shame. In the effort to push server-based workflows and cater to a limited special interest group, memoQ's architects have managed to sabotage one of the tools (or two, depending on how you count) which have contributed to their great success in recent years. And unfortunately, unlike other recent, often irritating "innovations", such as the various target autotext options that drive many users of dictation software batty, this new type of comment can't be switched off so that we can work in the old, accustomed way.

Many users have already objected strenuously to this broken functionality, and some compromise solutions have been suggested by Kilgray. One of these, which involves a delimited export of all the comments in the RTF bilingual export, would be reasonable. Whatever changes are made to commentary in memoQ 2013, I hope this will include making comments editable very soon with appropriate rights.

The two selection field in the new comments dialog have a default behavior that is probably useful in some cases. Once a comment has been created, the next comment made in the text will assume the same "severity" rating applies (not necessarily a valid assumption, but if I am going through a text marking things of the same type this can be useful). All comments are assumed to apply to the target text by default. This is a bit of a nuisance to me, as most of the comments I make in a file refer to errors or unclear expressions in the source text. But really, for the way I work, the two classification steps with the dropdown menus are just extra work and additional sources of possible errors and/or confusion, so I would be quite happy to bypass these altogether.

I do like the idea of a comment history for a text. This would be relevant and useful for the way I work. But overall, the current implementation of the comment function in memoQ 2013 does not serve my interests at all and creates unnecessary complications for me and many other users.


  1. Yes, I compared it to Wenger Giant here: http://www.wordhord.com/2012/11/koshki-i-nozhi/

    To look at the pictures is enough. Once it used to be a good Swiss knife, but now it's stuffed with arguably useful features to the point when it can be hardly used.

    1. That comparison isn't much of an exaggeration, really. Even with the compromises suggested by István and likely to be implemented at some point (export of everything with delimiters in the RTF bilingual and making the comments editable), the fact remains that additional complexity has been added which most of us simply don't need and probably don't want. I've been thinking about this a bit more, and would suggest that if

      - "empty" options for severity and scope were added, which would result in no classification,
      - the last selection for each dropdown were maintained until changed, and
      - the empty classifications were the shipping defaults,

      we would be back close to the original functionality, with the addition of a comment history, which is actually a good thing. And those rare individuals who actually need or want the LQA-style commentary can have it.

  2. Not to forget the "broken" usability.

    Before, I was able to add a comment in memoQ with Strg-M > type comment > Tab > Enter. This could be done even without looking at the screen.
    Now I need to type Strg-M > type comment > 4 x Tab > Enter. Typing 3 x Tab oder 5 x Tab could set the whole comment in danger. This might be only a small detail. But it gets IMHO much worse when I want to delete my comment. Before, I could type Strg-M > Strg-A (mark all) > Del or Backspace to delete the whole comment (Mac users do not have a Del-key) >Tab > Enter. With memoQ 2013, I am forced to use my mouse again.

  3. In French we say "Le mieux est l'ennemi du bien." (The best is the enemy of the good.)
    Can someone translate that into Hungarian for Kilgray?

  4. I am afraid the whole trend is disturbing. SDL vs MemoQ used to be sort of Microsoft vs Apple (in the "old" days of Apple). It is a pity MemoQ is developing to lose its former simplicity and focus. It is also a sign that the target group is changing, that MemoQ is increasingly changing its focus on the target group. Must be worth it (and that really is disturbing).

  5. The latest plans by Kilgray to address the comments issue can be read here: http://tech.groups.yahoo.com/group/memoQ/message/32411. It's too bad that all this user consultation and modification of the feature could not have taken place earlier or at least under the "beta" banner. Oh well. The basic plan described is about as reasonable as I expect for now.

    Valerij, I think it's hard to argue that there has not been a significant shift in favor of corporate sausage factory interests in the past few years while simple, basic functions we all need continue to be ignored. Many of these functions for maintaining terminology and TM data were part of Déjà Vu when I started using that software 13 years ago. Of course memoQ offers many other useful possibilities that, in sum, were enough to motivate me to change tools years ago, but I really figured that at some point these deficiencies would be dealt with and not just on some high-end server product that none of us will be using (except perhaps in some future integrated Internet option?).

    But what's the alternative right now, really? SDL is as evil as ever - the latest e-mail I received describing the next batch of events planned showed how deeply they have fallen into the pit of MT shillery. The presentation slide from SDL you showed in your recent blog post is a sick joke with its ludicrous classifications of where pure MT is good, where one should apply PEMT and what few domains might possibly still require the inferior services of a mere human. It's all very well for good Christians to follow the example of Jesus and hang out with tax collectors and the red light crowd, but perhaps a line should be drawn before those who would lead you into MT.

  6. Hi Kevin,

    All this is indeed very disturbing. Kilgray has slowly and carefully been repositioning itself as a company geared towards large organisations rather than freelance translators. memoQ server is now their primary focus. However, if they don't watch out they might lose their momentum.

    Here are a few recent telltale signs of their recent change of direction.

    -- We have been asking for a way to delete duplicates from our TBs for years now. A simple feature, one would think. And what did they do? They finally added the feature, to qTerm. That one really pissed me off.

    -- And then there is the problem of there apparently no longer being any shortcuts left. I couldn't quite believe that when I first heard it. I am pretty sure there will be quite a few new features added in the next year or so, but if I am to believe Kilgray none of them will be accessible from my keyboard. That's more and more mouse clicks. If we had a shortcut to send terms to different TBs on-the-fly while translating, e.g., we would have something like DVX has already had for a long time: a very useful project term base (called the 'Lexicon' in DejaVu). However, changing the term base that terms are sent to while translating requires, yes, you guessed it, tons of mouse operations. That is, without shortcuts, the ability to send terms to different TBs is all but useless.

    -- And what about the brand new Web Search in memoQ 2013? Looks great, on paper, but apparently no one at Kilgray actually tested it with more than 4 websites. Try opening 25 search sites in the built in (Internet explorer) browser. I timed it and compared it to having IntelliWebSearch open them in Chrome. memoQ's Web Search is comp,eyelet unusable. I had to wait around 2 full minutes for all tabs to be fully loaded and after that it was too sluggish to actually use. I asked support but they told me that memoQ HAS to use Internet explorer (for some unspecified conceptual reason). OK, fine. That's another brand new useless feature then.

    -- And the new comments and LQA systems: more features for large agencies that just get in the way of the lowly freelance translator just trying to translate a text.

    I am certain that one of the reasons they have managed to grow so quickly is that freelancers like myself have been such enthusiastic supporters. I always and everywhere recommend memoQ, on the Internet and among my colleagues and friends. Hell, even my mother (also a translator) recently also bought memoQ. But to be honest, my patience is wearing extremely thin. I even went and bought CafeTran a few weeks ago because I am currently on the lookout for a CAT tool that cares about freelance translators more than large language service providers. memoQ is still the best tool and so I continue to do all of my work with it, but I am not happy with their new direction and am worried that I might be looking at another CAT tool switch some time down the line.


    1. I liked the basic idea that Jim Wardell suggested recently on the Yahoogroups list - creating sets of termbases to which additions could be made with separate keyboard shortcuts. He suggested that at memoQfest as well, and while I have other thoughts regarding the practical implementation in the user interface, he's right that something like this would greatly help our data management. I spend a lot of time juggling the selection of termbases, and I often forget to change the settings back to what I want for routine additions after I have changed them for a few special terms.

      I don't even want to get started again on the details of data management deficiencies for TMs and termbases. Duplicates are the tip of the iceberg, and I really wish a little of the effort wasted in pandering to the MT monkeys would be redirected to enabling everyone to manage our existing resources better.

      I have grown reluctant now to recommend anyone's server solution to my corporate or agency clients. But this has little to do with any corporate strategies I see with Kilgray, SDL or others and is related instead to the real effects I see on organizations poorly prepared to deal with the transition to such platforms. And the way in which providers currently "support" that transition is not always helpful.

  7. Update: there have now been a number of improvements to the new memoQ comment function, which I will describe in a new post when I have time. This record of the "mis-step" with the introduction of memoQ 2013 will remain as a reminder that any company can make mistakes, but that the good ones learn from them.

  8. My latest tests of the comment function of memoQ 2013 Build 11 leads me to declare the "Commentgate" investigation officially closed. In the weeks since the original release, Kilgray has responded to all the objections about bad function and ergonomics and arranged the feature so that it can be used more or less as in earlier version, with additional functionality easily accessible if wanted. I'm very happy with the current state of comments in the latest version of memoQ and now believe this represents real progress.

    1. Hm. Perhaps I spoke too seen. The comments work better, but this feature will need to be documented better. Comments for selected text do not export. I can see why this might be intended, but I was in fact caught off guard by it when making a video about this feature.

    2. Worse yet, I also just discovered that comments for selected text, if deleted in memoQ 2013 Build 11, persist! (In other words to not go away). Although the comments are gone from the comment dialog for the row, the highlighted text remains highlighted and the comment can still be seen in the tool tip. So I would totally avoid this feature for now and just use ordinary segment comments with no associated highlighting until this mess is fixed.

    3. Not sure which version it was, but the issue of comments on highlighted text remaining on deletion seems now to be fixed.

    4. @Fips: Yes, Kilgray dealt with that and a few other issues fairly quickly, and the comment bubble icons have also been improved (many people, including me, had problems distinguishing the states with and without comments) and seem to be on the verge of further improvement with a color change.

  9. Kevin, thanks for roaring loud enough to be heard.


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