Feb 24, 2019

There ain't no such thing as original sin at SDL!

Exhibit #1 memoQ graphic
Exhibit #2 memoQ graphic

Sometime last year, memoQ Translation Technologies Ltd., the software artists formerly known as Kilgray, aka mQtech, released their "Trend Report 2019" including the graphics above and more. I have studiously avoided blogging about the trend report up to now, because enthusiasm comes hard for a document that was clearly prepared by an industry outsider (consultant) with little understanding of issues faced in the translation sector, so that some of the "questions" proposed and discussed are really quite irrelevant to the present and future state of translation.

But Kilgray... oops, mQtech is the de facto technology leader for advanced desktop and client/server translation environment management, usually introducing the truly innovative tools for improving translation processes and quality so that others like SDL can copy them at some later date. This, of course, doesn't account for everything, for example the underappreciated bilingual review tables of Déjà Vu, which probably resulted in one of the biggest boosts for memoQ when that feature was adopted in version 4.2 before it was copied by so many others later, including the flawed Fluency, SDL Trados et alia. The "monolingual review" feature of memoQ, which allows edited translations in certain formats or portions thereof (to avoid mangling formats of parts which have not changed) to be re-imported to facilitate TM updates, is one example of memoQ leading the way for SDL (who implemented that feature about two years later) and others, as is the long history of optimization for speech recognition with Dragon NaturallySpeaking (with editing controls unavailable when that tool is used with most other CAT tools), which lately has gone farther in the somewhat bleeding edge but interesting implementation of speech recognition in Hey memoQ.

There is a long history of SDL looking to its main competitor to find its way in the darkness of translation sector tools competition. But one rather obnoxious advert that keeps cropping up in social media feeds makes it clear that the leadership of mQtech extends beyond mere technology for SDL:

These days, translation memories are better forgotten!
It seems that in the horrors of preparation for Brexit, UK-based SDL is unable to find original service providers internally, domestically or internationally to produce the artwork needed to market their questionable technology and concepts. What we have above is the same thing in terms of style and construction as we see with mQtech, but in green.

This gives me no little worry, really, because the underlying symbolism is deeply disturbing. Range and Green... Brexit... I fear that the situation between the two leading tool providers for translation technology is degenerating into a situation like we find at the Irish border:

It's an ugly situation. With Cromwellian arrogance, SDL has appropriated the colors of the political underdog, ravaging not only the translating Irish countryside with its confusing pathwork of features, but exporting the conflict internationally as dark powers so often do. And mQtech, unfortunately, bears Unionist colors into the battle at the wordface, though the symbolic interpretation of that is anyone's guess. We can only pray that some compromise, some peace accord can be achieved before the looming Brexit deadline, when things at the border and at translation conferences around the world may escalate into the Unthinkable.

A wise man once said, "SDL should copy memoQ's features or its artwork, but not both", but I would argue that in the current political climate, doing the latter is a bad idea in any case!


  1. Well...

    #1 - everyone and their neighbour is using iStock/ThinStock/ShutterStock and other databanks for icons and graphics. It is bound to happen. To many companies to be using "similar" icons

    #2 - marketing material takes time to prepare, to get approved, etc. The SDL material was probably already prepared month before memoQ published their stuff

    #3 - memoQ needs to grow up. Not everything is about them and I am pretty sure that the numerous people at SDL have better to do that try and copy them. They are not the cool new kid anymore, and they'd better innovate a bit rather than continue to decay while being lead by pseudo-marketers

    1. Ya think so, Jerzy? I'll admit the artwork is crappy on all sides, but I doubt it's iStock/ThinStock/ShutterStock, or do you have the link to its source?

  2. *ahem*... ex-SDL employee here... they lack imagination and generally always copy others ideas. They always rush - seen it with my own eyes. SDL know they lag behind and so over compensate.

    1. I used to chat - and once visited - an SDL employee whose house was more or less right across the parking lot in Maidenhead. The descriptions of life as an in-house galley slave were harrowing. And from a former SDL manager whom I knew as a kid fresh out of college in what might have been his first job after graduation I heard a few hilarious things about the watch they keep on this blog. On his first day tour as an employee he was told by some tech support guys that there was a blog he ought to follow. He was shocked to see a familiar name after maybe 20 years. I think one comment was something to the effect that "He doesn't like us much, but he's usually right." Actually, that comment is wrong. I very much like most of the people from SDL whom I have met. Some are extraordinary professionals, but I try not to praise them too much, because apparently in the corporate culture there this might have unfortunate consequences.

      Maybe it's part of being a publicly traded company. Maybe not. I used to be part of that Fortune 500 world, and it was fun, until one day it wasn't. But SDL/Trados has been blessed with some world class people, with good technical gifts and all the right human skills too. Some are even still with the company. But SDL is also cursed by internal jealousies and an unwillingness to let their best "be best" as a certain Slovenian soft-core porn star might ask them to be.

    2. Hi Kevin. I'm leaving that as anonymous (I'm not Jerzy) as I don't want to start endless threads and drama on this. What you commented on night have been true for the "old" SDL. I can tell you it's different now.

      As for my previous comment on iStock artwork, I can tell you for a fact memoQ does use them. They even have a subscription to it.

    3. Just a 30 seconds search leads to www.xprt.io (in particular http://www.xprt.io/assets/design-cba6c6d3e7e90741a161b83fd8696b77968d18240b222242adafee0a6ca9ca4d.png , omg, a translator !).

      Did they copy memoQ too, or is that just yet another uncreative mind taking from an artwork databank?

      Come on Kevin. You still know people around at memoQ. Ask them. If they are honest, they will tell you they haven't created it.


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