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Useful tools

001aWhat a horrible name… lurkers!  It carries all kinds of negative connotations from science fiction monsters to the stuff of nightmares where we think of spying and being followed by something or someone we don’t like.  Of course I’m not using this term in these contexts so I better explain.  I’m talking about communities and user participation, or more specifically about users who read and observe but rarely contribute to the conversations at all.

Community managers often think about user participation based on a 90:9:1 rule where 90% of users are referred to as lurkers who read all the activity but don’t contribute themselves, 9% contribute from time to time and 1% are pretty active and probably account for most of the contributions.  I guess I can see why this negatively charged name is used, but in addition to being a horrible name it doesn’t really do justice to how important this group of community users are.

Why are they important?  Well to understand this we first need to understand why they don’t contribute and the main reasons for this are often quoted as not having enough time and being worried that they’ll make themselves look silly or do something wrong in front of their peers.  Maybe another reason would be if the community was difficult to use and it put people off.  I think all these reasons are correct, but also think there’s another big reason and I’m guilty of this one too… just seeing the information as a resource to use to solve their own problems.  I actually think this last reason is probably the main reason for the majority of the 90%.  Yes, everyone is busy but if we’re really honest would we use any other time we have available to contribute?  Maybe I’m cynical, but I think not.  I think for people to contribute it requires a different mindset and the subject matter has to be something we’re very passionate about in terms of sharing and helping others.  It also has to be something where, if you don’t have this passion to just help and the confidence in your own abilities to try and answer the question, then you have to be able to see a value for yourself and then you might give up your time to contribute.  So if it was important for you to build an online reputation for being knowledgeable in a particular field for example then you would make the time and effort to contribute.  I couldn’t put a finger on how this 90% would split down, but it’s really irrelevant for this article.

So with this in mind I’ll come back to why they are important… here’s a few reasons:

  • they are all users of the communities products and gain value from reading the Q&A, articles and wikis
  • they can all become advocates of the products in their own environments, so spread what they learn
  • they might be encouraged to stay loyal customers and regularly upgrade and purchase new products
  • they may attend events and be an active member of the community in other ways
  • they may not be customers yet but they could be if they feel the community is thriving and helpful

I’m convinced… these lurkers, or perhaps listeners is a better word, are very important. But what I really want to know is…

…. how do you encourage more active participation?

This isn’t an easy one.  I’ve been involved in community building in a small way for a few years now and like to think I have some small understanding of what will support the growth of a successful community and what won’t.  But when it comes to getting more participation, history suggests the 90:9:1 is here to stay.  So what can we do?  What would make you want to participate more in an online community focused on trying to support you with your business needs and am I right in thinking you’ll only ever visit when you need help?

The usual stuff would be these sorts of things:

  • make sure it’s simple… easy to join, straightforward navigation, finding the appropriate place to post quickly, email support, links from the product etc.
  • encourage any question… you don’t have to be a genius to have something relevant to share.  If you have a question then it’s likely someone somewhere will have the same one!
  • offer rewards… identify the experts amongst your peers, identify the most helpful, prizes for active participation etc.
  • support and promote those giving their time already… free business promotion
  • provide a platform for users to share and publicise their own content… blogs, wikis, website feeds etc.
  • regularly promote their existence… marketing emails, email signatures, a slot in every conference/webinar/event
  • create an ideas platform as part of the community… a place for users to offer their suggestions on how the products could work better for them

What would drive you to use an online community more and not just use it as a resource to help you with no active participation yourself?

What could you do today?

Today there are places for users of all the SDL products to go.  There are forums monitored by product managers, product experts, support teams… all free of charge.  If you really want to make your voice heard and want to find the answer to a technical question, report a bug, suggest an enhancement, solicit help to solve a business problem etc. then I think the SDL Community is the place to do it.  Anywhere else you will certainly find experienced and helpful people as well as some not so experienced or helpful, but maybe not people who are in a position to really influence the tools you’re using.

So maybe think about a couple of things today to support the community that can really do the most good to shape the products you use:

  1. Like a post or reply that helped you
  2. Respond and just say thanks
  3. Ask that question you thought was stupid… it won’t be!
  4. Share something you found that was helpful or interesting
  5. Tell SDL what you think of their products or service

Where is the community?

General link: https://community.sdl.com/

Trados related (aka Translation Productivity) : https://community.sdl.com/solutions/language/translationproductivity/ or the shortcut http://xl8.one

Developers (language related) : https://community.sdl.com/developers/language-developers/

There’s a lot more though… so take some time out and have a look.  These links might also be useful to help you see what you can do in this community today:

Using the SDL Community (a multifarious article)

Community Conversations (an SDL group set up to help them shape the SDL Community the way you would like it)

It’s all free… it’s the best way to get in touch and make your voice heard.  If you don’t want to use it or if you have something you think could be better post into the comments below or use the Community Conversations… it’s not going to get any better without you and it’s been created for you!!  I’d like to hear from you and so would the broader SDL.  Don’t just be a lurker… be a part of the ongoing improvements and help make things better for you.

001In 2013 I wrote an article called “Solving the Post-Edit Puzzle” which was all about finding a way to measure, and pay for post-editing translations in a consistent way.  Then in 2015 I wrote another called “Qualitivity… measuring quality and productivity” that was all about everything Post-Edit Compare could do but then added many layers of detail and complexity through Qualitivity to support Quality Measurement including a TAUS DQF integration, and incredible metrics that are still not matched by any tool today that I am aware of, and are so good that they are often used to support academic research into translating and post-editing behaviour.

This is all great stuff and I have always been a huge fan of the work that Patrick Hartnett has done on all of the applications he developed over the years.  You don’t often find experienced developers with indepth domain knowledge like this and his apps have always been really relevant to solving problems in the localisation workplace.  So I wanted to bring up and discuss the app that was actually the predecessor to these great apps I just mentioned.  It was also an app that was no longer supported once it’s first successor, Post-Edit Compare, was released.  The app was released around 2011 I think and was called SDLXLIFF Compare.

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001It’s been a while since I wrote anything about the SDLXLIFF Toolkit.. in fact I haven’t done since it was first released with the 2014 version of Studio.  Now that we have added a few new things such as SDLPLUGINS so that apps are better integrated and can be more easily distributed with Studio we have launched a new version of the toolkit for Studio 2017.  What’s new?  To be honest not a lot, but there are a couple of things that I think warrant this visit.

First of all, the app is now a plugin and this means it loads faster, is always available and there are a few tricks to being able to get the most from this.  Secondly, there are a few fixes to the search & replace features that make it possible to complete tasks that Studio will fail with and to do this the API team completely rebuilt the regex engine.  So whilst you won’t see too many changes, there are a few under the hood.

The best way to illustrate this is to show you so I have created a short video below where I have tried to explain how best to use the toolkit now it’s a plugin and not a standalone application, and I used the problems described below to demonstrate how it works.  If you want to know what else it can do I have reproduced part of the original guide below the video as that seems to have been lost over the years.  This might be helpful for a few of the more obscure features you may not have realised were possible.

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001Probably you’re all far more educated than me and when you read COTI you probably didn’t think “chuckling on the inside” did you?  I googled it and looked at four acronym websites, none of which found the correct definition… but two of them returned the title of this article so it must be right!!  Oh how I wish it was… just to bring a little levity to the ever so serious tasks of interoperability.  But no, it stands for Common Translation Interface (COTI).  This is a project pioneered by DERCOM which is the “Association Of German Manufacturers Of Authoring And Content Management Systems”… so nothing to be amused about there!

The subject of interoperability is in fact a serious one and many tools like to claim they are more interoperable than others as a unique selling point for anyone prepared to listen.  It’s also a big topic and whilst I am always going to be guilty of a little bias I do believe there isn’t a tool as interoperable as the SDL language Platform because it’s been built with support for APIs in mind.  This of course means it’s possible for developers outside of SDL to hook their products into the SDL Language Platform without even having to speak to SDL.  Now that’s interoperability!  It’s also why I probably hadn’t heard of COTI until the development was complete and I was asked to sign a plugin for SDL Trados Studio by Kaleidosope… outside of SDL I think they are the Kings of integration between other systems and the SDL language portfolio.
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001“More power to the elbow”… this is all about getting more from the resources you have already got, and in this case I’m talking about your Translation Memories.  In particular I’m talking about enabling them for upLIFT.  upLIFT, in case you have not heard about this yet despite all the marketing activity and forum discussions since August this year, is a technology that is being used in SDL Trados Studio 2017 to enable some pretty neat things.  I’m not going to devote this article to what upLIFT is all about as Emma Goldsmith has written a really useful article today that does a far better job than I could have done.  You can find Emma’s article here, called “SDL Trados studio 2017 : fragment recall and repair“.  But a quick summary to get us started is that upLIFT enables things like this:

  • fragment matching
    • whole Translation Units
    • partial Translation Units
  • fuzzy match repair
    • from fragment matching
    • from your termbase
    • from Machine Translation

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001CAT tools typically calculate wordcounts based on the source material.  The reason of course is because this way you can give your clients an idea of the cost before you start the work… which of course seems a sensible approach as you need to base your estimate on something.  You can estimate the target wordcount by applying an expansion factor to the source words, and this is a principle we see with pseudotranslate in Studio where you can set the expansion per language to give you some idea of the costs for DTP requirements in the finished document before you even start translating.  But what you can’t do, at least what you have never been able to do in all the Trados versions right up to the current SDL Trados Studio, is generate a target wordcount for those customers who pay you for work after the translation is complete and are happy to base this on the words you have actually translated. Read More

01It’s all about the termbase definition when you want to merge termbases, or import data into MultiTerm termbases.  The XDT… otherwise known as the MultiTerm Termbase Definition file is the key to being able to ensure you are not trying to knock square pegs into round holes!  I’ve written in the past about the flexibility of MultiTerm and it’s this flexibility that can make it tricky for new users when they try to merge their collections of termbases together, or add to their data by importing a file from a colleague.

02So what do we mean by definition?  Let’s think about keys as I think this is quite a good analogy… the four keys in the image on the right will all open a lock, but they won’t all open the same lock.  If you want one of these keys to open another lock then you need to change its shape, or it’s “definition”, to be able to open the lock.  A termbase definition works in a similar way because MultiTerm is flexible enough to support you creating your own lock.  That lock might be the same as someone else’s, but theirs could also have a different number of pins and tumblers which means your key won’t fit.

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