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.

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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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001Not Marvel Comics, but rather the number four which does have some pretty interesting properties.  It’s the only cardinal number in the English language to have the same number of letters as its value; in Buddhism there are four noble truths; in Harry Potter there are four Houses of Hogwarts; humans have four canines and four wisdom teeth; in chemistry there are four basic states of matter… but more importantly, for translators using Studio 2017 there are four ways, out of the box, to get started!

Now with that very tenuous link let’s get to the point.  Four ways to start translating, all of them pretty easy but they all have their pros and cons.  So getting to grips with this from the start is going to help you decide which is best for you.  First of all what are they?

  1. Translate single document
  2. Create a project
  3. Drag and drop your files
  4. Right-click and “Translate in SDL Trados Studio”

And now we know what they are should you use one process for all, or can you mix and match?  I mix and match all the time, mainly between 1. and 2. but let’s look at the differences first and you can make your own mind up.

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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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001Years ago, when I was still in the Army, there was a saying that we used to live by for routine inspections.  “If it looks right, it is right”… or perhaps more fittingly “bullshit baffles brains”.  These were really all about making sure that you knew what had to be addressed in order to satisfy an often trivial inspection, and to a large extent this approach worked as long as nobody dug a little deeper to get at the truth.  This approach is not limited to the Army however, and today it’s easy to create a polished website, make statements with plenty of smiling users, offer something for free and then share it all over social media.  But what is different today is that there is potential to reach tens of thousands of people and not all of them will dig a little deeper… so the potential for reward is high, and the potential for disappointment is similarly high.

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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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001One of my favourite features in Studio 2017 is the filetype preview.  The time it can save when you are creating custom filetypes comes from the fun in using it.  I can fill out all the rules and switch between the preview and the rules editor without having to continually close the options, open the file, see if it worked and then close the file and go back to the options again… then repeat from the start… again… and again…   I guess it’s the little things that keep us happy!

I decided to look at this using a YAML file as this seems to be coming up quite a bit recently.  YAML, pronounced “Camel”, stands for “YAML Ain’t Markup Language” and I believe it’s a superset of the JSON format, but with the goal of making it more human readable.  The specification for YAML is here, YAML Specification, and to do a really thorough job I guess I could try and follow the rules set out.  But in practice I’ve found that creating a simple Regular Expression Delimited Text filetype based on the sample files I’ve seen has been the key to handling this format.  Looking ahead I think it would be useful to see a filetype created either as a plugin through the SDL AppStore, or within the core product just to make it easier for users not comfortable with creating their own filetypes.  But I digress…

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