GALA Tools Corner Project
By: Arle Lommel (DFKI)
18 December 2012
The GALA Tools Corner is approaching its launch in March 2013. Read about the development of this project and how this resource will benefit you and your technology-buying decisions.
One of the most difficult tasks for users of translation technology is finding and evaluating tools to see if they are suitable for their needs. Many users have been disappointed to find that tools that looked good in demos did not work so well in application, especially when confronted by situations different than those for which they were designed. Every tool developer is eager to sell customers on a “solution,” but cutting past the marketing to what really matters can be a substantial challenge. The task is complicated by the different terms used by developers to describe features (is a “contextual match” in a CAT tool the same thing as a “in-context exact match” or a “full-context match”?) and the fact that developers often do not list their features in ways that facilitate easy comparison. But even if we know what features are offered, we may not know how well they work, how suitable they are to our specific requirements, or what other people think of them.
This problem of where to find authoritative knowledge is an important one and here our industry is well behind the curve. How many of us would buy a digital camera today without first checking out CNET or other review sites to see how various models compare and, even more importantly, what other users think? Long gone are the days when we had to subscribe to magazines or visit specialty shops just to find out basic information. But for translation technology, there is no public resource like CNET or Amazon where we can get the inside scoop on what we are buying in advance. Instead we visit developer web sites, go to trade shows to pick up glossy brochures, and, at the end of the day, hope that what we buy is what we need.
There are some private resources that give details, and some of these are quite good. But at the same time these are generally based on the assessment of one individual and may not include all relevant tools. There are some public listings that include many tools, but these tend to be quite shallow in terms of the features they cover (some identify only the tool name, URL, and have a brief description of the tool). As a result, buyers are left to compare multiple resources that each provide a limited picture of current translation technology.
This lack of clear information matters because translation technology is a major investment in more ways than one. There is the up-front cost of buying the technology, there is the initial cost of implementing it, and there is also the ongoing cost of working with it on a regular basis. The last bit is often the true cost and is much more important than the other two. If features do not work precisely as advertised or if you need manual work-arounds to use the tool, then an inexpensive tool can quickly become very expensive indeed (or an expensive tool can become even more expensive). Add to this uncertainty that the features that one person really likes and needs may prove problematic for someone else with a different workflow, and it is easy to see why selecting appropriate technology is difficult.
In an effort to make choosing technology easier for the globalization community, GALA has started work on a new web tool, GALA Tools Corner, to simplify the technology selection process. GALA Tools Corner will provide users with ways to find technology that meets their feature requirements and to learn about specific features, if they do not already know about them. Slated for launch in March 2013, Tools Corner will deliver the following:
- Feature-based search. Users will be able to select desired features from a list (e.g., kinds of matches for CAT tools, standards support for all tools), and see what tools best match their desired feature list.
- Comparison view. Users will be able to view multiple tools in a side-by-side comparison matrix that highlights the differences between them, seeing all features at once. And because the features will share the same names and have definitions on the site, there will be no more guessing whether two features are really equivalent.
- User reviews. Even when you know what features are available, the most valuable comments are from experience. Users will be able to log in and supply their own reviews of the tool. Because all reviews will be tied to individuals with verified identities, both users and developers will be assured that reviews are real and not there to “game” the system. Users will be able to see reviews for both the current and older versions of the tool, and tool developers will be able to respond to reviews as well.
- Tools discussion forums. Tools Corner will link to tools discussion forums on GALA Connect where users will be able to ask questions and discuss additional items not covered in Tools Corner.
- Portfolio. Tools Corner users will be able to save a portfolio of interesting tools. When these tools are updated or new reviews posted, users will be notified so they can know when things change.
- Special offers. Any special offers for GALA members will be listed.
- Download links. For any free tools, Tools Corner will provide download links directly in the system. For tools that are sold, Tools Corner will provide links for demos and/or purchase.
- Links for additional searches. Need a corpus for MT training, or a spell checker for Swahili? While Tools Corner will focus on localization-specific tools, there are many other language resources out there, and Tool Corner will provide an “extended search” mode to learn about resources listed elsewhere.
Tools Corner will provide a step forward for users looking to learn about tools and make more effective use of them.
So what do we need from the GALA community? We are looking for two things at present: (1) beta testers and contributors for feature description lists; (2) Tools developers who will supply data about their tools. Opportunities to contribute for both will open up in January. If you are interested in participation, please send an email to [email protected] and we will be in touch about how you can contribute to this resource for the good of our community.
Arle Lommel is coordinator of the GALA Standards Initiative and Senior Researcher at Deutsche Forschungszentrum für Künstliche Intelligenz (DFKI). He has been active in the localization industry for over a decade and has been involved with standards development for much of this time. Formerly with the Localization Industry Standards Association, where he headed standards activities, he is now working on building an open and inclusive program for the promotion of standards and coordination of efforts at GALA. He has a BA in linguistics and an MA and PhD in ethnographic research. His particular areas of interest and expertise include data interoperability, terminology interchange formats, and quality assessment.