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Too many requests for context
Thread poster: xxxUSER00230
xxxUSER00230
United Kingdom
Local time: 08:07
German to English
Jan 24, 2006

I have already posted this before in a reply but I want to make it more explicit by opening a separate thread.

Basically, I find there are too many requests for more context in answers to Kudoz questions and feel the "ask the asker" guidelines should be tightened up.

Yes, we all know that context is important (what translator does not know that?) but part of the skill of knowing when context is important is knowing when context is NOT important.

If I have posted a question and believe that context is not particularly relevant it is a bit insulting to be sent messages asking for more context, as if I didn't know what context is.

Moreover, it is also timewasting. After posting a question I don't want to have to deal with emails asking for more information, I want an answer.

I feel that in some cases the "context" question is being misused by people who don't really know the answer to a question but would like someone to provide them with more details so that they can maybe have a guess.

This in my view is not how Kudoz should function. Answerers should think they know the answer and should only use "ask the asker" to clarify something that they believe they know, not for vague guesswork.

Kudoz is about people who know what they're talking about providing professional answers, and receiving points in return. Too often the "context" question is used by answerers who do not really know what they are talking about and use "context" as an excuse for blaming the asker for them not really knowing what they are talking about, along the lines of "well, because the asker hasn't provided enough context (he is obviously a deficient translator) I will have to try this stab at an answer; of course, if I had the whole context I would be 100% sure of the answer..."

I believe the ask-the-asker guidelines should be tightened up as follows:

1. Ask-the-asker should be used sparingly.
2. Ask-the-asker should only be used where a answerer thinks they know the answer and needs further clarification. It should not be used for general requests for more information. In all cases (1) should be borne in mind.

I wonder though if the underlying reason for the overuse of requests for context is the excessive speed of kudoz. The shelf life of a kudoz question appears to be about an hour, and if you haven't answered in that length of time don't bother. This encourages people to fire off questions about context as they try to be the first to answer the question, knowing that 100 others are hot on their heels. This is a more general problem with kudoz, and not just one relating to requests for context, but it strikes me there may be a link. In any event the speed of kudoz is excessive and is not conducive to considered and professional answers.


I think this would improve the kudoz environment.


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Fred Neild  Identity Verified
English to Spanish
+ ...
'Ask the user' function Jan 24, 2006

Hi Bill,

I agree that the 'ask the user' function should be used sparingly.

However, I don't see any excessive requests for context, at least in my pairs.

On the contrary, I see a lot of askers not providing enough context or saying something like "Look at my other questions" (I have no time for this, the asker should be spending his time to obtain the best possible answer). Still, I only request more context when I am personally commiting to follow the question and, of course, I feel I can provide a good answer with more context. Now, I don't agree with translators requesting more context when they have no intention or skills to provide an answer.

Fred


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Fabio Scaliti  Identity Verified
Italy
Local time: 09:07
Member (2004)
German to Italian
+ ...
Sometimes even a full page of context doesn't help Jan 24, 2006

Hi Bill,

in this case I see eye to eye with you. Once I posted a question for a term and provided about ten lines of context (before and after the term). After 1 minute I received a request for more context; I sent a full page in reply (carefully hiding names and personal references), but no one else considered my question any more; so it died out with just one (useless) answer. I see a tendency to ignore questions which have already received an answer, without considering if it was helpful or not. Many just see the (1) tag beside a question and think that the points have already been given away automatically. This is frustrating.

Bye,

Fabio


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Charlie Bavington  Identity Verified
Local time: 08:07
French to English
Some valid points, but... Jan 24, 2006

You make some valid points, particularly about the way speed now appears to of the essence.

Bill Smyth wrote:
I feel that in some cases the "context" question is being misused by people who don't really know the answer to a question but would like someone to provide them with more details so that they can maybe have a guess


Yup, I've seen this It's true that some terms (technical, usually) can only really mean one thing (in which case, one sometimes wonders why the Asker appears unable to find it)


If I have posted a question and believe that context is not particularly relevant it is a bit insulting to be sent messages asking for more context, as if I didn't know what context is.

Moreover, it is also timewasting. After posting a question I don't want to have to deal with emails asking for more information, I want an answer.


Not sure I like this approach - it's a bit like saying "my time is much more valuable than yours, so this is all I can bothered to give you, now run along and find an answer 'cos I'm too busy to type a few words to help you out."

Personally, I think the problem could be largely overcome by forcing a minimum number of characters in the description - say 400 or 500 - just enough to give a sentence or 2 before and/or after, which is usually all that is required.

Or, heaven forfend, a note to say what options have been considered and rejected and why.

Those who sought to get round such a restriction by copying and pasting "no context" 70 times would presumably get the answers such an attitude deserves. Even for terms with only one meaning, no harm would be done, it would merely confirm that meaning and that the term was properly used, for example.


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bohy  Identity Verified
France
Local time: 09:07
English to French
+ ...
Some askers are beginners Jan 24, 2006

It is quite clear, from the questions asked, that many are beginners... and that they don't always understand how much context is vital for a translator (this means that they don't know how to use their own context). Hopefully, through the various questions, they learn what to look for, and sometimes discover that they had the answer right under their eyes !

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Victor Dewsbery  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 09:07
German to English
+ ...
I see the opposite problem Jan 24, 2006

Bill Smyth wrote:
If I have posted a question and believe that context is not particularly relevant it is a bit insulting to be sent messages asking for more context, as if I didn't know what context is.
Moreover, it is also timewasting. After posting a question I don't want to have to deal with emails asking for more information, I want an answer.


The context is often important. This includes the sentence context, the type of document and general subject matter and any other relevant information. I often find that the context offered is inadequate. My reaction? Sometimes I ask for more context, sometimes I just leave the question for people who want to make a context-free guess.
Very often, meaning ***IS*** context. Words are not just one-for-one dictionary entities, they are very often embedded into the context at a sentence/paragraph/theme/text level. Of course, there are sometimes highly specific specialist terms which need an answer by someone who knows the field, but even then it may be necessary to switch parts of speech or adapt the wording to the sentence context.
So I would plead for more context from the outset, and I would be very unhappy if requests for more context were discouraged.


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Jo Macdonald  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 09:07
Member (2005)
Italian to English
+ ...
More context needed Jan 24, 2006

Bill, I appreciate the speed and hunger for points problems making kudos more of a chicken race sometimes, but I haven’t really seen this “You’re an idiot for providing no context” thing.

I have seen cases of very little context provided though, perhaps because the asker thought it wasn’t relevant. But if the asker understands what is relevant and what isn’t, why are they asking the question? Perhaps context is only irrelevant in the asker’s opinion sometimes.

I think if you try to restrict people asking for context the end result will be less context and less accurate answers.

Imo if little context is given there’s more chance of a wrong answer, or not getting a good one, which is the same really. Both will lead to a bad reference in the glossary.

Perhaps I missed your point, but I get the impression you’re saying people are Asking the asker to “book” the chosen answer, and the question won’t receive other answers because everyone thinks that one will get chosen.

If so, I can see that, but I think it’s another problem.
It’s a flaw in how and why people answer (or don’t answer) questions.
People are too eager for points and desperate to get the first answer in.
People answer questions more for their own gain rather than to help others

If you think people are asking for context just for the sake of it or to “book” points, you can always close without grading, report abuse to a moderator, ask the same question again, or just ignore what you think are people asking the asker for an answer.

There is another way to use kudos, even in 1-click answer zones like English-English. You can just browse and give the occasional answer when the dust has settled if you think you’ve seen something other people might have missed in the fight, or something that might help the asker understand what they’re asking about.

The answer probably won’t get chosen, also because askers have an uncanny way of choosing the most popular, though not necessarily most appropriate or informed answer. But hey, who cares? At least it’s there for future reference.

Whether it’s used in the future depends on whether the person searching the glossary goes with the crowd or thinks for themselves.
That’s cool.


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Kim Metzger  Identity Verified
Mexico
Local time: 02:07
German to English
Asking for context Jan 24, 2006

Bill Smyth wrote:

Kudoz is about people who know what they're talking about providing professional answers, and receiving points in return. Too often the "context" question is used by answerers who do not really know what they are talking about and use "context" as an excuse for blaming the asker for them not really knowing what they are talking about, along the lines of "well, because the asker hasn't provided enough context (he is obviously a deficient translator) I will have to try this stab at an answer; of course, if I had the whole context I would be 100% sure of the answer..."

I wonder though if the underlying reason for the overuse of requests for context is the excessive speed of kudoz. The shelf life of a kudoz question appears to be about an hour, and if you haven't answered in that length of time don't bother. This encourages people to fire off questions about context as they try to be the first to answer the question, knowing that 100 others are hot on their heels. This is a more general problem with kudoz, and not just one relating to requests for context, but it strikes me there may be a link. In any event the speed of kudoz is excessive and is not conducive to considered and professional answers.



You've made a lot of important points about KudoZ that I heartily support, Bill. I've posted my own ideas about the need to slow things down: http://www.proz.com/post/227091

I have no doubt you know how to ask a question properly and know what information needs to be provided to get a quality answer from a fellow professional.

A major problem with KudoZ is it's populated by a lot of people who don't know what they're talking about and who provide a dictionary look-up service when answering questions in fields they know nothing about and by askers working in language pairs they're not qualified to be working in.

I don't know if you've been here long enough to experience some of the horrendous questions we're sometimes subjected to in some language pairs. The only explanation I can give for these questions is that they aren't providing context because they don't understand the language they're translating well enough to be able to know what part of the sentence is even relevant grammatically or otherwise. Other askers don't provide sufficient context because they're simply too lazy to think about what it takes to get a good answer.


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Ford Prefect  Identity Verified
Burkina Faso
Local time: 07:07
German to English
+ ...
Kudoz Jan 24, 2006


After posting a question I don't want to have to deal with emails asking for more information, I want an answer.


After posting a question lots of people are giving up their valuable time to help you do your job (make money). The very least the asker can do is offer them the courtesy of a polite response.

As happened in the question that prompted this thread, when two people agree that a question has insufficient context, and both of those people then feel confident enough to post peer comments once more context is forthcoming, you can be pretty sure your original question had insufficient context.

Kudoz is not there for you to post questions and then forget about it until you get an answer you like. Most questions involve a lot of interaction between asker, answerers and peers.



The shelf life of a kudoz question appears to be about an hour... ...the speed of kudoz is excessive and is not conducive to considered and professional answers.


I agree there is a problem here. It is disheartening to put time into researching an answer in your speciality only to find that 20 minutes later there are 6 wild guesses, all with CI 5 and one of them is actually right. I am not so sure that there is an easy solution. One option would be to disbar answers for a period of time (say one hour) from those who have not reported the relevant speciality and language pair. You already have the option to restrict comments to people with specialities and pairs and perhaps it is best to leave this optional.


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xxxcmwilliams  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 08:07
French to English
+ ...
Agree with James Jan 24, 2006

James Visanji DipTrans PhD wrote:

After posting a question lots of people are giving up their valuable time to help you do your job (make money). The very least the asker can do is offer them the courtesy of a polite response.

...

Kudoz is not there for you to post questions and then forget about it until you get an answer you like. Most questions involve a lot of interaction between asker, answerers and peers.



The more context the better, and there's usually not enough. People who are kind enough to help you should not be made to feel that they are wasting your time.


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Kim Metzger  Identity Verified
Mexico
Local time: 02:07
German to English
Insider info Jan 24, 2006

Now I know at least one of the questions you're referring to. The exchange was unfortunate and out of order. But let me assure you, Bill, I know the chap who ended up causing your aggravation. And he's one of our best KudoZ contributors.

I've known him from KudoZ for almost six years and have always known him to be professional and courteous. He doesn't answer KudoZ unless he knows the subject and his answers are reliable.

In this case, I'd say he was out of line, and the only explanation I can think of is that he was the victim of too many awful questions. This isn't his normal style. You clearly stated that you had no context but he had seen so many others say the same thing when they were full of baloney.

As I see it, we had a clash of two professionals caused by non-professionals.


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Victor Dewsbery  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 09:07
German to English
+ ...
Allergic to context Jan 24, 2006

Bill, scanning a couple of your asked questions, I find it difficult to understand your anger about requests for context. The information you offer in some of your questions is "bare bones" to say the least. I think I would have asked for more context, too.

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Mikhail Kropotov  Identity Verified
Russian Federation
Local time: 10:07
Member (2005)
English to Russian
+ ...
No pain, no gain Jan 24, 2006

As a top answerer in my pairs and a part-time asker, I fully support those requesting context and have learned to provide enough of it in return.

It is a Kudoz fact that you get what you "pay" for - in terms of time invested into the process of asking questions. In the past, whenever I hid any context I had, attempted to play the devil's advocate with the answerers, tried not to give away the source - it produced only negative effects. If you do not provide context, don't expect people to give you accurate answers. If you don't establish a line of communication with those trying to help you, either thru aks the asker notes or e-email, don't expect them to do the guesswork for you correctly.

In particular, I agree with Richard about the Frontcooking question.

[Edited at 2006-01-24 21:22]


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