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KudoZ Bad, Kudos Good
Thread poster: TonyTK
TonyTK
German to English
+ ...
Nov 27, 2006

Before I say anything else, I would like to stress four things:

1. To the extent it functions to the benefit of both parties, the Proz job system is a good thing.
2. The forums are an excellent resource and are probably the best source of help and support for non-terminology, translation-related problems anywhere on the Internet.
3. My comments refer exclusively to the German-English section of KudoZ.
4. KudoZ participants include some superb translators in their respective specialist fields and probably four or five of the best I've seen in my 25 years in the business (and I've pretty much seen them all).

The biggest single problem with the for-points system is that it encourages answerers to get their answer in first and discourages them from taking the time to understand the context, decide whether they are equipped to answer and explain their answer. Hence all the "…", "???" and (my favourite) "a guess". There is only one possible explanation for this behaviour. They want the points; and they're frequently willing to write garbage in the hope that a sufficient percentage of their answers will hit the mark (which they of course do).

This behaviour is also irresponsible. Points-chasers must understand that askers who choose quickfire or wayward suggestions in good faith are ultimately liable for the quality of the end product and can in a worst-case scenario face legal consequences.

The ideal solution would be to abolish KudoZ points, as they reward speed and sloppiness at the expense of accuracy and substance. They are also the reason why many excellent translators have turned their back on a terminology help system they consider to be amateurish and badly designed - translators who would be quite content with the "kudos" they get simply from providing a decent answer.

I have little or no hope that this will happen, however; so, on the assumption that KudoZ points are here to stay, an alternative way of engendering and promoting a spirit of true professionalism in the KudoZ system would be to:

Get rid of "confidence levels" altogether. if I'm a professional and I'm answering a question, then I should be reasonably confident that my answer fits the bill. Otherwise I should refrain from answering in the first place.

Make it impossible to hide answers: if I knew my poor or incomplete answer would be on the board for all eternity, I'd probably put a little more thought into how I word and back up any suggestions I make. Moreover, critical comments on poor answers are frequently enlightening or even helpful.

Require at least some degree of explanation for all answers to show the answerer understands how his or her suggestion can be used in the given context. Moderators should delete any answer that doesn't meet this requirement (things like "????" or "a guess" etc. in the Explanation field).

Encourage a policy of robust KudoZ debate. While I agree there must be sanctions for personal attacks, comments like "This is not something a native speaker would write" must be deemed perfectly acceptable.

(On a related note, make glossary entries subject to peer review. The sheer amount of garbage that is being in entered in the glossary every day means that it's going downhill faster than we could ever hope to fix it.)

I used to tell my students and new colleagues to take part in Kudoz so that they could learn the ropes from more experienced translators and establish their own credentials and skills vis-à-vis outsourcers. In recent months, however, there are times when I've been positively embarrassed to mention my association with the site at all.


[Bearbeitet am 2006-11-28 10:25]


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Kim Metzger  Identity Verified
Mexico
Local time: 07:30
German to English
Taking a page from another site Nov 27, 2006

TonyTK wrote:

Require at least some degree of explanation for all answers to show the answerer understands how his or her suggestion can be used in the given context. Moderators should delete any answer that doesn't meet this requirement (things like "????" or "a guess" etc. in the Explanation field).



Needless to say, I agree with your assessment, Tony. I'd love to see some steps taken in the right direction. Here's some straight-forward guidance that we might borrow from:

WordReference Forums Rule
http://forum.wordreference.com/register.php

This forum's goal is to provide effective, professional, peer-to-peer assistance and promote global collaboration between translators, paralegals, lawyers and others.

1. Any information, translations and definitions posted in these forums must be accompanied by a reasonable attempt to verify accuracy. Give sources for extensive quotations. If you are unsure of the accuracy of your information or translation, please say so.

2. Do not pretend to be someone you are not. This includes gender and nationality. Who you are and where you are from is very important to understanding any translations or other language information that you provide.


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GoodWords  Identity Verified
Mexico
Local time: 07:30
Spanish to English
+ ...
Another solution, and a counterexample Nov 27, 2006

I'm in general agreement with all that you say, Tony, but I'd like to offer some alternate perspectives.

TonyTK wrote:
The biggest single problem with the for-points system is that it encourages answerers to get their answer in first and discourages them from taking the time to understand the context, decide whether they are equipped to answer and explain their answer.


Quite right, however I've long been a proponent of a different solution: block askers from closing a question during the first 24 hours after they've posted it. I repeat the suggestion here. I think it could go a long way towards preventing or at least reducing many of these quality problems in KudoZ and the glossaries.

TonyTK wrote:
Get rid of "confidence levels" altogether. If I'm a professional and I'm answering a question, then I should be reasonably confident that my answer fits the bill. Otherwise I should refrain from answering in the first place.


True, assuming a clean source text. Let me offer a counterexample, though. When the source text is ambiguous, sloppily expressed, error-riddled, badly transcribed, etc., other people's perspectives can help the asker solve the mystery; yet given a poor source, I think there may be no lack of professionalism in an answerer's being uncertain about the proposed solution.

Competent professionals can also be legitimately uncertain about their suggestion when the asker provides insufficient context. Of course we could boycott such queries, but sometimes the temptation to put in one's two cents worth is too strong to resist.

[Edited at 2006-11-27 18:21]


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Andrea Riffo  Identity Verified
Chile
Local time: 10:30
English to Spanish
neutral :P Nov 27, 2006

Hi Tony,

Although you stated that your comment is aimed at the German-English pair, the problem you mention happen in all pairs.

True, answering "just in case" is quite irresponsible, specially since many times askers themselves do not have full command of the text they are translating and therefore sometimes do not have the necessary background to pick the right answer.

Still, I'm not completely sure that the problem lies in KudoZ themselves or the confidence level. You yourself stated "if I'm a professional and I'm answering a question, then I should be reasonably confident that my answer fits the bill". Reasonably confident does not equal 100% certain, but there's a huge difference between being "reasonably confident" and "guessing".

What I think encourages "point chasers", as you call them, is their belief that being first means winning the points. Unfortunately, that assumption is not without basis, given that many times people post a question and close it within 5 minutes.

Therefore, rather than getting rid of KudoZ, I think a good idea would be to block askers from closing questions whithin 24 or 36 hours. If they are in a hurry and still want to use the first translation suggested, so be it, but at least this would give them the chance to read other answers, and it would give responsible answerers teh chance to research and explain calmly.

To be honest, I'm pretty miffed also because in the past 4 days I have found 3 accepted kudoz answers that are blatantly wrong.

Greetings!
A.

****

[EDIT: GoodWords beat me to it]

[Edited at 2006-11-27 18:12]


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TonyTK
German to English
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Sounds like a good idea Nov 27, 2006

Kim Metzger wrote:

...

1. Any information, translations and definitions posted in these forums must be accompanied by a reasonable attempt to verify accuracy. Give sources for extensive quotations. If you are unsure of the accuracy of your information or translation, please say so.

2. Do not pretend to be someone you are not. This includes gender and nationality. Who you are and where you are from is very important to understanding any translations or other language information that you provide.



Kim,

I certainly agree with your first point and I naturally agree that misrepresenting relevant personal details is also to be frowned upon. At the same time, as an occasional asker of KudoZ questions, I welcome input from anyone anywhere who *sincerely* thinks they have a good suggestion. I suppose the best way to ensure that this is the case is to use the "not for points" option (which it occurs to me I have forgotten to do in the past).


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ViktoriaG  Identity Verified
Canada
Local time: 09:30
English to French
+ ...
Abolish KudoZ points Nov 27, 2006

That's all I have to say.

(Short and sweet for once)


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Kim Metzger  Identity Verified
Mexico
Local time: 07:30
German to English
Poorly stated questions/closing questions prematurely Nov 27, 2006

Poorly stated questions are a big part of the problem, and I'm not so much worried about what kind of translation such askers get as what these questions do to the KudoZ process and what ends up in the glossaries. I think we should be given the opportunity to vote to squash questions that can't be answered properly without decent context. The asker could be told to "try again with more context" and to read the rules for asking questions if s/he doesn't know what context is.

Askers who routinely provide no context also routinely close the question as soon as someone slaps something together.

GoodWords also wrote:
An asker who is doing an urgent translation and needs an answer right away is free to choose an answer to use in their text, but they should nevertheless be unable to close the query until 24 hours have passed. (A better answer may come in in the meantime -- even if it is too late to be used in the asker's translation, the quality of the KudoZ archives will be improved by having the best answer available for selection.)
http://www.proz.com/post/150334#150334


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TonyTK
German to English
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
A 24-hour rule would certainly help Nov 27, 2006

GoodWords wrote:

block askers from closing a question during the first 24 hours after they've posted it. I repeat the suggestion here. I think it could go a long way towards preventing or at least reducing many of these quality problems in KudoZ and the glossaries.

True, assuming a clean source text. Let me offer a counterexample, though. When the source text is ambiguous, sloppily expressed, error-riddled, badly transcribed, etc., other people's perspectives can help the asker solve the mystery; yet given a poor source, I think there may be no lack of professionalism in an answerer's being uncertain about the proposed solution.

Competent professionals can also be legitimately uncertain about their suggestion when the asker provides insufficient context. Of course we could boycott such queries, but sometimes the temptation to put in one's two cents worth is too strong to resist.

[Edited at 2006-11-27 18:21]



Goodwords,

I must admit I thought the 24-hour rule was already in the pipeline. If it's not, it should be.

As to your second point, I'm not quite sure I agree. If I try to help the asker solve this kind of translation mystery (which is surely not the norm), then I can tell them off the bat that I'm not really sure – and probably no one else will be either. By the same token, if askers provide insufficient context, we should pick them up on it.

My main beef about confidence levels is that they allow points-chasers to hack in the first thing they can think off within the first two or three minutes and then point to their low confidence level when challenged. I reckon it would be far more difficult for them to shoot from the hip if they actually had to type in a sentence referring to the fact that their answer was a guess *and* weren't subsequently able to hide their answer. Even they'd feel pretty stupid then, as the obvious response would be: "Then why on earth are you doing it?". What galls me is that, almost without exception, the people who do this are accomplished translators – when it comes down to it, they're professionals who don't act like professionals.


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Kim Metzger  Identity Verified
Mexico
Local time: 07:30
German to English
Honesty Nov 27, 2006

TonyTK wrote:

My main beef about confidence levels is that they allow points-chasers to hack in the first thing they can think of within the first two or three minutes and then point to their low confidence level when challenged. I reckon it would be far more difficult for them to shoot from the hip if they actually had to type in a sentence referring to the fact that their answer was a guess *and* weren't subsequently able to hide their answer. Even they'd feel pretty stupid then, as the obvious response would be: "Then why on earth are you doing it?". What galls me is that, almost without exception, the people who do this are accomplished translators – when it comes down to it, they're professionals who don't act like professionals.



Yes, typing in a sentence about one's level of confidence instead of clicking a button sounds like a good idea.

I also think an answerer should make an honest statement about his level of expertise in the field. We've got a few "accomplished translators" in German-English who have demonstrated over the years that they know nothing about engineering, say, but who have indicated in their profile that they specialize in engineering or finance, etc. Next to the answerer's name we then see in bright blue letters "specializes in field" or "works in field." I know for a fact that this feature has misled many an asker.




[Edited at 2006-11-27 22:18]


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Thomas Pfann  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 14:30
Member (2006)
English to German
+ ...
Maybe more communication would help Nov 27, 2006

To be honest I can't see how abolishing the points would improve the system - it might just as well make things worse: some people might still want to be the first ones to answer while others might continue to answer but stop researching their answers and being less thorough in their reasoning (after all, why waste your time for nothing?).

In my opinion the tools for sufficient self-regulation of the system are there - maybe they should be used more efficiently. Firstly, there is the option for the asker to reply to the answerer and secondly there is the 'agree/disagree/neutral' option for others.

If an answerer provides one of those 'shots from the hip' why not ask him/her to elaborate on the answer or tell him/her that the answer isn't very helpful at all without more detail (just like askers are requested to provide more context, so should answerers be asked for clarifications and explanations). The Asker can do this through the comment option, others might want to click on 'disagree' (or 'neutral') and at the same time ask for clarification - if the answerer provides such clarification, the others can decide whether they still disagree or whether they want to delete their comment or change it to an agree.

I usually see a lot of 'agrees' but not many 'disagrees' - maybe that's something which we should make more use of.

And most importantly, I still don't understand why so many people keep claiming that being the first to answer an question gets you the points. KudoZ clearly tells askers to award the points to the answer they considered the most helpful - and from what I can tell, that usually is the case.

[Edited at 2006-11-28 16:21]


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xxxCMJ_Trans
Local time: 15:30
French to English
+ ...
And what about the changes to the site regarding such things as points that Henry promised???? Nov 27, 2006

I know I am not 21 any more and maybe my memory is not what it as but I seem to remember not very long ago that we had a few Forums/Fora (take your pick) bemoaning the problems with the standards of answers, the whole points(grabbing) issue, the problem of false profiles and unfounded claims of experience/qualifications.

In the wake of this Henry ran a forum on "your 3 wishes per person" and promised a big rethink, if not shake-up, of the way the site works/worked.

OK they all went gallivanting off to Edinburgh and someone somewhere has clearly been putting a great deal of time and energy into site marketing BUT what happened to the promised changes?

The first of these related to jobs, which is not relevant to this forum, but the second WAS the points system and, I suspect, until we've had Part 1, we ain't goin' to get Part 2........

I won't say what I think about the pernicious effects of the points system: I've said it all before. I have even written the first draft of my analysis of what is wrong with the system, though I needs a bit of knocking into shape (if I can ever find time) because it is pure stream-of-consciousness at the moment.

The bottom line, however, is that it is high time some action were taken to save a fast sinking ship.

Stage 1 - diagnose the ill. Stage 2 - find the cure - it's a simple as that


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TonyTK
German to English
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Setting the tone Nov 27, 2006

Thomas Pfann wrote:

To be honest I can't see how abolishing the points would improve the system ... others might continue to answer but stop researching their answers and being less thorough in their reasoning (after all, why waste your time for nothing?).


Thomas,

I tend to assume points are here to stay anyway, but please don't forget there were countless translators providing valuable - and well-researched - help for their colleagues "for nothing" at other Internet venues when ProZ was still just a twinkle in Henry's eye.

I usually see a lot of 'agrees' but not many 'disagrees' - maybe that's something which we should make more use of.


Here I agree with you. A frank and open exchange of opinions via the comment box is key to setting the general standard we would like to see in the KudoZ system.

And most importantly, I still don't understand why so many people keep claiming that being the first to answer an question gets you the points.


It does quite a lot of the time, unfortunately, otherwise people wouldn't shoot from the hip in the first place. But, again, I'm not overly bothered about who gets the points - what concerns me is the effect of the points system on the quality of the answers that are suggested. If the points are here to stay, then - like you say - we have to express our disagreement with poor answers more robustly and consistently.


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Kim Metzger  Identity Verified
Mexico
Local time: 07:30
German to English
Defending the profession Nov 27, 2006

TonyTK wrote:

But, again, I'm not overly bothered about who gets the points - what concerns me is the effect of the points system on the quality of the answers that are suggested. If the points are here to stay, then - like you say - we have to express our disagreement with poor answers more robustly and consistently.


And I'm also concerned about the effect sloppy, dishonest work has on our profession. That's another reason I support your call for a robust debate in the KudoZ arena. For example, when professional translators see seriously flawed processes being used to come up with a translation and the bad results such processes generate, they must speak up. When professional translators see someone translating from one language the translator doesn't master into another language he doesn't master, translators must speak up. The list goes on.


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Paulo César Mendes MD, CT  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 08:30
Member
English to Portuguese
+ ...
Suggestion: How about point penalties? Nov 28, 2006

In my opinion, it's highly unlikely that KudoZ will be done away with. It would be tantamount to admitting that the main criterion used to rank translators in ProZ directories is fundamentally flawed.

Maybe creating penalties that made it more "costly" to answer any old thing would improve answer quality. For example, deducting points for 'disagrees', rejected, or hidden answers? Or awarding fewer points to questions with low confidence levels and/or to answerers with low points-to-answers ratios?

I also think it would be useful to have more numeric options for peer grades and confidence levels; e.g. peer agreement from 1 ('completely wrong') to 9 ('totally right') and 9 grade choices for confidence levels as well.

Another possibility would be a separate system allowing users to dispute glossary items and earn/lose points for successful/failed disputes.


My two centavos...


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xxxLia Fail  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 15:30
Spanish to English
+ ...
agree:-) :-) :-) Nov 28, 2006

I agree with TonyTK about pratically all he says. I would be happy to see points abolished.

Just some issues:

I detest the confidence levels, they have been proven to be totally spurious and subjective. An extra click I resent. Qualitative comments would be much more useful.

Yes, block answers that say "that's it", "a guess etc", how I don't know, but they are ridiculous. Why should one accept an answer on this level of evidence???????????

I agree on the issue of being 'responsible' and 'professional', as per Kim:-) -- to each other and in our behaviour as members of the profession.

Eliminating the points system would weed out points grabbers and we would be left with truly 'translation-problem'-oriented answerers. Only problem, a lot of such translators have already left.....

Yes, we need robust debate on kudoZ and the glossary. Kudoz in my experience is too often the blind leading the blinder. The glossary doesn't function as a glossary, it functions as a 'resource' where one must assess asker and answerers and chosen answer with great care.

Yes, I used to be happy to tell people about ProZ. Nowadays I still tell them, but I qualify hugely.

Yes, the forum is an elements in ProZ that seems to work well. Apart from discussions, where else can you get such fast answers to tricky CAT, Word, Excel problems etc?

Thanks, Tony:-)


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