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Is Confidence Level Objective?
Thread poster: ATIL KAYHAN

ATIL KAYHAN  Identity Verified
Turkey
Local time: 10:50
Member (2007)
Turkish to English
+ ...
May 27, 2010

This is about the confidence level in answering the ProZ member questions. Confidence level is expressed on a five-point scale as we all know. I have been witnessing some people using always the top of the scale (5.0) even though their answer may not be the ideal answer. I tend to use the middle of the scale (3.0) on most of my answers. Proz defines the confidence level as "the degree of certainty expressed by the answerer regarding his or her own answer". Since the answers are eventually rated in terms of the confidence level, its importance is pretty self-explanatory. I wonder what you think of this issue of confidence level, and whether it is objective or subjective.

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Kevin Fulton  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 02:50
German to English
Subjective May 27, 2010

There have been a few times when I have been absolutely certain of an answer I've provided, but as every experienced translator knows, frequently a number of alternate terminology solutions are possible. In my language pair (German > English) very few people regularly offer a "5" confidence level. Most of the fives I've seen have been from people with other language pairs as their competence. They often cite online dictionaries as their source, regardless of the context of the queried term.

I suspect that many offering a "5" confidence level are seeking points from inexperienced translators who assume that the "5" reflects expert knowledge. Personally, I'd choose a "3" with solid references over a "5" citing only a dictionary.


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Laurent KRAULAND  Identity Verified
France
Local time: 08:50
French to German
+ ...
Both... May 27, 2010

While I agree that there is always a certain degree of subjectivity in KudoZ answers (e.g. related to formulation and the like), there also are objective elements which flow in an answer (specific terms known to the answerer).

On a personal level, I avoid giving answers that I would rate below 4. I think they just tend to blur the matter at hand. But apparently, both of you have a different point of view about how answers should be rated... Very interesting indeed.

[Edited at 2010-05-27 20:21 GMT]


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Christine Andersen  Identity Verified
Denmark
Local time: 08:50
Member (2003)
Danish to English
+ ...
Subjective May 27, 2010

However, I have got to know some answerers in my pairs.

The variation used by the same person may be useful. I have one or two colleagues - not all users of this site, however, who say ´I am only guessing...´ But you know one of their guesses is 90% likely to fit your context perfectly, or they may give you two options, both good. ´Guessing´ to them means ´still needs checking´ or ´I don´t have time right now.´

They are the modest sort who always check, whether for their own work or to help others, and they develop a sixth sense of when to trust the dictionary, where else to look, and how different contexts call for different treatment.

Others, as Kevin says, jump in with a 5, and you really need to check thoroughly yourself!

Then there are all the others who simply hit 3 or 4 to be safe. At least that is more honest.

I have occasionally given a confidence level of 5, but I usually go for 2, 3 or 4 depending on ... how confident I feel ...


[Edited at 2010-05-27 20:27 GMT]


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Krys Williams  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 07:50
Member (2003)
Polish to English
+ ...
level does not tell me anything May 27, 2010

When I post a question to Kudoz, I look at every answer offered and try to verify any seemingly credible responses externally.

The confidence level expressed by the responder tells me nothing whatsoever since anyone is free to pretend to knowledge that they do not really possess.

I have to say that I only post questions to Kudoz when I have exhausted all online and offline possibilities. While I have received a few useful responses, the majority have been worthless and have generally shown that the responder has not understood the context of my query at all.


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GILOU  Identity Verified
France
Local time: 08:50
Member (2002)
English to French
Reliability May 28, 2010

I think confidence level is not reliable. It's better for askers to trust the working fields of translators. Regular askers know different skills of answerers overtime. The use of 5 may be some kind of bluff to impress the asker....
But if an asker sets a high confidence level for a field which is not listed on his/her Proz page, it can not be trustworthy.....


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Laurent KRAULAND  Identity Verified
France
Local time: 08:50
French to German
+ ...
Which IMO leads us back... May 28, 2010

GILLES MEUNIER wrote:

I think confidence level is not reliable. It's better for askers to trust the working fields of translators. Regular askers know different skills of answerers overtime. The use of 5 may be some kind of bluff to impress the asker....
But if an asker sets a high confidence level for a field which is not listed on his/her Proz page, it can not be trustworthy.....


to the sempiternal question: what is a PRO question?

When some askers fail to understand the meaning of a quite straightforward sentence and post this as a PRO question, I do not see why translators working outside of that field should refrain from posting an answer with a confidence level of 5 "because the field/specialty is not listed on their ProZ page".


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writeaway  Identity Verified
French to English
+ ...
(Self) marketing May 28, 2010

Imo, high confidence levels are just part of the self-marketing used by some individuals. Along with nearly daily appearances in the forums/quick polls to assure Googleability of their names and to remind others of their presence (and perhaps availability) , asking basic everyday terms as "Pro" questions because they are 'pro translators', agreeing (or disagreeing) blindly to appear 'knowledgeable' etc. etc., posting high confidence levels is just part of the grandstanding. To be taken with a grain of salt, like all the rest. With time, it becomes clear who is and who isn't, who can and who can't...... Under the motto, 'you can fool some of the people some of the time.......'

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Laurent KRAULAND  Identity Verified
France
Local time: 08:50
French to German
+ ...
No matter how thin you slice it,... May 28, 2010

there always will be two sides.

@ writeaway: I guess you are aware of the fact that your (very valid) remarks can also be reversed?


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writeaway  Identity Verified
French to English
+ ...
IMO May 28, 2010

Laurent KRAULAND wrote:

there always will be two sides.

@ writeaway: I guess you are aware of the fact that your (very valid) remarks can also be reversed?


Not there by accident. It is (just) my opinion.


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juvera  Identity Verified
Local time: 07:50
English to Hungarian
+ ...
Listed field and high confidence level May 29, 2010

GILLES MEUNIER wrote:
But if an asker sets a high confidence level for a field which is not listed on his/her Proz page, it can not be trustworthy.....


I agree with Laurent:
Laurent KRAULAND wrote: I do not see why translators working outside of that field should refrain from posting an answer with a confidence level of 5 "because the field/specialty is not listed on their ProZ page".


I think it is important to realise that to state "working field" or "expertise" in a particular subject is just as arbitrary as setting high confidence level.

First; my belief in people's so called expertise in their "working field" has been shaken so often that I am highly suspicious of it, unless I was convinced otherwise. Working field often turns out to be just one or at most a handful of projects completed by the translator in a particular field, and only because an agency had no one else to give the job to.
Sometimes this accident turns out to be fortunate and as times go by, the translator gains considerable expertise in the subject, but it is not necessarily the rule.

Second; the ProZ field of expertise list is haphazard and arbitrary.
The other day, for example I was looking at the various fields of law, criminal law in particular. There is contract law, patents and certificates, etc. but where is criminal law?
Not very long ago there was yet again a pretty useless Glossary Building question under metallurgy. In my language pair nobody answered that fairly simple question. I studied and practiced silversmithing, where the process in question is very common and indispensable. I know exactly what the proper definition should have been, and would have been able to answer the question. Alas - I do not claim myself to be an expert on "metallurgy". If it was an ordinary KudoZ question, I would have been able to answer and give my answer the confidence level of 5.

Nevertheless, Gilles, you may not trust my answer, because I do not have the required "expertise" stated in my working fields. Why? Simply, because the criterion doesn't exist.

I am not advocating the widening or multiplying the working field list, because… how long is a piece of string…! I am sure it will be revised sooner or later, for better or for worse. Just be aware that it doesn't mean an awful lot.


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Dr. Matthias Schauen  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 08:50
Member
English to German
Subjective, but answers are not rated based on confidence level May 30, 2010

Of course the confidence level is 100% subjective, since it is a pure self-assessment. But:

ATIL KAYHAN wrote:
Since the answers are eventually rated in terms of the confidence level, its importance is pretty self-explanatory. I wonder what you think of this issue of confidence level, and whether it is objective or subjective.


What do you mean by "rated"? If I understand the KudoZ system correctly, there are two possibilities to receive points: Either the askers choose the most helpful answer, based on whatever they see fit, or the "best" answer is chosen automatically based on net agrees. Confidence level only influences - in combination with net agrees and time of posting - the order in which the answers are displayed.


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Laurent KRAULAND  Identity Verified
France
Local time: 08:50
French to German
+ ...
Pure self-assessment? May 30, 2010

Dr. Matthias Schauen wrote:

Of course the confidence level is 100% subjective, since it is a pure self-assessment.


This is not ultimately defendable neither from a linguistic, nor from a logical point of view - if I am allowed to say.

[Edited at 2010-05-30 17:04 GMT]


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ATIL KAYHAN  Identity Verified
Turkey
Local time: 10:50
Member (2007)
Turkish to English
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Dr. Matthias Schauen's question May 30, 2010

Dr. Matthias Schauen wrote:

ATIL KAYHAN wrote:
Since the answers are eventually rated in terms of the confidence level, its importance is pretty self-explanatory. I wonder what you think of this issue of confidence level, and whether it is objective or subjective.


What do you mean by "rated"? If I understand the KudoZ system correctly, there are two possibilities to receive points: Either the askers choose the most helpful answer, based on whatever they see fit, or the "best" answer is chosen automatically based on net agrees. Confidence level only influences - in combination with net agrees and time of posting - the order in which the answers are displayed.


By rated I mean the answers are sorted. The one having the highest confidence level and peer agrees (if any) is the one most likely to be selected at the end.


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Christine Andersen  Identity Verified
Denmark
Local time: 08:50
Member (2003)
Danish to English
+ ...
Confidence Level is subjective, but is not always useless May 31, 2010

Over time, those who follow KudoZ get to know each other. It is a sort of tactic that experienced KudoZ participators can use as a signal.

And as I said above, there are some colleagues who might give an answer as a guess, but they would not give it at all if they did not belive it was at least a hint in the right direction.
I have often found these answers to be really valuable, either because they prove right, or because they give me something to search for instead of googling blindly.

I post guessed answers myself occasionally, when I am actually fairly sure the answer is right, but do not have time to check or provide a solid reference. I have been known to be wrong, of course!

I have also been known to guess an answer when there was so little context that there is no way anyone can make more than a guess. I attach a request for more context and a guessed scenario that would fit my answer. If it is way out, well, that is the asker´s problem, not mine.

I do this when the term looks like one I have had trouble with myself. An answer often draws a discussion, and someone may contribute a better solution than mine, which will go into the glossary, and then I can use it next time the problem comes up.

It is worth watching each answerer's personal pattern, but the answers still have to be checked individually.


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