Posted by Barbara Inge Karsch on August 11, 2011
In July, I spent two days at Human Computer Interaction International 2011 in Orlando, Florida, with hundreds of UX designers, usability analysts, engineers and researchers from around the world. It surprised me that language as part of usability was mentioned just a few times. Furthermore, I didn’t expect to hear so much about the struggle of usability professionals within company hierarchies and cultures. It also occurred to me that many terminology management systems (TMS) may not have taken usability all that seriously so far.
Challenged by a missed flight and an extra night in DC, I managed to attend about 40 presentations. None of them even mentioned language, let alone terminology as a focus point or issue. Although Helmut Windl from Continental Automotive GmbH had a wonderful series of translation errors as an intro to his paper on Empathy as a Key Factor for Successful Intercultural HCI Design. Linguistic faux pas are always good for a laugh. As you might expect, my own paper, Terminology Precision—A Key Factor in Product Usability and Safety, was focused on avoiding such faux pas, particularly in the life sciences where blunders could be less than funny.
What came across in more than one presentation is that UX professionals, like language professionals, struggle with their status in an enterprise. Clemens Lutsch from Microsoft Deutschland GmbH gave a good presentation on making the case for usability standards to management that had useful ideas for us terminologists as well, e.g., what he called “the trap of the cost is already there”. What he means with this is that existing roles already take care of the task, say, user-centered design or, for us, something like term formation, so why bother changing anything. The awareness that these employees may not have the right skill set does not (always) exist. Usability folks and terminologists can form alliances on more than one front.
Lutsch’s was part of a whole session on ISO usability standards and enterprise software. The award winning paper of this track (Design, User Experience, and Usability) by Theofanos and Stanton of the National Institute of Standards and Technology (US) introduced a comprehensive overview of all the standards provided or proposed by the respective ISO technical committee(s) and IEC. The graphic on the left which stems from the paper has lots of detail. But the main point of showing it here is that it has the user at the center and that any and all design tasks revolve around user needs.
I have participated in software development for terminology management systems (as well as in others) and this view was never the prevailing one. The result was often that TMS users struggled with the software: They would rather work in Excel and then import the data than work in the interface that was to support and facilitate their work.
So, here is a challenge to the designers and developers of TMS: Don’t provide systems that do a wonderful job hosting data; provide systems that allow us to do terminology work efficiently and reliably. In Quantity AND Quality, I discussed a few of the easy things that can be done on the interface level. I would love to see tools being developed following not only the soon to be released ISO 26162, but also the usability standards put forth by ISO TC 159, (Ergonomics). By the same token, let the usability and ergonomics people in the committee inspire the rest of their industry. After all their scope includes “standardization in the field of ergonomics, including terminology, methodology, and human factors data.”
Posted in Designing a terminology database, Events, Usability | Tagged: ergonomics, HCI International, ISO, ISO 26162, UX design | Leave a Comment »
Posted by Barbara Inge Karsch on June 23, 2011
One of the main reasons we have doublettes in our databases is that we often don’t get around to doing proper terminological analysis. I was just witness to and assistant in a prime example of a team doing this analysis at the meetings of ISO TC37.
ISO TC 37 is the technical committee for “Terminology and other language and content resources.” It is the standards body responsible for standards such as ISO 12620 (now retired, as discussed in an earlier posting), 704 (as discussed here) or soon 26162 (already quoted here). This year, the four subcommittees (SCs) and their respective working groups (WGs) met in Seoul, South Korea, from June 12 through 17.
One of these working groups had considerable trouble coming to an agreement on various aspects of a standard. Most of us know how hard it is to get subject matter experts (or language people!) to agree on something. Imagine a multi-cultural group of experts who are tasked with producing an international standard and who have native languages other than English, the language of discussion! The convener, my colleague and a seasoned terminologist, Nelida Chan, recognized that the predicament could be alleviated by some terminology work, more precisely by thorough terminological analysis.
First, she gave a short overview of the basics of terminology work, as outlined in ISO 704 Terminology work – Principles and methods. Then the group agreed on the subject field and listed it on a white board. Any of the concepts up for discussion had to be in reference to this subject field; if the discussion drifted off into general language, the reminder to focus on the subject field was right on the board.
The group knew that they had to define and name three different concepts that they had been struggling with, although lots of research had been done; so we put three boxes on the board as well. We then discussed, agreed on and added the superordinate to each box, which was the same in each case. We also discussed what distinguished each box from the other two. Furthermore, we found examples of the concepts and added what turned out to be subordinates right into the appropriate box. Not until then did we give the concepts names. And now, naming was easy.
||Distinguishing characteristic 1
Distinguishing characteristic 2
|Distinguishing characteristic 1
Distinguishing characteristic 2
|Distinguishing characteristic 1
Distinguishing characteristic 2
After this exercise, we had a definition, composed of the superordinate and its distinguishing characteristics as well as terms for the concepts. Not only did the group agree on the terms and their meanings, the data can now also be stored in the ISO terminology database. Without doublettes.
Granted, as terminologists we don’t often have the luxury of having 15 experts in one room for a discussion. But sometimes we do: I remember discussing terms and appellations for new gaming concepts in Windows Vista with marketing folks in a conference room at the Microsoft subsidiary in Munich. Even if we don’t have all experts in shouting distance, we can proceed in a similar fashion and collect the information from virtual teams and other resources in our daily work. It may take a little bit to become fluent in the process, but terminological analysis helps us avoid doublettes and pays off in the long run.
Posted in Events, Researching terms, Standardizing entries, Subject matter expert, Terminologist, Terminology 101, Terminology methods, Terminology principles | Tagged: ISO 12620, ISO 26162, ISO 704, ISO meeting, Seoul, terminological analysis | 3 Comments »
Posted by Barbara Inge Karsch on June 10, 2011
Sooner rather than later terminologists need to think about database maintenance. Initially, with few entries in the database, data integrity is easy to warrant: In fact, the terminologist might remember about any entry they ever compiled; my Italian colleague, Licia, remembered just about any entry she ever opened in the database. But even the best human brains will eventually ‘run out of memory’ and blunders will happen. One of these blunders are so called doublettes.
According to ISO TR 26162, a doublette is a “terminological entry that describes the same concept as another entry.” Sometimes these entries are also referred to as duplicates or duplicate entries, but the technical term in standards is doublette. It is important to note that homonyms do not equal doublettes. In other words, two terms that are spelt the same way and that are in two separate entries may refer to the same concept and may therefore be doublettes. But they may also justifiably be listed in separate entries, because they denote slightly or completely different concepts.
As an example, I deliberately set up doublettes in i-Term, a terminology management system developed by DANTERM: The terms automated teller machine and electronic cash machine can be considered synonyms and should be listed in one terminological entry. Below you can see that automated teller machine and its abbreviated form ATM have one definition and definition source, while electronic cash machine and its abbreviated form, cash machine, are listed in a separate entry with another, yet similar definition and its definition source. During database maintenance, these entries should be consolidated into one terminological entry with all its synonyms.
It is much easier to detect homographs that turn out to be doublettes. Rather, it should be easier to avoid them in the first place: after all, every new entry in a database starts with a search of the term denoting the concept; if it already exists with the same spelling, it would be a hit). Here are ‘homograph doublettes’ from the Microsoft Language Portal. While we can’t see the ID, the definition shows pretty clearly that the two entries are describing the same concept.
Doublettes happen, particularly in settings where more than one terminologist adds and approves entries in a database. But even if one terminologist approves all new concepts, s/he cannot guarantee that a database remains free of doublettes. The right combination of skills, processes and tool support can help limit the number, though.
Posted in iTerm, Maintaining a database, Microsoft Language Portal, Process, Setting up entries | Tagged: doublette, ISO 26162 | 4 Comments »