Posted by Barbara Inge Karsch on September 16, 2010
In If quantity matters, what about quality? I promised to shed some light on how to achieve quantity without skimping on quality. In knowledge management, it boils down to solid processes supported by reliable and appropriate tools and executed by skilled people. Let me drill down on some aspects of setting up processes and tools to support quantity and quality.
If you cannot afford to build up an encyclopedia for your company (and who can?), select metadata carefully. The number and types of data categories (DCs), as discussed in The Year of Standards, can make a big difference. That is not to say use less. Use the right ones for your environment.
Along those lines, hide data categories or values where they don’t make sense. For example, don’t display Grammatical Gender when Language=English; invariably a terminologist will accidentally select a gender, and if only a few users wonder why that is or note the error, but can’t find a way to alert you to it, too much time is wasted. Similarly, hide Grammatical Number, when the Part of Speech=Verb, and so on.
Plan dependent data, such as product and version, carefully. For example, if versions for all your products are numbered the same way (e.g. 1, 2, 3,..), it might be easiest to have two related tables. If most of your versions have very different version names, you could have one table that lists product and version together (e.g. Windows 95, Windows 2000, Windows XP, …); it makes information retrievable slightly simpler especially for non-expert users. Or maybe you cannot afford or don’t need to manage down to the version level because you are in a highly dynamic environment.
Enforce mandatory data when a terminologist releases (approves or fails) an entry. If you decided that five out of your ten DCs are mandatory, let the tool help terminologists by not letting them get away with a shortcut or an oversight.
It is obviously not an easy task to anticipate what you need in your environment. But well-designed tools and processes support high quality AND quantity and therefore boost your return on investment.
On a personal note, Anton is exhausted with anticipation of our big upcoming event: He will be the ring bearer in our wedding this weekend.
Posted in Advanced terminology topics, Designing a terminology database, Producing quality, Producing quantity, Return on investment, Setting up entries, Terminologist, Tool | Tagged: data category, ISO 12620, ISOcat | 1 Comment »
Posted by Barbara Inge Karsch on September 9, 2010
Linguistic quality is one of the persistent puzzles in our industry, as it is such an elusive concept. It doesn’t have to be, though. But if only quantity matters to you, you are on your way to ruining your company’s linguistic assets.
Because terminology management is not an end in itself, let’s start with the quality objective that users of a prescriptive terminology database are after. Most users access terminological data for support with monolingual, multilingual, manual or automated authoring processes. The outcomes of these processes are texts of some nature. The ultimate quality goal that terminology management supports with regard to these texts could be defined as “the text must contain correct terms used consistently.” In fact, Sue Ellen Wright “concludes that the terminology that makes up the text comprises that aspect of the text that poses the greatest risk for failure.” (Handbook of Terminology Management)
In order to get to this quality goal, other quality goals must precede it. For one, the database must contain correct terminological entries; and second, there must be integrity between the different entries, i.e. entries in the database must not contradict each other.
In order to attain these two goals, others must be met in their turn: The data values within the entries must contain correct information. And the entries must be complete, i.e. no mandatory data is missing. I call this the mandate to release only correct and complete entries (of course, a prescriptive database may contain pre-released entries that don’t meet these criteria yet).
Let’s see what that means for terminologists who are responsible for setting up, approving or releasing a correct and complete entry. They need to be able to:
- Do research.
- Transfer the result of the research into the data categories correctly.
- Assure integrity between entries.
- Approve only entries that have all the mandatory data.
- Fill in an optional data category, when necessary.
Let’s leave aside for a moment that we are all human and that we will botch the occasional entry. Can you imagine if instead of doing the above, terminologists were told not to worry about quality? From now on, they would:
- Stop at 50% research or don’t validate the data already present in the entry.
- Fill in only some of the mandatory fields.
- Choose the entry language randomly.
- Add three or four different designations to the Term field.
Do you think that we could meet our number 1 goal of correct and consistent terminology in texts? No. Instead a text in the source language would contain inconsistencies, spelling variations, and probably errors. Translations performed by translators would contain the same, possibly worse problems. Machine translations would be consistent, but they would consistently contain multiple target terms for one source term, etc. The translation memory would propagate issues to other texts within the same product, the next version of the product, to texts for other products, and so on. Some writers and translators would not use the terminology database anymore, which means that fewer errors are challenged and fixed. Others would argue that they must use the database; after all, it is prescriptive.
Unreliable entries are poison in the system. With a lax attitude towards quality, you can do more harm than good. Does that mean that you have to invest hours and hours in your entries? Absolutely not. We’ll get to some measures in a later posting. But if you can’t afford correct and complete entries, don’t waste your money on terminology management.
Posted in Advanced terminology topics, Producing quality, Producing quantity, Return on investment, Setting up entries, Terminologist, Terminology methods, Terminology principles | Tagged: errors, quality, quantity | 1 Comment »