Quality Resolution Handbook for the Localization Industry

In some of the follow-up conversations I’ve been conducting since Localization World I have come across a huge disparity between what is acceptable quality from a linguistic point of view and what is acceptable quality from a client’s perspective.  The disparity widened even further when we opened up the conversation about the subject matter and further still when we moved on to “in company reviews”.  As a result of this it got me thinking about how we, as an industry, could resolve this contentious issue.

My thoughts brought me back to a business conversations I had whilst working in the Oil & Gas sector as a B2B consultant.  The company I was talking to explained that for the purposes of speeding up dispute resolution they had a company handbook.  It was, in fact, much more than just a handbook,  it was carried by every single employee within the company and at any time when a difference of opinion couldn’t be settled through discussion or mutual agreement the correct section was located and the company line, with regards to the differences, was quoted and that was it! End of discussion.

Now this is an extreme variation on how company/industry conflict can be managed using a set of defined rules, but there are much simpler versions out there.

Three Laws of Robotics – Isaac Asimov:

  1. A robot may not injure a human being or, through inaction, allow a human being to come to harm.
  2. A robot must obey the orders given to it by human beings, except where such orders would conflict with the First Law.
  3. A robot must protect its own existence as long as such protection does not conflict with the First or Second Law.

As you can see these three simple laws give robots clarity and this is all they require to be able to cohabit in our world.

Over the years, within the Localization industry, the LISA QA became a “de facto” standard which all LSP and Linguists alike proclaimed to adhere to.  It listed mistakes over a range of categories as Minor, Major or Critical  and points were accumulated accordingly.  If, for some reason, the quality of a project was called into question an independent LISA QA assessor could be asked to validate the work of a Linguist/LSP using these standards.  There are some who would say that this system was also far too subjective and, over the years, it also became too complicated but nonetheless it was a standard, and we all like standards don’t we?  Regardless of your view on this LISA unfortunately closed up shop in 2011 and as a result our industry no longer has a governing body or up to date standard upon which it can be measured.

So I believe that, as an industry, we are now in need of a Quality Resolution Handbook. I would therefore like to open the discussion door which leads to the creation of a quality benchmark for simple conflict resolution from within the localization industry.

I say this because:

  • There is still a need, and a thirst, for a standard and/or “standards organization” for the localization industry
  • Both users and providers alike would benefit from a universal standard

And these are the guidelines we should adhere to when creating it:

  • It should be simple and easy to use
  • It should be subject matter specific
  • It should be independent
  • It should be the universally accepted benchmark upon which we are ALL measured

The result of all of the above would enable us to manage expectation for the common good of the customer and our industry.  It would serve to increase quality and it would reduce the subjective nature with which the industry is currently being judged.

4 thoughts on “Quality Resolution Handbook for the Localization Industry

  1. Looking at your guidelines, I can’t help feeling that you are pulling my leg. You want this quality resolution handbook to be simple and easy to use, but specific to the subject matter – I wonder how the “simple and easy” factor goes with the need to take fifty or so different subject areas into account. And I wonder what you mean by “independent” – should the handbook be written by a translation buyer, a reader of translated material, a purveyor of machine translation software, an expert translator, a politician, an academic or a translation agency owner? None of these could be truly “independent”, they all have their own axe to grind. Nothing which any of these people draft will be “universally accepted”.
    Or have I misunderstood your sense of humour?

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    • You raise some very good points here and this is one of the main reasons for opening this dialogue. In my opinion, and in answer to your first point, I believe that we can produce something very simple and align it with the different subject matters and disciplines. I grant you that it would need to be meticulously orchestrated in the planning phase but the results would be crisp, clean and easy to follow. Just because something is simple on the face of it, doesn’t mean to say that what is working behind the scenes is too. One of my favourite Einstein quotes is “If you can’t explain it simply, you don’t understand it well enough” and in a similar vein the simplicity of what we are creating here is because we all understand the complexity of the industry we work in.

      Taking your point of independence I understand your concerns here too; but if we have representatives from all sides involved from the start we can surely arrive at a benchmark which all sides are happy with.

      There are industry norms throughout the whole business world for numerous reasons but with our overarching goal being the increase of quality and creation of a level playing field surely we all share the same vested interest, which for me is a great starting point.

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  2. You write: “if we have representatives from all sides involved from the start we can surely arrive at a benchmark which all sides are happy with” – to me, even this is far too optimistic. We can agree to differ, sure, but I do not believe that we could reach an agreement to end all disagreements. In my opinion, we are still building the tower and city of Babel (as I suggested on my blog back in November 2010). The architects of Babel also hoped for a universally harmonious society, but the result was the exact opposite.
    I am not even sure about what you call our “overarching goal”. You mention “the increase of quality”, but recent initiatives in the MT and localisation community seem to me to be moving in the opposite direction, i.e. with rhetoric opposing people like me who are regarded as “quality gatekeepers” (see my recent “Humpty Dumpty” blog post). You also mention the “creation of a level playing field” – but I can’t for the life of me imagine what that could mean in this context. It sounds great as a pie-in-the-sky ideal, but a “level playing field” (whatever that may be) is not so useful if all of the participants are playing different games.

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  3. As a freelance translator (French native speaker here, typo-wise 🙂 ), in video game as well as print or tv, I think a handbook on localization qa, by many aspects, would be akin to a handbook in litterature. What is acceptable litterature? What is acceptable localization? Often, we forget localization is at the crossroads between craft (simple, “mechanic” trade, you take matter and craft it into something else though tools and know-how) and art (you get a feeling of the intent, mood and pictures created, and create them anew in an all-different medium, ie a different cultural/linguistic system).
    I have no knowledge of the LISA handbook you are talking about. So my answer might be off-topic. But I have a strong feeling that no “all-encompassing guidelines” can exist here. It isup to each team (publisher/developper/editor/localization crew/QA) to reach agreements, if at all possible pre-project, on what is desirable, what is acceptable, and what is totally out of the question. The artistic dimension meaning that no, not all diverging point of viess can be reconciled. Sometimes, everybody will be right, because only the Sith deal in absolutes. And that can only be solved by one very simple rule: the client is always right. In the end, the product is his, and once you’ve explained all you could and failed to convince him, the final word must be his. Unless he gives you director’s cut, and then there wasn’t a problem in the first place.

    As for the increase of quality, or decrease, I don’t see how there could be a general trend (except in reply to economic decisions leading to cheaper workforce, and economics teaches us that lower prices means there is less investment beforehand – less invested workforce, too) when all the games are different, translated by different people. Many payers havefelt that Borderlands 2 is funnier and funner in French than in English, That speaks of quality. But that is not true of all games either.

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