It's been nearly two weeks since the 2015 ITA conference and I finally have some time to sit and write about it. The annual conference is always a good time to catch up with colleagues, mingle, meet new people.
I arrived Monday afternoon. I did not attend any of the workshops, so I settled in, mingled a little and started the conference with the Gala event. We got a guided tour of the Bible Lands Museum, which was very interesting, and then a talk by Simcha Jacobici ("The Naked Archeologist") about his book that apparently proves that Jesus was married. He mentioned a few ancient texts, how they can be decoded, as the stories are sometimes written explicitly about one thing, but really allude to something else. Mentioned various small groups that practice fringe forms of Christianity, and brought it all together very nicely. He is a good speaker, and obviously very passionate about his research, and he spins a good yarn. I'm not convinced by his conclusions, though. Shouldn't there first be proof that Jesus actually existed? Or are we supposed to accept that as axiomatic? Either way, it was a fun lecture.
After the lecture I was also drafted to chair a session the next day, one I planned to attend anyway. More about that further in the 2nd post about the conference.
The second day, Tuesday, started with two very good lectures. The first was Eettaa Prince-Gibson lecture "Objectivity, subjectivity and bias: A journalist's view of translation in conflict." The second was Yael Sela-Shapiro's lecture about Google Apps for Businesses.
Yael Seal-Shapiro is an excellent speaker, and also a regular speaker at ITA conferences. Even though she currently works for Google, it didn't feel too much like a marketing lecture. I have some reservations about some of the points made, and about Google Apps.
Google, and gmail are supposedly free. We don't need to pay them with money, but we do with information. Generally, and this is true not just for Google, but also for Facebook and other really big sites, if you're not the customer, you're the product!
Gmail's web interface. For me that is probably the worst interface I've seen for a mail client. It only lets you search, and consequently filter, on a handful of fields. Many people still point to "conversations" as a great feature. However, the Gmail web interface is the only mail interface I know that gets this wrong. Other mail programs support threading and it looks something like this:
Threading keeps the structure of the email discussion. You can see what message replies to what message, creating a tree structure rather than a single sequence. Furthermore, you can reply, change the subject line, and threading keeps this within the same discussion. See the second message from the bottom. The Gmail web interface would see that message as starting a new conversation.
I use Gmail as a mail server. It's convenient. I use it with my own domains, which means I can move my mail somewhere else at any time and keep my addresses. And I stay away from the web interface. Instead I use Thunderbird as my mail program. Of course Outlook can also be used with Gmail accounts.
Google apps also present us with various applications that can be accessed with a single login, supposedly unifying them. A simple example can show that they're not. Suppose I'm collaborating on a project, let's name it "Jabberwock." I write some document using Google Docs. Some of my co-workers may write some documents, or modify mine. Then I get email about the project, obviously to my gmail account, with some suggestions. A meeting is setup via Google Calendar.
Now I want to find everything I have about project "Jabberwock." Is there a single search I can do that will find my relevant google docs, the email and the meeting? I couldn't find such a search. The reason is that these are completely separate systems that happen to have the same users.
A calendar event, a document, email – these are all documents. The user shouldn't care about the technical details of how they were created and how they were delivered to him. As long as this separation exists, information is managed by protocol rather than by content.
Google apps always feels like they're sort not quite finished. This has nothing to do with the smaller feature set of the word processor compared to MS-Word, or LibreOffice/OpenOffice. I'm ok with a smaller feature set. I also feel that a word processor isn't the best translator tool, but that deserves a separate post.
I see I've written more than I intended. So I'll continue writing about my impressions from the conference in a separate post.