Access issues in hierarchically workflowed teams

claude.almansi's Avatar


24 Mar, 2012 09:38 AM

I initially posted about this in the "Save and exit" blocks access to subtitles in progress? discussion of the Technical support board, because when I first found subtitles I was working on blocked (grayed links) I thought it was a tech issue. However, Margarita Shamraeva explained that:

...MusicCaptioning team has a relatively rigorous captioning workflow, which is enforced with the use of task management. Once you start captioning, you get a task assigned to you and nobody else can interfere and edit your captions while you are offline. When you finish captioning and mark subtitles as complete, they will go through the approval process - after that, they will become visible to everyone, but until then, they can be viewed and edited only through the Team Tasks page. Sorry it is that complicated; on the bright side, you can exercise more control over the content of the subtitles and avoid random edits. ...

So this is not a tech issue, it's a conceptual, ideological choice that creates tech headaches. It's moving from a Wikipedia approach back to the Nupedia approach. Larry Sanger tried that by "forking" Wikipedia into his workflowed Citizendium 6 years ago, and Wikipediaphobes hailed that as the "serious" approach to collaborative online encyclopedias. But Citizendium now has "156 (...) expert-approved" articles out of "16,183 articles at different stages of development". Moreover, Citizendium has over 10'000 users, which is 80-100 times more than any Universal Subtitles team. So this is not the way to go, in my opinion.

As to "random edits" in non-workflowed subtitles, sure, they can be irritating, but if you work on a set of subtitles, you get e-mail notifications of changes made by others to it, and if you disagree with a few of them, you can correct them. Or if someone really messed it up (like, completing your work with Google Translate), you can revert to the previous version. That's much sleeker. And if you want to do a given set alone, you can write that in a temporary first subtitle you delete when you've finished (with very few exceptions, people don't read comments to subtitle sets, in my experience).

Sure, there are workflowed teams that work on DotSUB, for projects whose members want to keep control on all edits. The ones I've come across work differently, though: there's a call for volunteers for a given task, and then the task gets assigned to one or several volunteers. In the univsubs workflowed teams, even in those where I've been made co-manager, if I start a set of subtitles and save and exit when it's incomplete, I'm locked out of it.

But even if the Universal Subtitles workflow software could be tweaked into something closer to these DotSUB workflows, there is a fundamental difference between the two platforms: on DotSUB, you can create several pages for the same video because you can also upload videos. So if some people want to work privately on one video, it doesn't impact others' capacity to work on it too.

On Universal Subtitles, however, subtitling pages stream elsewhere-hosted videos, and if you try to create a new page for a video when there already is one, you get redirected to the existing one. This means that if a video page on which people were already freely making subtitles gets added to a work-flowed team, they can't go on freely subtitling it.

One workaround would be that workflowed teams only use copies of the original videos that are re-uploaded publicly on the video-hosting platform so that they can be streamed to Universal Subtitles: this way people could go on freely subtitling the originals.
But in the case of music videos hosted on YouTube - and all the ones presently added to the music captioning team are - the YT Content ID is going to at least tut-tut at such re-uploads and bang unsightlyy ads on them, or maybe block them altogether, for "using content owned or managed by X".
Sure, there is an appeal procedure against YT Content ID matches and consequent actions. But "I need a copy because we are a team who want to privately subtitle this video on Universal Subtitles without mucking up the work of others who are doing that publicly on the original" is not a foreseen appeal motives, and "fair use", which is one of them, could hardly be invoked for that.

So again, if a group of people want to keep control on the subtitles for a video at univsubs, the best way seems the informal addition of a temporary first subtitle saying so in the original language subtitles. Then when all the subtitle sets the group wants for the video are completed, the group removes that temporary subtitle and downloads all existing sets, leaving others free to do more sets or modify existing ones (there is always room for improvement in subtitling, and most edits are improvements).

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