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Misgivings about the "Sync subtitles" feature (Account page)

 First, thanks to Jules for the Syncing to YouTube  "how-to" about the new "Sync subtitles" feature that appears in Amara users' Account page - i.e. . That's a great introduction, yet it left me - and at least 2 participants of the Music Captioning team who wrote to me about it - with some misgivings about the concrete effects of activating this syncing. Here they are:

From the viewpoint of YouTube channel owners:

Enabling Amara to manage one's YT channel:

The Google Request Permission page on which you land at the last but one stage of the activation says:

"Amara is requesting permission to:

  • Manage your YouTube account

    View and manage your videos and playlists

    View and manage your YouTube activity

  • Perform these operations when I'm not using the application"

And that's offputting, even if the request comes from Amara, which I trust more than Facebook apps that request the same empowerment over my Fb account. I don't give anyone that kind of permission. Does it mean e.g. that Amara will be able to make my private videos public or unlisted?

So I declined, and used instead videos from you YT channel for which you have activated the syncing, as appears from your how-to about it, Jules.

Immediate publication: opportunity for vandalism

The Syncing to YouTube  "how-to" says:

"What gets synced

  • Existing, completed Amara subtitles will be sent to YouTube immediately.
  • While linked, any newly edited, complete subtitles will be sent to YouTube.
  • Sync is one-way only. Changes made on YouTube will not be reflected on Amara.
Your YouTube data
  • Amara subtitles will overwrite existing YouTube subtitles if both exist. ..."

And this immediacy is really odd. Even YouTube's Request Translations  feature, where collaborators are only those chosen by the video uploader, i.e. people s/he should know and trust, foresees a revision and approval by the uploader. 

So I tried adding Italian subs in the Amara page for your "Lionesses Chow Time" video which illustrates the "how-to": they indeed went live immediately on the YT original.(*)

But that was a page you had created, and hence are probably watching. So I created the   page from your "Palomar 5 Application"  video, to see what would happen. (*)

I first uploaded its YT autocaptions (as English, British  subtitles) as I often do to make subs by editing autocaptions (which may be zany content-wise, but are accurately timecoded). However,  I unchecked the "This subtitle file is 100% complete" box because I wanted to add an explanatory first sub. Once it was added, I resubmitted the subs as complete.

Again, they went immediately live on YouTube, and "Help us caption and translate this video on" was added to the description, shoving yours in the Show more part: see the attached "Palomar5application.jpg" screenshot.

As I hypothesized under "On vandalism" in A roll back destroys Spanish subs and messes up most other subs for PSY's Gangnam Style video, before this experimenting with your videos confirmed it, this immediacy of syncing to YouTube is a great opportunity for vandals: putting "Help us caption and translate this video on" in Google search yields presently "About 3,180 results"  from which they could take their pick, create an Amara account, vandalize the video via Amara on YT (more tempting than just on Amara because the audience is wider, also due to the better embedding possibility), then delete the Amara account.

For instance, these results include many PBSNewsHour videos, which can be subtitled on Amara without joining the corresponding team. And several of those, due to their political nature, have triggered heated and at times vulgar comments.

From the viewpoint of volunteer subtitlers:

True, even without this syncing to YouTube, YT uploaders can add subtitles made by volunteers manually to the YT original, as you say in the how-to. But "manually" makes a big difference, because they are aware of adding them, so if they know about attribution, they add it in the description, if they don't, the volunteer subtitlers can ask them to.

With the syncing, some uploaders may think that "Subtitles by the community" in the final subtitle "(if space allows)" is sufficient attribution. Personally, I don't mind, but it's not. I.e. it would have been OK, with the link to the Amara page in the description, before Amara started adding the name of the last editor on the subtitle pages, even if s/he only corrected a single typo. As with Wikipedia articles, you went to the history of revisions to see who had contributed. Now there is a definite risk that some people will stop at that name on the subtitle page.

True too, this syncing to YouTube feature is only new for individual Amara users: the TED, PBS NewsHour teams - and perhaps other teams that only use their own videos - have been using it for quite a while. But their videos are marked with a link to the team page, where the use of the subtitles is explained, so volunteers can decide if they want or not to collaborate to a video where the subs get pushed automatically, and with that scanty attribution, to YouTube.

Whereas when individuals do that syncing, there is nothing in the Amara pages for their YouTube channel videos that indicates it.

What I wish Amara would do

  1. Add an approval step, as with YouTube's Request Translations  feature, to prevent vandalizing
  2. Automatically add something to the Amara pages that are synced to original YouTube videos, which says they are thus synced. 

(*) Update February 6 2013

The "Lionesses Chow Time"  and "Palomar 5 Application" original YouTube videos, which I mentioned as examples above, have now been made private. As a result, the player in the corresponding Amara pages has now been replaced by "Subs Unavailable". However, the transcripts of the various subs are still there.

1 person has this question

 I now added Italian subs to the  page. The automatic syncing to YouTube did add the "Subtitles by the community" final subtitle in the YouTube original video , but no link to the Amara page was added in the YouTube description, contrary to what the Syncing to YouTube  "how-to" says:

"...Amara invites your viewers to subtitle by adding your video's URL to its YouTube description..."

(see attached screenshot)

That's worse as to attribution, because in order to know who has done the subs, people - admitting they remember that last sub - would need to go to type in the URL box , open the Watch  link, search for "Archibald", and find the correct result first.

It might be a tiny trifle better for vandalism prevention, because vandals would need to do the same. But people who want to vandalize a video tend to be at least as pertinacious as people who want to know who made subs.

The only viable solution is to enable people who sync their YT channels to Amara, to moderate the publication - and republication - of  Amara subs on YT: you could then keep the addition to the YT description of the collaboration invitation  with its link to the Amara page, because vandalism would remain limited to the Amara subs, and only shortly.

As I'm writing this comment, a Google search for "Help us caption and translate this video on"  yields "ca 819,000 results": an impressive increase from the "About 3,180 results" when I made the first (still unanswered) post of this thread 20 days ago.

The 3rd - for me at least - of these results, is particularly interesting: CS101 - Building a Search Engine - YouTube. It's a playlist of 44 videos for a Udacity course. For the first 30, the visible video description in the list is limited the "Help us caption..." formula, hiding the real description with link suggestions. In the corresponding Amara pages, the description concisely becomes "Dummy description"

And while in all of them, the YouTube English subtitle track is clearly labeled "English (from DotSUB)". However, in the corresponding Amara page, as YT labels don't get transfered to Amara, these English subs are just described as "Revision 0, created 04/23/2012 by Retired user . "

Baffling, but solving such misattribution cases by enabling labels for subtitles in Amara too would be most useful: we could again, as in pre-Amara time, have several subtitle tracks for one language when we need them: e.g. some tracks made in the translating widget, some with the transcription widget, with different terminology choices.

The list of subtitles in Learn about Universal Subtitles  (whose video player is embedded in the Amara home page) still bears evidence of that freer, pre-Amara approach. Actually, 4 subtitle tracks for Arabic, Chinese Simplified and French never posed volunteers a cognitive problem: we knew that different people were working differently in each track, and each of us chose to collaborate to the one that suited him/her best. 

But OK, if Amara developers imposed the present "one track per language" situation, maybe it was because some non subtitling team owners couldn't understand the use of / need for multiple tracks, and just found them confusing (1). However, if labeled subtitle tracks were enabled on Amara as they are on YouTube, then when people would create a further track for one language, the dialog could invite them to add a label defining its purpose.

(1) Just a surmise, as Amara developers never explained their reason for scrapping the multiple track possibility, but it seems likely, as this scrapping coincided with the new, heavy emphasis on teams, and scrapping of any mention of Wikipedia-like open collaboration,  in the home page.

 From a search for "contractors" in the Universal Subtitles / Resources (en) / default - locale/en/LC_MESSAGES/django.po / English (en ) publicly viewable page of the Transifex project for translating the Amara web site:

"Use captioning and transcription contractors to create your subtitles, then require staff review and approval before they are published back to your server. Remember, no one sees your subtitles until YOU publish it."

So people who pay for Amara enterprise services can - besides hiring pro contractors - monitor how completed Amara subtitles get added back to the original videos: it's "just" us average Amara users and volunteers who are put at spam's risk if we opt for this "Sync subtitles" feature. Let's not.

 Now, a Google search for "Help us caption and translate this video on"  yields "ca 981,000 results".

Viceversa, both the "Help us caption and translate this video on" link to the Amara page in the description and the acknowledgment in the subtitles have been removed from many videos that formerly had them. They've disappeared e.g. from the videos of the formerly mentioned CS101 - Building a Search Engine - YouTube playlist.

And when I corrected just now a typo (1) in the English subtitles of Water and Oil, the correction was immediately transfered to the YouTube original via the sync'ing, but no acknowledgment to the community and no link to the Amara page in the description were added.

In both cases, the videos involved have been added to Amara teams. Removing the link is good for viewing the original description and for avoiding spam via Amara. But allowing customers of Amara enterprise services to automatically remove the acknowledgment in the subtitles - insufficient as it was - is bad. It's treating the volunteers Amara invites to join teams like Amazon Mechanical Turks , minus info about what's going on.

So if Amara enterprise services enable customers to do that automatically, then at least, the descriptions of their Amara team  and of  all its video pages should clearly mention that all subs made by volunteers are automatically synced with the YouTube original, without any acknowledgment on YouTube. And that should be explained that in the Syncing to YouTube  "how-to" as well.

(1) "sole" -> "soul" at 1:55 – 1:58.

Hi Claude,

Syncing for personal accounts and syncing for teams are two completely different features, although they do look similar. The code is different, and the functionality of the two features doesn't completely match. Eventually, we'd like to add the option to give props to translators for the team syncing, but unfortunately have had other priorities that have taken precedent (improved editor, new collaboration model, etc).

Users who sync their videos automatically to their personal YouTube channel opt-in to the option. Any user concerned about vandalism should make the decision whether or not to automate the process, or to continue doing the manual uploads.

 Thank you for your explanation, Jules. Yet at one point, the syncing for teams did add the last subtitle with the acknowledgment to the community, and the link back to Amara: both screenshots I added previously concerned team syncing - YT Italian subs of the Archibald video, YT list of a Udacity course. And it was happening with all subs of the NewsHour and Fetzer teams.

So OK, the developers made this differentiation, and now acknowledgment and link to Amara only appear for synced personal accounts. But this makes it all the more important to mark the syncing to youtube in the Amara video, with a brief (or a longer linked) explanation as to the consequences. Especially in the case of team syncing, where Amara subtitlers have no way to see that it's happening, and for which there is no info in the the Syncing to YouTube  "how-to": only the recently added and cryptic

"Organizations/companies: interested in YouTube sync and crowd subtitling? Take a look at our enterprise offerings and contact us."

Recent example: "President Obama: 'Newtown, You Are Not Alone, where all sets of subs made in/from  are automatically synced to the  original, via team syncing (it's a PBS NewsHour team  video).

All 14 sets of translated subs were translated from Revision 4  of the English subs. Then yesterday, someone created the present Revision 5 , moving part of the 2nd sub to the 3rd sub, and resyncing accordingly. This resyncing was automatically transfered to all Amara translated subs, thus mis-timing their subs 2 and 3.  And due to their general syncing to YouTube, all these mis-timings were automatically transfered on the YouTube original.

Had there been a warning about the effects of this syncing to YouTube on the video's Amara page, this could have been avoided. As it is now, the YT subs will remain mis-timed unless people resync them each on Amara, as rolling back the English subs to revision 4 (which would be the simplest solution) might actually delete all translated subs.

Thank you for your question, SaintOtis12. 

Many teams have their own guidelines, so please check those. If your team does not have them, you could ask an owner or admin.

If they do not reply, I would leave sufficient reading time for the last real subtitle, and insert the one with the acknowledgment directly after.

This should not provoke unexpected events.



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