Mar 31, 2015

Sinking in the bulk market bog of #xl8

Facebook is a veritable cesspit of bulk market stupidity in translation... name changed to protect the... innocent(?)
If anyone questions why I need massive infusions of Egyptian doum palm tea and karkadé to survive the tribulations of translation, they need look no further than social media, particularly Facebook. Some years ago many people assumed that the unprofessional character and abuses one finds on bulk market reverse auction portals like (aka PrAdZ, ProtZ and many other variants) were due to repressive site policies, or some particular, special evil found only in repurposed chambers in a country once known for dropping political opponents of the junta from helicopters into the sea, but in the meantime some have figured out that this is the Human Condition or at least that of translators and their keepers who choose to dwell in common in the bulk market bog of failure and mediocracy. Of course one can find excellence, even beauty and dream-inspiring experiences of the most creative kind there or in many other unexpected places; I once found the most magnificent opium poppy growing in my dung heap on the farm I had in Oregon years ago. So really, it's not the medium... it's the messengers, who shall always be among us. Hooray for the wisdom of hermits!

Siberian shamans have some cool recipes for this beautiful, deadly mushroom so common in dem Vaterland
I have been subject to social media assault for translation rather often (#yessometranslators), which is the nicer term I can think of for being granted involuntary membership in some of the FB groups which sprout like toadstools. Not all groups which are created in that medium of fertilizer are toxic; some in fact could be characterized as rather tasty shitakes or Portabello mushrooms. But almost everywhere in these media, once can see and hear the incessant, self-harming whine about "outrageous rates" and the perpetual lament that "there will always be someone to accept such starvation remuneration" as if this implied that we must all bow to the "inevitable" and sell our bodies in the bulk word brothels of Moreslavia et alia.

This problem is hardly confined to translator circles; since I began a career involved with commercial translation, I have continued to act, as I have for 30 years now, as a consultant and trainer for relevant technologies and strategies of work and business. I have supported translation agencies and direct buyers of translation services of every size to assert themselves effectively and ethically in a market which often presents very difficult and complex challenges. And from this year forward, with a growing team of educational psychology specialists, university instructors, technical specialists, interns and others, I will do so to an even greater extent.

I have observed for some seven years now, with great sadness, how many translation companies who really earned the label Language Service Providers (LSPs) instead of Linguistic Sausage Producers (LSPs) have circled the drain and gone down because they believed the lies of the buyer-driven bulk market of which Smartling's Jack Welde speaks with such rapture. Quite a number of these principals of failed companies were and are friends of mine. But somewhere along the line, they lost sight of some fundamentals and thought that the competitive market is all about price, or even when they knew it was not, they sometimes lacked the insight or resources to resist the race to the bottom of the drain into the cesspit.

Thus it was my pleasure at the recent GALA conference in Seville to share some ideas with many key business people from diverse backgrounds with many languages, so that they might have more options to follow their hearts and heads and enjoy a more sustainable and satisfying business model with which we all win. There were a few toads in the crowd there, but why waste a lot of time on them, The Toxic Ten Percent, when the venue was full of the 90% whose philosophies and business goals are very much in accord with the interests of individual service providers such as freelance translators and editors? When I shared some workflows which might offer effective means of applying speech recognition in languages previously thought not to be supported, a number of translation company owners and operations managers spontaneously declared their happiness that the freelancers they depend on could now earn a better livinng despite low piece rates in their languages. Such "dirty capitalists" are our natural allies and ought to be considered friends in the trenches of the war with those who fail to understand that disruptive innovation is a bottom-up, evolutionary movement of change which can, with the understanding of ordinary human decency and ethics, be a positive thing and fertile ground for a sustainable, professional crop. It is not the destruction rained down on villages like Guernica by the Great Powers of Lionbridge and their like. 

So what to do about the bogsters, the Linguistic Sausage Purveyors (LSPs) who dare to promote more slavery to us slavelancers and digital sharecroppers in a post-apocalyptic translationscape? Nothing. Ignore them. Or invite them to a hot date in the sand with a goat. But please, people, leave off the incessant public whine about rates, forget about piece rate nonsense and focus on value, effective earnings for the time invested and sustainable business practices. You can tear down any house faster than you can build one, but ya gotta live somewhere.

And, just for fun, you can share some interesting tidbits with colleagues and buyers about how, when one approaches the price break limits of a silly bulkster discount scale such as that in the screenshot above, you can add some unneeded words to the job and get the whole lot of words for less:

Hitting a nerve with MpT and bankruptcy

In less than 45 hours a record number of shares and views on Facebook....
In all the years I have blogged (since 2008) I don't think any of my posts have achieved the reach of one simple link on Facebook, which discussed the fate of a Japanese publishing house that committed seppuku by the abuse of machine pseudo-translation (MpT).

This is indicative, I think, of the raw nerves of those whose professional standing has been under siege by a lot of abusive fools who, in their lust for profit and social destruction, have disregarded common sense and listened instead to the nonsense of the Common Sense Advisory and their ilk, only to find themselves circling the drain to oblivion.

At a conference I attended recently, one person involved with MpT development and sales correctly pointed out that it is wrong and foolish to speak broadly of MpT as if there were only one flavor of it. But the problem is really not about the technology itself, however close or far it may be to that out-of-favor-with-the-sausage-set term "quality".

I am not and never have been opposed to the existence of machine pseudo-translation in this world. What I do oppose is its use as an instrument of abuse as well as one to corrupt and distort the minds of university students struggling to find their way into our language professions. In the same way, I oppose any material or immaterial thing which is a critical component of toxic social relations and occupational abuse.

Nonetheless I do keep an open mind for finding new tools and techniques which may provide something useful in the right context. But MpT is nothing new generally, and much of what is out there in practice smells badly of 60+ year-old fish. Nonetheless, dead fish make fertilizer, so let's bury the outdated and harmful notions of most of the carnival barkers hawking MpT Snake Oil bottles and put our focus where it belongs: on human needs and psychology rather than technology. When we do that, the toxicity of many technologies is abated, because the harmful application of these is abandoned.

We should not avoid discussion of the physio- and psychoergonomic risks of any methods or technologies as the profiteers so vehemently do. Instead, by looking with greater care at these problems, as David Hardisty, Dion Wiggins and some others have done recently, we may discover some surprising opportunities to make "opposing" technologies and methods, such as MpT and speech recognition and task separation, become good allies of each other and of us so that we may win another battle or two in the Forever War on Human Stupidity.

Mar 29, 2015

Buggered by goats in the sand....

I was shocked, but not surprised to learn of the "controversy" involved with the clear and honest statements of Swedish foreign minister Margot Wallström regarding the disgusting, atavistic and dangerous repression of women by illegitimate, tyrannical terror states such as Saudi Arabia. It is a great modern tragedy that so few ordinary people, extraordinary people and politicians in too few countries show such honesty and courage. Instead, the spineless jellypawns some mistakenly call "leaders" opt instead to be doxies for the easy use of diseased weaponmongers and social rapists and parasites, mistakenly called businessmen, who would screw and suck the blood out of anything, anywhere for a profit. There are some who earn the label of "vertebrates" but they are, alas, a minority still.

I am encouraged from time to time to hear younger men speak up in support of human rights, which are sometimes called by misleading terms such as womens' rights, gay rights, gender rights, etc. What I simply cannot understand despite all my years of life experience is how anyone, of any age can fail to understand that they themselves are not free until they release the bonds they place on others, tear down the walls of false separation, which can never be equal and by which we are all diminished.

Ah, but that is our culture, which you must accept say some. I must not. We must not. Human societies are like Petri dishes; you can culture many things in them: a nourishing yeast, for example, or something of deadly toxicity, like anthrax. Saudi oppression of its women, the oppression of gays in Iran and Uganda, the honor killings of Turkish girls in Berlin - these are the cultured anthraxes, smallpoxes and ebolas with which so many societies are deeply infected, and whose cure we must make our first priority.

A world in which anyone, woman or man or someone perhaps not so easy to define as either must lie at my feet in submission, walk behind or be subject to disadvantage, discrimination, beatings and other torture, or even murder, is not a world worthy of a living human spirit and not one to be chosen by anyone sane.

Let those in Saudi Arabia who disagree with this be buggered by goats in the sand. There are many in such places who think to live under the wrong half of the sky, too stupid to understand the impossibility of such a thing. Where there is no sand, are no goats, mud, rocks, dry soil, concrete or even water would do for the place of caprine comfort, and if there are no goats, then dogs, donkeys or any other member of the animal kingdom will do. If there are legitimate concerns that such congress may be too dishonorable for a good animal, let dried palm branches, baseball bats, splintery poles or any other suitable object serve in stead.

The point is that we all need to get a life. Together. Every one of us together and free, with full respect for those who give it to all who give it to all deserving. If you feel the need to call for definitions in the preceding sentence, then you have missed more than the point!