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Mar 7, 2009

Another one bites the dust....

Another ProZ moderator resigned last night. Recent changes in the moderator policies at ProZ.com have led to a wave of resignations by the volunteer moderators (1, 2, 3, 4). Formerly involved with behind-the-scenes testing and other quality measures, they are now, as far as I can understand the new policy, reduced to a role similar to hall monitors in elementary school. At the same time, individuals known for their inability to understand mature discussions and tolerate differences of opinion are proposing further restrictions on ProZ forum discussions and apparently being taken seriously by the site management.

I won't speculate on the reasons behind all of this, though some suggestions I have heard of an impending sale of the platform to SDL, Google or another company seem plausible. Many of the current "problems" actually seem to be old issues, and I understand the need of the commercial enterprise to experiment with ways to satisfy a large, diverse and growing customer base.

There are many criticisms of the ProZ platform for its policies, the sometimes disconcerting disparities of expectations regarding pricing between translators and translation customers in different segments of the global market and the huge numbers of incompetent wannabes listed in the "translator" database. But there are many serious professionals there as well, and ProZ has been one of the most useful forums I have encountered for the exchange of information between internationally distributed professional translators - despite its many serious flaws. The openness which allows the truly unqualified to register and promote themselves as translators - to the detriment of the profession - is also its strength, because it does not exclude highly qualified professionals as the professional associations in many countries do. There is an interesting mix of people, top-notch professionals, students, struggling amateurs and complete charlatans. In this mix, the volunteer moderators have played many valuable roles, and in many cases I think these contributions will be missed.

4 comments:

  1. Thanks for discussing site developments, Kevin. To clarify for you and your visitors, there is no "impending sale" of ProZ.com to SDL, Google or anyone else. The reasons for the changes were the reasons given in the posting announcing the changes.

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  2. Welcome Henry! Thanks for the disclaimer; sometimes it's hard to know what to make of all the speculation.
    It's been interesting to follow the discussions regarding the change in the moderator role. I personally think you are giving up a valuable resource by not using them - where appropriate - to discuss and test possible site developments before these are implemented. Ad hoc groups of site users can be valuable, but their contribution may be very different I think and lack a certain continuity. Maybe not. We'll see how it goes. As I mentioned, in my opinion, there are a number of serious flaws in the way things work at the site, but at the same time I can't propose a comprehensive, better approach, nor can I come up with any functioning examples that are more inclusive. Too many colleagues I know that are better translators than I am are excluded from national professional organizations because they don't have the "right" qualifications. At least at ProZ they have a good platform for exchange and public presentation. I will probably continue to dislike or be uninterested in a lot of the developments, but in general I appreciate the fact that things are, in fact, developing. But while you're busy innovating, you need to have a much greater awareness of and sensitivity to issues like the EU data protection and privacy laws. There is very considerable, justified concern over that.

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  3. Thanks, Kevin. I don't disagree with too much of what you have written, there is a lot that is not yet where I would like it. For example, with the recent release of invoicing, we are looking more closely at doing what is necessary to show compliance "officially" with EU data protection and privacy laws.

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  4. Funny you should mention the invoicing feature. I was thinking more about the handling of other data, but you're right - that is another area of relevance for the EU laws. I don't want to think about the potential for trouble for members entering data to use that feature if it isn't compliant. That's a very complex area of law here which is very poorly understood by many of the people who are supposed to deal with it. When I still lived in the US and applied for jobs in Germany, one idiot at a company even printed out my e-mail and mailed it back to me in Oregon to demonstrate that he was following the data protection laws by not "keeping" my data on file. I was rather baffled to say the least.

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