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Jul 1, 2009

Disappeared

Recently on ProZ there was a bit of a controversy regarding a thread started by a Czech agency owner with rather odd notions regarding pricing and globalization. After several complaints, several of the thread originator's posts were deleted by ProZ staff, then finally the entire thread was hidden. This rather disturbed some and led to the creation of a new thread to discuss such actions. Jared, a staff member, stated that a notice had been posted when the thread was hidden. Apparently he didn't understand that if a thread is hidden such messages can't be read :-) In any case, his comment resulted in a number of persons, including yours truly, stating that "no notice" had been received, since it really wasn't clear what Jared thought he had done. My comment was as follows:

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Not at all 20:04


Posting not yet approved

No notice received here either. I just figured it was one of those disappearances like they used to have all the time in Argentina years ago

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As the blue text indicates, my post was de-vetted. I then received the following mail:


Hi Kevin,

I've just received complaints regarding your post at
http://www.proz.com/post/1162492#1162492 , which has been taken as a joking reference to the disappearances which took place under the dictatorship in Argentina. I've de-vetted the post to allow you to edit or clarify if you wish.
Thanks.

Best regards,

Jared
OK, Jared, I'll clarify it here and now. I wasn't joking at all. Heavy-handed censorship is one of those little things one finds in dictatorships, and it was the apparent increase in such censorship at ProZ (based partly in Argentina) that led me to start this blog in the first place last year. I'm not inclined to put up with Romanian moderators yearning for the strict controls of the old days or anyone else - many of whom do not understand what is being said in the first place - deciding what I can say. One might hope that those working in Argentina with all its past bad history would be sensitized to the importance of free speech and be less ready to get out the gag, but I suppose that is a naive expectation on my part.

ProZ is a commercial platform serving a menu which caters to particular groups, some of which are interesting, many of which are not. The company can largely do as it pleases, and those in Europe who are concerned about local data protection laws and related issues can get stuffed. ProZ staff are certainly within their "rights" to de-vet (hide/delete) posts for whatever reason they choose, but in doing so, I think they wash out just a bit more of the sand on which they are standing. A shame, really. I've enjoyed my interactions with colleagues there over the past several years, but in nearly all other media where ProZ is mentioned, its silly censorship policies are mocked, and familiar caricatures of the main actors can be found.

I intend no disrespect to the disappeared of Argentina or any others who were victimized by the junta. I think that censors on the same soil disrespect them enough.

16 comments:

  1. Oh dear, so nothing's changed.

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  2. I find both proz and translatorscafe intolerable for their censorship; particularly their policy of deleting any post that mentions the other site!

    Translators don't need to tolerate this kind of heavy-handed treatment. This isn't 1999 any more; there are plenty of places on the Internet for translators to congregate. This is why I no longer frequent those forums.

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  3. Can a forum survive without some rules and some censorship? I have myself considered creating a forum but I dread the hassle of managing it. Who has the best forums out there for translators and other language experts? What would attract translators away from the two big ones mentioned here?

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  4. Can a forum survive without some rules and some censorship? Definitely! We are adults and we understand and respect netiquette. Bad manners can be ignored. No comments on insults or attacks and there won't be any mud fightings. This functions pretty well at NdeT, a translator forum in Argentina. You don't find anything disappeared there.

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  5. I'm not sure what forums and social media are worthwhile at the moment. I tried NdeT for a while, but it seemed that much of the interesting stuff was in Spanish, the English content didn't ignite for me and my other language (German) was largely absent.
    ProZ is cultivating a heavy hand, Facebook trashes confidentiality, LinkedIn trashes professional standards, on Twitter I can tell the world when I clean my teeth or type a full stop (a.k.a. "period"), and otherwise it seems to attract followerspam (after about the fourth or fifth spam follower I decided to delete my account).

    What is left is to follow a number of blogs - Kevin, even when there is no new post on your blog, I often scroll down to see the latest titles in other blogs in the left hand column (and I have found a few extra sites to bookmark by doing so).

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  6. @Victor: How funny. I use my own blog roll to keep track of others. Not very efficient I admit, but I've never really gotten into news readers, RSS feeds, etc. I'm a bit of a dinosaur in that regard I suppose. A former professor of mine in his 90's actually seems to be more on top of online things than I am sometimes.

    You might have a look at Any Bell's Watercooler. I haven't had much time for it, though it shows promise, and I don't think he's into the "ProZ mailed fist" thing.

    I do owe a lot to the ProZ platform for enabling me to grab a bunch of clients when I got started, for the good discussions I've had with colleagues there (I get censored less often than I expect to be censored, actually) and for other things. But things do seem to be moving into more juvenile territory there, and when moderators or staff from places with serious totalitarian histories start dictating to me about "allowed expression" I do take serious offense. I've been watching many of the contributors whose ideas I value most go silent (can't blame 'em) while incoherent fools like Penguin Man appear to be taken seriously and supported by staff spouting a number soup of rule codes.

    Really, all I want is some place where the likes of us can trade tips and have a good chat on issues of common concern. The blogging medium has a lot of advantages, but it also has drawbacks, and as I'm not personally interested in major monetizing (I'm an AIT partner and participate in the Amazon partnership program, but I do so very selectively), I would prefer something a bit more unified. Thus my interest in the Watercooler if I can ever find the time. Seems to fall into the category of "klein, aber fein" and there are some respectable refugees there. I need to remember to add it to my link list one of these days.

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  7. Watercooler: "klein aber fein" looks like a bit of an understatement. As far as I can see, it is a global community with the staggering total of 6 members.

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  8. @Victor: Six? I think you miscounted. There might be six active posters for all I know. As I said, I haven't had much time for it. But I think the actual signed-up member count is larger, and it's vetted. What I find interesting is the rather unusual "shared blogging" configuration of the underlying software. It's one of those things I hope to find time to investigate properly some day.

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  9. I only saw six in the generally visible screen. I would have to register to see any more detail, so I don't know what is inside the "black box".

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  10. Hi Kevin! I read the post in Proz yesterday.
    I am from Argentina and i didn't find anything offensive in your posts.
    Some Prozians didn't get you message..
    ; )

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  11. But Kevin, Jared is very polite about it. Look, he "de-vetted" your post as a favour to you so you could edit or clarify it if you wished. Also he didn't delete or disappear your comment, he only de-vetted it.

    I like the way when he locks a thread he tends to use the phrase "go ahead and", as in "I'm going to go ahead and lock". This phrase always has a very gentle sound to me, as when the fat lady at US immigration says, "Go ahead and put your finger on the ink pad", as though it was only natural reserve that made me hesitate to just give up my fingerprints. When Jared goes ahead and locks the thread, I always feel relieved that he didn't force me to actually ask him to do it.

    I'm always impressed by the courtesy of the Proz moderators.

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  12. Marie-Hélène HaylesJuly 14, 2009 9:16 AM

    I definitely agree that there's room for a different type of translation forum. I'd be interested in something invitation-only and totally non-commercial - a pure forum with no bells and whistles, no extra services, just a place where (real) professional translators could chew the cud without censorship and without the same-old same-old rants about rates and "how to become a translator" threads.
    Like what you get in some translator mailing lists but in a forum format.

    I'd never heard of "Watercooler" before - I'll have to have a look.

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  13. Marie-Hélène Hayles said...

    "I definitely agree that there's room for a different type of translation forum. I'd be interested in..."

    www.stridonium.com, perhaps?

    Marc P

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  14. Hi, this is Au, N. de T.'s creator. I will not say that I am proud of lack of censorship in my forum, because that is the natural type of exchange expected in the 21 century. That should be something normal. (Thank you for your words, Sylvia).
    Though a real success in the Spanish speaking community (people keep coming just because they like N. de T.), my forum has not received many other speakers and its Market Watch (in English, hidden and only available to registered members) is almost dead as opposite to Observatorio de Mercado (in Spanish) which is one of the most active fora and from which we have been acheiving important goals to defend our profession.

    You will be hearing from me very soon re an international project. Stay tuned. Hugs to you all!

    www.ndet.org
    www.alephtranslations.com
    www.justisspanish.com

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  15. Hi Kevin. Interesting post. Just for information of those folks who asked, Watercooler has around 360 members and they're more than welcome to join (http://translationandlanguage.ning.com). I'll let them judge whether it's worth it or not once they join, but it is, and will remain, non-corporate (and I've not had to censor any content in its 12-month existence).
    Cheers
    Andy Bell

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  16. @Andy: I've watched the palette of familiar faces grow at the Watercooler. Quite a few colleagues I respect registered there now. I've bee only an occasional site user as you know, but I do think it's worth more time. I'm particularly interested to see if/how resource sharing is implemented there. I prefer not to post glossaries, etc. on ProZ now.

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