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May 30, 2010

Here Today, Gone Today!

I did something today that I don't usually do. I posted a response - no, two of them - to a thread on ProZ. I had pretty much taken the site from my radar, because the level of discourse there continues to drop, and the general environment has a questionable feel after several data theft incidents, the ongoing history of bad moderation and the ever mutating RuleZ for MutantZ. I do drop in occasionally to update my profile or check the payment practices of some agencies, but there doesn't seem to be much going on there lately from which I can derive much professional or personal use. Even the hosting service appears to be unable to resolve long-standing technical issues (mail server problems, lack of space and mysterious space accounting that seems to include temporary files), so that's on the plan to go out later this year.

But a colleague I like had engaged in discussion on the thread and obviously misunderstood the meaning of an English word, so I offered him an explanation. And then because his misunderstanding of the word was basically a correct understanding of the general spirit of the original post (pure trolling, so I don't even take much issue with ProZ for canning it), I vented a bit of sarcasm for fun, although I knew the NNSoEs would take my words quite literally in most cases.

Some hours later I received this:
Dear KSL Berlin,

This message is to inform you that the thread entitled "Tired of being paid peanuts?" has been hidden because the initial post was not in line with site rule http://www.proz.com/siterules/general/3#3

As a consequence your post "Clearinghouses " has been removed from public view together with the rest of the thread, not because it was in disagreement with site rules but because threads are removed completely when the initial post is removed.

Sorry for the inconvenience, and thank you for your understanding.
Regards,
AEJ, ProZ.com moderator extraordinaire.
No comments about the moderation in this case or about the moderator. The thread was no loss really, just another lot of bitching about rates and the usual silly French calls for Translators of the World to Form a More Perfect Union as the French always seem to want to do. (What do French translators' unions do anyway? Block the roads by dumping dictionaries on them?)

But the incident is a useful reminder of something that is very important for a serious professional: the need for some reasonable degree of content control. Some readers may wonder, first of all, why that letter is addressed to "KSL Berlin" and not "Kevin Lossner" when for years I have criticized the use of aliases by serious professionals. That was before I discovered that my name generated nearly 60,000 hits in a Google search, most of those hits being trash like the Tamil page from ProZ with my instructions on how to convert a PDF to editable text. You would think that the Arabic, Malaysian, Urdu and Mayan pages would have been enough to get the same message across. Now, blessedly, the Google hit count is declining steadily. I have almost achieved the degree of privacy I desire; tonight the count is a mere 25,500.

Moreover, contributions in a forum are quickly buried, so the same questions get asked over and over again. That used to drive me nuts. Since starting my blog, I have more control over messages and their visibility, though I constantly tinker with ways to optimize that (like the keyword word cloud I'm currently using in a haphazard way for post classification). As a result, certain information remains more accessible to others and I don't get asked certain questions as often as happened in the past. Everyone wins. Important too is the ability to call the shots oneself on whether the message stays or goes (if you have second thoughts or it's simply no longer relevant) or gets updated. Usually this particular moderator deep-sixes my messages there because of her own personal quirks and understanding of the RuleZ (which is apparently often greater than her understanding of message texts in English and German). In this case, my message is just "collateral damage" and not even damage I really care about. On the contrary, I appreciate the reminder to stay out of that particular wallow.

In many ways, message control via social media has wrought the greatest transformation on my business since I started doing my own thing about 22 years ago. Experiments with blogs, Twitter, Facebook and other media have yielded some very interesting and often unanticipated results. Not all of them what I want, but many have been pleasant surprises. And I would have missed much of this had I depended on ProZ or similar portals in the way that many continue to do today. Nothing against ProZ intended here: I have said before and will reiterate that i the past I have derived great benefit from my association with the site. I don't think that's a fair expectation anymore give the flood of cheap otherworld zookeepers inundating me with monkey mail every week, using the ProZ Connect system to bypass the filters I set up ages ago or simply pestering me through the mail link on my profile. (Takes time, I know, but time is cheap in some parts of the world.) But when I think about the latest ProZ membership campaign with its slogan "Grow Your Business" I can't help but think that it's really better and more responsible to yourself and your dependents to grow your own!

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