Jul 27, 2009

DVX keyboard shortcuts for MemoQ

One of the features I appreciate most about MemoQ is a small thing but one which makes a big difference in productivity. It's the ability to reconfigure most of the important keyboard shortcuts. This means that if I configure the MemoQ shortcuts to act like DVX or Trados, then critical aspects of the ergonomics remain the same and I can adapt to the new environment faster and not suffer from the typical productivity problems of switching environments frequently. (This used to drive me nuts when I switched between DVX and Trados on a daily basis.)

These custom configurations can be saved as external files and shared with others. If any DVX users want my DVX shortcuts setup for MemoQ, it can be downloaded here.

Jul 21, 2009

Dictionaries gone wild!

Thank you to Suzane Smith for sending me a link to 84 Fun, Useful and Ridiculous Online Dictionaries. Check it out!

Jul 20, 2009

Bound and gagged again!

As mentioned in a recent post, ProZ.com has now begun to act as an online translation agency. The Turnkey Translations project - referred to by others as Turncoat Translations or Turn-off Translations - matches what is presumably the "cream of the crop" at ProZ - those bearing the Scarlet P - with clients needing a quick turnaround of short texts at third-world prices. All without invoices and tax-reporting because, after all, such things don't matter in web development when you are just trying stuff out to see where it goeZ. To some of you this may sound a bit half-baked, but that is essentially the position taken by the founder of ProZ, Henry Dotterer:
As usual, it is optional
Hi all,
Thanks for the additional posts. To reiterate my position, in the event this feature begins to amount to anything, I believe it will be appropriate to get into the details raised here. In the meantime, there seems to me to be some potential here for a service of some value to some members -- and some members are agreeing -- but the fact is that it remains to be seen, and this feature could just as easily disappear as remain.
If you are not among those who has any interest in this, your position is respected. ProZ.com's mission is to provide tools and opportunities for you, but it will always be up to you which of them, if any, you use.
If you are among those who have expressed grave concerns about an experiment of this nature even being undertaken, I can understand your fears, but really, I think you can relax a bit. 15 to 20 euros of work per day -- with one translator meeting one new translation customer in the process -- is not going to bring down the industry or your livelihood any time soon. (And don't rule out the possibility that turnkey may be a useful thing even for you. Would it be the end of the world to be invited to consider completing a short job, with the potential to meet a new client in the process?)
Jason may post (or may not), but that is all I have to say for now.
And a short time later:
But how did it work for you, PRen? Would you ever consider a turnkey job?

PRen wrote:

...you've managed to "bring down" the industry quite a few notches in the last few years. This should take it down a few more.

Clearly you don't like this idea, PRen. But why are your criticisms still so general at this point? I was being serious, you are now the leading customer of turnkey translations. So if you are going to trash the idea, won't you give some specific details from your experience with it?
I mean, was the work ok? Would you consider working directly with the translator(s) who did your jobs in the future?
Putting yourself in the position of the translator, as you have seen the system work, are you saying you would never like to be notified of turnkey translation opportunities? If not, why not?
As a more general point, PRen and others, if you have specific issues with the way an idea is being pursued, it is more helpful when you express those concerns in such a way that Jason, or whoever is working on a given project, can act on them. Statements like the one above, well, they just don't get anyone anywhere.
And then:
Yes, ScottishWildCat, it could turn into that. Or not.

ScottishWildCat wrote:
As I now derive it from Henry's posts about the subject, the positive side of TK jobs would be to bring P-certified ProZians in touch with potential clients, at conditions which are not ideal but are better than doing so-called translation tests for free.

I think that is one way of looking at it, one thing that this idea could lead to. Or not. Or maybe it will lead to something else completely, or nothing at all. We really don't know right now, we have to see where the people who use it take it.
If that sort of uncertainty is unsettling to anyone, accustomed as you may be to delivering work only when it is completely done, I am sorry. I wish we had all the answers in advance, but we don't! (Maybe there are more capable sites out there who do.)
As ProZ.com staff members, we do, however, do our best to watch, listen and adapt. And we are working for you all the time -- I promise.
Thanks again, everyone! I would say you can expect to hear more back in a few weeks, either more details, or a simple "there was not enough interest." In the meantime I am closing the thread. Anyone who wants to be involved in the project is invited to contact Jason.

There was a lot of concern expressed by ProZ members regarding the information in the FAQs for service providers and for customers which were posted rather belatedly (something like a month after discussions on this topic began. Considering that a good part of my afternoon today was spent digging up data on income received over three years from two customers for years which had already been filed with tax authorities and approved after careful review of the financial data and preparation of the return by a leading tax consultant in Berlin (not good enough apparently), I think that the boyZ at ProZ are being a bit to cavalier in experimenting with what my local tax office in Oranienburg would surely view as an invitation to tax evasion. I have in fact dealt with income received without an invoice issued by me by issuing a "pro forma invoice" detailing all the VAT obligations, etc., and I have not yet gotten in trouble over this (I am very careful to document all income received in all taxable accounts in all countries), but situations differ drastically from country to country or even from county to county, so I think that the shoot-from-the hip, quick and dirty approach of ProZ to do all this without invoices is, though surely without wicked intent, a terrible, immature mistake.

This recalls very clearly a conversation I had months ago with a former ProZ moderator, a man whose business ethics and expertise I respect enormously. He told me that one of the motivations behind the moderator purge was that Henry D was simply tired of hearing about slippery slopes and potential problems and basically wanted everyone to shut up and go along while boyZ play with their IT toyZ. He characterized many of the problems at the site as deriving from a naïvety one finds sometimes among techies without much understanding of the law, business principles or social ethics. Unfortunately, I think some of that can be read clearly in the tone of the messages quoted above.

I appreciate that Henry is interested in feedback on the mechanisms of what could, under other circumstances, be a very interesting experiment. But blithely ignoring the concerns clearly and specifically expressed on issues such as legality, taxation, rates, dispute resolution
while at the same time making disingenious complaints that all concerns expressed are unhelpfully general is really not the way to go.

Despite the bad reputation of ProZ in many quarters of the translation world, I have (had) a generally positive view of the company and its platform. I have met quite a few fine colleagues and clients through it, and it has been a significant contributor to the progress of my business over the years, though the days when I actually depend on it to draw clients are probably past. For my language pair (German to English) I do not perceive it as a price dumping ground, and I have found clients paying very reasonable rates actively by responding to posted jobs and passively by being contacted via my profile or information posted there. I'm not particularly concerned with the ridiculous rate paid for ProZ "quickies" through the Turnkey system, as it simply tells me that the feature in its present form is not interesting to me. I don't have to use or benefit from everything on the site; in fact, I ignore 80% of it and get along nicely with the 20% that fits my needs. I get value for my 100 euros annual membership, and that probably won't change much if I continue as a member.

But there are legal and ethical lines that should not be crossed, and sometimes the company dances a bit to carelessly along them. My partner feels very strongly about data protection laws in Europe, and while ProZ may not be in technical violation of these, the company's conduct regarding user data and Google certainly violates their spirit. She was also very concerned about things like ads for prostitutes being displayed on ProZ pages. I hope that latter issue has been sorted out. In any case, where we formerly had two memberships in the office, we now have one. I'll be migrating my domain (currently hosted by ProZ) for the business web site and e-mail as I find time in the coming months, and then we'll see what happens after that.

In the past I have vigorously defended ProZ against criticism in places like private BDÜ forums, because much of this criticism was based on fundamental misunderstandings of how to use the platform effectively to find paying projects. I have done astoundingly well with that over the years, but I cannot be bought. There is another body of criticism having to do with business ethics, censorship and good citizenship, and I can find little ground to stand on if I want to contradict some of these critics. Among them are some of the finest, most ethical translators whom I have been blessed to make the acquaintance of in the past 9 years. I listen carefully to what they have to say, and they give me cause to consider if I am not in danger of becoming a
Mitläufer if I remain a paying member of ProZ.

Oh yes... and in the end, the discussion thread quoted above was locked, though the language used was civil and there was nothing in violation of the platform's many RuleZ.
Once again, mature discussion on ProZ has been bound and gagged.

(Apologies to all for the bad formatting - Google's Blogger software really sucks in this regard!)

Jul 19, 2009

Dirty Data Deeds

In recent days, yet another ProZ.com-related scandal has become public. As one upset site user wrote in the thread about identity theft:

I've also just found my details on Outsourcingroom.com

...including personal information I'd hidden on Proz.com. So much for Proz.com's guarantees about privacy and data protection.

I could understand it if my public data had been mined, but not the hidden data. Proz.com claims to know things about Internet security, so they should be on their guard against data mining.

I don't care if it's the weekend (I happen to be working) but I (and obviously a lot of another folk) want an answer from the Proz.com staff NOW.

I also expect Proz.com to take whatever action is necessary to remove our details from this intruder site - we individually did not cause the security breach and it's not up to us to sort it out.

Whatever you're doing, Henry, it's not as important as this is. Get off your butt and sort it out.
And yes, my data (some of them at least) are there too. I wrote a nasty note to the scamsters running the site, demanding that my name be removed; we'll see what happens. I tend to take a very extreme view of identity theft like this (this is not the first time it has happened either), and off-hand I can't think of any measures I would not consider applying to the perpetrators of such things in the fullness of time. There were a lot of things to be learned in early issues of Liebigs Annalen der Chemie before such information began to be restricted.

Jul 18, 2009

Real-time terminology sharing with Google Docs (reBlog)

Here's an interesting idea I just encountered on the blog of an esteemed colleague:
We took the opportunity to test the Google Docs spreadsheet as a remote real-time shared terminology tool. We wanted to know if it would allow us to open our glossary at the same time to check terminology and add, change, and delete entries.Riccardo, About Translation: Real-time terminology sharing with Google Docs, Jul 2009
You should read the whole article!

Jul 17, 2009

ProZ turns online agency

After a statement from ProZ management last year that the platform would never act in an agency role, the "Turnkey Translation" program has been launched, doing just that. Somehow I managed to miss the information before. It seems that the new venture has been discussed and beta tested for about a month now.

The idea is to "simplify" the placement of small jobs by using ProZ and the pool of "certified pros" (those are the translators branded with a scarlet "P"). I think the initiative could be a bit of a quality minefield, and there were some ethical concerns expressed about commoditizing translations on a platform significantly financed by freelancer subscriptions. I don't have a position on the matter at this point. I was rather surprised to read about it, and I'll monitor the progress of things before I make up my mind about it. In any case, it's doubtful I'll ever have time to play that game given the capacity bottlenecks I usually live with.

Jul 11, 2009

Style agreement

For some time I've been thinking about creating a "default style guide" and presenting it to clients for review before undertaking major projects. This is because little niggling, repetitive questions about stuff like subheader capitalization keep coming up, and some days I feel like a parrot giving explanations.

Well, in the latest issue of Jost Zetzsche's Toolkit Newsletter there is an even better idea. Better because it is more compact and the customer might actually take the time to look at it. Better because it presents options and indicates default choices. He wrote a small "style agreement" for translations into German, covering common issues like German or Swiss conventions, new or old spelling, the use of hyphens in words, quotation marks and more. I love the practical way his mind works, and this is just the latest of many examples of how I have benefited from a premium subscription to his newsletter and the purchase of his books. I can always count on him for accurate, objective recommendations.

In any case, Jost suggested the possibility of a Google docs project with different documents for various languages. A good idea in principle; I hope something comes of it. I will in any case adapt his idea to issues we deal with frequently in English, because doing so will save me time.

Jul 1, 2009


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:


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


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.

Best regards,

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.

ASTTI: Swiss Financial Translation Summer University July 2009

Places are still available for the four language (English, French, German, Italian)

Financial Translation Summer University
Université d’été «Traduction financière»
Sommeruniversität «Finanzübersetzung»
Università estiva sulle Traduzioni Finanziarie

organised by ASTTI, the Swiss Translators, Terminologists and Interpreters Association, in Spiez, Switzerland, from July 15th to 17th.

For a detailed program and information on how to register, visit: http://www.astti.ch/

Choose your language (French, German, or Italian) and click News.

(Reposted from ProZ - thanks to Robin Bonthrone!)