Oct 13, 2009

Sillier and sillier

Recently, colleague Jeff Whittaker started a discussion thread on ProZ regarding bottom feeders and the suckers who beg to work for them. Some of the "offers" are quite entertaining, really, but they don't have much to do with professional translation. At about the same time, I got one of those frequent unsolicited e-mails from an Indian agency begging for work and promising to be cheap. I commented on this and shared a few excerpts from my correspondence with the agency, because I hadn't found time to blog about it as I would like to eventually.

Later in the thread, I responded to a point about the bottom of the market, relating my own experiences with an agency here in Germany. After a day, the post was censored by moderator Russel Jones for alleged offensive language:

Dear Kevin Lossner,

This message is to inform you that your post "No, the bottom in Germany is below that" has been removed from public view because it was not in line with site rule:

Thanks in advance for your understanding and future cooperation.

Russell Jones, ProZ.com Moderator
It seems that pew is getting crowded :-) As usual, here is the original post:
No, the bottom in Germany is below that Oct 12

Posting not yet approved

Laurent KRAULAND wrote:
... as a general trend in France, the Netherlands and Belgium (sometimes even Germany), I can see that agencies tend to pay the translator about 0.07 euros ex VAT per word and to sell the translations at no more than 0.12 euros ex VAT per word.

In Germany I know an agency seen here from time to time that is worse. Back in 2002 or so when I was building my client base, I took on one job with a really interesting topic for 6 cents/word, with the understanding that the usual rate for jobs to follow would be double that. I got a long whining list of excuses about how the budget for this one was exceptionally bad, etc. etc. and I though "what the heck, they don't know me, so it's an intro for us both". Well, these jokers turned out to be time-wasters, because every subsequent inquiry was offered at the same low rate. Seven years later I still get occasional contacts from these losers at the same rate, and I offer to do the work for triple that as a special favor for old time's sake. For some reason we never do business any more

That was the last time I fell for that sh*t. Either a job is serious and properly funded, or they can take it to Bangladesh for all I care.
Terribly, terribly offensive, though not necessarily for the language. And I'm sure that these days, if you are a ProZ moderator, yours doesn't stink ;-)

After I complained about the censorship, I received this kind note from Russel:
Kevin; I'm sure you can edit with an alternative to sh*t. You wouldn't believe how many complaints I get about such language! I don't find it all offensive but I'm afraid we need to recognise that ProZ.com is an international site and not all cultures share the sensible approach of the English speaking community!
Many thanks.

So the mods are "forced" to carry out actions against content that they do not find offensive? Interesting. Just following orders we wuz. Used to be a tradition of that here in Germany, but fortunately the populace has grown beyond that. Not so elsewhere it seems.


  1. What's next? Ban all 4-letter words starting with c,d,f,s?

  2. What's wrong with a mod just posting e.g. "Kevin, thanks for your valuable contribution. BTW, can I remind you about site rule XXX. You'd be amazed how much of our time is wasted by trivial complaints about mild words like sh*t."
    WTF is the point of concealing a post for such an inane reason? I can think of one ex-mod in Frankfurt who used to "wag the odd finger" that way, without deletion of any content.
    In an adult community, I don't mind people telling me: "Hey, steady on there!" in public, but I do not expect to be sent home to Mummy and barred from school for a week.

  3. Well, the mods are unpaid people. You let them do extra works to deal with complaints, they send you home for a week or more. It´s such an honor to be chosen moderators at that site and people would die for the honor of staying mods.

    You see, it´s a commercial website with the purpose of making money (for whom you know). You make them trouble in wasting time to deal with complaints and/or deter them from making money by posting anything that hints to something faul about that site, they must tell you that they don´t want to do business with you.

    Folks, do we need such a site to do our business? There are many ways to develop our client base. We don´t need to sustain such "Schikanen"!

    - Sylvia

  4. [quote]Kevin; I'm sure you can edit with an alternative to sh*t. You wouldn't believe how many complaints I get about such language! I don't find it all offensive but I'm afraid we need to recognise that ProZ.com is an international site and not all cultures share the sensible approach of the English speaking community![/quote]

    Dear Kevin,

    Should what I said above were true, the honorable watchdog wouldn´t be so nice with this note. The reason why your post was censored must be something else. Rules are rubber bands. The watchdogs have absolute support from the management to interpret the rules as they wish, so long their interpretations won´t bring the management into embarrassment. (Did they pass a rule test, sometime?)

    Secondly, should there be complaints about sh*t, it wouldn´t cost him too much time to have an explanation generated automatically and sent to the complainers. Besides, a watchdog has the right to ignore complaints, unless the complaints became loud in public alarming the management.

    Let me tell you straight forward, you are targeted.

    The reason why I said that the site promotes hypocracy and exploitation is that Mr. D. maintains to have a high standard of honesty, transparency and fairness, but we see everything goes in the opposite.

    Honesty? When the members have doubts about any practice of the management, it is not allowed to discuss the matter in public. You wouldn´t have an honest answer from them anyway. Everything is swept under the carpet.

    Transparency? Well, that means users and members shall become transparent to them. So when you find out that your computer is vested with tracking cookies after visiting the site or when you notice that some analytics is on the work, you become a bit more transparent to them. We know IT and it´s no secret at all. The clicks must be counted after all. But just that? Need an honest answer? Just think of the legal concerns about the turnkey translation and the introduction of a billing system. What simpletons would make use of them?

    Fairness? That is something to make you weep! In the color game, the watchdogs possess the power over you, you wouldn´t have a chance to have success with support tickets which are for use of issues that shall not go to the public. Fair or not fair, that lies in their hand, not in yours.

    The system is not base on a democratic model. Professional translators are supposed to be kids. They must be held with rules, not a simple common nettiquette. The watchdogs are unpaid and they must be allowed to the taste of power or they would quit. (How many were there who quitted in the two weeks by the end of this March?)

    Mods for free, website localization for free and even the contents come mostly from the contributions of the community. But is there a real community? I don´t think so. Almost all the best translators I know are gone, because they have found out the same as I do.

    KudoZ is an encouragement of exploitation. It looks like colleagues helping each other, but it isn´t. If we wanted to help each other, we would have thorough discussion of concerned terms in full fledge and that would be in the forum. But it is supposedly not allowed to discuss terms in the forum. And what for are the KudoZ points? They are there to increase clicks with tingling. Otherwise, AdSense would have been gone as they are from the forum.

    Think of Brecht´s "When Sharks Were People" or of the Nazi system and it becomes clear how it functions. Fortunately, we don´t need to live in such a system. We are no dupes, no simpletons and no green hoppers. We find our own way.

    - Sylvia

  5. Sorry, I must apologize for the mentioning of the resignation of those 30 some mods by the end of this march together with the loss of power. When Mr. D. announced the change of mods policy, he tried to make it look like that. However, we know that the change does not concern the power, but the way to control their loyalty.

    There could be many, many different reasons why the mods become mods and why the mods quit. Some of the reasons are revealed more or less. But I don´t think it is possible for us to perceive the whole truth.

    Actually, the engagement of mods for free can be compared to Brecht´s account of "If Sharks Were People," too.

  6. "...not all cultures share the sensible approach of the English speaking community!"

    That is funny, both ha ha and peculiar. What cultures, I wonder? I have never experienced any aversity in Germany against scatology. In fact, "Scheiße" has become so popular, that we don't seem to realize anymore that it IS scatology. And the "English speaking community"? What always annoys me no end is the prissiness of the American usage. Even a straightforward biological term like the f-word is sugarcoated as "love making", a meaning it clearly doesn't possess, and a servant is as underprivileged if one calls him (or her) "help in the house". But then, one could argue now that maybe Americans are not covered by the description "English speaking community". ;-)

    I think most forum watchdogs just like the pathetic little bit of power they enjoy.


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