Nov 29, 2009

Cleaning up more source file messes with Dave Turner

I don't know if the rumors are true that the beatification process has begun in the Vatican by grateful translators there whose prayers for an efficient way to deal with superfluous format tags were answered with Mr. Turner's Code Zapper macro. If not, surely his latest contribution will send him further along the path to Translation Sainthood: the Format Fixer macro, which in his own words
  • deletes leading spaces and tabs inserted typewriter style to indent text, and sets the equivalent indent,
  • deletes excess spaces between words,
  • deletes excess paragraph marks and sets the equivalent vertical spacing, 
  • attempts to correct frequent punctuation errors (space before comma or inside a parenthesis for example),
  • tries to fix PDF converted files (removes hard and soft returns to make text wrap properly),
  • adds a space between a number and a letter as in 20ohm, 10daN -> 20 ohm, 10 daN
It's available free on the Yahoogroups dejavu-l forum (path:, but obviously it's useful to anyone who works with text in MS Word or RTF files regardless of CAT religion.

Nov 27, 2009

Pure productivity: 50,000 words translated with Déjà Vu during a toilet break!

This has been a week for ludicrous but probably true claims. SDL, a company noted for sleazy advertising on its path to World Domination, started off with an e-mail advert claiming that past ATA president Marian Greenfield translated 34,501 words in 10 hours using the new Trados Studio 2009. Soon after, translator Wolfgang Jörissen revealed that he had processed over 50,000 words using Atril's Déjà Vu during a toilet break. I'm still waiting for the corresponding revelation regarding MemoQ. It's sure to be a good one.

What has all this got to do with translation in the real world? Not much. SDL, it seems, was boasting about features not available in its previous software versions but functionally available for years with the competition. No news there. But the outrageousness of the claim ignited heated discussion on ProZ, Jill Sommer's blog and elsewhere. Admittedly, some of the discussion is Greek to me, but I think many people are just fed up with the failure of SDL to promote the features and advantages of the company's software without distortion, deception and hyperbole. And unfortunately this means that sometimes their good support people (there are some) and others end up as collateral damage. What's wrong with a little sobriety and balance in marketing? In an ideal world, I'd like to see SDL, Atril, Kilgray and others collaborating on interfaces so we can all use whatever tools we prefer and connect to whatever server solutions some of our clients might prefer. Dream on, I know....

Nov 26, 2009

Zetsche's Tool Kit newsletter still rules

Today I got an e-mail notice telling me that my premium subscription to Jost Zetsche's Tool Kit newsletter had run out and reverted to the standard (free) subscription. My how time flies. A year ago tomorrow I wrote a review of the newsletter after receiving a few issues with premium content. After six months I added a comment that I was still satisfied, and after a full year I can honestly state that it has been quite worthwhile. So of course I renewed. For a mere $15 per year this gives me access to valuable insights from one of the best, objective translation technology gurus I know. He is very thorough in his research, and his recommendations are carefully considered, with solid context. If you don't know the newsletter, click the icon above and sign up for the free version, and if keeping up to date with the most important developments in technology for our profession is worth at least $1.25 per month to you, then treat yourself to a premium subscription. It's worth it. Apparently as an owner of a previous version (7.0) of his e-book The Translator's Toolbox I also get an upgrade to the new version 8.0 for the newsletter renewal. I would have gladly paid at least $15 for that anyway, because I found it to be a useful reference work. Thank you, Jost.

Nov 17, 2009

A good book revisited

The flu is not one of my favorite experiences. Whether the illness that felled me last week, screwed up the quality of my work and kept me in bed unable to do any work for a few days was the swine flu I cannot say, but it left me feeling like an old, roasted pig. Being on my back for a while did have one good side, however: I could finally get around to reading the hardcopy version of a very interesting book for international freelance translators.

A year ago I published a short review on this blog of Oleg Rudavin's Internet Freelancing: Practical Guide for Translators. The original review was based on two incomplete preview chapters from the Translator's Training site. Now that I've read the whole thing in preparation for writing a review I promised to do for the BDÜ, I can repeat my earlier recommendation without qualification. Sure, the English is quirky in places and makes me smile, but big deal - I would be a dishonest fool to ignore the fact that this is a clearly expressed overview of a huge number - dare I say most? - of the issues that face freelance translators on the international markets today. Best of all, it's written by a fellow faced with brutal competition in a language pair often noted for its cut-throat pricing. Mr. Rudavin does well I think, but he doesn't live in the German-English Land of Milk and Honey, so he survives and thrives by his wits and learning from experience.

As I mentioned in my last review, I love the first-person narrative of this book. Examples given are based on real experience, and some of that experience is pretty damned embarrassing. This gives the book as a whole a lot more credibility. A wide range of issues, including all-important matters of rates and reality as well as the complications of international banking are discussed. For those outside the US and Western Europe, this may be thought of as a critical business survival guide for Internet freelancing. For those like me inside the walls of Western Europe, it's a real eye-opener to see what a colleague in another country sometimes has to put up with just to accept a payment. Useful to know if I plan international cooperations or activity as a new agency.

Reading this book, I have the feeling that Oleg spent the week as my personal advisor, helping me to review my business and find ways of restructuring it in a more effective way. (And coincidentally, that's what I'm doing.) The advice in this book - the lessons to be gained from "listening" to his narrative - is worth a lot more than the cover price. If I stated the multiple I believe applies, I'm sure I'd just start a useless argument, but I'd laugh my way to a better business while arguing. Let's just say it's a fun and worthwhile reference book that has something of value for most freelancers, from rank beginners without a clue to old hands. You won't find every answer there, but you'll surely find more than you expect.

Nov 11, 2009

In the echo chamber of social media

Rod said...
I see you're going hog wild in the social media echo chamber ;-> I bet in the end that quietly doing translation work and then enjoying your free time will prove more profitable than chasing after loopy followers.
This comment on my Listening to Jeffrey post by our colleague in Japan reflects the confusion that a lot of people have with regard to so-called "social media" and the role these now play and will play in the future in our business and others. In fact, the latest newsletter from Mr. Gitomer included an interesting article on this very subject. According to Mr. Gitomer's definition of social media and my own understanding of the term, this "echo chamber" is where I and many others make a living. All of it.

Nitpickers will point out that Gitomer's definitions of social media confuse Web 1.0 and Web 2.0 media, but I don't think such distinctions are particularly productive. I think it's important to consider one's online presence as a whole. This will include e-mail, static media, dynamic media and interactive media, and the lines are not always clearly drawn between these areas. In the end what matters is that potential clients and colleagues with shared interests can find you and interact in some useful way, with the ultimate result hopefully being that the electric bill and a few other things get paid.

My business uses no local advertising. I have a sign next to the door so temporary postal workers don't walk away with my business mail undelivered, but local directories, yellow pages, etc. are not graced with my business presence in any form. And as much as I agree that it is valuable to attend local business chamber mixers and get involved in other community organizations, time is short, and I usually prefer to spend that limited time exercising the dogs, hunting or studying for a test. The time I spend "advertising" my business - or more correctly making the world aware of the fact that I exist and offer certain services - is generally better leveraged online. The experience of others may differ, of course. And along with the inevitable echo that over 30,000 Google hits brings (one friend recently complained that Google autocompletes my name, but I think that's normal), comes a steady stream of interesting professional contacts and inquiries resulting from the full range of online media I use.

What are these media and how do I use them? Some of this is covered in many earlier posts, but I'll take this opportunity for a recap and overview, because my approach is developing as I learn more, and it might be useful in six months to a year to see what has changed.

Let's start with e-mail. That's not really what one thinks of under the category of social media, but it is the most frequent direct means of communication that many of us use with our clients and colleagues, and it is often a gateway to social media interactions. How is that? In my e-mail signature I list addresses for my business web site, translation blog and translation-related Twitter account (so far, perhaps more to be added). I don't list my Skype account, though many do, and many use that tool to communicate with agency PMs and direct customers. Some of my signatures also include my pompous-sounding, legally protected German professional title as a state-examined, court-sworn translator. As silly as it sounds, it does carry weight with some clients, and it answers the question "Can you certify a patent translation?" without anyone saying or writing a word. There are many opportunities to use an e-mail signature effectively as a tool for improving communication and promoting your business.

There's this blog. Despite the irritating overabundance of comments on translation portal politics and other irrelevancies from time to time (virtual watercooler gossip, not to be confused with Any Bell's excellent Watercooler site), most of the posts reflects my professional interests as a translator in some way, including resources and tools which I think make my work easier. In some cases this provides information to prospects or current customers that make it clear that a particular project might be a good fit. Or tips I provide in the blog or a public forum may head off a private e-mail request or telephone call asking for help on a subject I have already explained a few hundred times. I began to write and publish little "how to" guides in PDF format a few years ago, because colleagues, customers and complete strangers were asking an enormous number of questions which often could be grouped in a few simple categories and handled in a 5 page written guide with a few screenshots. I usually give these away or actively promote them on web sites, public portals, Facebook, etc. This ultimately saves me time that I can spend on other things, and it demonstrates my competence in certain subject areas, which is often good for business.

My business web site is horribly outdated. I think it was last worked on seriously in December 2004, though a few minor changes have been made since then. Its successor has been in the works for over three years, but lack of time and my teenage daughter's opinion of my bad German have caused some delay. (I have been criticized for having a business web site only in English when I live in Germany and have most of my customers in German-speaking countries. However, the glass can hold only so much fine wine, and the tablecloth is ruined from the overflow as it is. I also got a belly laugh that the fellow with the harshest critical comments is a German who has French, German and English listed on his web site's landing page, but only the English link works, leading to pages that are shockingly ungrammatical.) In any case, with all its flaws, our site brings in steady business, even from customers who don't speak much English. Some day I'll do these nice people the favor of introducing myself online in German, but not before I have a full time secretary or project manager in my office to answer the phone and say I'm busy.

Online professional forums. For me these include the closed BDÜ members forum (not viewable by the public) and ProZ. Significant business volume and professional support from colleague has been derived from both platforms. I also have profiles registered with at least half a dozen other portals and forums, but these have not been very productive for me (and I haven't invested much time in them to be honest, so that may be the result), and if I could figure out how to delete some of these profiles (often quite difficult), I would.Depending on your location, qualifications, etc. the ITI, ATA and other organizations may offer other useful alternatives. These forums also contain searchable directories which have resulted in many referrals and excellent new clients over the years.

LinkedIn and Xing are favored platforms for "connecting" with business clients in the opinion of many. I'm present on both, and I find them to be useful tools to keep track of some colleagues past and present as well as clients, but I spend more time reading the Xing hunting forums in German than I do looking for business there. I think there's a lot of potential there, but my presence is and will probably remain largely passive. The structure of these environments doesn't really fit how I prefer to communicate, though I think forming ad hoc groups to discuss issues like crowdsourcing has some value.

If I did training videos as a way of promoting training or other services, I would probably use YouTube. I don't.

Even flawed online content publishing sites like eHow, where I have invested a little time, have brought in interesting business inquiries, though so far nothing of note has come of these. However, the fourteen short articles (11 related to translation) have been viewed over 2700 times in the past 5 months, which might prove beneficial in a business sense at some point if it has not already.

When Rod refers to "echo chambers", I presume he means Twitter and Facebook. I've written enough about the former I think; while I get irritated with one translator who seems to feel the need to let the world know every time she washes her hair, for the most part I have found the Twit Stream useful for communication in both directions. However, I am concerned about the manageability of that data stream, so I follow very few people. I think I've added one (Kilgraymemoq) in the past three months. Twitter has actually become the major mode of communication with a few colleagues who are very high on my professional respect list. Most of our useful exchanges fit well in 140 characters, and I'm sure they're glad not to see my pompous e-mail signature several times a day.

Facebook. Although I've used that platform to keep in touch with old high school friends and college buddies, FB has been a dilemma for business. I have a few friended colleagues there, most of whom I would consider actual friends in the real world or persons whom I would gladly have in that role, but when I get a request from a stranger or business I don't know I am not comfortable with given them access to my personal profile. I really don't think they need to see rude remarks from my sister, the stoned ravings or a high school friend who still hasn't overcome his substance abuse problems after 30 years or the political and military commentaries of my Texan cousin. Recently I read a blog post by Pat Flynn which seems to offer a solution to this problem or at least a plausible approach: Facebook "pages". I looked into this function and discovered that it works almost like a second profile and allows me to collect translation business information in a way that might be useful to my colleagues and clients without annoying the motley crew that constitute my friends and family. For the most part, I've found the setup and maintenance of my Facebook page for translation to be simple, and it lets me organize a few things in a way I cannot currently do with other tools. It feels comfortable. One thing that annoys the heck out of me, however, is the term used to refer to persons who subscribe to the profile stream or request access: fans. Elton John has fans, but until I learn to play piano and sing, I'd prefer a different word. I'm just not sure which one. My Facebook page allows me to organize information I may have published elsewhere in more useful, accessible ways. My "target price defense tool" - a spreadsheet for calculating a word or line price to counteract a Trados scale one disapproves of - has been available for some time on the How To tab of my ProZ profile for over a year and was even mentioned on this blog in its early days, but except possibly for members of a Bavarian BDÜ chapter who may have received the German version on a CD, I don't think many are aware of it. FB provides another channel which allows me to help fellow translators with information like this or agencies and direct clients with other issues.

As for chasing loopy followers, if henna gaijin applies, it's your issue, not mine or anyone else's ;-) Doing business involves letting people know what you do in a variety of ways, and I don't generally find it useful to put a money meter on every activity. Really understanding the changing world of online media means hands-on involvement, not eternal grumbling over a sake flask. Moreover, teaching and communication are important to me, and I will offer information in any channel which I think is of potential use to those who may benefit. Sometimes this may involve looking beyond the edge of my plate as the Germans are fond of saying. The world continues to change, and the long term viability of a business may very well be tied to taking steps today to explore communication media which may be important tomorrow and which are not obviously related to my main professional activities. If in five years most translation buyers and translators hang out on Third Life, I'll probably be there somewhere.

There are some things I plan to publish on my business page on Facebook which I really don't know where I should put elsewhere. I have a huge number of links to online dictionaries and other resources which follow various topics I translate frequently. I suppose I could do a "Links" page on my business web site, but I would really rather not for various reasons. It seems to me that the Facebook "Notes" function might be a more useful way to organize links related to hunting terminology, sustainability and corporate responsibility, materials science, etc. If desirable I suppose I could even use the Facebook pages or groups functions to organize information on specific translation topics. I might have to look into that someday.

And the next time I am accused of robbery, I'm sure that my participation in Facebook will prove useful :-)

Nov 8, 2009

Google Books

I'm sure we've all read the press reports about Google Books over the past year and the ambitious attempt to put a kazillion books online. From time to time when doing terminology searches, I have run across useful technical dictionaries that are not part of my private library but which are at least partially viewable on Google Books. Today, for example, I discovered a searchable version of Goetzel's German to English Dictionary of Materials and Process Engineering there. The hardcopy resides permanently on my desk, but it was actually quite nice to be able to keyword search the scanned version through Google. Curious to find out how many other of my favored paper references are to be found, I did a bit of searching and make a few other nice discoveries. This might be worth a look - see if your favorites or other useful reference works are available.

Some scanned books can even be downloaded as PDF files. Just for fun, I used the GB search engine to look for fully viewable books and used the keyword Wörterbuch for the search. I came up with 3,653 hits, including interesting gems like a dictionary about bees from the year 1765. Now this isn't the sort of thing needed every day, but just a few weeks ago I got a request to translate an 18th century biology text. Google Books might very well be a useful reference source for such historical work.

I hope this sort of thing continues. When I think of how hard it used to be to find books and how much time I used to spend driving from one library to another around Southern California, I wonder what wonderful place I've woken up in. A few years ago my mother sent me a digital photo of an old theological work inherited from one of my grandfathers. The thing was in Latin and alleged to be from the 16th century (based on oral family history). With the help of online search tools it took me about ten minutes to find out what the book was, which later edition that specific book was and what historical context it fit in. That probably would have taken me a month to figure out twenty years ago, or at least a long afternoon at the Huntington Library. I suppose that if I look on Google Books I'll probably find that one too....

Nov 2, 2009


It seems even familiar acronyms are now forbidden at PROZ:
Dear Kevin Lossner,
This message is to inform you that your post "RTFM" has been removed from public view because it was not in line with site rule:

Dear Kevin, I have changed the title of your posting.
Thanks for your contributions in DVX Support forum.
Kind regards,

Thanks in advance for your understanding and future cooperation.

Selcuk Akyuz, Moderator
This was in response to my posting a link to the user manual for the DVX Editor version for a user who apparently never thought to look at the program's documentation. At least Selcuk didn't feel obliged to delete the post like Miss Presbyterian Manners might have, but then Turkish manners usually do have better polish than what I see in other places. I suppose my response is
You're welcome and goodbye!
Really. Funnily enough, my use of BOHICA on previous occasions (probably referring to SDL Trados quality and support) never got censored. In any case, with the ProZ Puritan nonsense getting more ridiculous by the week, I am increasingly less inclined to give any help at all to the many clueless beginners there. Recently, a German acquaintance of mine shared his support correspondence after an Indian moderator deleted his post entirely because it linked to a drawing that showed some leg and cleavage. In India I am told that you can be arrested for holding hands in public; many probably remember the scandal over Richard Gere's innocent public kiss. That someone from there is given the ability to impose her backwater standards on the rest of the world I find greatly offensive. Los Angeles is not Calcutta. Shall I return the favor by sending her pictures of cattle being slaughtered? A bit of tolerance, not pandering to the lowest prudish denominator, is called for in international exchanges. Or shall Germany be forbidden to send its new foreign minister Mr. Westerwelle on a mission to Iran because the mullahs there like to hang gays?

I do not consider it professional to pander to the medieval revivalists or those who have never made it past that period culturally. I have seen ProZ job notices looking for translators for adult content. Surely this offends many, and it's not exactly my cup of tea, though I had no problem with translating a text for a gay outcall service that placed a strong emphasis on health and responsibility. I refuse to translate for tobacco companies, and I have a strong personal reaction to the products, which include an allergy and clear memories of the misery of family members dying of lung cancer, but I think it would be overreaching for me to call for such job postings to banned or to curse my colleagues who do that work. And in that spirit, I will repeat my advice to the novice who will probably face many puzzling moments with many software programs - advice which most of us should probably follow more often: read the fucking manual!