Mar 10, 2010

Life beyond Mordor

One Site to rule them all, One Site to find them,
One Site to bring them all and in the darkness bind them
On the Portal of PrADs where the Shadows lie.
Let's get one thing straight: Henry Dotterer is not the Dark Lord however much some of his staff and a few incompetent moderators like to play Nazgûl. And however much weak-willed translators feel that He holds sway over their lives. But when yesterday it seemed that my business web site and e-mail had disappeared into the Mines of Moria and been eaten by a balrog, I realized that the time has come perhaps to cast the last boat off to other shores. The fact that ProZ apparently had no emergency plan to respond to a failure of its hosting servers and that it took many hours after the initial posts in the ProZ forums indicated that there was a problem is somewhat disturbing. For several years now, I have experienced intermittent problems with mail service on my domain hosted by ProZ, and although this often resulted in the loss of service for specific e-mail addresses which could last up to days (while other addresses on the same domain worked fine), my generally busy life and inertia have conspired to keep my business hosted there. This obviously cannot continue given the further weaknesses now revealed in the system. My brother experienced a similar mail issue recently on another domain I own which is handled by Hosting Matters, and the matter was resolved within an hour. I suppose that's the difference between pros and amateurZ.

Still, there is economically redeeming value for some at The Translation Workhouse, even if the moderator purges and overzealous hypermoderation in the past year have diminished the socially redeeming value somewhat. Community is where you find it, and these days, the community of translators which developed over a decade at ProZ is mostly found elsewhere. The site retains considerable entertainment value if you are fond of historical philosophy and economics as I am (particularly Hobbes and Malthus and their relevance to the "translation industry"), and I still get contacted by the occasional really cool client via my profile. Now that the troublemakers have moved on to other pastures, I am comforted by the predictable litany of complaints about low rates, trouble with SDL Trados Studio 2009, difficulties understanding PDF and even greater difficulties understanding basic business issues like how to write an invoice. Which you can do, of course, with the handy-dandy invoicing tool on the site ("Trust in me, just in me...."). There are some who don't have an issue with waking up in a snake's belly some day. I'll stick to Translation Office 3000 or other solutions, thank you.

Today I got a call from a friend in another country who has relied on PrADs up to now for nearly all her marketing, and she is one of the crowd who have long bought into the KudoZ game to position themselves in the search engine rankings. Her language pair is now beginning to experience the same politics and discord that I have heard of with Chinese and other languages, she's being virtually "stalked" by some nutcase who compulsively disagrees with her answers, she has been reprimanded for being "aggressive" by answering with a smiley, etc. Like many others, she was worried about how to work within that system, "fix" it, make it more "fair" and so on. Ain't gonna happen. Life's unfair, and you're even more unfair to yourself if you rely on a single platform for your livelihood. That's just as stupid, really, as relying on a single client. Spread your risk!

My advice was to move beyond Mordor, let the orcs squabble among themselves and create your own platform for expression and advertising. If you are a Latvian legal translator, for example, frustrated with idiotic KudoZ answers that are chosen over your correct ones, don't eat yourself up with frustration. Rejoice at the opportunity. Start a blog about legal terminology in Latvian, and highlight correct solutions, warn of possible mistranslations, publish brief reviews of special vocabulary for various legal sub-areas, etc. Show that you are an expert in a public forum that is well indexed by search engines, and a better class of clients will find you. Your bank manager will love you for it even if your psychiatrist will miss those weekly sessions. Other translators will love you. One guy did something like this for Swiss legal German and its English equivalents, and although I'm not gay, I'm tempted to kiss him. Swiss German can be a real challenge at times, and there are few good references. Can you say the same about specialties of yours in your language pairs? Yes? Then be the standard for reference!


  1. hahaha. Ok, Kevin. I don't think I've ever talked to you directly, but I've been a great "fan" of your posts on the ProZ forums for a long time, thanks to your sharp, cranky, sarcastic and intelligent comments. So much so that I have been following your blog for a while now.

    I'd just like to say that you had me in tears with "although I'm not gay, I'm tempted to kiss him". That is pure gold! I'm not gay, but I'm tempted to kiss you!

  2. Save the kisses for Mr. Sascha Oliver Stocker. I'm really grateful to him for creating a good reference for a variant and specialty in my source language that often gives me fits. Fortunately I have some wonderful colleagues and friends in Switzerland (they can't all be dancing snakes) who sort it out for me most of the time, But SOS definitely deserves an award and a big kiss.

    In principle, this post could have been about any venue, not just the Big P. The important message here is not that some days certain mods act like wannabe Nazgûl. It's that we all need to grow up and take control of our markets and marketing. If we fail, it's not the fault of any portal. Write that in your boycott petition!


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