Aug 24, 2013

Games agencies play, Part 1: "basic information" for Google searches

The other day a fellow freelancer called me up, irate to learn that a translation agency owner in her country had appropriated one of her ideas and literally taken her words from an online interview to represent his services as something they probably are not.

This started quite a discussion about some of the tactics we and others have observed in the trench warfare being waged for business in some segments of the market. It's not often I see egregious cases of plagiarism like the one I was shown two days ago, but there are plenty of sneaky moves and not-so-sneaky ones employed to try to get those little prospect fish in a world wide net online.

So I've decided to offer a little "series" featuring a few of these tactics and how freelancers might respond appropriately to them to promote their own business and support the real interests of translation consumers in an ethical way. And maybe we'll find a few candidates for the Hall of Shame on our tour.

In Twitspace and in my YouTube content research, I have encountered quite a number of pages, video clips and other material describing basic concepts of translation technology or translation processes, such as translation memory, terminology mining and management, etc. Rarely these are quite good presentations of academic value, which are prepared by knowledgeable colleagues or university instructors, and which are so clearly presented that I am pleased to share them with my clients and others when they are needed. More often these are superficial overviews stuffed with keywords, which communicate too little of the real information needed to assess a technology and its relevance to certain types of problems. Some of the self-serving crap I've seen on YouTube by agency representatives pushing their services is so bad that I'm sure their competitors must smile. What are they trying to accomplish?

no translation agency spam
Quite a number of different things most likely. Being noticed first by potential prospects searching for information is certainly high on the list for some. Influencing the discussion of certain technologies and approaches to translation is probably another goal of the more clever content presenters and one which freelance service providers should consider.

I am not going to give links to any of these pages I've found. Today's gem - "Guide to Translation Memory (TM)" - found on a US agency site, is fairly typical. It's superficial, but not particularly toxic, but it really makes no useful contribution to helping clients understand the advantages and limits of translation memories. The description of fuzzy matching is actually wrong in some contexts and by no means describes what a fuzzy match might be in some major translation environment tools.

But as more translators discuss their tools and working methods (which may or may not interest translation buyers and consumers), a lot of jargon gets used without adequate definition or appropriate references to consult for more information. And important concepts related to the limitations and risks of these technologies or their most appropriate uses are also very often missing.

A good response to this on our own freelance business web pages would be to present such information on secondary pages of our own sites or provide links to balanced, reputable information sources that can help our clients deal confidently with the concepts if they have an interest in them and avoid some of the traps. Linking good information pages on association web sites, university information pages or even Wikipedia may also help to raise the ranking of these pages and bury the SEO spammers in agencies or propaganda organizations like TAUS or the CSA in the far-back pages of a search where they belong. If an agency like Lionbridge, TransPerfect, thepigturd and others offers such "infopages", for God's sake don't be stupid enough to link them or tweet them; there are more ethical alternatives to be found for sharing such information.

I'm not calling for a boycott of any page associated with a translation agency. There are plenty of good ones out there with highly knowledgeable people who should be the first stop to find information on some topics. There was a guide to preparing source documents for optimal translation prepared by a small agency in Australia years ago; its original link is dead now unfortunately, but I would add the new one to a page of mine without hesitation, and if the author draws in a little extra business for that, I consider it a well-earned reward for sharing his hard-won expertise. But pages like the Guide cited above offer no real expertise; they are just more spam in a too-polluted online world.

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