Mar 31, 2015

Sinking in the bulk market bog of #xl8

Facebook is a veritable cesspit of bulk market stupidity in translation... name changed to protect the... innocent(?)
If anyone questions why I need massive infusions of Egyptian doum palm tea and karkadé to survive the tribulations of translation, they need look no further than social media, particularly Facebook. Some years ago many people assumed that the unprofessional character and abuses one finds on bulk market reverse auction portals like (aka PrAdZ, ProtZ and many other variants) were due to repressive site policies, or some particular, special evil found only in repurposed chambers in a country once known for dropping political opponents of the junta from helicopters into the sea, but in the meantime some have figured out that this is the Human Condition or at least that of translators and their keepers who choose to dwell in common in the bulk market bog of failure and mediocracy. Of course one can find excellence, even beauty and dream-inspiring experiences of the most creative kind there or in many other unexpected places; I once found the most magnificent opium poppy growing in my dung heap on the farm I had in Oregon years ago. So really, it's not the medium... it's the messengers, who shall always be among us. Hooray for the wisdom of hermits!

Siberian shamans have some cool recipes for this beautiful, deadly mushroom so common in dem Vaterland
I have been subject to social media assault for translation rather often (#yessometranslators), which is the nicer term I can think of for being granted involuntary membership in some of the FB groups which sprout like toadstools. Not all groups which are created in that medium of fertilizer are toxic; some in fact could be characterized as rather tasty shitakes or Portabello mushrooms. But almost everywhere in these media, once can see and hear the incessant, self-harming whine about "outrageous rates" and the perpetual lament that "there will always be someone to accept such starvation remuneration" as if this implied that we must all bow to the "inevitable" and sell our bodies in the bulk word brothels of Moreslavia et alia.

This problem is hardly confined to translator circles; since I began a career involved with commercial translation, I have continued to act, as I have for 30 years now, as a consultant and trainer for relevant technologies and strategies of work and business. I have supported translation agencies and direct buyers of translation services of every size to assert themselves effectively and ethically in a market which often presents very difficult and complex challenges. And from this year forward, with a growing team of educational psychology specialists, university instructors, technical specialists, interns and others, I will do so to an even greater extent.

I have observed for some seven years now, with great sadness, how many translation companies who really earned the label Language Service Providers (LSPs) instead of Linguistic Sausage Producers (LSPs) have circled the drain and gone down because they believed the lies of the buyer-driven bulk market of which Smartling's Jack Welde speaks with such rapture. Quite a number of these principals of failed companies were and are friends of mine. But somewhere along the line, they lost sight of some fundamentals and thought that the competitive market is all about price, or even when they knew it was not, they sometimes lacked the insight or resources to resist the race to the bottom of the drain into the cesspit.

Thus it was my pleasure at the recent GALA conference in Seville to share some ideas with many key business people from diverse backgrounds with many languages, so that they might have more options to follow their hearts and heads and enjoy a more sustainable and satisfying business model with which we all win. There were a few toads in the crowd there, but why waste a lot of time on them, The Toxic Ten Percent, when the venue was full of the 90% whose philosophies and business goals are very much in accord with the interests of individual service providers such as freelance translators and editors? When I shared some workflows which might offer effective means of applying speech recognition in languages previously thought not to be supported, a number of translation company owners and operations managers spontaneously declared their happiness that the freelancers they depend on could now earn a better livinng despite low piece rates in their languages. Such "dirty capitalists" are our natural allies and ought to be considered friends in the trenches of the war with those who fail to understand that disruptive innovation is a bottom-up, evolutionary movement of change which can, with the understanding of ordinary human decency and ethics, be a positive thing and fertile ground for a sustainable, professional crop. It is not the destruction rained down on villages like Guernica by the Great Powers of Lionbridge and their like. 

So what to do about the bogsters, the Linguistic Sausage Purveyors (LSPs) who dare to promote more slavery to us slavelancers and digital sharecroppers in a post-apocalyptic translationscape? Nothing. Ignore them. Or invite them to a hot date in the sand with a goat. But please, people, leave off the incessant public whine about rates, forget about piece rate nonsense and focus on value, effective earnings for the time invested and sustainable business practices. You can tear down any house faster than you can build one, but ya gotta live somewhere.

And, just for fun, you can share some interesting tidbits with colleagues and buyers about how, when one approaches the price break limits of a silly bulkster discount scale such as that in the screenshot above, you can add some unneeded words to the job and get the whole lot of words for less:

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