Jost Zetzsche Tool Kit

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Serving as moderators to

There is a call for proz members to consider becoming moderators. A forum was specially opened for the same.

When I became an ordinary member way back in 2003, I was quite awed by this portal. I still am grateful to the site, but the awe has given rise to certain skepticism.

While calling for moderators, it is made clear that they are only volunteers and no privilege will be given to them. And this from a commercial Website, which has - indeed should have - a profit motive.

But then, why should a member be a moderator? And as I understand it, only platinum members can become moderators, who pay quite a sum of money already.

Way back in 2003, I saw wonderful moderators such as Ralf Lemster, Kim Metzger and others. These two have ceased to be one and I wonder why. A spate of well known moderators left the scene likewise. At that time there was much talk about it in the proz fora.

On seeing the conditions being imposed on a moderator and the benefits he is likely to get, I am not enamored of becoming one. Which is now beside the point as I am no longer a platinum member.

But yet:

The forum cited above has been locked. A few posts have been made invisible. I am not able to make my points there. Hence this blog post.

The benefits a moderator is supposed to get is expressed in the following words:
Moderators are volunteer members and are not paid for their work. However, there are a number of benefits to participating in the program: 

First, serving as a moderator provides an enhanced opportunity to help others benefit from the mission. For a person who has achieved success as a translator or interpreter, or in a translation company, and who has derived benefit from, the moderator program provides an opportunity to give something back by sharing what you have learned with others. 

Secondly, as it turns out, helping others to benefit from the mission also allows one to experience the benefits of the mission in a deeper way oneself. For example, because each class of moderators consists of a group of about 100 professionals from around the world, the program provides a great opportunity for personal networking. The camaraderie, and resulting friendships, cross linguistic and geographical boundaries. Also, because of the high profile nature of the role, moderators gain exposure that in some cases may lead to new business opportunities. Finally, as is the case with any professional challenge, the moderator role provides opportunities to advance as a professional and have fun at the same time.

Hope this explains.

No, this does not explain it, I am sorry to say. This can then be claimed for any free work. Surely the recipient of such pro bono work will think along those lines. But why should one consider becoming a moderator? 

In the Gotranslators portal. articles are solicited from members and in the event of giving one, they are offered 2 months of gomembership (equivalent to proz's platinum) free of cost. In that way I was a gomember for a period exceeding one year. 

Proz can consider such a gesture for moderators. This incentive will surely attract good talent. And by the way this gesture is not exactly new for proz. I was a platinum member of proz for 4 years and I did not spend a single cent for the same. It came about in the following manner. 

There was a move to localize proz into Tamil, my mother tongue. Three of us worked on that and a lot of browneys were given to us. It was in this connection that I wanted a platinum membership in exchange of the browneys. I initiated a forum post for this. There were lively discussions on this point. But if you now see that forum post, you will have no inkling of what actually happened. 

One fine day in July 2007, I was admitted to the platinum membership for one year against 20000 browney points. Come 2008, there was call for me to renew membership through payment with offer for 1/3 discount against 4000 browney points. I had more than 60000 browney points at that time and I remained adamant about getting platinum membership in the same way. 

In July 2008, I was given platinum membership for 3 more years and it lapsed this month. Not much browney points remained and I let the matter go.

My localization into Tamil was considered as valuable contribution and I got the membership. But then moderators too do a valuable service and they should be given at least browney poitns generously and if some of them convert it to platinum membership renewals, why not? 

There is precedence for this and I am that precedence.

Proz is a commercial site. It should consider getting the best talents. Just vaguely referring to the dubious mental satisfaction will not wash. 

Dondu N. Raghavan 



dondu(#11168674346665545885) said...

The following email came from Kim Metzger and he gave me kind permission to reproduce it here.

Thanks a lot,

Dear Dondu N. Raghavan,

I found your blog. The only thing I can say is I would never want to be a moderator at Proz again.

Moderators are mere policemen now. Hundreds of excellent moderators left the site when they were no longer offered their own forum to discuss improvements, etc. They were informed that if they had anything to say, they could do so in the public ProZ forums.

The people who now run the site aren't pro translators and can't respond effectively to issues of concern to pro translators.

I haven't been able to post comments in the forums for a long time because I am persona non grata. The administrators always find a flimsy excuse for not approving my posts: off-topic or some other nonsense.

The site does not want and is not able to deal with criticism. Apparently, Henry decided several years ago to let non-translators run the site the way they see fit, and they have squelched free speech. They just don't want any problems, so they place critical voices on special monitored forum posting status. The site used to be a fun place to visit, but not any more.

Best wishes,

dondu(#11168674346665545885) said...

I give below my reply to Kim, in which I asked for his permission to reproduce his views here.

Dear Kim,

I thought as much. That is why I wisely refrained from even showing interest in becoming a moderator.

Could you please post your views as comment in the concerned blog? For this you have to be a blogger or a wordpress person. Becoming a blogger is five minutes work and is free of cost.

Alternatively, do I have your permission to quote your email under my comment? I will of course hide your email id.

Dondu N. Raghavan

Kevin Lossner said...

Hi Dondu,

I've never been a moderator myself; in my early days with the site there was an excellent crew of moderators, of whom you've named a few. I could add quite a few to the list, but what would be the point? The criteria for moderation changed for the worse several years ago, and as Kim suggested, it's only policemen and elementary school hall monitors who are wanted on ProZ. The level of content in the forums has fallen to somewhat below a lowest common denominator. Kim is not the only one who is subjected to the idiocy of every post needing special approval - I think Ralf and quite a few others share this status. Considered opinions are not welcome. Just sycophancy and the same endless drivel about Trados troubles and repetitive newbie nonsense that could be answered with a 30 second search in the archives.

While there are still a few interesting projects that can be gleaned from the site, in general the level of outsourcer has also taken a serious dive. Most of the contacts I receive are from Eastern European or Asian LSPs who are simply time-wasters without the slightest idea of how things work with qualified translators in a country that was done with its "emerging" long before the Berlin Wall came down.

If one wants to "give back", there are so many other, better ways to do so. Professional translators' organizations are always looking for volunteers, and they actually do have translators interests at the forefront most of the time. Or one can share information via a blog, for example. One of the reasons I established my own blog years ago was that I was simply disgusted with the gags on ProZ as well as the noise level in the forums there. Now I don't have to deal with Georgians, the French and others who barely understand my English calling for it to be censored because they are confused about its meaning.

dondu(#11168674346665545885) said...

From the private emails I got in this connection from some of the ex-moderators, it is worse than what I feared regarding Proz. Earlier, I just had a nasty suspicion that something was rotten in the State of Denmark.

That many good moderators just left in droves is already a pointer to the above observation.

The changed circumstances can no longer sustain the present pious pronouncements by Proz about rewards to moderators and my skepticism is all the more pronounced.

Per se, a person asking for pro bono work is suspect in my eyes, in fact guilty unless proven innocent. I am accused by my blog readers that I am cynical. But no matter, I continue to insist on some quid pro quo.

My getting the platinum membership in proz is a case in point. Even though the notional remuneration in the form of fees for 4 years is quite low compared to the price I get for translations into Tamil from elsewhere, I considered this privilege as honor and this too plays a part.

My present suggestion to proz would be to offer platinum membership to moderators as long as they continue in that function. Surely this is not a financial burden to proz and they can get really dedicated people for this.

But then I will not go and tell them so, as I am sure of the hostile reception it will get.

N. Raghavan