February 1, 2016 nativesinbusiness

On the importance of being professional and acting like one on social media

Let me start by saying that much has been commented lately about this topic on social media due to the unusual rising of conflict, less charming manners, and an even lesser sense of professionalism amongst translators, proofreaders, interpreters, editors, reviewers and pretty much every other freelancing job there is. I will be focusing solely on translators, editors and proofreaders for obvious reasons, but believe me when I tell you that it will be more than enough.

Dissension and arguing are common amongst people on the Internet. While at their core both words are not negative per se, they may become depending on the emphasis that one gives to each. It’s not the first time that I disagree or argue with someone on the Internet while discussing work, the state of the union and tips and tricks with colleagues. However, there are some that take it to the next level – lying, slandering, insulting, ad hominem attacks, envy, lack of information slash lack of experience slash lack of meeting more colleagues in real life, God complexes… you name it. While one could argue that it’s the Internet’s fault because it’s a jungle out there, let’s stop for a second to think about it.

The Internet is not sentient or conscious, while people are, and that means that the Internet is not provided with a brain, unlike everyone that uses it (with some using their brain more than others, it goes without saying). In that case, and because everything that is not privileged enough to have a brain cannot think, it’s more than fair to say that the ones that use the Internet are in fact the ones to blame when things go south. And south things go more than they should.

If it’s not because of the eternal debate about rates, then it’s about something else that in no way elevates our trade. The question, though predictable, is simple – what do people expect to attain when they act unprofessionally to say the least? Social media is indeed a very large zoo with an exotic and very wide range of fauna – trolls, holier than thous, maniacs, rude and ill-mannered people and everything else you might imagine. I have several theories to explain poor-taste behaviour, from the lack of a sturdy home-education to poor, real life social skills, but none as logical as lack of impunity. You see, when said people enter the Internet jungle, they behave like the fiercest animals to be noticed. Then, because it is very hard to cage most animals, they wander and roam free, always waiting to pounce onto the next victim.

I have had my share of encounters with some of them. In fact, I was even told to (quote) go f**k myself by someone who thinks she is at the top of our profession, something that is very far from true but to which most other colleagues nod affirmatively and say “Yes, yes”. Let’s face it – would you argue with a looney? Neither would I, so I smile condescendingly and go on with my life. However, said “professional” is in fact esteemed by plenty of colleagues, as the person indeed is talented and… well, professional, this time without quotation marks. Why is it then that someone who is recognized or seen as a professional acts like an amateur in front of everyone and even gets praised for doing so? Herd mentality could very well explain it, but in the end we’ll never know, as it is not logical nor civilized to begin with.

That being said, why should we be polite to others when they are inches away from ripping our heads and skewer them on a stake? Well, the only answer I have to that is “Because we are professionals and we act like it.” Not to mention that if you’ve had a proper home education you will certainly refrain from stepping down to someone else’s level, of course. Sticks and stones, sticks and stones. There is, however, another reason, which I think is the most important of them all – how will you look professional in the eyes of a real colleague (that is, someone who does not abide by mob mentality and who doesn’t follow trends or bandwagons) when you act poorly? No need to answer, we all know what you are going to say.

Our image is not only about how good we are at what we do, but also about how we act before our peers and clients. There are perks to it, to be honest, and I am sure that you have more to gain than to lose by starting to act like the professional that you are. After talking with colleagues like Marta Stelmaszak, Lloyd Bingham and Andrew Morris about the no-wins of acting unprofessionally online, I decided to write down the 5 most important reasons that I reckon that are necessary for a professional to be at his prime. The others? Well, no matter how hard they try, professionals in full they will never be, and that’s that.

 

CAVE CAVE DEUS VIDET
(Be careful, for God is watching)

eye

Bosch’s The Seven Deadly Sins and the Four Last Things sums up the first point perfectly – be careful with what you say online, for God sees. And I don’t mean the biblical God, but clients. Take Facebook, for instance – there are thousands of pages about the world of translation and interpretation, and I am sure that even the most amenable one has had trouble with some of its users. Take the page Standing Out; to my knowledge, it’s the most balanced page in terms of manners, and even so the page and its users have been greeted with sourness in the past by previous users.

Let’s be honest – SO users (and I am one) do discuss all the time about what goes on in the trade, we tip each other to the best of our knowledge and we happen to gather in the same place without ranting, be it online or in real life, without being nasty to each other and always with a good dose of not too balanced humour. Because other groups can’t even dream of how good those users get along without needing to chop each other’s heads, they prefer to call it a cult, a placebo, etc. Not a problem, we ignore it as the adults that we are. We welcome everyone that wants to grow professionally while having fun, but no one’s obliged to enter. We also do not rule with an iron fist and act like we’re heaven sent mana.  

On the opposite end you have pages that travel great lengths to create sourness and that rely heavily on bad manners; take The League of Extraordinary Translators, for one, where besides the regular bashing of other pages/groups/people, its users sometimes turn against each other as well. Maybe that’s because the group’s administrators are the ones that promote most of the discordance and antagonism to start with, indirectly and directly driving users to follow their steps. Or even Things Translators Never Say, a group that exists so translators can let some steam out after a hard day’s work.

I do love (and have the need) to blow off steam. For that, I sometimes play videogames. I do read as well, and exercise at the gym whenever I can. I even cook and sometimes throw darts at a Nigel Farage poster that I have in my office. Not at the same time, as you might have guessed. However, this page has become a cesspool where its users charge against each other and where clients are treated like sewage. In the beginning, TTNS WAS fun, but lately things got so out of proportion that I wonder why people go so low. Because I see new translators starting up their businesses almost every day, here are my three questions: have you ever heard of top-notch, exquisite customer service? Even if you haven’t, is this what you want to be remembered for in the eyes of newcomers? Is this the legacy you want to leave to the ones that one day will succeed you?

So, in my view, you have a page that is interested in creating a community of translators who know that, no matter what, there will never be rudeness involved (Standing Out), a page where disagreements, arguments and rudeness are the chef’s special (The League of Extraordinary Translators) and finally a page where translators wander in circles talking rubbish that will not only not help them as it proves to be pointless after a while, turning them into worse businesspeople. Even its name (Things Translators Never Say) makes you think – if it’s not to be said, why do people insist on saying the things they do? How do I know this? I once was a member of all three groups, and opted to remain a member of Standing Out only after a while.

Now let’s pretend you are a client looking for a professional and you are told that translator X might fit the glove. All of a sudden, you see him blabbering, being rude or talking nonsense about translators on a Facebook page. All things considered, will you still contact him/her in order to do the job?

Oh, but clients don’t view those pages, you know?” – You might say. All I can answer to you is “Oh really?!” Most people have no idea of the amount of former freelance translators that suddenly opened a boutique/premium agency and that often go to pages like the above mentioned three looking for professionals. After all, they were translators once, it only makes sense that they know where to look. So, your idea of getting more work and even being eligible for a long lasting relationship with a premium agency or client is to be rude, disrespectful and ill-mannered towards others for whatever reasons in the same places where clients may be hanging? Call it what you want – in the end, it’s nothing less than burning bridges. People talk. Clients outside the industry may ask for a recommendation of other translators, and guess who will never be recommended?

 

WHAT YOU SAY REFLECTS WHO YOU ARE

mirror

I’m honestly not the happy-go-lucky type of person. I mean, it’s not that I am a pessimist, but I like to have my feet firmly set on the ground while my mind wanders and travels. On the other hand, I do try to find positivity in everything around me. If something turns out to be a bad surprise, then at least it will be a good lesson. Such a thing happened recently enough after I joined a professional translators’ association, IAPTI. I decided to make the investment as I had heard good things about the association and also because I recognize the positive and legitimate contributions of people like Aurora Humarán or Attila Piróth to our trade, amongst others. Moreover, luminaires like Noam Chomsky are honorary members of the association, so I tried it without thinking twice.

However, I was shocked to discover that the person in charge for IAPTI’s ethics committee (something in the likes, pardon me if it’s some other title) periodically fomented plain, simple rudeness with posts like “Is it me or translator xyz is full of crap?” Promoting attacks against whoever it maybe, especially on social media, is as low as it gets. Politicians themselves don’t do it, so why should someone in charge of an ethics committee (or whatever its name may be) be foolish enough to? I took the time to read IAPTI’s Code of Ethics and what I found left me speechless: as far as I could gather, the person in charge for the Ethics Committee broke the Code that she should have been enforcing instead of denigrating, namely points 1.3, 2.4, 2.5, 3.2, 3.3, 3.8, 4.1, 4.3 and 4.4. I wish I could say “Oh, the irony”, but there’s nothing particularly funny about this to begin with.

Needless to say, I contacted Aurora Humarán regarding this issue and she obviously told me something in the lines of everyone having the right to their opinion and that what each person thinks is not directly related with IAPTI. Fair enough. She was kind enough to invite me to have a chat with her over Skype to discuss this matter, and I even added her, but in the meantime (due to professional and academic commitments) I took a rain check on the offer until I forgot about it.

It goes without saying that I did not renew my IAPTI membership in 2016 exactly because I do not feel well in a place where someone in charge of the ethics committee promotes digress, controversy and bad personal manners when said person should be doing the exact opposite. I don’t see ITI or CiOL colleagues acting poorly, so why should I not give those institutions a try instead? All this to say that what you say online not only gets noticed by clients but by peers as well. So what would you think of joining a vegan group that more often than not goes to McDonalds? Exactly. We should practise what we preach, and if we don’t we can bid farewell to our credibility.

 

LOW PAYING CLIENTS AND AGENCIES ARE THE DEVIL

satan

Of course they are. And all Muslims are terrorists, all men are sexist pigs and all politicians are dishonest. Why not take it to the next level and create an Inquisition Cabinet strictly for direct clients and agencies? What usually happens is that rude people usually talk too much and listen too little, are full of certainties and do not allow the other side to speak their piece. They are so certain that a client or an agency is the devil that the first thing they do is to create vitriol (and here we can go back to the same herd mentality I’ve referred above). Only (sit down, please)… they aren’t.

Clients and agencies are an essential part of the negotiation process of our business. Without them, you and I have no work. I also know that there are plenty of bad clients and agencies around, from bottom feeders to non-payers, but then again, are we talking about the majority of clients and agencies? Should we just make up our mind and take things for granted when in fact there’s more to it than that?

In this matter, let’s look at Things Translators Never Say, for one. All you see from the time you log in to the time you log out is people going around in circles, crying “WOLF!” out loud so the entire village hears it and, tomorrow, it will happen all over again. And the day after tomorrow. And the day after that. Until you come to a point that you ask yourself “Is this all there is to it, talk rubbish about clients and agencies and bad rates?” Think: what will that achieve? Are you on social media to try to develop your business or to rant about how bad agency 1 or client 2 is? Is this what you call being a professional? Because it’s everything but.

Then it gets more serious when there are those who even publish confidential information on pages like this thinking they are being smart when in fact they just are making a fool of themselves, not to mention that this practice is obviously illegal and subject to criminal prosecution. Does NDA ring a bell, anyone?! But what is more alarming is the fact that said people are unfair, unjust and also liars, all this because they think they’re somehow on a higher plane of existence and that clients and agencies are ignorant peasants straight from the middle-ages. I won’t comment the absurdity of it all, I’ll just say that a translator like this not only is unprofessional as word gets around real fast about this sort of prima donnas, especially amongst agencies.

Again: it’s OK to say no to delirious propositions from agencies and clients that try to take advantage of us. However, saying no isn’t the same as acting like you’re fighting the devil or being delusional enough to think that without you the world would not be the same. Because it would. And this last part takes us right into the next point.

 

LEAVE YOUR EGO AT THE DOOR

your_egoI’m sure you’ve already heard about certain translators for their notorious behaviour. In their minds, our trade would be far less good without them. They are the ones that insist on stomping other translators because said translators have different opinions and opt to have a different approach to their businesses. They’re the same ones that can’t go a day without saying how much they plan to earn next quarter. And they are happy in their little world, because they think this is what makes them successful and professional, earning plenty of money and having a formed opinion about everything.

Then, said translators are cast aside in real life (let’s say at translator events) by their peers, exactly because they have no real life social skills to begin with. Unless you think that being rude will gather you graces (and in that case you are very wrong), what is your excuse? Some do it because it’s the only way they have to be noticed, while others because they in fact think that they are very special snowflakes that only fall from the sky in the most remote mountain regions of Japan. In August. When the moon covers the sun at exactly 1.53 PM.

It goes without saying that there are good and bad translators, but that doesn’t give one the right to act rudely on those that are bad. Will it make you a better translator? Will your workload increase? Then why do it? There is no answer to this, except that some people’s egos are so big that said people don’t even realize how ridiculous they appear to be to others.

We certainly should go against the grain and say that something is not right when we know what we’re talking about, but even that requires manners. That’s what differentiates us from apes. Hence, and unless you plan to be eating bananas for a long time, my suggestion is act like the unique individual that you are – not less than anyone else, but certainly not more than anyone else either. While some may say that this involves personality, and we all know each person has its own, why should it clash with professionalism? You can have a rather unique or difficult personality, but can afford to be a lousy professional by being rude?

 

 

IGNORE ARGUMENTS AND MIND YOUR OWN… WELL, YOUR BUSINESS, LITERALLY

matlab-optional-arguments

The internet is a pitfall that relies on the lack of paralanguage – intonation, volume, sarcasm, scorn… most of the times you might not understand at first what people have said, and this can lead to attrition. I am very sure that if you’re an ongoing Internet surfer you’ve experienced this at least once, so you know where I’m going.

However, other times you know all too well what people mean. Less than a month ago I was discussing with another colleague about rates and premium agencies paying at least 12 or 14 euro cents per word, and a third colleague posted a picture that said that 15 euros cents per word is a chimera, something unachievable. I replied that there’s so much more than meets the eye and that 15 euro cents per word is ridiculously low when top established colleagues sometimes charge more than 1 euro per word.

Another translator started asking me for names of said premium agencies, scorning and doubting, and most certainly filled with envy (I honestly believed that envy was a product of an old wives’ tales, but I was wrong). I let her have the last word and replied no more, exactly because I do like to discuss things, but I like more to invest my time with like-minded and open-minded people. Little does the person know that I do invest thousands of euros yearly traveling and meeting and networking with colleagues, and that things develop naturally from that point on. As a matter of fact, I do know a couple of dozen premium agencies worldwide, most of which contacted me as I was referred to them by colleagues or asked me if I knew someone specialised in a specific area out of my bounds.

I do sometimes put them in touch with premium agencies when I realise they are legit and that my references won’t backfire. Now why would I do that to someone I’ve never worked with, or to someone that interrupts a discussion only to throw acid and vitriol at me? In short, arguments gets you blacklisted, which is not a very savvy way of conducting a business. But lo and behold, this is the Internet, that place where some people tend to mistake liberty with libertine.

Because of all of the above, I asked my colleague Lloyd Bingham if he would mind me using small excerpts of one of his articles on this matter as I can’t obviously top a native English speaker, but more importantly because his tips sum up everything a professional should do in order to mind what really matters. They are as follows:

  • Clients who won’t pay our rate or offer low rates are an opportunity for education. We should not waste it with patronising, smart alec answers. If they won’t listen, don’t work for them;
  • Criticism of our methods or ideas offer us a chance to challenge ourselves and promote healthy debate with our industry.

Not one of these issues has ever been solved with the anger, frustration and hostility that they are often been treated with. This leads to us becoming more closed-minded, distrustful, desperate, less ambitious and, ultimately, worse business people. Some principles that should guide us when confronted with someone or something we don’t agree with are:

  • Assume good faith if faced with an undesirable scenario. Assume misguided views rather than malice. You will always be the bigger person;
  • Don’t take things personally. There’s no ‘I’ in translation community… there are two. The industry is bigger than a single person;
  • Don’t go in with all guns blazing. If there’s something that a client or colleague has done that still makes your blood boil, write an angry message… and then delete it;
  • Attack the argument, never the individual. Personal attacks are the epitome of unprofessionalism and any reasonable arguments immediately lose all validity once the sleeves are rolled up;
  • What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas. What goes on between our clients – potential or long-standing – is between us as individuals and them… no-one else. Not only is publically slamming unprofessional, you also risk breaking any NDAs you may have signed with clients and any codes of conduct of professional associations that you are a member of;
  • Set an example to the next generations. New translators are sponges. They absorb everything their elders say and do. Lead by example;
  • Challenge those who conduct themselves unprofessionally. As Edmund Burke allegedly said: “All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing”.

With this in mind, and even though it’s easier said than done, we should be better than who we are and struggle with ourselves in order to do so. Someone said nasty things about you on the Internet?  Not a problem, refer to the ad hominem attacks above and ignore them or outsmart them with a logical and professional answer. This or that client offered you a lousy rate to begin with? Not a problem, refer to the clients that won’t pay our rate above and explain this to them or ignore them. Finally, and like Lloyd pointed out, we should set an example to the next generations. We all started somewhere and we all have our share of responsibility to make the trade as professional as we like to be treated, so be good and stay good. As usual, all comments are more than welcome and encouraged, so be my guest and feel free to enter the discussion. Best of luck.

Comments (18)

  1. Audra

    “Maybe that’s because the group’s administrators are the ones that promote most of the discordance and antagonism to start with, indirectly and directly driving users to follow their steps.”

    That’s funny. I’m an admin on The League of Extraordinary Translators and I hardly participate these days. In fact, I haven’t been around much for the greater part of 2015, and certainly not 2016 as my mom was dealing with a severe illness and unfortunately just passed away…

    So, who are the administrators you speak of?

    • First and foremost, sincere condolences for the passing of your mother. As for your question, and speaking from the time I still was a League member, I do remember you talking trash and vitriol about other translators, not to mention addressing colleagues that felt you were being aggressive (this is not me saying, it’s them). The Dutch admin (page owner, maybe?) is notorious for the same behaviour, even if he does it a bit lightly, and so did Rose Newell (I think she was still admin when I was a member, I am not certain though), but then again that’s not even shocking, just the usual. Like you three, a few other non-admin members as well that happily followed your lead, which led me to believe in herd mentality. Thus my comment about the admins promoting discordance and acting unprofessional, this is everything but a lie, or at least that is my opinion, and that was one of the major reasons that made me leave the page. As for 2015 and (especially) 2016, I cannot comment as I wasn’t there anymore and I opt to invest my time away from this sort of behaviour, but still there were at least two topics where admins acted poorly towards others (2015, I believe). I just thought “Same old…”, which says everything. Finally, and unfortunately, it is everything but funny. In fact, it’s sad, but who am I to say to anyone “Treat others the way you want to be treated”? Thank you for your comment, Audra.

  2. Audra

    You are absolutely and unequivocally wrong. What a shocking and inflammatory comment. Frankly, I’m quite disappointed in you.

    I have only *once* engaged in “talking trash” as you so eloquently put it… and that was against an awful translation and a translator purporting herself to a native in a language she is not. That is an outright lie and I don’t stand for liars in this business. Quite frankly, that is damaging to our industry and damaging to our reputation.

    I find your comments to be quite distasteful and quite disappointing. In fact, I have never even interacted with you until this very moment, so it’s quite perplexing to me that you even care what I have to say.

    As for addressing colleagues who are acting aggressively, that is precisely what a group administrator does: doles out warnings for members who are acting rudely or aggressively. We don’t censor any posts in the group because we don’t believe in that, but aggression and rudeness are not tolerated.

    I will be sharing your post and your blog with the rest of the League. You cannot impugn people behind their backs. Allow themselves the opportunity to defend themselves against your baseless accusations.

    • Hello again, Audra. Not only I am not wrong (I mean, this is not hearsay, I saw such beaviour on the League, which prompted me to leave) as others have seen it as well, some leaving exactly because of the poor manners expressed by some participants of the group, admins and otherwise. Unless, of course, you are suggesting that everyone else is a liar as well, and in that case maybe it’s not me who is inequivocally wrong.

      I do apologize for saying “trash”, looking back it wasn’t one of my better moments, but then again that’s how some people feel in the League after not too long, which is also why they leave. In any case, my apologies for using that term.

      I do care about everything a colleague has to say when it comes to the trade, whether it’s positive or negative, and I do act accordingly. If I see it’s correct, I point it out. If it’s not, I point it out as well. Hence this article of opinion.

      Please go back a bit and then tell me I am lying, which is something I do not take lightly as that is obviously damaging to my reputation.

      “We don’t censor any posts in the group because we don’t believe in that, but aggression and rudeness are not tolerated.”

      The saying is old: Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?

      I am not impugning anyone on their backs, so much so that this post has been online for almost a month and has been discussed thoroughly on the web (from FB to Twitter). What you mean is that MAYBE the people I mentioned from the League haven’t read it yet, but I am not a paperboy, nor do I feel I have to inform someone from a group I am not part of anymore of my latest article. After all, and again, everything expressed here is a mere opinion mixed with facts and my vision of the trade, and I do answer for everything that I say. I am sorry if somehow I disappointed you; since we’ve never interacted before, I am not certain why should you care if I disappoint you or not.

      Notwithstanding, some of the threads where said acid and vitriol were being thrown freely at several people have in fact been deleted a long time ago by someone at the League, or else I could actually point said threads. However, like me several other people remembers those threads, so much so that they were discussed in length at the time, which makes me believe I am still sane and not a liar.

      Again, thank you for your comments.

  3. Audra

    It is clear that I was referencing my “colleague” who falsely claimed to be a native in English, not you, with this part:

    “[…] that was against an awful translation and a translator purporting herself to a native in a language she is not. That is an outright lie and I don’t stand for liars in this business. Quite frankly, that is damaging to our industry and damaging to our reputation.”

    I didn’t call you a liar.

    Methinks you have misunderstood many, many things you have read on the internet. In any case, your blog post has been shared on the League (coincidentally, not by me!). I just find it funny how someone who left the group is all of a sudden such a maven on its inner workings.

    I have never engaged in rude behavior towards anyone. And, truth be told, the above incident I reference? I hadn’t even posted names: I posted an anonymous snippet of the awful translation. What happened after that was left up to the universe: people googled it and found her website where she made false claims. But isn’t that the lesson here, in a way? You put things onto the internet, and others are bound to find them and comment on them. ;) I stand by what I did. Like I said, I don’t tolerate liars.

    Ta ta! :)

    • I may have misunderstood you, but as for the “many, many things on the internet” I like to think I do have a good understanding of what is going on, at the very least because I am in the business much like you do.

      Good to know you didn’t, as it takes facts and not just free will to call someone a liar.

      You may think you haven’t, while I think you have. Maybe our concepts of rude are different, that would explain it.

      In short, and much like I was used to in the League and in other groups, conversations innevitably start to go round in circles or lead nowhere.

      I do however appreciate the time you took to speak your piece. Regards.

  4. Ines

    Just one quesion: How do you know current circumstances in the groups so heavily criticized by you if you haven’t been a member for more than a year?

    • Hello, Ines, and thank you for commenting. Great question, I myself wouldn’t have asked a more relevant question after reading the 3500+ words above, it only proves that taking the time to write about the trade is so ever rewarding. And because great questions demand nothing less than great answers, here goes: I don’t. And I don’t know where you read that I know current circumstances of any groups where I am not at. Feel free to ask any other questions, even if they’re not as important as this one.

        • I am sorry that you think that way, but that’s the only thing that I could have answered between such a large article and your question. If I seemed arrogant I do apologise, what I mean is that you could have provided so many better questions and still you chose one that in no way is related with this article. Again, I haven’t been in TTNS and TLOET for more than a year, and so it would be impossible for me to know what happens there except if someone would post something taken out of those groups. The groups I attend would not, so…

          • Ines

            I chose this question for a good reason. I wondered what gives you the right to heavily criticize groups you’ve not been in for more than a year. I am new to the business and even newer to those groups, all I personally experienced was a really warm welcome from lovely colleagues and I am more than happy I found them.
            Further, I can’t make any statemtents or comments on things that happened before I became a member there, so I don’t. I did not and still do not want to enter into an extensive discussion, because to me, it is just ridiculous to criticize bashing of colleagues by publicly (!!) bashing them. This has absolutely nothing to do with decent and professional behaviour on the internet.
            I accept your apology, though.

          • Hello again, Ines. I am not criticizing said groups, but rather the less fortunate situations that take place therein on very many occasions and that curiously originate from the same people, time and time again. I know you are new to the business and to those groups, and I also know you experienced a really warm welcome from colleagues – after all, I was one of them, and glad that you have found us.

            That’s exactly what I have been trying to say without saying it, Ines – I myself have been working for the past 5/6 years in the trade, and when it comes to social media at some given point you start to see the same behaviours from the same old people for nothing else than a god complex.

            How do they prove they are better? They throw their monthly earnings at you and their list of clients at first (as if these are arguments to prove your worth as a person or as a professional) and they lash out at other translators that decide to do things differently. Sit back, enjoy the ride and let’s have this same conversation a couple of years from now, after you’ve gathered enough experience to make an educated opinion.

            Notwithstanding, and to be very clear, I am not bashing groups or people, on the contrary, but I am certainly saying that this or that way of doing/saying things is wrong. Me and dozens of others have however been bashed by those groups and some of that people, and yet we moved on to greener pastures.

            I mean, if it were one or two people having the same opinion, OK, maybe it wasn’t enough to find a pattern. I am literally talking about DOZENS of people (some of whom I have interviewed to write this piece of opinion) who have been subject to unpolite behaviour by the same “top of the field” (or at least they think they are) colleagues.

            Thank you for at least accepting my apologies, they were sincere.

  5. Cedomir Pusica

    Hi Loek,
    Thank you for a long article and keeping me awake well after midnight. I had to read it as Facebook groups make a large part of my day and honestly I am still quite surprised at the tsunami of discontent that’s sweeping through them at the moment. I never thought it could come to this, but it has.
    My two cents:
    I am member of all those groups you mentioned, but the only one I am very active in is Things Translators Never Say. I occasionally visit and write or like something in the other groups. Recently, it was not only me, but other colleagues as well, who noticed that TTNS (again, my favorite group) has turned out to be a plain ranting group, with newbies just doing what you nicely summarized in this article. However, there is more to this group than just that. There are still people who lightheartedly joke and do not pretend to be the best translators in the world, who know their place in the big scheme of things in the translation industry and just want to laugh a bit. But the group got big and I understand why admins can’t control everything.
    As far as the League goes, I may have drifted away for I felt somewhat lectured there (not personally did anyone ever lecture me, but the prevailing tone of voice was holier than thou), so I just slowly moved forward, while still visiting it and occasionally participating. The Standing Out attracted me in the beginning – very much so. But at one particular point, I stopped being very active there: it became the complete opposite of the current TTNS. What I mean is that a culture seems to have developed where people were going out of their way to tell others how fantastic deals they had that day and how great they are in what they do and how much they have just reaped or will reap in the next few days that it appeared so sad. So, on the one hand you had the TTNS trash talk, on the other – the super-excited great gurus. Oh, and the constant posh lifestyle promoted… I mean, yes, we do need to understand that a posh lifestyle can be our reality or is already, but insisting on it so much gets heavy. I do, however, share Andrew’s positive thinking and the obvious belief in the laws of attraction (thinking of something you want so bad that it has no choice but to materialize). For me it works like a charm :) But still, let us not exaggerate. Another thing I didn’t like about SO was the constant branding and “let’s earn some money out of this” attitude. Patenting this and that and branching out patents, well, it’s legit, but I didn’t want to be too much involved in it.
    All that said, I still believe that all groups were created with noble ideas behind. The admins certainly had great expectations and wanted the best. But the herd has a mentality of its own and groups get out of control. We always may choose what to read, what to contribute and what to avoid. Lead by example. Sorry for such a long post, but one thing after another… :)
    Regards,

    • Hello, Cedomir.

      Let me just start by correcting you: I am not called Loek, but João. I’m guessing you confused me with someone else, but if that made you read the article in full (especially because it took quite some time, research and concertation with another colleague), feel free to confuse me with whomever you want anytime. :-)

      It’s a bit late here and I still have college to attend tomorrow, so pardon me if I do not answer your full comment but its highlights:

      “Recently, it was not only me, but other colleagues as well, who noticed that TTNS (again, my favorite group) has turned out to be a plain ranting group, with newbies just doing what you nicely summarized in this article. However, there is more to this group than just that. There are still people who lightheartedly joke and do not pretend to be the best translators in the world, who know their place in the big scheme of things in the translation industry and just want to laugh a bit. But the group got big and I understand why admins can’t control everything.”

      Exactly my point. When I started as a member of TTNS I usually found myself laughing sometimes at my screen, exactly because it was funny at times. Hypocrisy aside, I also posted some blabber about a client or two, and even not insulting them, fun it was. All of a sudden, day turned to night and I started seeing users clashing against one another, insulting clients blatantly and posting images of NDA’s and so on and so forth.

      Even though I do have immense respect for Erik Hansson as a professional and as a human being, I do think something went south long ago. I am not saying it’s his fault, as after all it must be dramatic to manage so many people, but I didn’t feel well there, so I left. Plenty of colleagues of mine are there, I know for a fact that they have a laugh as sometimes they repost topics in other groups I attend, but anyway who am I to judge them or anyone else? However, when I don’t feel well somewhere, I leave.

      “The Standing Out attracted me in the beginning – very much so. But at one particular point, I stopped being very active there: it became the complete opposite of the current TTNS. What I mean is that a culture seems to have developed where people were going out of their way to tell others how fantastic deals they had that day and how great they are in what they do and how much they have just reaped or will reap in the next few days that it appeared so sad.”

      I see where you’re going with this, and I wholeheartedly understand what you say. You’re not the first person to say that SO is all about pink unicorns and rainbows, or that we behave like a cult, or a placebo, or what have you. I do understand it must be pretty hard for someone new in (or even an outsider of) SO to see that we get along so well that we have already met in real life twice and are planning to do so again this year. Let me know if you wan’t to be part of it, who knows if you won’t like it.

      You can call SO whatever you like – cult, placebo, church of the last days of the looney scribes (which we certainly are, scribes and looney in a good sense, that is), etc. What happens is that no matter your point of view, we will not treat you like a sub-professional. If you think something is wrong or if you disagree, we will not tell you “f**k you”. Everyone wanting to join is welcome. Everyone wanting to leave is free to do so without the chance of having someone knocking at his/her door in the middle of the night. However, anyone with a lack of basic home manners and with a sweet tooth for discordance or an unstable personality will certainly be kicked out. To the best of my knowledge (which means I can be wrong), two people out of more than 2000 have been kicked out, one of them for the previously mentioned and one other for some reason I do not know and can only guess.

      As for the posh lifestyle, let me tell you for a fact that while some colleagues in SO do earn 5 figures a month, you don’t see us bragging and pulling rank about it (like that would make us better professionals…). If we show a new Porsche, that’s all because we earned it. If it was you, the first thing that would cross my mind would be to cheer you for it. The same goes for meeting every year and for travelling to wherever the call may come from. Have you ever showed a crisp new pair of sneakers or a watch to the ones you work with or to friends? That’s basically what we do. And let me tell you that I do honestly rejoice for a colleague when he succeeds. Because that’s who we are. We’re not gurus, but we go along very well. That’s why we met in London just for the joy of seeing the regular faces again since two years ago in Paris.

      Some other groups blatantly scream in public how much they earn and who they have deals with, etc. Personally, my site speaks for me, and I don’t have the need to go out in public saying how much I earn. My big and small clients are all paired up, as I respect them all. I do not talk about my earnings for two reasons, though: where I come from, it is considered rude to talk about earnings, even with friends, and I mean RUDE, that’s the education that I got from my parents, I do stick to it everyday. The other one is that it’s no one’s business, not much more to be said about this.

      As for the money I made out of SO, maybe you wouldn’t believe me if I told you that in no way it matches the expenses I have had so far with meetings, travels and everything else in between. In fact, what I earned from SO so far was people who I can call friends (not colleagues or acquaintances, but friends) without a doubt. :-)

      “All that said, I still believe that all groups were created with noble ideas behind. The admins certainly had great expectations and wanted the best. But the herd has a mentality of its own and groups get out of control. We always may choose what to read, what to contribute and what to avoid. Lead by example.”

      I’m sure they were, yes. And I am fairly certain (or at least I believe that) one or two people is not enough to oversee a large groups like TTNS or TLOET, not at all. But believe me when I tell you that of the discussed three groups, one barely has the need to have admins and what have you. And it’s 2000 members and climbing, so I’m guessing that it might rival in terms of members with other large groups. But you hit it with “the herd has a mentality of its own”, that’s what I have been seeing for so long, not just in translation but basically in everything.

      It was a pleasure to read your comment, no need to apologise. Best regards to you as well and thank you for commenting. :D

      • Hold on João, what money have you made out of Standing Out? How do you make any money out of it at all? Why on earth are you describing it as if it were a business venture, comparing income with expenses?

        Surely if you enjoy seeing these people so much, you wouldn’t consider the money you spent on travel as “expenses” that ought to be offset against the income you’re going to make from: sure that degrades the entire idea that it IS possible to have friendships between professional colleagues, we do enjoy meeting up, and spend a certain amount of money doing so, many of us, although probably less than we’d spend on commuting if we had an office job. Meeting up with colleagues isn’t something that Standing Out invented – although restricting the “Standingoutaganzas” to members of the group in good-standing is not something done by similar groups that organise such events (TTNS, ProZ, ITI, IAPTI…).

        • Hello, Nigel, and thanks for commenting.

          I do not comment what I earn and how I earn it either with relatives or the closest friends, so I think you’ll understand if I decline talking about it with a complete stranger (you, that is). However, any SO reader knows exactly what I’m talking about. Everyone wanting to know more can always join SO.

          I do enjoy seeing those colleagues, yes, and I do have to consider my expenses like any normal professional, especially when my travels tend to increase year after year. Moreover, and because every event has a professional side to it (normally in the form of workshops), it’s nothing more than investing in the mid-long term.

          You confuse the group of Standing Out with translation associations, which are 90% business and 10% socializing (so to say, of course), while when we meet we dedicate a fair percentage of time to business and the rest to enjoy meeting up again, thus nothing alike like you suggest. Last time in London, for instance, and since it was my first trip to the UK, I opted to arrive 4 days earlier to get to know a bit of the city and enjoy myself. And then I opted to go meet family in Exeter after that. What should have been 2 days ended up being 8, and idle as I may be, business is going good enough for me to just go without having to care too much.

          You are right, SO didn’t invent any of this, but I don’t understand what you mean when you say that the events are restricted to SO members when they’re not, and the last event was a good example. However, I would understand if they were – why should we mix with undesirable people? And why should people that find us undesirable mingle with us? It makes no sense if you ask me, even though every attendee so far has been great to get to know, even those that are not members of Standing Out. As for other online group pages (and I mean non-associative ones), I can’t comment as I’ve only attended SO meetings and association meetings, but judging by what I saw there online, I’d rather go bungee jumping off a cliff without the elastic rope.

          Thanks for passing by. :-)

  6. blind to your own arrogance

    you won’t care, because you’re blind to how everything you rail against is a 100% accurate description of YOURSELF!! but just wanted to point out how many people think you’re arrogant and a horrible person. congrats to you.

    • Hello, “mysterious” person (not that mysterious, really, as your type of writing exposed you entirely). All I can say in reply to your rant is this: I do not think you’re blind, arrogant and horrible, exactly because I do not know you from anywhere, especially not from real life. I do KNOW however that you are the type of character depicted in the article – pouncing instead of debating, biting instead of talking, and unable to prove a point without acting unprofessional. What I did not know about you was that you were coward enough to not even give up your face or name, but then again that is your prerrogative. On a final note, God’s speed to you too.

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