Charlie Bavington

Professional French to English Translator - Business and I.T.

Bringing a pragmatic eye to meeting your needs


January 29th, 2016 | Categories: social media

This post was originally left unfinished some months ago, but is resurrected following a brief Twitter exchange last week.

There were, back in 2015, three triggers. First, months ago, I did some housekeeping on my list of usernames and passwords, and tried to unsubscribe or delete myself or whatever was required from a number of sites, either because the site itself was moribund or my interest in it was. This included 8 translation-related sites. Nine if you include which I’m sure I joined but have no idea under what username…

Second, in the autumn of 2015, I was invited to join a new translation discussion forum, unconnected to any existing site or platform.

Third, a handful of blog posts in recent months that have generated a certain level of lively debate, verging on actual argument, the ripples from which then spread from the original source. Sometimes, that spread was to Facebook. I’m not a member of Facebook, and it was to my mind regrettable that some of the views on Facebook were not expressed on the blogs themselves. (That said, the principle stands wherever the ripples might reach.)

Other times, the author/blogger freely scattered their own content to the winds. Assuming the perfectly reasonable desire to reach the largest possible audience, it’s hard to be too churlish about that approach. It is, however, easy to be frustrated at the fragmentation of relevant comments that results, even when one is able to read them. I don’t want to bounce around like a cyber mountain goat to gain the full picture.

All of which, chums, is indicative of what I’ve been wondering about for a couple of years, probably longer.

Because the legacy of 12+ years translating, and despite the aforementioned cull, is that I’m a member of the following online venues that offer the opportunity to post, discuss and generally interact:
– Proz: despite its faults, which I’ve learned to live with.
– Translator’s Café: I rarely visit these days.
– LinkedIn: one login, but any number of groups available. I’m in 10 translation-related groups, and LinkedIn suggests more are available. Ten would be too many to monitor properly even if LinkedIn were the only website in the world. At least 2 of those LinkedIn groups, the CIoL and IAPTI, have separate forums of their own on their own websites. (Ditto I think the ITI, of which I am not a member).
– Viadeo: a francophone LinkedIn, which I don’t visit often.
– CIoL: since I mentioned it, has a brand spanking new forum that no-one uses. It also has a bunch of groups on Yahoo
– Yahoo: a rotten user interface, and I’m somehow still a member of 8 different translation-related groups (some admittedly mainly for terminology questions), despite leaving a couple in recent years.
– Twitter, obvs.
– UK Business forum: if it came in a tin, it would do what it said on it. Serves to illustrate the wider point that this issue reaches beyond there being too many translation forums. There are forums for other subjects too. Including subjects of interest to our target clients.

Despite my farcical and unmanageable number of memberships, I know I’m still not privy to the full gamut of online translator talk. I am also starting to realise that the only place I get to hear from a vast array of people I “know” (in the online sense) and whose opinions and comments I appreciate is on their own blogs and the comments they leave on other people’s. Which is a fairly unmethodical and time-consuming way of gleaning useful information or having a meaningful discussion.

When this issue first started to keep me awake at night, I hankered for the days when Flefo on Compuserve was pretty much the be all and end all (and also kept me awake at night, for in those days I was a programming monkey with an office job…). However, in truth monopolies are rarely ideal, including in online discussion. I’ve seen enough idiosyncratic moderating, clashes with site founders, or simple incompatibility with the prevailing view held by a dominant clique to know that just one forum, even if hypothetically possible, would be a Bad Idea.

And yet, just as having only one brand of baked beans to buy makes for poor grocery shopping while having two dozen brands to pick from leaves consumers bewildered and wandering off to buy custard instead, the plethora of translation talking shops leaves me thinking I’m probably better off ignoring them and watching the telly.

  1. February 10th, 2016 at 01:02
    Quote | #1

    I wonder, why do you resist Facebook? Because it spies on us too much?

    That was the reason why I bravely resisted Facebook, for a number o years I had an account but only used it to propagandize my silly blog posts and to spy on my children (with their permission). But when I joined IAPTI last year, I was forced to start participating in discussions on Facebook because that is how IAPTIers and various other organizations and cults communicate among their members. Now I spend too much time on FB because I want to know who is fighting with whom and why …. and sometime I jump into the fight myself, although I should know better.

    I agree that Yahoo interface is criminally stupid. Whatever else one might think about Facebook, it does have a smart interface.

    • Charlie
      February 10th, 2016 at 09:32
      Quote | #2

      Interesting choice of word there, “resist” 🙂

      I simply cannot be arsed with it. Yes, there is the privacy issue, but I use google so I can’t claim to be acting out of principle on that score. My real life friends who are users (which is by no means all of them) almost without exception spend more time moaning about it than extolling whatever virtues it might have. In fact, I don’t remember the last time someone mentioned FB to me socially in a positive way.

      The only comments I seem to see from the translation community about it are also hardly an incentive. You used the word “fighting”; I hardly see the word “Facebook” on Twitter without it being followed by the word “rant” (although admittedly often from a coterie who seem to feel that any expression of criticism qualifies as such).

      I do actually have a FB account for lurking purposes (so not under my real name, or anything remotely close to it), mainly because I wanted to see what use the translation community was making of FB. My first observation is that not many translation groups are open to lurkers, you have to join, and hence I do feel that those who bang on relentlessly about the harm to the “image” of the “profession” of some of the apparently spectacular spats on FB are exaggerating their effect. When I hear about them, I actively go looking, and always fail to find. I cannot give any credence to the view that clients are reading them in their droves and tutting disapprovingly about our behaviour. I’m not condoning the behaviour, just saying its impact is more akin to handbags in a dark pub car park than it is to a punch-up live on prime time.

      My second observation is that the FB content I can see is the same old same old. People bitching about fuzzy matches and payment terms, n00bs asking about invoicing and all the stuff discussed endlessly on forums that are actually designed for translators, not to line Zuckerberg’s tax-dodging pockets.

      As to whether anyone ever manages to secure clients using it, I don’t recall hearing any success stories (admittedly I could have filtered them out because of my bias).

      So all in all, I’m not sure I can see much value in joining the Facebook fray.

  2. February 12th, 2016 at 14:38
    Quote | #3

    Hi Charlie,

    I wouldn’t bother. Like Steve, I was obliged to open an FB account when I joined IAPTI. I’ve since left and will be glad to relinquish it.

    There is one translators’ site on FB that makes Proz look positively professional (and that really is saying something). It seems very popular although it’s not my thing. I agree with you about all the relentless banging on about harm to our image. I think the people writing about this are presumably referring to agencies. I don’t know how many would bother with such sites but to me the comment is irrelevant anyway. I am as near as dammit certain that none of my clients (mainly direct) would be wasting their time loitering around any translators’ FB groups.

  3. February 23rd, 2016 at 19:10
    Quote | #4

    Since you like to be in the picture and following on from your recent discussion on Steve’s blog I thought you might be interested in this blog post, if you haven’t seen it already:

    • Charlie
      February 23rd, 2016 at 21:53
      Quote | #5

      Thanks Lisa, I read it this afternoon and have the tab open as I consider whether to comment or not, but it’s good of you to come here and tell me (and any readers!) because I only really happened to catch a tweet about it & could easily have missed it 🙂

      Needless to say, I agree with the general thrust of the piece.

      I may be leaping to a wrong conclusion, but it strikes me at this point that the problem is primarily one with Facebook groups. I refer my right honourable friends to a comment I made in 2010.
      I am nothing if not ahead of the curve 🙂

  4. February 24th, 2016 at 08:10
    Quote | #6

    I really can’t judge as I don’t visit those FB sites. I’ve popped into one of them and seen reams of boring questions and then promptly left. Nor have I seen any of the high drama that is described. I’m not on Twitter either but trolling is evidently a problem there too. I’m not sure you can necessarily blame the platform per se. Actually I’m increasingly of the opinion that this is a generational clash. There’s always plenty of talk of healthy debate yet you’ll usually find that any form of criticism is immediately met with daggers. There may not be many years between us and the new crop of translators but there have been huge changes in the profession, and often the perceived “troublemakers” are the more experienced translators (of whom there are probably relatively few on social media) who know there is a better way and are fighting against low standards, translators diversifying and making money from colleagues and agency exploitation.

    • Charlie
      February 24th, 2016 at 11:15
      Quote | #7

      I was being a little facetious; that said, any problem there may be does seem to me to be largely confined to FB (which as you say has precious little to offer the discerning visitor) largely on the grounds that a) I’ve some experience with other channels (see OP!) & not seen a problem and b) when the nitty gritty, specific examples, are raised, they always seem to be on FB. It’s not particularly scientific reasoning, I’ll grant you 🙂

      In contrast, although if you read certain news sources you’d think Twitter was some kind of virtual gangland (and there is no doubt there is some ghastly behaviour), I’m on it every day and I see nothing in untoward in the translator community (and I’m following & followed by several hundred translators, solely to give you an idea of scale). So yes, I wouldn’t blame the platform per se, either, I’m really just trying to get a feel for how big a problem this really is. I think the answer might be “oh, pretty minor”. All of which is long-winded way of basically agreeing with you. Should I get a “like” button? 🙂

  5. February 24th, 2016 at 11:33
    Quote | #8

    I think it’s very minor indeed and detracts from more important issues. Claims about negative attitudes are usually brought by those with patches to protect. 😉 Ironically, writing articles about it (there was one in the ITI Bulletin) and presenting at conferences has brought any bad behaviour there might have been to the attention of the very agencies those delivering the message seem keen to impress. Those same agencies were probably thitherto as blissfully unaware of goings-on as we were.

  6. February 26th, 2016 at 00:10
    Quote | #9

    I just want to say to Lisa: I hope that you still have your FB account and will eventually start posting there again. I stayed away from it for as long as I could (hence the word “resist”, Charlie, until Au forced me to start participating in IAPTI via FB.

    We used to have some interesting discussions there every now and then, but now that you and Shai are gone, it is mostly a wasteland littered with cute kittens and puppies, plus the occasional photo of a scrumptious meal or “Melanie” updated her photo.

    Not a pretty picture.

  7. February 26th, 2016 at 09:11

    Thanks Steve. Yes we had some good conversations but those were within the confines of a private group. Since I resigned from IAPTI I see no particular reason to stay on FB though. I’m happy contributing on comments to blogs but am not generally one for social media and public platforms. Charlie can probably attest to the fact that once confidentiality is breached in a so-called private group I’m out of there.

  8. February 26th, 2016 at 22:11

    An overwhelming feeling of sadness overwhelms me ….

    Oh well, maybe you’ll comment on my blog one day, if you still read it.

    By the way, technically, blogs are social media too, and public platforms for sure, I think.

  9. February 27th, 2016 at 08:43

    Vlastik, I do still read your blog of course, along with two or three others.

    You’re right, of course blogs are public but they’re not my definition of social media. I view them a bit like a friend’s open party; there may be some good exchanges to be had and, if not, you can leave and maybe try again another time. Social media, however, is a bit more like sitting in McDonald’s on a Saturday night and watching all the dregs file past. You might get lucky and someone will join you for an interesting chat or you might eavesdrop on others having an equally stimulating conversation, but otherwise it’s mainly about looking at others’ meals, or the latest must-have fashion accessory. At its worst, it’s also about having to be confronted with boastful, self-congratulatory behaviour and some alarming political and ethical views from your so-called “friends”. Sorry, it’s not for me.

  10. March 4th, 2016 at 08:46

    I regularly leave shops or shut computer windows mumbling “Choice. Humph!” under my breath. It hit me the most back in the 80s when I returned from an extended period in the then Soviet Union, walked into a Sainsbury’s to be confronted by a 10 metre long aisle of yoghurts in every shape, size and flavour imaginable. Really? We need this much choice? I’ve never been good with choice.

    Charlie why don’t you consider a return to Stridonium? Steve, you can join us there. 🙂

    • Charlie
      March 4th, 2016 at 14:27

      I hear you. I recently bought a new laptop. It’s bewildering, even if you know broadly what you want (or think you do). Ditto mobile phones, also recently purchased. And indeed yoghurt. Although instantly ruling out the low fat versions saves time, I nearly always just get strawberry…

      In contrast, when a kid in France on a trip, I was amazed by the range of flavours of chewing gum they had compared to us. So I bought one of each to take home 🙂

      Never say never re: Strido but it seems unlikely in the immediate future. I daresay the technical issues that led to the heated discussion that in turn saw me head for the exit are fixed – the site appears to have been redesigned. But it’s still closed, and while I accepted that (while preferring openness) at the time, I’m not sure I see much reason to go back while that is the case. At this point, anyway. I can’t think of any subject I feel is best served by discussion behind closed doors. I respect other people’s right to feel differently, of course, but for me, it’s either up for public discussion, or no discussion at all. And I remain open to suggestions of translation-related subjects that even I might feel are best discussed in private. 🙂

  11. March 4th, 2016 at 15:14

    Yoghurt: only ever buy Greek plain to which anything gets added, if wanted, for flavour. For strawberry, I’d add a dollop of strawberry jam.

    Laptop: ditto, well, not Greek and no jam involved. I mean I also bought one recently and despite narrowing it down to one manufacturer, I spent an inordinate amount of time deliberating which one to get. Time that I will never get back.

    As for Strido, you left before I arrived so I don’t know what the technical issues were. However, I could compile a list in seconds of subjects that are best discussed in a closed group. It’s a very small group but the calibre is high and is one of only two closed groups I belong to. Other than that it’s only other people’s blogs. 🙂

    • Charlie
      March 4th, 2016 at 20:23

      Yes, it was always small. Much talk of expansion, which never really got anywhere concrete, the closed aspect was felt a stumbling block in that regard as I recall, because people couldn’t see what they were joining. Perhaps that has changed.

      The size never bothered me much at the outset, until I discovered the drawback that if one finds one or two frequent posters within a small community irritating, that effect is magnified because the proportion of irritating posts is corresponding higher, thereby somewhat spoiling one’s enjoyment of the whole. On a larger forum, one can simply read other stuff. On a smaller forum, other stuff is in scarcer supply.

      Hence, while that was not the catalyst (for info, a poor Search function was the technical issue that served as a trigger), I’ve not felt like returning for fear a similar situation situation might arise, given it is still usually described as “small” by those I talk to.

      Yes, perhaps “best served” was an ill-considered choice. The sentence that follows it reflects my current stance – regardless of whether it is “best” or not, perhaps we could all usefully reflect on the possibility of what we say reaching the public domain, and how we would feel if it did, and express ourselves accordingly. From there it is a small step to wondering why any professional forum should be private.

      I suspect I’m getting heartily sick of misuse and abuse of privacy generally, in every aspect of life. Whether it’s comments about threads I’m interested in that I can’t read because the conversation has drifted onto FB (or Strido 🙂 ) to more significant issues such as the privacy surrounding TTIP despite the fact it’s supposed to be brilliant for all of us, via my local council’s attitude to openness and accountability (they don’t like them), versus the government’s wish to know everything about my phone and laptop, it all seems to have gone haywire somewhere….

  12. March 5th, 2016 at 17:27

    I don’t think the fact that it’s closed is a stumbling block to expansion, there are at least 2 very popular FB translators’ groups where membership runs into the thousands. The problem is more likely to be that it is a paid group, everyone expects everything to be free these days.

    I take your point about irritants being magnified although it is not something I have experienced and other platforms such as Proz, even with its heavy-handed moderation, has enough irritants to make me run for the hills. I don’t think Proz’ size dilutes them.

    The Search function may have changed. I generally find it to be pretty good.

    This discussion has coincided with a blog post I was writing myself in which I’ve come to the conclusion that normal rules governing professional forums simply don’t apply to ours. We are unregulated and the numbers of cowboy translators/agencies and shoddy services being flogged to translators by our “colleagues” has reached epic proportions. Some of it is even too sensitive to discuss in so-called closed groups, let alone open ones.

    • Charlie
      March 5th, 2016 at 19:57

      Well quite, the point is they’re expecting people to pay for something unseen on the basis of a personal recommendation from someone else. I did. You have. Others obviously have and continue to do so. That willingness would though seemingly be in the minority. And my attitude to private forums has since (and recently) changed, to be honest. I suspect your conclusion about free stuff is probably bang on the money, as it were, in many cases.

      We should not overlook, either, that what we find irritating may be quite different. The two people I’m thinking of could still be there, doing their thing, and you’d wonder quite what it could be I find so annoying 🙂 ’tis the wonder of the human condition, its curse and its blessing, that we are not all alike…

      Interesting you have a blog post in the pipeline – me too after these recent comments! I look forward to reading what you have to say.

  13. March 7th, 2016 at 10:00
    • Charlie
      March 7th, 2016 at 23:57

      Interesting. Some might say scrutiny absolutely should be public… ‘course, might depend exactly what you mean.

      Meanwhile (more in line with my OP than this new discussion), I was aghast to read this list ( of the translator groups just on Facebook. And it’s not even all of them. Firstly why in the name of all that’s holy are there so many? It’s ludicrous. Secondly, where is the rhyme or reason between public and private? Random example: memoQ users in general – private; memoQ 2013 specifically – public. It’s preposterous and absurd.

  14. March 8th, 2016 at 09:27

    Indeed. It’s mental and, as you say, that’s not all of them. I don’t think there is any rhyme or reason behind the choice of public or private. I can’t think what Foodie Translators get up to that warrant privacy. 😉 As I think I imply in my blog post nobody seems to treat any of these FB groups as private anyway. Everything is shared.

    The scrutiny I had in mind was of some of the businesses selling services to translators, which you’ve no doubt also noticed have proliferated in the past five years or so. Many of these are offered by “colleagues” and people are understandably nervous about being seen to be critical of peers. There is a growing contingent that quite reasonably argues it is important to separate the personal from the business and scrutinise the latter objectively but you can see the difficulty in naming Joe Bloggs and discussing him on an open forum. It is not easy in closed ones either. I hope that goes some way towards explaining the perceived need for privacy.

    • Charlie
      March 8th, 2016 at 10:46

      Ah, yes, it seems we both have some of the same considerations in mind, although I fear in under those particular circumstances, I may reach a different conclusion. Personally, if people are slagging me off, I’d rather they had the balls to do it where I can least read it, and ideally respond. I doubt Lloyd enjoyed Simon Berrill’s blog last week, but at least he had the right of reply, as it were. If that had all been hidden from him, it would have been very unfair.
      That said, my notes for the blog post mentioned are full of questions at the moment… 🙂

  15. March 8th, 2016 at 11:10

    While I don’t agree with Lloyd’s views on this subject I do happen to think he became a scapegoat for many who are fed up of the guru brigade. He was an easy target and is by no means the worst offender. The businesses that are being embraced, indeed promoted by the professional associations are the ones I’m personally more concerned about and despite some attempts they have not shown themselves willing to engage in a debate and answer concerns, not even in a closed group. In fact, one or two come to mind who have proved to be rather aggressive when protecting their patch. Try it for yourself 😉

    • Charlie
      March 8th, 2016 at 12:43

      I think in that particular case, if he hadn’t chosen to co-present with Andrew Morris, he might have avoided some of the glare of negative publicity. Pleading a case for professionals not to openly criticise each other while sharing a stage with a man notorious for his unpleasant comments about others might be counter-productive (I don’t know if that is one of the cases you have in mind in your “protecting their patch” comment?). Anyhow, at this moment, my default position remains that discussion of this kind does benefit from being public, not least because everyone deserves to know if they are being criticised, but also because it could in fact help curb some of the worst excesses of private expression (cripes, I’m edging into Lloyd’s territory there 🙂 )

  16. March 8th, 2016 at 12:58

    I think Lloyd’s message was ridiculous with or without his co-presenter but it was probably worth ignoring. We blamed him for making a big deal out of nothing and then proceeded to make an even bigger deal out of it. Let’s just say I’m less concerned about the ones who are already notorious for unpleasant comments and more concerned about the ones who have tacit approval while flogging sub-standard nonsense to any newbies/wannabes desperate enough to pay for it. I’m no longer convinced we have a substantial enough contingent of discerning professionals to make any difference.

  17. March 8th, 2016 at 13:01

    Oh and no, that wasn’t the particular patch I had in mind when I made my comment.

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