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Can you really trust the Blue Board records? Guess not?
Thread poster: Anna Valjakka

Lingua 5B  Identity Verified
Bosnia and Herzegovina
Local time: 02:22
English to Croatian
+ ...
About our own experiences? Jul 28, 2016

esperantisto wrote:

What is this discussion about really? It is in the FAQ: How reliable is the Blue Board?


I believe it is pretty self-explanatory what this discussion is about, about real, first-hand experiences and conclusions drawn from them, then contrasted and compared with conclusions of others. You can't really compare that with a brief set of rules.


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Sheila Wilson  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 01:22
Member (2007)
English
+ ...
Some misinformation is inevitable Jul 28, 2016

There are many sites that have listings similar to the BB. In every entry, you're getting just one person's view of the company, just like on Trip Advisor etc. You can't believe every one of them as there's bound to be some misuse of the site. ProZ.com can't check the validity of every one. But I believe they will investigate cases of misuse if there's evidence. As Helena says, there may well be outsourcers who are doing their level best to avoid negative entries by playing the (lack of) quality card, as well as those who demand a positive one in return for promises of work, or even for payment.

I certainly take every 5 entry with a spoonful of scepticism. Like José, I look beyond the number. If I see names of translators I know and respect, that's great. If they're mainly non-paying site users, especially from developing countries, I actually see a whole raft of 5s as quite negative.

Low scores tend to be easier to evaluate and I'd certainly refuse to work with an outsourcer that has several recent entries of 1 or 2. But even then, some translators take things very personally and start issuing threats and insults rather than simply responding to problems in a businesslike way. That can turn a slightly delayed payment with an apology from the outsourcer into a refusal to communicate or cooperate in any way.


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Helena Chavarria  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 02:22
Member (2011)
Spanish to English
+ ...
Sometimes it's impossible to make truthful comments Jul 28, 2016

Sheila Wilson wrote:

As Helena says, there may well be outsourcers who are doing their level best to avoid negative entries by playing the (lack of) quality card, as well as those who demand a positive one in return for promises of work, or even for payment.

I certainly take every 5 entry with a spoonful of scepticism. Like José, I look beyond the number. If I see names of translators I know and respect, that's great. If they're mainly non-paying site users, especially from developing countries, I actually see a whole raft of 5s as quite negative.


I made my previous comment because if the agency ends up not paying me, I won't be able to make a negative comment on the BB because they would immediately claim it was my fault for producing a sub-standard translation. It's their word against mine


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Angela Rimmer  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 01:22
Member (2014)
German to English
+ ...
Lack of BB only means no BB feedback -- not bad, not good Jul 28, 2016

Lingua 5B wrote:

Does your lack of BB records mean you have a low project flow or you just don't work with freelancers much?



I'm an outsourcer and my company has a BB record, but it's small and the only reason it even exists is because I finally set it up and asked freelancers with whom I've worked over the past few years to comment if they felt inclined to do so. Sometimes a company does not have a BB record either because they don't pay attention to it themselves and so never ask their translators to provide feedback through that platform, or because nothing of significance has occurred that would make a freelancer want to create a BB entry for them. I think something negative would have to happen in that latter case, because a translator would then want to warn others not to trust the company after being treated badly. In my case, I have generally had very positive relationships with the translators I work with, so no one has had a reason to warn people away.

So to me, a lack of BB record does not indicate that a company is not trustworthy. The only thing it clearly indicates is that the company does not have feedback on that forum. No feedback does not necessarily mean something bad is going on.

And of course there are other ways to "investigate" a company besides the BB. Credit-checking is a good risk management approach if you are afraid a company does not manage its finances appropriately, and also closed translator networks are good sources of first-hand information. For example, I am a member of GerNet, the ITI's German network, so when I get approached by an agency, I might post a question to GerNet asking if anyone else has had experience with the agency and whether it was positive or negative. That information is far more trustworthy than the BB because those working in my language combination are likely to have similar ideas of what constitutes a "good rate" and participants are quite open and honest (and generally fair) about the company in question.


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José Henrique Lamensdorf  Identity Verified
Brazil
Local time: 21:22
English to Portuguese
+ ...
IMO this is the KEY flaw in the BB concept - subjectiveness Jul 28, 2016

Christine Andersen wrote:

Some comments are more positive than others.

In principle, only the very best agencies should get 5, and the average ones should get 4, or 3 if the only thing in their favour is that they pay on time.
In practice, however, it pulls their average down and they look bad if you give them less than 5, because everyone else gives them 5. The answer to 'Would you work for the agency again' is an unqualified 'yes' or 'no', with all cases of 'perhaps' registered as 'yes'.


On a 1-5 scale, most (80%, according to Pareto's Law) of the plain-vanilla-good agencies should get a 3. That's the average.

Some clients would get a 4 because they consistently excel in turning every assignment into a memorable professional experience. Few agencies have this kind of jobs all the time.

And 5 should be reserved for those clients who provide sufficient motivation to a translator for, say, on a Sunday, in an amusement park with the family, to leave the kids and the car with their spouse, call a cab, and go home or to the office to serve them pronto.


This is not what happens in reality. If nothing went wrong, if there are no solid reasons for a complaint, all clients expect a 5, because it is a subjective approach.

I would work for any client - even if it had several dozen 1s, and nothing else - if they paid MY rates up front. Wouldn't you?


I have been advocating a change in the BB for years, suggesting Proz to shift towards the approach used by a competing translation portal: about 5 objective, factual questions requiring y/n answers, namely:
  • The outsourcer paid on time and in full.
  • The outsourcer’s standard payment terms can be described as early payment.
  • The outsourcer provided excellent support. (For example, answering questions, availability of glossaries, etc.).
  • The outsourcer has reasonable and flexible deadlines.
  • The outsourcer has professional, friendly, understanding and honest project managers.
  • The outsourcer has great rates.

... and then they leave a 300-chars field for comments, plus more room for additional information.[/list]

The answers to these y/n questions must be factual, there will always be evidence to support or deny them, and interpretation is left to the reader.

If so many translation portals were developed in Proz's image, why not make this a two-way street? Some call this benchmarking.


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Tom in London
United Kingdom
Local time: 01:22
Member (2008)
Italian to English
Fidarsi è bene; non fidarsi è meglio Jul 28, 2016

In my opinion this Italian proverb suggests the most healthy approach to take to the BB. (It's good to trust people; it's even better not to trust them).

On one occasion in the past, I gave a bad rating to an outsourcer who wouldn't pay me.

The outsourcer said they would pay me if I changed my bad rating to a good one.

I said OK.

They paid me, and then I changed my bad rating to a *worse* one because they deserved it.

I wonder if that practice by outsourcers is a common one? There's probably no way of knowing.

But any time I see an agency with a string of 5s and totally positive comments, my own past experience means that I am always suspicious.

If I see that someone I know has posted a comment, I might contact them in private to enquire more closely.

One thing I do know for sure is that outsourcers take the BB *very* seriously. Perhaps for some of them the temptation to cheat (in the way I have described) is just too strong to resist.

The BB is a very useful tool so long as you keep a large can of salt beside your keyboard.

I suppose it would be asking too much to add to José's list:

"The outsourcer did not try to blackmail me into giving them a positive rating."

[Edited at 2016-07-28 11:49 GMT]


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Mirko Mainardi  Identity Verified
Italy
Local time: 02:22
Member
English to Italian
+ ...
This Jul 28, 2016

Christine Andersen wrote:

In principle, only the very best agencies should get 5, and the average ones should get 4, or 3 if the only thing in their favour is that they pay on time.
...
They always paid on time, but it takes more than that IMHO to make a really top-rate agency.


That's why the BB has a rather limited usefulness, IMO. As others have said, it may be useful when it comes to avoiding "potentially bad" clients, but surely not so much in identifying "good" ones, since, as Christine wrote, there's definitely a lot more to being a "good" client than merely paying, and doing so on time (which should be a given and not some sort of astonishing feat deserving praise...).

One of several threads about this, with some interesting (IMO) observations/ideas was posted here several years ago, but it still sounds pretty topical, also because I fear not much has changed since then, despite the repeated requests: http://www.proz.com/forum/prozcom_suggestions/161854-how_to_improve_proz_blue_board_and_rates_problem_at_the_same_time.html

Something along the lines of what José just suggested could be a step in the right direction, adding value to the BB and helping translators make more informed decisions.


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Dan Lucas  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 01:22
Member (2014)
Japanese to English
Be skeptical, critical Jul 28, 2016

Anna Valjakka wrote:
All I see is 4.7's and full fivers even for agencies that have been blacklisted (for example here: http://translationethics.blogspot.fi/p/blog-page.html )

No, you cannot and should not trust the BB.
Even one poor rating is an instant red flag.
A large number of uniformly high ratings smacks of manipulation and makes me wary.
I will provisionally trust good ratings only if I can verify them elsewhere, such as paymentpractices.net.

Regards
Dan


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EdithK  Identity Verified
Switzerland
Local time: 02:22
Member
Gaelic to German
+ ...
Trusting Blue Board? Jul 28, 2016

Well, trusting so-called translators.
Today, I've seen a call for translators from an agency that had a rating of 1 (admittedly just one entry) and about 60 translators applied. So what good is the Blue Board in such a case? Even if given 5 for lousy communication and payment or a 1 for the same, it does not seem to deter applicants. This is the other side of the coin.


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Tom in London
United Kingdom
Local time: 01:22
Member (2008)
Italian to English
What about India? Mar 20

Today, out of curiosity, I was checking the BB record of an agency in India. It consisted of a long string of 5s with glowing comments every time, including many translators from European countries, and positive remarks about good rates and prompt payment.

My question: how can an India-based agency pay European rates?


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Samuel Murray  Identity Verified
Netherlands
Local time: 02:22
Member (2006)
English to Afrikaans
+ ...
Perhaps Mar 20

Tom in London wrote:
How can an India-based agency pay European rates?


Perhaps this says something about the myth of "a European rate".


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Samuel Murray  Identity Verified
Netherlands
Local time: 02:22
Member (2006)
English to Afrikaans
+ ...
The original question Mar 20

Anna Valjakka wrote:
All I see is 4.7's and full fivers even for agencies that have been blacklisted...


The original question does not seem to have been answered.

Every review site has its own procedures for listing an agency in such or such a way, and the fact that an agency is blacklisted on one such site does not mean that the positive reviews the agency got on other review sites are all suspect. The site mentioned by Anna (translationethics.blogspot.fi) "blacklists" an agency after receiving only one negative comment, and receives its data from a variety of sources that can't all be checked consistently.

In addition, ProZ.com may "ban" an agency from posting jobs if that agency had failed to pay as few as one or two jobs in the past, even if the agency is generally well liked and has a very good track record otherwise. Translators who report agencies to Proz.com as having failed to pay are not required to make a negative Blue Board entry either.

I'm relatively new and I haven't given many BB entries but one agency asked me to give them full points in exchange for an immediate payment...


"Full points", as you call it, means "I would be delighted to work again with this outsourcer". Would you be delighted to work again with this outsourcer? If yes, then there is nothing wrong with giving them "full points", even if they request it.


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Gabriele Demuth  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 01:22
Member (2014)
English to German
Why shouldn't they? Mar 20

Tom in London wrote:

Today, out of curiosity, I was checking the BB record of an agency in India. It consisted of a long string of 5s with glowing comments every time, including many translators from European countries, and positive remarks about good rates and prompt payment.

My question: how can an India-based agency pay European rates?



This is puzzling me too, if they are dealing with European languages/translators they should expect to pay rates that can support a decent income in Europe and quote their clients accordingly - they usually don't though? But I come across very few Indian agencies these days...


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Tom in London
United Kingdom
Local time: 01:22
Member (2008)
Italian to English
I receive regular job offers, via Proz and other sites, from Indian agencies Mar 20

...but I have never responded because I simply assume that they will be offering incredibly low rates as compared to European levels. And yet these agencies keep on sending job offers, and in their BB record I see lots of Europe-based translators who have worked for them. What is going on?

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Lingua 5B  Identity Verified
Bosnia and Herzegovina
Local time: 02:22
English to Croatian
+ ...
Same here. Mar 20

I also receive offers but never respond. Only once out of curiosity/as a test I responded to an offer from a Chinese agency when they said their rate was 0.03 but they would be very happy if I could lower it down to 0.02. Do I need to provide any comments to this, it speaks for itself?

However, those European translators providing 5s to an Indian agency, do we really know the actual, running rate they worked for? Also, in Europe rates are diversified and I would say that translators in Eastern Europe would accept much lower rates than in the West or at the North, although there are *some* exceptions on both sides.

In my case, it's not only India and China based agencies. I received 0.04 offers from agencies based in Switzerland and Germany. And I only received them because some translators before me worked for them as a standard rate, which helps the outsourcer set their mind about rates for certain pairs. For instance, I'm sure that same agency in Switzerland offered 0.14 rate to a translator in Sweden, for the same job.





[Edited at 2017-03-20 10:58 GMT]


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