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Advocating a dues-based membership paradigm
Thread poster: Fuad Yahya
Fuad Yahya  Identity Verified
Arabic
+ ...
May 7, 2005

Henry’s announcement on this forum about shifting the emphasis “site-wide, to detailed fields of expertise and pro-level KudoZ points” (http://www.proz.com/topic/30718) generated several forum threads about the Pro/Easy (later Pro/Non-Pro) designation of KudoZ questions. For example, Álvaro Blanch started a thread on the KudoZ – KudoZ.NET forum on the topic of Pro questions being restricted to site members (http://www.proz.com/topic/32036).

After Henry responded to Álvaro’s query regarding this restriction, Anabel Marinez suggested that the restriction should go further:

Anabel Martínez wrote:

I would also restrict the ability to ask Kudoz to members of the site.



GoodWords responded by observing that such a restriction would not be effective because

GoodWords wrote:

there is nothing to keep a casual visitor from becoming a member simply in order to ask a KudoZ question. ... The result is the proliferation of meaningless empty profiles.



How very true! I suggested that such a loophole can be remedied:

Fuad Yahya wrote:

Free membership is the engine that generates ghost profiles and ghost member identities. Required annual dues should take care of that problem.



From that point on, the thread’s focus shifted to the issue of dues-based membership. In order to keep Álvaro Blanch’s thread in focus, I suggested bringing the discussion about dues-based membership to this forum where it belongs. So here we are.

The first person to respond to my suggested remedy for the free membership loophole was Robert Donahue, who argued convincingly for a trial period:

Robert Donahue wrote:

If I had to pay for a proz membership right off the bat, without benefit of a "test drive" so to speak, I most likely wouldn't have bothered at all. .... The carrot in my case was being able to use the site and interact with some very talented individuals. The stick was not having all of the privileges that came with platinum membership.



That is very well put. I have no objection to a trial period, so long as we have a way to verify the identity of the applicant in order to close another loophole: the “revolving door” of one trial period after another by the same person.

But my suggestion goes several steps beyond a trial period to make it even easier for people to become paying members. I started this thread specifically to explain how:

Based on the postings that I have read on Álvaro Blanch’s thread, it appears that the people who have expressed misgivings about a dues-based membership are thinking of the $120.00 Platinum pay level. Their reaction is quite understandable. But I was not advocating a "Platinum membership or no membership" policy. That would be suicidal for ProZ.com. So, what am I advocating?

1. I am advocating an easy, tiered membership structure, in two or three levels, with the low level being low enough to be no barrier to any professional to join (something like a $30/$60/$120 structure).

2. I am also advocating that part of the annual dues for the higher membership levels be coverable by non-monetary contributions (KudoZ points, BrowniZ points, etc.). According to such a scheme, a person would pay, let us say, $30 annually to become a member. At any time afterwards, the member would be able to upgrade to a higher-level membership either by paying additional dues or through a measurable form of non-monetary contribution to the site and the community – or simply stay at the low membership level. It would still be a fully legitimate membership level, albeit with lesser benefits.

3. To make it easier, the initial $30 can be paid in two or three monthly installments.

4. And if a way can be found to verify the identity of the applicant in order to close the "revolving door" loophole, the first installment can be made one month after registration. In effect, the first month would become purely a trial period, and the first two or three months would be a pay-as-you-go period. After that, one would become a fully paid, fully invested, fully committed member, and can even go to higher levels by paying more or by making non-monetary contribution – if a higher level is desired.

5. I have one more suggestion to make it even more attractive. Since this bit involves a sensitive matter, it would not be wise to discuss it publicly at this stage.

Is this a perfect solution? Of course it is not, but it is a far cry from what some people thought I was advocating: Platinum or none. I have never advocated that (I may be crazy, but I am not stupid).

I offer this imperfect solution, open to suggestions for modification and refinement, because I believe that it will significantly reduce the current rate of abuse, enhance the professional climate within ProZ.com, increase the level of satisfaction and commitment of professional members, and cause no more than a small number of serious professionals to hesitate longer before joining. I believe that the last is a small price to pay for a much improved climate (imagine no "member" with 20 identities).

Why is this important? In summary, because unregistered, unlogged users have been a plague on KudoZ, a significant part of ProZ.com. To restrict participation to members only, membership needs to involve some form of accountability, hence paid membership (not necessarily Platinum).

Finally, I repeat: This is merely a suggestion. There is no movement afoot to go in the direction that I am advocating.

[Edited at 2005-05-07 16:19]


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Balasubramaniam L.  Identity Verified
India
Local time: 02:29
Member (2006)
English to Hindi
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Make photos compulsory May 7, 2005

One way to control multiple identities held by members would be to insist on the inclusion of their photo in the profile page. Currently members can upload any image or no image at all. So it it comparatively easy for members to conceal several identities behind the image of a dog or a cat or ship or an animated gif.

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xxxIreneN
United States
Local time: 15:59
English to Russian
+ ...
Fuad, I fully agree May 7, 2005

Some people didn't put that much into the word "Platinum", really:-). We could have Silver, Gold and Diamond:-). Or simply and proudly - Membership. But I believe my thoughts do not deviate much from yours and Robert's.

"Trial memberships, mandatory extended profiles, mandatory ID verification before asking questions, payments in very small installments (like $10/month) through local collectors to avoid wiring fees and other problems in many countries, all the elements of a professional organization"

"Really, we are talking 60 to 120 dollars a year with browniz option, and 30 minutes to fill out the profile. I also suggested to reduce the fee in case of obligatory payments".

Your 30 dollars is a very nice addition.

Kindest regards,
Irina


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Steven Sidore  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 22:59
Member (2003)
German to English
Not with you all on this one May 7, 2005

Free membership may drive ghost accounts, but it also is the bridge to bringing in paying members. I've been platinum for several years now, but was active on the site for a while before that (at a time when browniz could be used for job bids). I most definitely would not have gone platinum without getting used to the site as a non-paying member first.

Let's put it another way: while going platinum has probably paid off its investment 30 times over for me from a monetary standpoint, I wouldn't necessarily recommend platinum membership to any and all translators. Translators lacking experience, particularly in less populated language combinations, are likely to evaluate the site based on the bottom line: will membership bring me more jobs. The answer is probably no, at least in the short to medium run. These members need to be educated as to the other benefits of proz.com, namely the fora, kudoz, glossposts, etc. Once they appreciate that--and hopefully have otherwise gained experience, then and only then is the platinum worth it. A mandatory dues system would reduce, if not eliminate, the crucial influx of new talent to the site.

Happy Mother's Day to you all!


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Javier Herrera
Spanish
... May 7, 2005

Steven Sidore wrote:

Free membership may drive ghost accounts, but it also is the bridge to bringing in paying members. I've been platinum for several years now, but was active on the site for a while before that (at a time when browniz could be used for job bids). I most definitely would not have gone platinum without getting used to the site as a non-paying member first.

Let's put it another way: while going platinum has probably paid off its investment 30 times over for me from a monetary standpoint, I wouldn't necessarily recommend platinum membership to any and all translators. Translators lacking experience, particularly in less populated language combinations, are likely to evaluate the site based on the bottom line: will membership bring me more jobs. The answer is probably no, at least in the short to medium run. These members need to be educated as to the other benefits of proz.com, namely the fora, kudoz, glossposts, etc. Once they appreciate that--and hopefully have otherwise gained experience, then and only then is the platinum worth it. A mandatory dues system would reduce, if not eliminate, the crucial influx of new talent to the site.

Happy Mother's Day to you all!


Agree. It took me one year of active participation before I decided to go platinum. If this idea becomes popular I would suggest the lowest degree of partial membership to be very cheap, a token price, just enough to put off those who are not really interested in this site, but with extreme care not to put off many people. I don't see myself having paid eve that $30 that's been suggested when I became addicted to Proz.


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writeaway  Identity Verified

Local time: 22:59
Partial member (2003)
French to English
+ ...
Barking up the wrong tree: the dog stays! May 7, 2005

Balasubramaniam wrote:

One way to control multiple identities held by members would be to insist on the inclusion of their photo in the profile page. Currently members can upload any image or no image at all. So it it comparatively easy for members to conceal several identities behind the image of a dog or a cat or ship or an animated gif.


As someone 'hiding' behind a dog, but as someone who is identified and who has gone to and even hosted a powwow, I don't see your point. How can we know that a picture of a person is actually that person? Same difference.

A profile page with honest info is more important imho.


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xxxIreneN
United States
Local time: 15:59
English to Russian
+ ...
Cats are not at fault:-) May 7, 2005

Balasubramaniam wrote:

behind the image of a dog or a cat.


I have been seen in person at 4 powwows, including Oxford:-). And my cat has a passport too!

Also, this is a right to personal freedom - Google indexes too much. What if someone is shy of his/her appearance? But no personal freedom expressed through cat picture would count at the US company Human Resources. 2 different things.


[Edited at 2005-05-07 10:00]


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Subhamay Ray  Identity Verified
Local time: 02:29
English to Bengali
+ ...
The only way May 7, 2005

I agree fully with Fuad's suggestion. This seems to be the only way to eliminate bogus profiles. No solution in this world is perfect. Even the present system is not perfect or why do we have profiles with no activity say for the last five years or profiles that were obviously created only to ask some Kudoz questions for the specific benefit of some 'lucky' translators?

I have always spoken against ranking translators on the basis of Kudoz as the forum stands now at present. I've noted with some amazement that in the few language pairs I visit regularly even the recent spate of changes have decreased the number of questions considerably. This not only proves the veracity of the "misuse" allegation but it also makes one feel the need of more improvements. And Fuad has only suggested those improvements.

Proz should make paid memberships compulsory and it should allow paid memberships only to individuals who would be willing to let their identities verified and only members should be allowed to ask Kudoz questions.


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Saleh Ayyub  Identity Verified
New Zealand
Local time: 08:59
Member (2002)
Arabic to English
+ ...
I agree with you Fuad :-) May 7, 2005

I got sick of squashing questions and unprofessional participation. I like the idea of a photo, and nbasic information to be filled into the participant profile. Some are just missing all, and yet come for help with almost no context!

Saleh


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Konstantin Kisin  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 21:59
Member (2004)
Russian to English
+ ...
you're going too far Fuad May 7, 2005

First of all, I do agree that unregistered members have caused problems on Kudoz, although I am not sure that would be the case if their questions were not set to Non-Pro by default. The word "abuse" has a different meaning to all of us - if you call abuse asking too many questions a day, then many registered and even platinum members ask over 10 questions a day, every day of the week, at least in my language pairs. Personally, while I find it annoying I don't think it is abuse - to me abuse is when people post a series of questions without any context and then don't even bother to award points.

Secondly, I think enough people have already said that they spent 6months+ on Proz before going platinum - for me the period was 2 months.

Thirdly, why on earth would we (the consumers) urge Henry (who could be called a monopolist) to employ second-degree price discrimination by offering different membership levels; we only stand to lose financially from such developments.

As Irina said in the other thread, it is time for the website to get more "professional", but I really don't think getting rid of some kudoz problems is worth us introducing 3 membership levels. Remember, the beauty of a website is simplicity and Proz.com is already complex enough to outsiders (potential clients).


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Can Altinbay  Identity Verified
Local time: 16:59
Japanese to English
+ ...
Thanks, Irene May 7, 2005

IreneN wrote:

Balasubramaniam wrote:

behind the image of a dog or a cat.


I have been seen in person at 4 powwows, including Oxford:-). And my cat has a passport too!

Also, this is a right to personal freedom - Google indexes too much. What if someone is shy of his/her appearance? But no personal freedom expressed through cat picture would count at the US company Human Resources. 2 different things.


[Edited at 2005-05-07 10:00]


Irene is absolutely right. I don't like how I look in pictures, and I don't really have any pictures, so I have my cat. And why are we singling out cats and dogs when there are some truly bizarre pictures out there?


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Fuad Yahya  Identity Verified
Arabic
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TOPIC STARTER
How many questions a day a registered member should ask is for another thread May 7, 2005

Konstantin Kisin wrote:

many registered and even platinum members ask over 10 questions a day, every day of the week ... while I find it annoying I don't think it is abuse.



That is a legitimate point for discussion and should be on the agenda for those whose task it is to shepherd the site in a professional direction. I have addressed this point elsewhere. For the record, I do in fact advocate a limit on the number of questions asked per day and per year, even for Platinum members. I even made a rudmientary assessment of what a reasonable limit would be, based on the number of words a translator can handle per day. There is a point when mere annoyance becomes abuse (I would use the same principle used in US law in detemining "sexual harrassment" based on the notion of "hostile environment"). I will be happy to address this issue again, but not on this thread. I started this thread specifically to avoid mixing issues.

Konstantin Kisin wrote:

enough people have already said that they spent 6months+ on Proz before going platinum.



Some people have granted themseleves a longer trial period before turning Platinum, some shorter, and some, as we all know, have never turned Platinum. I am advocating that we give people the option to become fully paid, full invested members, without ever becoming Platinum. How is that for a break? The trial period I am advocating is not for turning Platinum; it is just for showing a modicum of commitment to the site and to the community by becoming supporting members.

Konstantin Kisin wrote:

why ... employ second-degree price discrimination by offering different membership levels; we only stand to lose financially.



We already have a "second-degree price discrimination": $00.00 and $120.00. And we already have "different membership levels": free membership and Platinum membership. I am only advocating that the $00.00 level be modified upward because that round figure (zero) is, as its Arabic name implies, devoid of substance.

Konstantin Kisin wrote:

the beauty of a website is simplicity and Proz.com is already complex enough to outsiders.



I agree entirely. The site has needless complexities. Imagine the simplicity when all users are logged, registered members, and all registered members are real members, with no ghost profiles, when all KudoZ questions are Pro, when all previously asked questions are never posted again unless specific needs remain, when ... You get the picture.

One last point, Konstantin: I am very delighted by the tone of this discussion. I started this thread with a great deal of trepidation becuase I know that when money is involved, people get nervous and the discussion can get nasty. But I am heartened by the sober, collegial resoponse. Thank you very much.


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Fuad Yahya  Identity Verified
Arabic
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TOPIC STARTER
Purrrr May 7, 2005

IreneN wrote:

my cat has a passport too!



Even without a hat,
Your many-lived cat
looks more like a scholar
than a mouser or a grass roller,
So never mind about that.


[Edited at 2005-11-07 20:53]


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Fuad Yahya  Identity Verified
Arabic
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TOPIC STARTER
Platinum will never be for everybody, but dues-based membership can be May 7, 2005

Steven Sidore wrote:

I wouldn't necessarily recommend platinum membership to any and all translators.



I agree wholeheartedly. Platinum is the Whopper. It is for those of us who believe not only in ProZ.com's accomplishments, but also in its potential. It is a long-term investment in the community, not an exchange of money for immediate benefits.

Steven Sidore wrote:

A mandatory dues system would reduce, if not eliminate, the crucial influx of new talent to the site.



A mandatory dues system needs to be approached very carefully so as to avoid the dire outcome that you describe. In the end, something like the system I describe will be unavoidable. That is why I recommend that we start very careful planning without delay.

[Edited at 2005-05-08 04:57]


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Fuad Yahya  Identity Verified
Arabic
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TOPIC STARTER
Let us stay on topic, please. May 7, 2005

Can Altinbay wrote:

I don't really have any pictures.



I don't have pictures either, not even of a cat or a dog. And that is perfectly alright.


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