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Does the Blue Board effectively help translators?
Thread poster: Anne Pinaglia

Anne Pinaglia
Netherlands
Local time: 23:42
Member (2011)
Italian to English
+ ...
Apr 18, 2014

Since having been asked several times by outsourcers to modify entries on the Blue Board (generally due to late or non-payment), I have yet another confirmation that the BB isn't exactly the best way for translators to get quality information about agencies.

I had an experience with an Italian agency that, according to Proz, has a 4.8 on the BB, and according to a true translator's resource (Yahoo groups: the Checklist) they fall into a "I'd never work with them again" category (I saw this too late). True to form, my collaboration with was nothing but trouble, and to be brief, the only agency I would ever give a 1 to on the BB to let others know exactly what they should expect should they choose to collaborate with them.

So I did, in fact, leave feedback as to why I would never work with them again, to which the agency responded (of course), calling me a liar. I went to Proz contest their claim, as it is not consistent with rule 7 (regarding defamation), including all of my email correspondence. Proz came back stating that because the agency had issues with my work (they had a non-native English reviewer who didn't understand my translation), I was therefore not allowed to post an entry (and "unfortunately this isn't a clear case"), and my feedback was subsequently deleted, giving the agency back it's 4.8 status.

I wonder if this agency (and others) use this tactic often to retain their BB status? I know there is blatant abuse (i.e. "you'll get paid after you change your BB feedback"); has the BB just become a farce?

(Note: I highly recommend that anyone working in the Italian language pair to join "the checklist" on yahoo groups where you will get unbiased information!)


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EvaVer  Identity Verified
Local time: 23:42
Member (2012)
Czech to English
+ ...
A similar experience, Apr 18, 2014

another agency (FR) threatened me with a diffamation lawsuit, but it helped - they started to communicate again and finally paid. Fortunately, they didn't think of contesting my quality, as your agency did for you (well, raising a quality issue for the first time 8 months after delivery wouldn't have been very credible).

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xxxnrichy
France
Local time: 23:42
French to Dutch
+ ...
It helps but not in the way you think Apr 18, 2014

Bad notations are always a bad sign.
Good notations should be checked with other lists. (Ted Wozniak's Translators Payment Practices List, specialized Yahoo groups and hidden groups on LinkedIn).

In one particular case where I was one of the first translators to give a bad notation on the BB, which was the only list we had at that time, I have later been contacted by other translators, and a collective action has been taken.


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Łukasz Gos-Furmankiewicz  Identity Verified
Poland
Local time: 23:42
English to Polish
+ ...
The issues-with-work loophole Apr 18, 2014

While Proz.com staff aren't even necessarily qualified, let alone called, to assess the appropriateness of quality complaints, the issues-with-work loophole basically means that as long as an agency submits even a bogus complaint, it can still get away with non-payment and receive no negative feedback on the BB.

The above is a serious problem because large agencies, or at least agencies working with many translators, receive a lot of positive feedback due to the scale of their operations. Now, when all that positive feedback comes with (next to) no negative feedback, it is misleading. The impression is more or less this: 'Wow, 200 happy people and just 1 complaint, well, an accident, I guess.' Or even a clean 200/200 record.

To some up, the ability to accumulate massive amounts of positive feedback without incurring negative feedback leads to a misleading image.

I have to admit I don't see a viable solution (arbitrating the competing claims between the agency and the translator isn't really viable), but the current situation is a problem. It's too easy for agencies to load up on positive comments and prevent receiving negative ones, gaming the system.

[Edited at 2014-04-18 11:10 GMT]


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José Henrique Lamensdorf  Identity Verified
Brazil
Local time: 19:42
English to Portuguese
+ ...
Would they kill the messenger? Apr 18, 2014

Proz merely publishes the best conclusion they managed to draw from the evidence presented by both sides. Do they take sides? I wouldn't think so; it would be too risky.

Of course, the more cunning/scheming the client/agency, the more likely they will resort to "we'll pay you two weeks after you've changed your LWA=1 to a 5" strategies.

The more 'desperate for cash' translator will quickly yield to that stratagem, and, as long as they get paid, they don't care about leaving a 5 forever on a rogue agency's Blue Board record.

Proz merely plays it safe, avoiding to be dragged in as an accessory for slander.


I've said that over and over again, suggesting that the concept of the Blue Board should be redesigned to a more objective approach.

The idea of "Likelihood of Working Again" is flawed on its own. Please, all the translators who would NOT work for any client who gave clear instructions and paid up-front with the order via irreversible bank transfer, raise your hands... regardless of that client having, say, 300+ LWA=1 entries accrued on their Blue Board record.

Can I have some binoclulars, please? I don't see any hands raised.

A Proz competitor has adopted a more objective approach, using specific FACTUAL questions, whose Y/N answers cannot be challenged in view of the evidence available, for instance:
  • Did you get clear instructions on your assignment?
  • Did you get proper support on issues that came up during the job?
  • Were you treated with adequate politeness and respect?
  • Did you get paid at the time initially agreed?
  • Did you get paid the amount initially agreed?

    This is all we (translators) care to know about a translation outsourcer: facts! And Proz would be in a safer position than ever, by relying on facts alone.

    If Young Ling in China would be delighted (LWA=5) to work again for the XYZ Agency in India, translating HI-ZH at US 1¢/word for payment in 60 days after month end, since s/he got paid only 45 days after delivery, I just want to know if they keep their promises and behave properly in business. Then I'll consider their offer of more adequate rates and faster payment for my EN-PT translation services in Brazil.

    If they don't keep their promises, they may offer me the world and, after I have delivered my job, give me in return what they agreed to and exceeded with Young Ling.

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  • philgoddard
    United States
    Member (2009)
    German to English
    + ...
    It does have its faults Apr 18, 2014

    But I think it works very well overall, and I find it a valuable resource. Likelihood of Working Again is a very good criterion for rating customers.

    People do sometimes ask you to change your ratings. In my experience, they fall into two camps:

    1. Those who have behaved badly but want this information to be expunged. People like this should be given short shrift.
    2. Those who have behaved badly, but want the information to be brought up to date (for example, "took six months to pay, but has now paid". That seems perfectly reasonable to me.


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    Robert Forstag  Identity Verified
    United States
    Local time: 17:42
    Member (2003)
    Spanish to English
    + ...
    Negative feedback tends to be censored Apr 18, 2014

    My experience is that any strongly negative feedback posted on the Blue Board tends to be rejected by the moderators (the probability of rejection increasing directly in proportion to the harshness of the feedback).

    I have therefore found that posting a "1" with either no added comment or with the note, "Will comment privately via e-mail," is the best way to avoid both the censorship and a fruitless correspondence with squeamish moderators. The "1" by itself alerts translators that the outsourcer in question is to be avoided.

    Other factors that limit the usefulness of the Blue Board are the tendency to post high ratings and absurdly laudatory comments based on limited experience with the agency, and the tendency to not post negative ratings in the hopes of continuing to receive work from slow-paying agencies. All of this has been thoroughly discussed in numerous forum threads over the past 7 years.

    All this said, I do agree with Phil that the Blue Board is generally a useful tool--when used with caution.


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    Tom in London
    United Kingdom
    Local time: 22:42
    Member (2008)
    Italian to English
    Don't do it ! Apr 18, 2014

    Anne and Paolo Boidi wrote:

    Since having been asked several times by outsourcers to modify entries on the Blue Board


    I tend to share Robert's opinion. In my experience, caution should be exercised when using the BB to get some idea of whether an outsourcer will pay you, or not.

    In my opinion an outsourcer who asks for a comment to be changed from negative to positive should be ignored.

    On the other hand you should always make sure to give a good rating to the ones who behave professionally.

    I also agree with Phil's Point 1, although perhaps you should interpret "short shrift" in your own way



    I disagree with Phil's Point 2; if you've waiting for 6 months to get paid, I'd say that merits an inflexibly negative response on your part.

    [Edited at 2014-04-18 20:47 GMT]


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    John Fossey  Identity Verified
    Canada
    Local time: 17:42
    Member (2008)
    French to English
    BB and other tools Apr 18, 2014

    José Henrique Lamensdorf wrote:

    I've said that over and over again, suggesting that the concept of the Blue Board should be redesigned to a more objective approach.

    The idea of "Likelihood of Working Again" is flawed on its own. ...

    If they don't keep their promises, they may offer me the world and, after I have delivered my job, give me in return what they agreed to and exceeded with Young Ling.


    While I use the BB I also use paymentpractices.com, which IMO has a much more objective approach - you enter the agreed payment date, the actual payment date and whether the full amount was paid or not, and the site calculates an impartial, objective rating, as well as a subjective WWA rating.

    To me, the BB is valuable but best used in conjunction with the other tools available to establish a new client's reputation.


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    Mikhail Kropotov  Identity Verified
    Russian Federation
    Local time: 00:42
    Member (2005)
    English to Russian
    + ...
    Prompt payment is not the be-all and end-all of LWA Apr 18, 2014

    John Fossey wrote:

    While I use the BB I also use paymentpractices.com, which IMO has a much more objective approach - you enter the agreed payment date, the actual payment date and whether the full amount was paid or not, and the site calculates an impartial, objective rating, as well as a subjective WWA rating.


    There is a lot more to a successful working relationship with a customer than just getting paid on time. I'm not going to go into details because a) we all know what the other factors are and b) they ARE subjective.

    [Edited at 2014-04-18 21:11 GMT]


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    Christine Andersen  Identity Verified
    Denmark
    Local time: 23:42
    Member (2003)
    Danish to English
    + ...
    Remove the AGAIN from BB ratings Apr 19, 2014

    What I have found frustrating once or twice is the insistance that you must have worked for the client or agency before making an entry.

    Sometimes I would like to warn people against the lengthy rigmarole of registering for a database and breaking in (sorry, they call it logging in...) to a website to be allowed to look at files, just to be told that the job has already been 'placed' with another translator.

    But if you have not worked for them - because you have given up before it ever gets that far - then you are not allowed to post on the BB.

    There are other sites, however, where you can describe hassle, hopeless rates, or whatever the problem is.

    I read the comments on the BB carefully. Sometimes there is real content that tells you 'they really deserve the 5 I gave them'.
    That is what I try to add. You can suspect a 5 with no comment is meaningless, or just wonder whether the translator did not feel confident enough about writing English.

    I also think it is important to stand your ground and only give 5 to the clients you would really be DELIGHTED to work for again.
    If they are middle-of-the-road, no problems, but not super, then a 4 should do it. (But if translators still want to work for them again, I can see why the rating is 5 anyway...)

    I started giving 3s at one point to clients who introduced horrible Business Manager websites and insisted that invoices should be made out on them too.

    I have a few clients with efficient systems like that - they keep their 5.
    At least one asks, but doesn't insist, that invoices be made out on their system, and the version for the Danish tax authorities is quick and efficient, so I use it. BB rating 5 for them and their helpful PMs too.

    I would still like to see more differentiation, and especially a way of saying NO, I would not work for them at all - they scared me off before I even started!


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    Preston Decker  Identity Verified
    United States
    Local time: 17:42
    Member (2013)
    Chinese to English
    Because of lawsuits Apr 23, 2014

    Wouldn't Proz be leaving itself pretty open to lawsuits by disgruntled agencies if it allowed translators to 'denigrate' (as an agency might say about negative feedback) their services in an industry forum like Proz? Even if Proz won such suits, the attorney's fees would be quite high--I'm guessing this is why the policy is as it is?

    As several others noted, a more objective approach might be one way around this, aka. translator's simply write in the date payment was received, and assess an agency's practices in several areas.


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    JoBee  Identity Verified
    Japan
    Local time: 06:42
    Japanese to English
    Not helpful if it's used as a "you scratch my back, I'll scratch yours" device Apr 23, 2014

    I have worked with an agency that, when they pay you after 60 days, promise to give you a 5-star evaluation on this site if you rate them.

    The coordinators at this agency are cordial enough, but they have a history of late payments and offer some of the lowest rates I've ever seen for a company based in their country (less than 3 cents per word when they have an especially 'tight budget').

    Essentially, I would wager that most of their 5s are effectively the result of bribes--translators did it to get positive feedback in return.

    I am guessing (hoping) that this is a violation of Proz policy, but I have no doubt that other agencies are using the same methodology. For that reason, just as nrichy said, I am inclined to have a healthy skepticism with regard to good ratings.

    [Edited at 2014-04-23 05:19 GMT]

    [Edited at 2014-04-23 05:23 GMT]


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    philgoddard
    United States
    Member (2009)
    German to English
    + ...
    JoBee Apr 23, 2014

    You should put a note on BlueBoard about them.

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    KateKaminski
    Local time: 22:42
    German to English
    I do not understand why these situations need to arise in the first place Apr 23, 2014

    I am of the opinion that if an agency hires a translator for a job, they should pay them on time and in full - no matter the quality of the translation.

    Is this unfair to the agency? Not really! They can ask for a new translator to complete a short free test to check whether they have the required skills. They can then start off with a few short translations worth $20 or so to further test the waters. If something goes wrong, you have lost $20 but gained a useful insight into the quality of the supplier.

    I am always puzzled as to why agencies are willing to assign a job worth over $100 to a new unknown translator and then deal with months of emails, lawsuit threats and stress afterwards.

    It's simple: build up a bank of skilled and reliable translators and maintain a healthy and happy business relationship with them (decent rates, payment on time).

    If a translator somehow manages to slip through the net and delivers substandard work, pay them and remove them from your supplier list.


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