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How much direct crowdsourced aid is compatible with professional practice?
Thread poster: Robert Forstag

Robert Forstag  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 03:19
Member (2003)
Spanish to English
+ ...
Oct 8, 2015

The question I am posing here has to do with how much posting of terms on Kudoz and similar forums is compatible with professional practice as a translator—in terms of both substance and image. In other words, at what point can or should a translator’s professionalism be called into question for posting terms from his or her project for other translators to supply the translations.

This site allows the posting of more than 240 questions a month, which I infer reflects its view that posting that many terms is truly compatible with professional practice. At any rate, I’ve never seen a statement from any proz.com representative that would invalidate such an inference.

I personally am very glad that Kudoz exists and I have drawn on it abundantly during the 13 years I have used this site (nearly all of this time as a paid member). To date, I have asked 1072 questions. A large proportion of these queries were posted during my first few years on proz.com, when I could fairly be called a rank beginner. My annual totals in 2012 and 2013 were below 50, before climbing close to (but not exceeding) 100 in each of the past two years. I rarely post more than four terms in a single day or ten in a single week. My rough estimate is that I post one term for every 8000 words that I translate.

I consider such levels to be compatible with professional practice and I do not feel bad in any way about such posting frequencies—certainly not to the extent that I would want to hide information regarding my “ask” statistics from my proz.com profile—something which this site allows its members to do. My view is that no one can be expected to know everything, that you can’t readily find a translation to every term online, that translation challenges often arise from poorly drafted documents, and that it is simply impossible to strictly limit my acceptance of projects to material that I am already highly familiar with. Adding to these considerations the fact that a good deal of the work I accept is under tight deadlines, and I conclude that dispensing with Kudoz help (which I am after all paying for as a member) would be foolhardy.

In a way, I see my increased Kudoz-posting during the past two years as something positive, since it reflects higher levels of paid work during this period as compared to the previous two years. I am more than happy to accept that trade-off. In addition, I generally do answer at least as many questions as I’ve asked, so I do not feel that I am in any way abusing the system.

I have framed my question here mainly in terms of Kudoz use, but it really should be extended to all other similar forums. Thus, there is one person I know of who claims solid professional credentials and more than ten years of professional experience. This individual has, among at least three different sites, posted what appear to be an average of more than 100 queries a month. Are such posting levels for terms help really compatible with professional practice?

Please note that my intention here is not to start a discussion about imposing tighter restrictions on frequency of Kudoz posting. Nor is my intention here to draw attention to persons who could arguably be considered to be serial abusers of the system.

Instead, the question I am posing is the far more important one of how much of this kind of posting you feel is compatible with both the image and reality of professional practice in a highly competitive and highly visible environment.


[Edited at 2015-10-08 18:09 GMT]


 

Samuel Murray  Identity Verified
Netherlands
Local time: 09:19
Member (2006)
English to Afrikaans
+ ...
I think it depends on the person Oct 8, 2015

Robert Forstag wrote:
The question I am posing here has to do with how much posting of terms on Kudoz and similar forums is compatible with professional practice as a translator—in terms of both substance and image.


Yes, "image"... that is the big thing, isn't it? What would your fellow translators think of you if you asked too many questions? I think different people (with their different personalities, self confidence and perhaps even cultural values) will view this differently and deal with it differently.

We don't really do KudoZ in my language combination, probably because there are pre-existing or other channels whereby translators in my language combination ask for help.

My experience is I don't think less of translators who ask more questions, unless they ask the types of questions that reveals their ignorance where they should not have any ignorance. For example, I tend to take a harsher view of someone when they ask something about spelling for which I think the answer must be obvious. At the same time, I gladly answer such questions, politely, and it doesn't hurt my own feeling of prestige to do so.

In other words, at what point can or should a translator’s professionalism be called into question for posting terms from his or her project for other translators to supply the translations.


I don't think there is such a point. How many questions they ask may even depend on the person's personality.

In fact, some translators can get quite chatty in the terminology forums, and for some of those, asking and answering term questions have a predominantly social function (and the term help is just a perk).

Some people find strength in continually professing their own weaknesses and limitations, and providing encouragement to fellow translators who do the same. I'm not such a person, but I know that some people are, and that's fine.

This site allows the posting of more than 240 questions a month, which I infer reflects its view that posting that many terms is truly compatible with professional practice.


I don't think you should make that inference, but rather that as a paying member you should have that opportunity, should the need arise. The intention certainly is not that we should try to reach the limit.

There is one person I know of who claims solid professional credentials and more than ten years of professional experience. This individual has, among at least three different sites, posted what appear to be an average of more than 100 queries a month. Are such posting levels for terms help really compatible with professional practice?


You should evaluate him by the nature of his questions, not the number.


 

LegalTransform  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 03:19
Member (2002)
Spanish to English
+ ...
Thanks for posting this... Oct 9, 2015

I've often wished that I could ask more questions (especially since I have five source languages and I've always got lots of questions...), but I've been reluctant to do so out of fear of asking too many. Sometimes I just need a confirmation that a given term should be translated literally and is not a idiom that I am unaware of.

Even after 22+ years, I am still surprised when other people are just as perplexed at the terms I'm having trouble with. This is a sort of vindication on the one hand, because it justifies your ignorance, but on the other hand, it's bad because at the end of the day, you still need a translation.

I just checked and here are my stats. Like you, I started out asking a lot (perhaps because the glossaries/term base were not as full at that time and/or there are other online resources now) and then I tapered off. I think that if you pay attention, you can see how/where others came up with the answer and incorporate that into your search skills/inventory.

I think I've also recently starting asking more again because projects are getting more difficult (or the easier ones are getting translated by MT or less-experienced translators).

Another issue is that some people prefer to post terms at the start of a project (before they have done any research on their own - so that they will have sufficient time to use the answers) while I like to wait until I've exhausted all of my other sources (by which time I've either already found a suitable answer or it's too late to ask on KudoZ).

There is also the issue, especially with a lot of documents now being available on line, of how to provide sufficient context without enabling someone to find the very document you are working on (and thus the client) online. Or even the client finding your query on Google. I think most translators understand the need to ask questions (like you said, we can't know everything), but I'm not so sure that all clients understand this.

2015: 9
2014: 25
2013: 11
2012: 14
2011: 9
2010: 7
2009: 13
2008: 23
2007: 7
2006: 18
2005: 2 (I wondered what happened that year..?)
2004: 13
2003: 32
2002: 22
2001: 16
2000 (only three months): 10
Total: 231 or an average of 14.5 a year.

Unfortunately, I have not answered a question since 2012 (I've answered over 300) because I could not stand all the fighting, bickering and disagreeing for points and the fear of posting a wrong answer or making a guess (out of a genuine desire to help the asker, but not wishing to write a thesis), and people posting synonyms to every one of your answers (you answer "house" and they post "home"; you answer "newspaper articles" and they post "articles in the newspaper"), made me reluctant to continue participating (although with the disappearance of a few certain people and the addition of the ability to post "discussion entries", I think that perhaps this has attenuated a bit).


[Edited at 2015-10-09 03:38 GMT]

[Edited at 2015-10-09 19:27 GMT]


 

Dani Karuniawan  Identity Verified
Indonesia
Local time: 14:19
English to Indonesian
+ ...
I will doubt him Oct 9, 2015

I assume, a person asks a question(s) because he does not know the answer(s). Oddly enough, he, in fact, judges the answers provided by other translators and choose which is the true answer.

Here is the hole of Proz's kudoZ: The "truth" is set by an "ignorant" asker.

So, will I believe in a person who put many trusts in Proz's "holed" KudoZ? No. At least, I will doubt him.

[Edited at 2015-10-09 05:01 GMT]


 

Christine Andersen  Identity Verified
Denmark
Local time: 09:19
Member (2003)
Danish to English
+ ...
The asker may be a lot less ignorant than you can see from the question. Oct 9, 2015

Dani Karuniawan wrote:

I assume, a person asks a question(s) because he does not know the answer(s). Oddly enough, he, in fact, judges the answers provided by other translators and choose which is the true answer.

Here is the hole of Proz's kudoZ: The "truth" is set by an "ignorant" asker.



Sorry, but I think this is an oversimplification. Is anyone else qualified to determine which is the right answer in the asker's context, without seeing the whole text?

If an explanation is provided, the asker can see which is the best answer and why it fits the context, then carry out a more informed search, and verify which answer is correct.

This is often the case, for instance in medical questions where an abbreviation is used.

In my source language, Danish, a great many are used, and a few letters may be an abbreviation of something in Danish, something in Latin or something in English. The same text may not even be consistent throughout - in a medical record written by several people there may be several terms for the same thing.

Once a colleague has recognised an abbreviation and what it stands for, especially if a reference is provided, it is possible to narrow down the search.

I agree, if askers simply accept an answer without an explanation, you may wonder if they really know what is going on.
Askers may not have time - and are not obliged - to record how they verified an answer and why they chose it. So there may be a lot of good reasons that are not obvious to anyone simply looking at the KudoZ question. That does not mean the asker is ignorant and merely fumbling in the dark.
________________

Many of the questions I have asked and answered are like that.

But I think a healthy discussion with colleagues is very useful. Some people use the CIoL Transnet and other networks for discussing terminology, and the exchange of ideas is very important.
If you call it brainstorming among professionals rather than crowdsourcing, it is a highly respected method of reaching a useful answer.

Admittedly, some KudoZ askers are more professional than others, but so much goes on behind the scenes that I would not worry too much.

Where an intelligent discussion IS recorded on KudoZ, I think it can only enhance a translator's image. I have come to respect some colleagues deeply because of their replies in KudoZ, and their contributions - including questions - on other forums.


[Edited at 2015-10-09 21:09 GMT]


 

philgoddard
United States
Member (2009)
German to English
+ ...
Good question! Oct 9, 2015

I think there's probably a correlation between personality type and use of KudoZ.

I imagine the serial abusers, who ask thousands of questions and never answer any, as needy people. They begin each morning in a panic, because people keep sending them documents in foreign languages. And they're too busy sorting out their own problems to have time for other people's.

The opposite extreme (people like me) is rugged, obstinate individualists who believe that there's always a solution to a problem if you work on it hard enough. We're the kind of people who will wander around lost for hours rather than approach a stranger for directions. My wife gets annoyed with me when we travel - she says "You speak all these languages. For God's sake, just ask someone." We forget that the stranger might actually get a kick out of helping us.

We're more likely to be male, and I think being British (like me) is a handicap too. I was brought up never to bother other people with my problems.

Like so many things in life, the key to happiness lies in being your own person, but not being afraid to rely on others when they can do the job quicker and better than you. If your dishwasher needs unloading, you do it yourself. If your house needs rewiring, you get someone else to do it for you.


 

Robert Rietvelt  Identity Verified
Local time: 09:19
Member (2006)
Spanish to Dutch
+ ...
Depends.... Oct 9, 2015

.... on the way you look at it.

For me, I use Kudoz simply because it is there, another way to perfect my translations, nothing wrong with it, and it is a free to use tool! Hey, why shouldn't I use it? In my own defence, I also answer questions. So at the end it works both ways, isn't that what it is meant for?

I do agree with what I have read till sofar, so no question about it, but most of the times when I am asking a question, I ask it to be sure about my answer, and sometimes somebody comes with a suggestion I haven't thought about. Many know more than one.icon_smile.gif

In short, asking questions is not a 'weakness', as suggested in this thread, but for me a sign of professionalism, in the sense 'you can't know everything', especially about a foreign language. Like my old teacher (Spanish) taught me: 'You can't know all the words, that is why there are dictionaries', and before we start a whole discussion about dictionaries, he meant it as a figure of speech, but he was right. Do you know all the words in your own language?

[Edited at 2015-10-09 21:39 GMT]

[Edited at 2015-10-09 21:43 GMT]

[Edited at 2015-10-09 21:49 GMT]

[Edited at 2015-10-09 22:01 GMT]


 

Preston Decker  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 03:19
Chinese to English
Depends Oct 10, 2015

There really is no right answer to this. According to my stats, I've asked one Kudoz question in 2015. What's not shown there is the hundreds of questions I've asked my translation partner (luckily for me she's also my wife). If I didn't have access to such a wonderful fountain of information, my Kudoz asked stats would be much, much higher.

Why do I ask her so many questions? I'm not only a perfectionist, but also have many OCD-like traits, which means that I both hate the idea of there being any uncertainty regarding my translations and also often second-guess even clauses/terms that I understand. Do I go overboard with my questions to her? Absolutely, to the point that I'd say 75% of my questions are simply to confirm what I already know. Does this drive her crazy at times? Yep (although to be fair I also answer her questions), and if she weren't here, and I were asking these same questions on Kudoz, I'm sure I'd fall into the category of an 'over-asker'.

There's no definitive answer to the OP's question. Obviously some people do post questions on Kudoz that could be solved with a bit of research. Others may ask a ton of questions simply because they have no one else to turn to and want to submit a great translation; others may, like me, have a personality that demands 105% certainty when translating a term.

A high number of questions asked is not a good reason to look down on posters, unless the questions asked are so simple and easy that it is brutally obvious there is a problem either with professionalism or linguistic ability.

However, on the flip side of things, and although it's not fair, it's clear that other translators and clients still do often have a poor impression of translators who ask a large number of Kudoz questions (as evidenced by the presence of this thread). This is another reason why I rarely ask Kudoz questions, and if you're a frequent poster I think this is a legitimate concern, and a good reason to consider finding other methods for resolving at least a portion of questions.

[Edited at 2015-10-10 03:41 GMT]


 

Robert Forstag  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 03:19
Member (2003)
Spanish to English
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Some comments Oct 11, 2015

Thanks to those of you who commented on my post. I offer the following remarks.

Preston Decker wrote:

A high number of questions asked is not a good reason to look down on posters, unless the questions asked are so simple and easy that it is brutally obvious there is a problem either with professionalism or linguistic ability.


The problem with this view is that there is clearly an inverse correlation between number of questions asked and the level of due diligence observed by the Asker. In other words, the heaviest users of Kudoz are generally posting a high proportion of queries that could be resolved with reasonable use of a combination of online and offline references.

I also disagree with Samuel Murray that inferring this site's view of professionally allowable asking limits from the limits it actually imposes is somehow illegitimate. After all, proz.com saw fit to impose its current (absurdly permissive) limits in the first place because it realized that certain levels of posting were incompatible with a site ostensibly designed for professionals.

In fact, far from accepting that the current limits allowing the posting of more than 240 questions a month somehow don't reflect the site's view on acceptable posting limits for its members, I would contend that such absurd limits really give the lie to proz.com's claim to be a site designed primarily for professional translators. The high asking limits are great for selling memberships, especially to persons whose skills are very shaky, and also for driving web traffic to the site. I would posit that some small percentage of these initially heavy users eventually build their translation and research skills to an extent that enables them to function as bona fide professional translators. The vast majority seem to simply milk the system to earn some money in the absence of any real commitment to becoming translators. This is something that, while "good for business," is decidedly not good for the profession.

My own view regarding limits would be that 50 per month (i.e. 600 per year) would represent a reasonable limit of queries for even a rank beginner getting his or her feet wet and highly reliant on direct outside help. The site could impose this (liberal) limit, with the proviso that it is intended mainly for beginners, and setting a voluntary guideline of no more than 200 queries per year for established translators. It might even make the 200-query limit a condition of retaining the "P" badge.

And that is therefore--at least in terms of a raw number--my view of a maximum querying frequency that is compatible with best professional practice: 200 direct queries per year, across proz.com an all similar forums on the web.

A more rigorous criterion would be no more than 100 queries per year.

In general, when it comes to online queries (and whatever the level of diligence and thoughtfulness involved in the posts), the fewer the better in terms of one's professional image.


[Edited at 2015-10-11 15:11 GMT]


 

Samuel Murray  Identity Verified
Netherlands
Local time: 09:19
Member (2006)
English to Afrikaans
+ ...
@Robert Oct 11, 2015

Robert Forstag wrote:
There is clearly an inverse correlation between number of questions asked and the level of due diligence observed by the Asker. In other words, the heaviest users of Kudoz are generally posting a high proportion of queries that could be resolved with reasonable use of a combination of online and offline references.


Do I understand correctly that you believe that KudoZ should be a last resort source of information?

I think some people do that (I'm one such person: I find KudoZ so cumersome that I will use it only if I can't get the answer elsewhere). However, I also think that different people approach KudoZ differently. No doubt some people post a KudoZ question first, and then go look for the answer elsewhere, arguing that they'd get the answer much quicker that way. Others post KudoZ questions outright, and do not look elsewhere for answers at all. Still others do a preliminary search, and only post to KudoZ if a quick google doesn't result in an answer.

For some [proud] translators, using KudoZ may be tantamount to an admission that they were unable to find the answer elsewhere, but such translators should realise that others use KudoZ not as a last resort, but as a first resort or as one of many resorts.

It would be a mistake, I think, to suggest that only those who use KudoZ last, and only after they've exhausted their other resources, are using KudoZ in a morally correct (i.e. professionally ethical) way.

ProZ.com saw fit to impose its current (absurdly permissive) limits in the first place because it realized that certain levels of posting were incompatible with a site ostensibly designed for professionals.


I doubt if it was that simple. If, for a moment, we were to assume that more paying members are highly professional translators than non-paying members, then by your logic the KudoZ limit for paying members should be *lower* than that of non-paying members. The reality is that the reason why paying members have a higher limit is simply because paying members are supposed to be entitled to more than non-paying members. It seems clear to me that by giving paying members three times as many questions, ProZ.com is not implying that paying members *need* to ask three times as many questions.

My own view regarding limits would be that 50 per month (i.e. 600 per year) would represent a reasonable limit of queries for even a rank beginner getting his or her feet wet and highly reliant on direct outside help. The site could impose this (liberal) limit, with the proviso that it is intended mainly for beginners, and setting a voluntary guideline of no more than 200 queries per year for established translators. It might even make the 200-query limit a condition of retaining the "P" badge.


You seem to be fixated on "240 questions per month", but that number is simply a result of mathematics. The real limit is not 240 per month, but 15 per day, which I think is perfectly reasonable.

Don't forget that some subject fields necessarily yield more questions than others. You also conveniently ignored my previously stated points about the social aspect of KudoZ, i.e. that for some translators, KudoZ participation is "social media".

Attempting to align the KudoZ limits with translators' assumed professionality is like setting a limit on forum postings, based on the assumption that more professional translators will have less time to post messages, if they're really real professional.


 

Charlie Bavington (X)  Identity Verified
Local time: 08:19
French to English
seven thousand plus Oct 12, 2015

A notorious kudoz poster reached the milestone of her 7,000th question this weekend.
She's been a member here not quite ten years. She also posts questions on TC.

I remember being involved in the thread that led to the limit being imposed. We do all get caught out sometimes (less often these days) with texts that veer off the assumed subject. We might need hand holding from time to time. We should also remember that there is a LOT more info available online than there was then. Notwithstanding commercial considerations (which trump everything), I'd set arbitrary limits of 20 per week, just in case you get sold a pup, and 150 per rolling 12 months. Anyone who needs to ask more than that is in the wrong job, or taking on projects they are not qualified to do, or just bloody lazy.
Edit to qualify - that is how I see it for my pair, which is admittedly popular and not short of bilingual resources, or indeed monolingual resources from which translations can be deduced (neither indeed are the pairs used by the queen of 7k questions) . I could be persuaded to review my position for Icelandic-Lithuanian.

[Edited at 2015-10-12 12:04 GMT]


 

Giovanni Guarnieri MITI, MIL  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 08:19
Member (2004)
English to Italian
52 questions asked since 2001... Oct 12, 2015

I can see Charlie has asked 43... this tells you everything you need to know... does it look bad if you've asked lots of questions? Personally, I think it does...

 

Chris S  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Swedish to English
+ ...
I'd say one question a month would be about right Oct 12, 2015

But if people did only ask that many questions, I'd be robbed of all those opportunities to gloat over how useless everyone else is and show off my own unparallelled brilliance.

Lord knows how I'd get through the day without this ego boost. Cocaine?


 

Giovanni Guarnieri MITI, MIL  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 08:19
Member (2004)
English to Italian
ah ah... Oct 12, 2015

Chris S wrote:

But if people did only ask that many questions, I'd be robbed of all those opportunities to gloat over how useless everyone else is and show off my own unparallelled brilliance.

Lord knows how I'd get through the day without this ego boost. Cocaine?


Where's the Like button?icon_smile.gif


 

Christine Andersen  Identity Verified
Denmark
Local time: 09:19
Member (2003)
Danish to English
+ ...
Exactly Oct 12, 2015

Chris S wrote:

But if people did only ask that many questions, I'd be robbed of all those opportunities to gloat over how useless everyone else is and show off my own unparallelled brilliance.

Lord knows how I'd get through the day without this ego boost. Cocaine?


One could suggest allowing three questions in three months, so that you could use them all together on the one impossible job.

Actually, I sometimes ask questions to showcase how brilliant I am and how conscientious about getting every tiny detail right...

'You can't just call a spade a spade. I think this one is a trowel, but could you call it a spatula in some contexts?'

Or to set off a discussion, which allows colleagues to show off, assuming they are not just driven up the wall instead. Then I have ideas about who to recommend to my favourite clients when I am overloaded myself.

I know KudoZ is supposed to be taken seriously, and in my own way I do. Besides, if you don't acquire pointZ, you don't get to the top of the directory to be found by the good clientZ. It IS a way of making yourself visible, for better or worse.


 
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