Emphasise to shift, site-wide, to detailed fields of expertise and pro-level KudoZ points
Thread poster: Henry Dotterer

Henry Dotterer
Local time: 00:37
Mar 24, 2005

There are two major shifts that will be made site-wide in the coming weeks and months.

Shift 1: Greater emphasis to be applied throughout site to *detailed* fields of expertise

In ProZ.com's early days, members had only 8 categories of expertise from which to choose. This served our purposes well as a small community, but over time the need arose for a finer taxonomy. A few years ago we began to use more detailed categories in various places throughout the site. In most cases, the more detailed structure existed in parallel with the general one, with focus left on the general one.

Now, we will be shifting emphasis site-wide to the specific fields. Area to be affected include the ProZ.com freelancer directory, profile pages, KudoZ and the KudoZ leaderboard, the jobs systems, and other areas. While the change may seem subtle, we believe the impact will be significant. And we would like to ask all members to keep a close eye on the changes, to make sure you continue to get the most out of the site.

For example, a new directory will be searchable by over 100 detailed areas of expertise. With this, outsourcers will be able to search for translators who specialize in "Medical instruments" instead of those who specialize in "Medicine", or "automotive" translators instead of just "technical" ones. This is a good thing for outsourcers, of course, and for all translators who have specific areas of expertise. But note: one of the ramifications of this change is that members WILL NOT APPEAR in detailed field searches of the directory unless they have entered detailed fields of expertise in their profiles. (If you have not yet entered yours, please take a moment to do so now by clicking here.)

Another subtle point: You will notice that the number of fields that can be entered as "specialty"-level expertise is limited. Although it has been argued that a person with many years of experience can specialize in a great number of fields, we are asking that members limit themselves to their *top* fields of specialization, and mark the other fields as "working" or "interest". The limit on number of fields is sufficiently high that we expect that few people will find the restriction intolerable.

We believe that the advanced directory options and "specialties" approach will help ProZ.com bring more outsourcers and more business opportunities to our members ( especially our platinum members, who will enjoy additional subtle advantages in the new releases.)

Shift 2: Greater emphasis to be applied throughout site to PRO-level KudoZ points

There are two KudoZ difficulty levels: "EASY", which is for questions of a type that language learners would ask and any bilingual person could answer, and "PRO", which is for all other questions. On the moderator list, we discussed the issue of whether or not KudoZ points should continue to be awarded for EASY questions. In the end we decided that points will continue to be awarded for both EASY and PRO, but that depending on the application, only PRO totals will be shown and/or used.

Therefore, within the next few months, changes will be made throughout the site to shift emphasis from overall point totals to PRO-level totals. Areas affected will include the KudoZ leaderboard, profiles and the directory. As a result, you may find that the point totals shown beside your name in some places will be lower than your overall totals. This is due to the fact that only PRO-level points are being shown.

Although there are some issues to be addressed in making the change (see below), the shift to PRO-level points is consistent with the meritocratic principles of our workplace. Top translators will now have more power to differentiate themselves on the basis of their linguistic abilities.

Issues to be addressed

The changes described above raise a few challenges.

For one, it will be more important that KudoZ questions be categorized correctly, both in terms of difficulty level and detailed field. We would like to take this opportunity to remind members that most questions asked, and certainly almost all questions asked by professional translators, are "PRO". Easy questions are "Happy birthday" and the like. (Of course this is a topic that could be debated, and this is not a matter of black and white, but remember EASY is for language learners, and PRO is everything else, and then just use your best judgment.)

Because many old questions were not properly classified, members who have answered KudoZ will be provided a means to reclassifying old questions so that their contributions are properly reflected in the new directory, profiles, leaderboard, job system and elsewhere. At some point in the future, we'll make a community project out of reworking the archive, and we'll ask for interested members to participate.

Now is a great time to consider "targeted" KudoZ participation

By the way, with the emphasis now on specialties and PRO points, now is a good time to get involved in KudoZ, or, if you left under a flood of questions, to return to KudoZ. It is now possible to subscribe to very fine categories like, for example, pro-level Greek-to-English agriculture questions asked by platinum members. Just answering a question or two a month in very fine fields like this is a great way to meet others in your unique areas, and now, with the coming changes, even limited participation will soon pay dividends in terms of leaderboard and directory exposure. (And in addition to overall totals, the new leaderboard will show results for the past year and past three months, so beginners have a way to work themselves into the fore.)

Please pass the word!

If anything about the above is not clear, please ask here. Otherwise, please pass on word to fellow ProZians that they should enter specific fields before the new functionality starts to roll out.

Thank you!

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Bruce Popp  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 00:37
French to English
Suggesting additional specialty fields Mar 24, 2005


Is there a way to suggest specialty fields that should be added to the current list?

The example I have in mind is Atmospheric Sciences/Climatology/Meteorology.

Best wishes,

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Henry Hinds  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 22:37
English to Spanish
+ ...
Country Specialization Mar 25, 2005

A further classification that might be very good to have in the case of the "big" languages is Country Specialization. My pair is English Spanish, and I feel that I am reasonably competent to translate material between these two languages regardless of the origin or destination, but not always with 100% authenticity.

The fact is, we tend to be most competent within our own geographical confines. In some areas such as law and government and even technical subjects or popular culture, it is a great advantage to have specific knowledge of countries, their institutions and language usage among specific populations.

For example, in my own case I feel much more comfortable translating Mexican documents into English for Americans or U.S. documents into Spanish for Mexicans. I would consider myself to be less competent if I had to translate an Australian document for the consumption of Argentines or vice versa, because I am not so familiar with the peculiarities of those countries.

So subject specialization does not tell the whole story. Maybe Country Specialization is another factor that could also help in defining our expertise as translators.

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Hynek Palatin  Identity Verified
Czech Republic
Local time: 06:37
English to Czech
+ ...
Outsourcers should specify the job subject area Mar 25, 2005

I think this is a related problem. Many times, the job is specified only very vaguely, for example "training material" (http://www.proz.com/job/74295). It's hard to respond to such jobs. Subject area should be a required information.

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Kirill Semenov  Identity Verified
Local time: 07:37
Member (2004)
English to Russian
+ ...
Fields of specialization Mar 25, 2005

Bruce Popp wrote:
Is there a way to suggest specialty fields that should be added to the current list?

Obviously, the list of specific fields as it is now is not very good structured. Say, we have a very detailed fields for Computers or Medical, but simply "Physics" or "History" or "Mathematics & Statistics". Computer games and casino gaming fall into the same field. "Religion" or "Philosophy" are also too wide -- not mentioning that they often overlap with "Social Science, Sociology, Ethics, etc." At the same time we have "Wine / Oenology / Viticulture" which is quite a narrow field of specialization. We don't have such creative fields as "Slogans" or "Transcreation" at all.

I think that the list must be much more sophisticated and, probably, a "tree-like" structure is the most potential way of further improvement. Of course, the problem of classifying subjects really gives headache -- some questions may fall into several fields at once, while others escape any classification and thus become simply "Other-Other" (which looks like they do not worth anything).

For a while, the best specific field list I've seen is used in Deja Vu X. It has a tree-like structure, and each field is assigned with a code (number). I believe we should have much more detailed and better structured list of specific fields/specializations at proZ.

[Edited at 2005-03-25 14:31]

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Heinrich Pesch  Identity Verified
Local time: 07:37
Member (2003)
Finnish to German
+ ...
Very true Mar 27, 2005

Henry Hinds wrote:

A further classification that might be very good to have in the case of the "big" languages is Country Specialization. My pair is English Spanish, and I feel that I am reasonably competent to translate material between these two languages regardless of the origin or destination, but not always with 100% authenticity.

This applies also for minor languages. For instance Finland Swedish has many features different from Sweden Swedish. The reason is different official and cultural institurions and the very different history of these two neighbouring countries.

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Fuad Yahya  Identity Verified
+ ...
Pro Questions, Easy Questions, and Bad Questions Mar 27, 2005

This is a double-topic thread: fields of specialization and KudoZ reward system. I wish two separate threads were created to streamline the discussion. So far, the responses have addressed the topic of fields of specialization. For now, I wish to address the other issue (Easy vs. Pro) only. As to fields of specialization, I have always favored a more specific system, so long as the details of the system are workable. I will address this issue as it gets implemented, based on outcome.

I support the goal of making the reward system reflect the relative difficulty of the questions, but I believe that the overarching goal should aim further than that. I believe that we need to rededicate KudoZ to the goal of being a space within ProZ for mutual collegial consultation among language professionals and future professionals (including serious translation learners). To do so, we should not only differentiate between “pro” and “easy” questions, but also between these and a vast array of questions that should have no place at all in KudoZ. We need to make it unquestionably clear that KudoZ is not open for questions by individuals who just want to:

1. Figure out the meaning of a foreign expression that came in a chat room or that a colleague frequently uses to tease office mates;

2. Carry on a pen-pal relationship with someone who does not share the same language;

3. Avoid the pitfalls of free online machine translation service without paying for human translation service;

4. Express undying love or propose marriage in a foreign tongue to make a stronger impression;

5. Collect the expression “hello” or “peace on earth” in all known languages;

6. Learn how to say “that is a very nice skirt, can I feel the fabric?” and a host of other social expressions in Italian before flying to Florence.

7. Have a free reading-comprehension coaching service while reading a novel in a foreign language above their level;

8. Give an Arabic name to their Arabian horse or Arabian horse ranch;

9. Have their company’s latest promotional slogans translated into the language of their next international marketing region without having to pay for the service.

10. Finish a paid translation job they accepted but for which they do not have the requisite knowledge of the field or the language (sometimes both the source and target languages);

11. Avoid using (or buying) a dictionary;

12. Avoid online topic and terminology research;

13. Avoid asking the client to clarify the intended meaning or whether a particular passage contains an error;

Giving less reward or no reward for the answers to easy questions is a step in the right direction, but the examples I cited above show that there are worse things on KudoZ than “easy” questions – bad questions. Some “bad” questions are just “unprofessional” (“what is ‘water’ in Romanian?”), but others are even worse. I am referring to questions that may in themselves be professional, but are unprofessional to post (or to post in a certain volume or frequency) on KudoZ or any place on the web that is dedicated to mutual collegial consultation among professionals. Let us abusively call such questions “anti-professional.” These are questions that should either be posted as paid jobs or are already part of a paid job that the asker has accepted but is not willing or able to do on their own. The absence of adequate controls makes KudoZ seem to be the place where the dirty work of terminology and subject matter research can be done by others, free of charge.

Why am I addressing “bad questions” when the topic here is “easy” vs. “pro” questions? The reason is that many questions that have been framed as “easy” questions and thus may seem remediable by the new system of differential points are in fact bad questions and should not be accepted as a fact of life, with or without points. They simply do not belong on KudoZ because they do not represent proper collegial consultation among professionals. Giving fewer or no points to the answers to such questions is not adequate remedy. The questions themselves need to be nipped in the bud.

Before I move on to my action recommendations, I wish to make the following distinctions regarding questions posted by learners:

1. Many questions posted by learners qualify as Pro questions. Their content is professional (though often not stated clearly or elegantly), and they cannot be adequately answered by a bilingual person who does not have professional-level expertise. Some of these questions have generated excellent discussions.

2. Many questions posted by learners are simply “bad” questions. They usually fit examples 2, 3, 5, 6, and 7 above. Giving fewer or no points to the answers to such questions is not adequate remedy. They need to be rooted out.

I wanted to make this distinction first because I believe that once we have clearly identified “bad” questions, most “learner” question will cease to be associated with “easy” questions. Learner questions that are proper for KudoZ will turn out to be mostly Pro. After all, we are all learners.

Having identified bad questions, what should we do about them? Currently, squashing is the only option. It is not a bad option, but it needs to be supplemented and made more effective. For instance, the list of reasons for squashing needs to be supplemented with the following:

1. Headword is listed in major dictionaries, such as (name of dictionary and URL, if applicable). Asker should make sure to consult relevant dictionaries before posting words on KudoZ. If definitions given in relevant dictionaries are not helpful, please state why so we do not give you the same definitions or translations.

2. Headword is listed in KudoZ archive. Conduct a KudoZ search before posting. If answers are not helpful for your context, please state why in your question so that you do not receive the same answers.

3. You can easily reach a wealth of authoritative information on web pages devoted to this topic by a simple online search on any major search engine, such as (URL of search engine),. If the information found there does not address your need, state why in your question.

4. The question is a request for translation/language consultation service. It can be posted in the job bulletin on ProZ. You can stipulate “Pro Bono” if you are not paying.

5. The question needs to be addressed to the client. We can only guess, and your guess is better than ours.

In order for squashing to be more effective, it needs to be supported by a quarantine process. Questions posted by members with low KudoZ figures should go into a quarantine state for 24 hours. If not squashed during that time, they become public. Very often, point desperados answer bad questions before squashers get to squash them. That defeats the purpose of squashing. The quarantine process allows moderators to moderate, and allows new askers to learn the rules in a more humane way than is possible with abrupt, unprepared squashing.

During the 24-hour quarantine, the moderator can prompt the asker to add context, direct the asker to conduct a KudoZ search or consult certain online reference works and keep them handy for future consultation, or show the asker how to conduct an online search using a search engine. If that resolves the query, the question can be deleted. If for some reason, all fails, the question can be made public.

Moderators should also have the ability to quarantine questions that are not automatically quarantined.

Ultimately, no solution or combination of solutions will produce the quality of participation that we seek without managing KudoZ openness, membership levels, and pay levels. Those who have read my previous input in this regard know where I stand, but I will restate my position to tie it to the present topic:

1. Non-registered or unlogged users should not be allowed to ask questions. The present level of openness is a hole in the integrity of the system. The KudoZ system is question-based. Its content is as good as the questions. The answers, and everything else, follow upon the questions. Garbage in, garbage out. There is no compelling rationale for allowing questions from unknown sources.

2. Free membership has outlived any usefulness it might have had in the past when achieving a high membership level was a primary goal. Free membership means that a person can, like a ghost, acquire a new personality any number of times a day. I think this is one of the main reasons why many “members” insist on hiding their real identities. For the life of me, I can’t see how a professional freelancer whose livelihood depends on visibility and personability chooses to be known by a meaningless username. But under the present conditions, it makes sense. A username is just a bodysuit to wear for the time being. if bodysuits are free, one can have as many as one wishes. This is, among other things, a moderator’s nightmare, because no behavior code can be effectively enforced. The ultimate consequence of noncompliance is expulsion, but how can one expel a ghost? A new bodysuit will cost as much as the first one: nothing. This can be fixed by imposing a nominal membership level. I suggest US $12.00 per year (“Bronze membership”).

3. The lack of a cap on the number of daily and annual postings per member is another nightmare. This is a major drain not only on the quality of the content of KudoZ, but also on the integrity of the ProZer community. Here is why:

A professional translator usually considers a number of factors every time a project if offered:

- Should I accept this project? Am I qualified? Do I have the tools? Can I deliver on schedule? How much should I charge?

- Am I fully booked at the moment, or can I squeeze in a small project, despite the tight deadline?

- I don’t know anything about Christian theology, so should I decline this project about the Immaculate Conception, or should I accept it and do some online research on the topic to acquaint myself with the language of Christian piety?

- I am most comfortable translating from English to Arabic, but this project is Arabic to English, and English is not really my “A” language, so should I decline this project?

- I have done some medical translation, but I do not have a bilingual medical dictionary, and this seminar on autoimmune disorders is full of jargon, so would I have to invest in a good dictionary?

- I have the best bilingual petroleum dictionary on my bookshelf, but this oil-rig safety manual is full of terms that I would need to look up. It would be a learning experience, but it would take very long. The deadline is not too tight, but I would be putting in too many hours for the same price. It would be an investment in my edification and professional development, but it looks like every project I have done lately has been that way. Should I therefore consider raising my rate, taking into consideration that my fees should not only give me a livelihood but also help me acquire the tools that I need and cover the research time often needed? Or should I just decline this project?

These are some of the existential questions that define the professional translator’s daily grind, but for some users, KudoZ has rendered these questions quaint and obsolete.

Used with discipline, KudoZ can help a translator not only fill a gap in a translation, but also incrementally build knowledge and skills by observing how answerers found the answers they provided. I think of it like having a spotter with me in the gym to give me just that little spot when I need it. Its manifest value is that it will help me build stronger muscles so that I would hopefully need it less.

But in the absence of a cap on the number of questions, KudoZ is less like a spotting pal and more like steroids for the athlete. Steroids only help the athlete exhibit a false level of accomplishment and make the athlete even more dependent on the magic of the drug than on any other asset at his/her disposal. Without a cap on the number of questions, KudoZ gives the translator the illusion that terminology tools, terminology research time, topic research time, and even language capability have all magically become unnecessary. Ultimately, the translator only types the finished translation. Everything else is done “online” by these golden retrievers who will gladly fetch any term you throw in the air for a little crunchy treat (I think a bone-shaped icon should be created for KudoZ points). It is the new efficient translation technique, and it is $800 cheaper than Trados.

Instead of encouraging translators to engage in creative self-questioning, limitless KudoZ consultations numb the translator with a set of soothing thoughts:

- I don’t know anything about this topic, and I don’t even know how to acquaint myself with it or its jargon, but that is no problem. ProZers either know the topic or know how to research it. They will read up on it, cite relevant passages, and even provide me with selective links to pages with additional material. They will not only quote information, but will also explain it to me in layman’s terms. They will even fight among themselves for the privilege of answering my questions. And the more I throw at them, the more they are attentive to my needs. Now, I can accept a translation project in any topic in existence.

- I don’t have native knowledge of English, but I can still translate into English. ProZers will help me polish every English turn of phrase. My translation will read like a Safire essay.

How many questions is too many? A translator cannot be expected to translate more than 3,000 words per day. If a translator needs to look up more than one word in a hundred, the translator needs to drop the project. That comes to about 30 words a day. If the translator is well-equipped with necessary resources, the translator should have sufficient terminology resources and online search skills to enable them to look up at least 20 terms on their own. The other 10 terms can be a fair quota for questions to be posted on KudoZ. For a platinum member, I would make them 15 questions. For a bronze member, I would make them five questions a day. I would also put an annual cap, because no professional translator should be in need to post that many questions every day of the year. A reasonable annual cap would be 600 questions per year for a platinum member, 400 for gold, and 200 for bronze.

I have been saying this for a long time. In previous discussions, I thought that we had come to a consensus and that implementation was imminent. My understanding was that we were engaged in a major graphic interface change at the time and we wanted to accomplish that first before we change KudoZ rules. I think it is time we made these changes effective.

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Kirill Semenov  Identity Verified
Local time: 07:37
Member (2004)
English to Russian
+ ...
Very true! Mar 27, 2005

Dear Fuad,

You've hit the nail on the head! Easy and Professional are not opposites, that's why the confusion. I've told it dozen of times ago in the fora but still I want to say it once more: make the very TERMS more clear, and the situation will change immediately. "Any bilingual persons knows" is not a strict definition. I'm not a bilingual, how am I supposed _to feel_ such a statement/definition?

Let us use "Non-professional" vs. "Professional" which would mean the difference between a real translator's question vs. an average Joe's who is not a translator/interpreter. Or, for instance, let's adopt "Member's" vs. "Non-member's" difference -- it's perfectly OK, since it's obvious and clear.

The main point is that the divisional line should be a difference between two opposites, not just some ***subjective*** evaluation of a question.

Also, I have to emphasize that for a while many members can make their won answers "Pro". It's so simple, and -- sure! -- nobody will notice! If the shift to the rating division between "Pro" & "Easy" question is announced, the smartest action anyone should do in order to go higher in his/her ratings is to switch all their winning answers to "Pro" category. If the system is accepted, the right to switch questions between "Pro/non-Pro" categories should be left to moderators, and none else!

[Edited at 2005-03-27 12:08]

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Erik Hansson  Identity Verified
Member (2002)
+ ...
Search languages not available in profile Mar 29, 2005

Hi Henry,

These improvements of the site (e.g. fields of expertise) are simply great, and I'm very convinced it's the right way to deal with the future needs of specialization. No translator is a technical genius and could handle **all** fields.

However I was wondering a bit about the improved language list in the *new* freelance search. This search function offers more languages than you could enter into your profile. For example, our bureau offers translations into Sorbian (a small Slavic language in Germany), and this language has at last found its way into the search function, but we are still not able to insert this language into our profile.

How should clients find such languages which are available in the search function but not available for the profiles? Maybe you could give a small hint how we could handle this. Thanks.

Best regards

Erik Hansson
Technical translator DE-SV
Hansson Übersetzungen GmbH
Am Birkenwäldchen 38
D-01900 Bretnig-Hauswalde, Germany
Phone +49 - 3 59 52 - 321 07
Fax +49 - 3 59 52 - 322 02
E-Mail info@hansson.de
Internet www.hansson.de
Internet www.t-translators.net
Internet www.technical-translators.net
ProZ profile http://www.proz.com/pro/21654

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Amanda Grey  Identity Verified
Local time: 06:37
French to English
Answer to questions.... Apr 1, 2005

Hi all,

I have just had a look at this forum after receiving the ProZ monthly news. I had previously noted the attempted improvements to KudoZ and specialties and updated my profile accordingly. These are all good initiatives.

However, when someone asks a question on a forum, such as "is it possible to add specialty areas to the list?", an answer would be aprreciated, not to mention polite - even if the answer is "no".

I too have at least three specialties that are nowhere in the list: health & safety, quality and environmental management and industrial ecology.

Another suggestion: To root out the "abusive" KudoZ users, might there not be a way a making the number of questions asked / questions answered more visible? Why could there not be some sort of barter system; you get points for answering questions, you pay points for asking them...

Cheers all round for your dedication!


[Edited at 2005-04-01 07:24]

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Alexandre CLEMENT  Identity Verified
Local time: 06:37
Russian to French
+ ...
Sorbian and other minor languages May 20, 2011

For example, our bureau offers translations into Sorbian (a small Slavic language in Germany), and this language has at last found its way into the search function, but we are still not able to insert this language into our profile.

How should clients find such languages which are available in the search function but not available for the profiles? Maybe you could give a small hint how we could handle this. Thanks.

Best regards

Dear members and dear staff,

I translate from Sorbian (both Upper and Lower Sorbian) to French and even though I do it mostly for myself, I already had to do it for a couple of cultural events and I'm really interested in that topic but Erik's question, posted 6 years ago, is still relevant and I would really appreciate if Sorbian, preferably as two separate languages : Upper Sorbian and Lower Sorbian, could be chosen in the list of language pairs.

Best regards,

Alexandre Clément

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