An LSP and TMS agnostic job notification and response system
Thread poster: John Moran

John Moran  Identity Verified
Ireland
Local time: 15:21
Member (2004)
German to English
+ ...
Jul 15, 2013

Dear all,

I am a freelance software developer (and translator / former LSP owner). This posting is intended as a requirements gathering exercise for a translator notification system for new translation jobs to fill a gap I see in the market. Here is the current problem as I see it:


1) A PM in an LSP receives a job. The lead time is short and the job is small. Rather than wait for e-mail responses, she rings a few translators on her list and on the third attempt finds a translator who has the capacity to take the job. This is inefficient.

2) Translators are signed up with many agencies and some agencies (e.g. translated.net, Lionbridge ) have software than makes it possible for a translator to proactively indicate capacity.

3) Agencies sometime send jobs out on e-mail lists. If translatorA accepts a job, it is a waste of time for translator B to respond.

4) Some translation management systems (XTM, XTRF) provide notification systems to automate this process but it requires that the agency in question pay for the whole platform which may not be suitable for their needs.

Here is the germ of the system I am considering developing:

1) A translator sets up an account on the web application, lets call it www.translator-notify.net. The only information entered is the translators e-mail address. The translator may then invite some agencies to send jobs via this system. Another signup method would be an invite from an agency. The signup process would be very quick as only an e-mail would be required from the translator in a web page. No password is necessary.

2) The LSP notifies a translators by uploading the files for translation (or a sample or no files) and a due date + wordcount. Word price details etc. would be optional as it has probably been negotiated in advance. This would be done using a bookmark-able web page which only the LSP can access. The agency also selects an ordered list of translators. Note, the system cannot be used to search for suitable translators. It is invite only.

3) The translator receives a mail with a link to to accept and a link to reject the job if he has indicated that he has capacity. If available the notification e-mail will contain one or more documents for translation. It would also indicate a response time that the translator and the agency have agreed is reasonable (e.g one hour). If no response is forthcoming from translator1, translator 2 receives the mail and so on to the end of the list. However, if translator1 responds after a notification has gone to translator3 an immediate e-mail is sent to inform translator3 that the job was taken. This would reduce the "job is already taken" annoyance when LSP's bulk e-mail jobs to many translators.

From a translator perspective, it means that jobs could be accepted or rejected while out shopping from a smartphone (without requiring an app).

I am thinking the system would be free for translators and a couple of Euros per month for LSP's. A translator could indicate availability from some agencies (who pay better) and indicate limited or no availability for others.

The system would not allow one agency to see who competitor agencies translators are and no C.V. or other details (e.g price) would be stored on the system.

The idea is to have something translator-centric and information poor. I guess one downside to this is that calls or emails from PM's is one of the few outside social contacts that freelance translators have these days but I think there are still many cases where translators can still speak to PM's to discuss a project and there is nothing preventing a PM from calling a translator to say thanks for a job well done.

LSP's would also be able to access the system via an API to further automate their processes (e.g. link to accounting and PM systems).

It will probably be some time before I can sit down and actually write the code for this system and then it needs to be marketed but it quite a small application so I think it is not a lot of dev work.

This posting is to see if anything vaguely similar already exists so I am not reinventing the wheel. Unless I am misreading proz functionality it is not currently possible on proz.

I am open to ideas and criticism!


 

LilianNekipelov  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 10:21
Russian to English
+ ...
It sounds like it may actually be of little use Jul 15, 2013

Many serious translators do not answer the phone when they are working, because they would never have any work done. I think e-mails are really the best way to communicate with hard-working translators. It also sounds too mechanical, for the translation industry. It may be good for some other field.

[Edited at 2013-07-15 12:57 GMT]


 

John Moran  Identity Verified
Ireland
Local time: 15:21
Member (2004)
German to English
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Serious translators Jul 15, 2013

LilianBNekipelo wrote:

Many serious translators do not answer the phone when they are working, because they would never have any work done. I think e-mails are really the best way to communicate with hard-working translators. It also sounds too mechanical, for the translation industry. It may be good for some other field.

[Edited at 2013-07-15 12:57 GMT]



Thank you for the comment. I should say that I have managed some large projects and countless smaller ones. I can't think of many translators who did not pick up the phone, except in the U.S. where cold calling is a problem. Habits vary in that respect I think. If I had to guess it would be below 5% for de and fr (the languages I managed).

That said, the idea is to reduce the number of phone calls (especially for small projects with short lead times) so I guess we agree that e-mail is the best way to communicate.

It is mechanical, but a lot of admin work that is done in LSP's is repetitive and mechanical (including notifying freelancers of new work). I don't think that it is in translators' interest to increase that overhead or allow it to remain high.


[Edited at 2013-07-15 13:38 GMT]

[Edited at 2013-07-15 17:48 GMT]


 

LilianNekipelov  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 10:21
Russian to English
+ ...
I have been living most of my life in the US Jul 15, 2013

so perhaps I do not know how things work in other countries. I think your system might be good for some emergency systems, or to mobilize certain services or professionals in an emergency.

 

John Fossey  Identity Verified
Canada
Local time: 10:21
Member (2008)
French to English
Email link response is a good idea Jul 15, 2013

I like the idea to be able to respond yes or no by merely clicking a link in the email. It is a bit annoying when you're in the middle of a job and an inquiry comes in which needs you to login somewhere - then you have to find the login credentials, deal with password typing mistakes or peculiar requirements (such as "It has been 90 days since you last changed your password - you must change it now before logging in", etc.).

However, inviting agencies to send invitations via some translator's system is not likely to work, since each agency already has their own system of notifying translators. It would be difficult for an agency to have some translators that use a special system and others (most) who don't.

Likewise, agencies that tend to operate on a very short time scale may not be able to use the feature of inviting one translator per hour.

The problem with capacity indicators is forgetting, in the heat of business, to keep it updated. Then you get the situation when the translator is busy but forgot (or didn't have time) to update various capacity widgets, which still show him available.

[Edited at 2013-07-15 14:17 GMT]


 

John Moran  Identity Verified
Ireland
Local time: 15:21
Member (2004)
German to English
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Large versus small LSP's Jul 15, 2013

John Fossey wrote:

I like the idea to be able to respond yes or no by merely clicking a link in the email. It is a bit annoying when you're in the middle of a job and an inquiry comes in which needs you to login somewhere - then you have to find the login credentials, deal with password typing mistakes or peculiar requirements (such as "It has been 90 days since you last changed your password - you must change it now before logging in", etc.).

>Yes, once you have a large enough random string in a URL (UUID) that it temporary anyway it is secure enough so passwords are not necessary. No system is ever 100% secure, password or no.

However, inviting agencies to send invitations via some translator's system is not likely to work, since each agency already has their own system of notifying translators. It would be difficult for an agency to have some translators that use a special system and others (most) who don't.

>Yes, many large LSP's do have these systems but they often use smaller LSP's as suppliers and these are on their own in that respect. Also, smaller Well one hour was an example, for a very urgent job it could be 5 minutes or lower. The main thing is to avoid the "The job was taken" annoyance.

The problem with capacity indicators is forgetting, in the heat of business, to keep it updated. Then you get the situation when the translator is busy but forgot (or didn't have time) to update various capacity widgets, which still show him available.

>I think this is the main problem. I have been looking at notification systems (and low-end prices) by signing up to a few LSP's at low rates as research and translating / MT post-editing small jobs. In my case, because it is research I just leave them on for all agencies I work for when I translate (because I want to see what comes through) but (big assumption) if the system were to become popular, large LSP's could connect to it via an API from whatever system they have in place. It would not be more than a week's work for a developer. It is not so bad at the moment, but as more and more LSP's have capacity notification functions in their portals (or elsewhere) it is going to become impossible for a translator to update each one each day. Most translators have a good handfull of clients they work for in a given month and a long tail or sporadic clients.

PM's and VM's who work regularly with certain translators can enforce discipline (and some do) but for translatoragency relationships that are sporadic this is not viable. I don't think it would never be a perfect system but the current state of affairs is very fragmented and likely to become more so.

As a developer it is always tempting to think in terms of "one system to rule them all" so I am conscious that it may not be possible to market the system to the point where it is useful enough for a translator to update. Specifically, if an update only informs one client LSP of capacity that is as bad as a system developed or purchased by that LSP. It only adds value if many LSP's for a single translator are willing to use it. On that note, maybe it should stay free like proz and charge for some extra value function later on.



[Edited at 2013-07-15 14:17 GMT]


 

Nicole Schnell  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 07:21
English to German
+ ...
Hm. Why is this of any use? Definitely not for the vendor. Jul 16, 2013

John Moran wrote:
Here is the current problem as I see it:

1) A PM in an LSP receives a job. The lead time is short and the job is small. Rather than wait for e-mail responses, she rings a few translators on her list and on the third attempt finds a translator who has the capacity to take the job. This is inefficient.


The translator has to receive the message first, than has to reply. If the translator replies with a concise "Yipeeh!", "OK!" or "Consider it done." instead of clicking some link it may save approximately 1,5 seconds of world history.

2) Translators are signed up with many agencies and some agencies (e.g. translated.net, Lionbridge ) have software than makes it possible for a translator to proactively indicate capacity.


Hm. Are you sure you are talking about translators?

3) Agencies sometime send jobs out on e-mail lists. If translator A accepts a job, it is a waste of time for translator B to respond.


No. Usually it goes like that: "I am still booked and can't take on the translation, I am afraid, but by tomorrow afternoon I will be available again and I will be happy to take care of the editing."

4) Some translation management systems (XTM, XTRF) provide notification systems to automate this process but it requires that the agency in question pay for the whole platform which may not be suitable for their needs.


If a "translation agency" is too cheap and/or insufficiently equipped with necessary financial funds, they probably should close their shop anyway and look for a daytime job.


Here is the germ of the system I am considering developing:

1) A translator sets up an account on the web application, lets call it www.translator-notify.net. The only information entered is the translators e-mail address. The translator may then invite some agencies to send jobs via this system. Another signup method would be an invite from an agency. The signup process would be very quick as only an e-mail would be required from the translator in a web page. No password is necessary.


You mean, the translator's email address is not secured and dangling freely all over the web?

2) The LSP notifies a translators by uploading the files for translation (or a sample or no files) and a due date + wordcount. Word price details etc. would be optional as it has probably been negotiated in advance. This would be done using a bookmark-able web page which only the LSP can access. The agency also selects an ordered list of translators. Note, the system cannot be used to search for suitable translators. It is invite only.


Ha!!! No translator of sound mind - meaning: a professional translator - will agree to a job that he/she has not seen and reviewed yet. AFAIK, CAT tools, word processing software or designer software are a bit tough to install even on the most wondrous cell phone.

3) The translator receives a mail with a link to to accept and a link to reject the job if he has indicated that he has capacity. If available the notification e-mail will contain one or more documents for translation. It would also indicate a response time that the translator and the agency have agreed is reasonable (e.g one hour). If no response is forthcoming from translator1, translator 2 receives the mail and so on to the end of the list. However, if translator1 responds after a notification has gone to translator3 an immediate e-mail is sent to inform translator3 that the job was taken. This would reduce the "job is already taken" annoyance when LSP's bulk e-mail jobs to many translators.


See above. What's the point?

From a translator perspective, it means that jobs could be accepted or rejected while out shopping from a smartphone (without requiring an app).


Absolutely not. Why would a translator accept a job that he/she has not evaluated yet? He/she will most certainly not abandon their shopping cart in the grocery store or otherwise rush back to the office to figure out that the job is not up their ally. Never overestimate PMs when it comes to assessing source texts. If they were savvy in the languages required, they would be translators and make more money.

I am thinking the system would be free for translators and a couple of Euros per month for LSP's. A translator could indicate availability from some agencies (who pay better) and indicate limited or no availability for others.


Oooof. One would hope that a couple of Euro won't ruin their precious business. icon_smile.gif

The system would not allow one agency to see who competitor agencies translators are and no C.V. or other details (e.g price) would be stored on the system.


Now, that is unheard of and it will certainly revolutionize all Privacy Acts and Regulations all over the world.icon_smile.gif

The idea is to have something translator-centric and information poor. I guess one downside to this is that calls or emails from PM's is one of the few outside social contacts that freelance translators have these days but I think there are still many cases where translators can still speak to PM's to discuss a project and there is nothing preventing a PM from calling a translator to say thanks for a job well done.


It is NOT translator-centric and against all logic.

LSP's would also be able to access the system via an API to further automate their processes (e.g. link to accounting and PM systems).


Please, don't. I can give you some examples of existing brilliant (proprietary) systems, as well as totally useless, time-consuming commercial systems.



I am open to ideas and criticism!


Whew! icon_smile.gif


 

John Moran  Identity Verified
Ireland
Local time: 15:21
Member (2004)
German to English
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Good feedback Jul 16, 2013

Thanks Nicole. I appreciate the humour. Just to clarify- I am not suggesting it can be translated on the phone - just accepted or refused having had a quick look at a sample file or a file for translation. If an e-mail comes in on my smartphone it is almost always possible for me to read it by clicking on the attachment (iPhone and Android). It rarely requires more than a cursory look on my part before I accept or reject a job. I normally just type a short response when I am out but clicking on a link in the mail would be fractionally easier for both parties.

I like the idea of the "not available now but available in x days" reply. That could be a feature for less urgent jobs.

There is no question of any e-mail address "dangling all over the web". It would be private at all times. The idea is to have the system invite only to maintain privacy.

I think you are underestimating the problems caused by small translation jobs for agencies that work with freelancers. Even the world's largest agencies are under pressure from some of the biggest translation buyers to scrap minimum fees so the time it takes for a PM to handoff a job is becoming critical for smaller agency suppliers in this supply chain. Essentially, the game is to have enough profitable large jobs to compensate for the loss-making small ones.

Even for smaller agencies that advertise locally or using adwords it is an issue. Have you ever seen an ad for a local agency that said "Big jobs only please"? Charging a high minimum fee can help here but you may scare off a client that has future need for a large job.

Client profiles vary from translator to translator and I am guessing from your tone that you are happy with your status-quo. For translators with direct clients or agencies that are lucky enough not to have to deal with micro-jobs this would not be much use.

For many LSP owners I have met their business is indeed "precious" to them.

Could you give me examples of the good systems? I know a few bad ones myself.



[Edited at 2013-07-16 09:09 GMT]


 

Nicole Schnell  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 07:21
English to German
+ ...
Why don't you opt for developing something useful instead Jul 16, 2013

The problem for you developer guys is the lack of insight into proprietary systems that are actually successful. That's because they are, well, proprietary, and you never had the pleasure to work with such systems. There.


John Moran wrote:
Thanks Nicole. I appreciate the humour.


Thanks! To be honest, there was not much humor involved. The automated cr..p that is thrown at translators these days is simply insulting. Amazing, that array of people who know what's good for the translator.

Just to clarify- I am not suggesting it can be translated on the phone


See above, and thanks for the giggle!

- just accepted or refused having had a quick look at a sample file or a file for translation. If an e-mail comes in on my smartphone it is almost always possible for me to read it by clicking on the attachment (iPhone and Android). It rarely requires more than a cursory look on my part before I accept or reject a job.


Hm. Maybe you should get into real translation.

I normally just type a short response when I am out but clicking on a link in the mail would be fractionally easier for both parties.


Why? Translators usually are booked in advance.

I like the idea of the "not available now but available in x days" reply. That could be a feature for less urgent jobs.


See above.

I think you are underestimating the problems caused by small translation jobs for agencies that work with freelancers. Even the world's largest agencies are under pressure from some of the biggest translation buyers to scrap minimum fees so the time it takes for a PM to handoff a job is becoming critical for smaller agency suppliers in this supply chain. Essentially, the game is to have enough profitable large jobs to compensate for the loss-making small ones.


Nope. Sorry.
The only translation projects that are REALLY urgent are news, media or emergency-related. Publishers have their established teams for that.

Even for smaller agencies that advertise locally or using adwords it is an issue. Have you ever seen an ad for a local agency that said "Big jobs only please"? Charging a high minimum fee can help here but you may scare off a client that has future need for a large job.


I thought you wanted to develop a "translator-centered" solution?

Client profiles vary from translator to translator and I am guessing from your tone that you are happy with your status-quo. For translators with direct clients or agencies that are lucky enough not to have to deal with micro-jobs this would not be much use.


It took more than a decade to develop the optimum, which is why I would love to provide my experience and input, instead of observing the umpteenth piece o' Sweatshop Organizer to be thrown on the market.

For many LSP owners I have met their business is indeed "precious" to them.


Really. icon_smile.gif

Could you give me examples of the good systems? I know a few bad ones myself.


I can tell you about some darn cool features. Other than that - those systems are proprietary.


I am still waiting for the ultimate system to be developed. Instead of trying to give birth to the 329th amateur system catering to bottom feeders, you could as well create something COOL.


 

John Moran  Identity Verified
Ireland
Local time: 15:21
Member (2004)
German to English
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
The Ultimate System Jul 16, 2013

As far as bottom feeding goes, how does any system that does not allow any kind of searching encourage that? On the contrary, the idea was triggered by a reaction to low paying agencies who have streamlined small job production. If that is not a problem for you, fine, but - trust me on this - it can be a real problem for agencies that pay well (and those that don't). There is a myriad of mini-marketplaces on the Internet now. They don't interest me.

Regarding trying out "real" translation, you are assuming much. Aside from lecturing in translation at a well-known university (where I graduated top of my year with a distinction in German in 1997), I have worked as a full-time de>en freelance translator specializing in software related translation for years. Many top-tier translators know me and clients know my work as a translator and as a reliable freelance project manager. Some of these clients are translators themselves on proz.

You lump me in with (exclusively male?) developers who don't understand the realities of translation and yet you attack my professionalism when I do try to solicit opinion on a translator platform. Do you see the contradiction?

The comment borders on the personal and I was not looking for criticism of me but comments and criticism for the system I was attempting to outline.

The fact is, programming pays better than translation and translation technology interests me, so I don't live from from it these days but, as stated above, I keep my hand in to keep the rust at bay.

Please stop teasing and tell us what the "darn cool features" are or outline what you mean by "the "ultimate system" so I can create something "COOL". That's exactly what I am trying to do!





[Edited at 2013-07-17 09:21 GMT]

[Edited at 2013-07-17 10:31 GMT]


 


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