Letter to Linkedln from ATA
Thread poster: Javier Wasserzug

Javier Wasserzug  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 19:03
English to Spanish
+ ...
Jul 9, 2009

ATA American Translators Association
Alexandria, VA 22314 USA lei+1703-683-6100 Fax+1-703-683-6122

Contact: Wendy Greenwald
June 30, 2009 720-488-1116

Head of Largest Professional Translators' Organization Blasts Linkedln CEO for "Thoroughly Unprofessional Practices"
Calls Linkedln's Plea to its Members to Provide Free Translation Services to the For-Profit Organization "Disappointing and Highly Unprofessional"
(Alexandria, VA) JUNE 30, 2009 — The president of the American Translators Association (ATA), the largest organization for professional translators and interpreters in the U.S., today blasted the CEO of Linkedln in a letter, calling its plea for free translation services from the site's own members, "misguided, troubling and clearly incompatible with the operation of a for-profit enterprise." He added, "It's astonishing that this site, whose very existence is predicated on fostering professionalism, would compromise its own professionalism by approaching its members, hat in hand, seeking donations for a for-profit entity."
The controversy came to light after a "survey" was circulated by Linkedln to its members who identified themselves as translators. The survey turned out to be an attempt to find the lure that would identify translators willing to translate Linkedln's materials for free.
"ATA's translator members are happy to provide free translation services to charities, non-profit organizations and other worthy causes," ATA President Jiri Stejskal noted, "and we in fact have pro-bono and charitable activities underway every year. But Linkedln is a for-profit enterprise that to date has had a record of paying professional translators for their services. It now seems that Linkedln is looking for ways to cut the translation costs by lowering their professional standards."
The practice of using volunteers to provide professional services, widely referred to as "crowdsourcing," has been used with some success by non-profit entities such as Wikipedia. Linkedln cited Wikipedia as the crowdsourcing example it was following, perhaps unaware that in the early years Wikipedia contained errors, incorrect data, unsubstantiated sources and other problems associated with an all-volunteer work force. It is these same error-prone results that social networking sites such as Facebook have encountered recently. Even Google, which also experiments with crowdsourcing, is
careful to employ professionals to translate Google's own marketing, branding, legal and advertising materials.
"Linkedln is entering hazardous waters by attempting to use volunteers to perform professional services whose results will have a direct impact on the branding, image and professionalism of a company that claims to be the premier professional networking site on the Web," Stejskal noted. "Companies take a huge risk relying on unproven - and often untrained - volunteers who hold the company's very image in their inexperienced hands. These efforts often end in disaster, and the embarrassing results are often set right by ATA's own members," he said. "Our association devotes considerable resources to highlighting the significant legal and even liability risks companies are exposed to from mistranslations of standards, policies, practices, confidentiality provisions and other critical components at the hands of untrained volunteers."
# # #

Mr. Jeff Weiner
Chief Executive Officer Linkedln Corporation
2029 Stierlin Court Mountain View, CA 94043


Dear Mr. Weiner,

Linkedln recently contacted the professional translators on its books with a "customer survey" ostensibly seeking feedback to improve its service to them.

From the survey's second question it was clear that the "survey" was in fact a disingenuous attempt to identify the lure that would land translators prepared to localize Linkedln texts for free ("for fun") or for a token payment ("a badge").

On behalf of the largest association of professional translators in North America, the American Translators Association (ATA), I object to your initiative on two grounds.

1. Many of our members are happy to donate time and expertise to charities and not-for-
profit institutions, and the ATA actively promotes contributions to deserving pro bono

But there is a difference between helping a charitable organization and providing a free service to a for-profit business like Linkedln. Since we assume you employ professional programmers, marketers, accountants, legal advisers and copywriters, and pay them professional rates, your appeal for "translation volunteers" is incongruous to say the least. That a professional social networking site would use the profiles of its own clients to solicit free translations from career linguists is both disappointing and thoroughly unprofessional.

2. The crowdsourcing model cannot work unless volunteers are competent. Companies
seeking global reach regularly lose face and money by relying on amateurs to translate
key materials, and the embarrassing results are generally set right by professional

Read ATA's press release and President Jiri Stejskal's letter to LinkedIn CEO.


Tomasz Poplawski  Identity Verified
Local time: 21:03
Member (2007)
English to Polish
+ ...
Thanks for posting! Jul 9, 2009

And even NYT noticed:


United Kingdom
Local time: 03:03
German to English
+ ...
note the dates Jul 9, 2009

The NYT noticed the controversy, but not the ATA's response.

Date of NY Times article: June 28

Date of ATA's press release: June 30

The NYT article has quotes only from individual translators.

See also this recent thread:


ViktoriaG  Identity Verified
Local time: 22:03
English to French
+ ...
I raised an eyebrow Jul 10, 2009

Nataly Kelly, analyst at Common Sense Advisory, says in defense of LinkedIn (in the NYT article) that either way, nobody should feel cheated because LinkedIn will pay for the reviewing and proofreading anyway. As if that could set the record straight. Is there or is there no difference between LinkedIn paying for reviewing and proofreading only vs. them paying for translation and reviewing and proofreading? I have worked in this industry long enough to know that translation alone costs more than reviewing and proofreading taken together. So, is LinkedIn saving money or not? And how come reviewers and proofreaders are getting paid while translators don't? She may be fooling NYT readers, but she ain't fooling translators...

I am also slightly surprised that nobody seems to see an issue with the fact that LinkedIn is charging translators to get visibility as professionals while asking them to work for them at no charge. How professional is doing volunteer work for a for-profit organization?

I am also surprised that LinkedIn didn't offer a free paying membership in exchange for translation services. How expensive would it be for them to give away a handful of paying memberships with the money they would save on translation? One year of Business Plus usage costs fifty bucks - that's worth a mere thousand words if we use dirt cheap rates as a reference. It could even have convinced many translators to finally invest in a paid LinkedIn account, and they may have renewed their accounts for time indefinite... So, not only is the whole affair insulting, but it is also a huge loss of a great marketing opportunity. And after this, I should believe that LinkedIn will help me market my services, when they can't properly market their own?


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Letter to Linkedln from ATA

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