Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Lionbridge CEO Rory Cowan Explains Didiergate and the World of Freelancing to Analysts

…y hoy especialmente está llena la ruta.
(Fito Páez, “El chico de la tapa”)

One of the beauties of modern capitalism is the obligation of companies whose shares are publicly traded to engage in certain rituals of disclosure. One of these is the conference call by senior management to discuss quarterly results. By coincidence, it was Lionbridge’s turn this week to roll out its numbers.

Pity poor Lionbridge. It has had a tough week. It unveiled some pretty dismal numbers, and the market battered its shares. It was pretty grim, like a cage match between the Tasmanian Devil and Bambi. In an overall positive week in which markets were generally up, LIOX closed on Friday being worth 20% less than on Monday. Ouch.

In the face of this, a gaggle of irate blog posts by freelance translators was less than a footnote. Fleas can make you itchy, but they’re just a distraction. Nonetheless, “Didiergate” did make a brief appearance during the Q&A between management and analysts. The whole transcript is here (free, but you have to register).

I proceed to pick out a few highlights. An analyst made the following question to CEO Rory Cowan:
Kevin Liu – B. Riley & Company [Analyst]
Hi, good morning. First question here – your guidance for Q4 here is fairly consistent from a revenue standpoint as the prior quarter. But looking at kind of the impacts on margins, one you guys have accelerated restructuring, so would expect maybe some initial benefits there. But beyond that, Forex seems to be working against you at least for now on a sequential basis, and you guys have also sent out this memo requesting discounts from your translator base. I’m – so curious as to your confidence in extracting these discounts and what sort of net impact you expect on the margin line on a sequential basis?
I know, I know. You recognize the individual words, but they don’t mean anything when put together. Luckily, I speak some jargonese. The analyst is asking if the company thinks it can secure the 5% discount that set the blogosphere ablaze. Then he asks about the net impact on profit margins.
What follows is really remarkable:
Rory Cowan [Lionbridge CEO]
Right, I’ll handle some of this and then Don’s going to respond to it. First, I think two things – let’s take this in reverse order. We have gone out for a worldwide translator database and asked for discounts. And the reason for that is is [sic] we’re finding that – what’s happening it seems to be with workers in the Cloud right now is there’s quite a lot of fraud in a lot of these worked – these meeting places and job posting places where small businesses post projects and individual[s] respond to them, it seems if there is a not a lot of follow through on payment.
One of the things that we do is, of course, we’re a very high integrity and do pay people, first.
Did you see it? Blink and you miss it. The chief executive officer of Lionbridge is telling the analyst ever so indirectly that the 5% discount will be secured. Why, you ask? Well, Kevin, because there are a lot of sleazy job-posting sites for freelancers in the Cloud (apparently we’re in the Cloud) where scammers post project offers and never pay up.

OK, hold that thought for a second.

OK, now read on.

Then he goes on to say that we, Lionbridge, on the other hand, are a very high integrity company and “do pay people.”
 
Please take a second or two to let that sink in.

Done? Ok, let’s proceed.

He is saying that Lionbridge is a high integrity company, not because of its corporate responsibility, environmental awareness, unimpeachable ethics or opportunities for career development… No, no, no. None of that sissy crap.

He is claiming moral superiority because his company pays people for their work.
That is a pretty incredible statement. Somehow, I can’t imagine Steve Ballmer getting up and saying: “We here at Microsoft pride ourselves on being a high integrity company. And you know why…?” pausing as he chokes back a tear. “It’s because we pay our people, goddammit! (Not like those scumbags over at Apple.)”

I know what you’re thinking: “Big surprise! The guy who hired Didier Hélin is a buffoon of monumental proportions!”
But wait, there’s more:
Second, we’re finding the translators we’re [transcription error; should read: “are”] getting great productivity with our platform. And so, I think that we should be able to share some of that productivity – share the benefits of that productivity with them.
Oh, no, he didn’t! He played the technological productivity card (a justification which, by the by, was absent from Didier Hélin’s Halloween horror).

Reality check. Lionbridge is paying very low rates already. From that you have to subtract the translator’s subscription cost to use their Chitty Chitty Bang Bang translation tool. And on top of that they have to pay a fee to get to the front of the line in the company’s project distribution tool.
Now, thanks to increased productivity gained from using Translation Workspace, “we should be able to share some of that productivity… share the benefits of that productivity with them.”
Translation: “Those greedy, money-grubbing translators! Zipping around in their Ferraris while our share price circles the toilet bowl! Surely they can cut down on a couple of champagne bottles a month to share some of the benefits of our superior technology with us! I mean, for Chrissake, Didier Hélin might have to cancel his season tickets to the Red Sox!
But finally, he answers the question: will the translators bite? He goes on, tortuously:
So this is – I think – will we get 5% [from] everybody? That’s probably a little aggressive, but it’s certainly a nice place to start.
So there you have it, freelancers. Even Lord Vader thinks the Dark Side isn’t strong enough to get everybody to swallow Didier Hélin’s doodoo sandwich. “That’s probably a little aggressive.” (“But it’s certainly a nice place to start.” Meaning Didier Hélin can whip up another of his tasty concoctions at the drop of hat. And probably will, so get your knife and forks ready!)
However, there are still others that can embrace their destiny as minions of the Empire.
And we’re also finding that new translators are now coming to us, because they find that there are many more translators than they [transcription error: “there”] are companies with high integrity buying translation on the web.

Yes, the world is a big place. Basically, there are so many shady non-payers on the Internet and a freelancer’s chances of securing paid work are so slim that they will chew and chew that sucker and eventually gulp it down. Subliminally, what he is really saying is that if Luke and Han and Leia and the Wookie don’t buckle under, we can replace them with low-paid sand people faster than you can yell “green cards!” on the Mexican border.

It is significant that the head of a company that touts itself as a leader of the drive toward globalization via the Internet can paint such a depressing view of the “Cloud.” It is a gloomy and dangerous place filled with predators, fake companies, scammers, unpaid work, frustration and desperation. It’s basically a Charles Dickens novel with Wi-Fi hotspots. In contrast with the Land of Mordor, Lionbridge is the Shire, where hobbits frolic innocently. They frolic, that is, if they have a credit card and very, very low expectations.

The other image Cowan is conjuring of the Internet is that of an unregulated market with a limitless supply of qualified people. And to a room full of people who get regular salaries, the world of freelancing must sound scary. Cowan plays it to the hilt. Booooo! Recruiting for Lionbridge, he suggests, is similar to those street corners in the U.S. where illegal immigrants congregate for day labor. Mr. Cowan pulls up in his pick-up truck and yells: “I need two unemployed M.D.s with Mongolian and broadband access!” And he finds them on the cyber street corner. “Hop on board, fellas! Just one thing. We need to pay you 5% less than the last harvest. You know those new ladders we rented you are so good, we need to share some of the added benefit from all those extra apples you picked.”
There are six billion people in the world, after all. How hard can it be to find three or four thousand unemployed bilinguals with degrees, PCs, basic computer skills, a credit card, good grammar, writing skills, attention to detail, knowledge of electrical engineering, low self-esteem, an infinite capacity to absorb abuse, and a desperate need for the almighty (albeit shrinking) American dollar?

A Death Star “vendor manager” thinks like this: “Gosh, I have 322 professionals who fit that description in my database. No, wait, this woman is in here twice. OK, 321. Oh, this one’s dead. 320. And that one registered in 1999. He’s in prison now. 319. But he gets parole in January! He’ll need some quick cash. Let’s put him down as a maybe. And this girl just hates us. She’s the one who set up lionbridgesucks.com. Hmm, better not call her. 318…”

Call me crazy, but Cowan’s vision is not the Internet I know. The world of translation may be globalized but it is actually quite tiny. I can’t count the number of times I ended up working on projects with people I know in person purely by coincidence. Six degrees of separation? Bah. Three is too much. Two and a half, tops.

Sure there are non-payers. But there are several reliable databases that tell you who is and who isn’t a reliable outsourcer. The one I use most frequently is ProZ.com’s Blue Board. And I used to subscribe to the Payment Practices List (http://www.paymentpractices.net/Default.aspx), which is really useful, but I let my subscription lapse for lack of use. The thing is that fraud is so infrequent that I rarely need to check up on prospects. When an email comes out of the blue from someone who needs me ASAP for a presentation to be given in London, the telltale signs of fraud are so obvious that I do not even need to reply. Fraudsters are so lazy they even use the same names in the scam letters they send over and over again. I’ve been approached by scammers and fraudsters in person, on the street, more often than through the Internet.

The world is not only flat. It is also minute. The efficiencies from a global workforce immediately available through the Internet at a fraction of developed world wages are real. If you’re making tennis shoes.

Ok, that is one point I wanted to make: The Internet is not an absolutely opaque medium in which no one knows you’re a dog. So there.

And that leads us to the other major claim Cowan makes. “And we’re also finding that new translators are now coming to us.” Translation: If the current pool of translators balks at Didier Hélin’s culinary innovations, we can simply fire up the database. Next! And five thousand names pop up.
He is right about that. Up to a point. Given a large enough database and a sufficiently large number of registrants, it is possible to continuously burn through translators every time you drop a rung in the wage ladder. Translators will immediately mumble: “What about quality?” But that is not the point I want to make.

The type of workforce churn that Cowan is being so cavalier about comes at a cost. I know for a fact that their database is defective. I get called for projects long after I stopped answering their emails, out of sheer bewilderment. There are many other testimonies to that effect. They may claim to have 25,000 qualified people on their books. But how many of them are dead? Maintaining a database like that costs money. Do you seriously think a company as mediocre as Lionbridge is investing in that upkeep?
Of course not.

So the only option is to give the non-Spanish-speaking project manager the keys to the database and order him to use it like an Uzi. “Sprays emails all over Latin America, from Tierra del Fuego to the Rio Grande, and wait for someone to reply on the other end.” And pray someone (anyone) answers quickly. And delivers on time. With each hiccup, each dead person, each stoner and each unqualified person whose work requires thorough cleanup by the editors, deadlines get missed, quality declines and unseen costs mount up.

That is the reality of work in the Death Star. You see, the real danger is not those fly-by-night scammers on the Internet. No, siree.

Lionbridge is not a sleek Formula One dragster that is raking up the profits as it squeezes its freelancers, as many translators naively seem to think. It is actually a rickety bucket of bolts wheezing along the information superhighway because its corporate clients are hoarding cash and putting the squeeze on it.

China? Yeah, right. China… Real-time translation? Suuuuure! I mean, IBM has only been working to crack that nut for… what? Fifty years? Sometime in the first quarter of 2011. Or maybe second quarterish...

The problem is that there appears to be no further room for real revenue growth.

But wait, what if we get some tape, scissors, glue and boogers and build our own online translation tool? And what if we charge our own translators to use it? And we charge them again for the privilege of getting to be picked for projects (a sure sign that quality is the first priority)? What do you think we can make off of that? Let’s slap some third-party machine translation doohicky and call it the future.
Well, the conference call also contains some numbers to that effect:
…we have about 2,000 users now or probably next year, at the end of the year we’ll have 3,3500 [probably 3,500] users [, so] that’s going well. And then the enterprise side of that, it could be anywhere – each sale to be anywhere from a $100,000 to $400,000, $500,000, that’s on translation workspace.
I can’t hazard any guesses as to how many enterprises will shell out half a million bucks for a translation memory tool with IBM’s machine translation dinosaur grafted on it. But I can hazard some guesses as to the revenue from individuals. Cowan states that “we have about 2,000 users now or probably next year”. To which I would say: “Dude, you either have them now or you don’t. You can’t have them now or next year.”

But let’s take his figure of 3,500 victims at face value. Let’s assume the best-case scenario, in which 3,500 people subscribe to Translation Workspace for the full-year freelancer price of $762 a year (much more expensive than all other competitors’ licenses, which don’t last a year but rather go on indefinitely). This would allow subscribers to process 80,000 words per month, which is 3,636 words a day in a month with 22 working days, a credible output for a translator. That comes to $2.67 million a year. This is the most that Lionbridge can tax its individual “vendors” for getting work from it.

That is still not even enough to cover the losses from a single quarter.

And as for enterprises, I can just imagine that small and medium-sized translation companies will be beating down the doors of Lionbridge to use the proprietary technology of a third-class competitor who will have total access to all of the confidential material of their clients.

So, basically, the industry leader is alienating its workforce and bashing its own reputation in the face like Robert De Niro in Goodfellas. And all for less than one percentage point of revenue, at best.
The question really is: Are the only translation scams coming from those shady companies who don’t pay freelancers?

Frankly, I would be very leery of a company whose 2011 business plan relies on the consumption capacity of freelancers. Especially when those freelancers are paid low wages because you yourself pay them low wages. And, yes, Henry Ford wanted to sell Model-Ts to his assembly line workers, but his idea was to pay them enough to buy the damned things.

Some commentators on this sorry episode have said things along the lines: “I wouldn’t work for them. But, hey, that’s the market. You’re free to take it or leave it. That’s capitalism.”

I’m sorry, but that’s not capitalism. That is feudalism.

And those lazy, lice-ridden, peasant-raping, God-fearing, noble landowners got thrown in the dustbin of history when people in cities and towns started inventing neat capitalist stuff like clocks and fractional reserve banking.

On whither side of the city walls art thou, my 21st century techno-peasant?


Miguel Llorens is a freelance financial translator based in Madrid who works from Spanish into English. He is specialized in equity research, economics, accounting, and investment strategy. He has worked as a translator for Goldman Sachs, the US Government's Open Source Center and H.B.O. International, as well as many small-and-medium-sized brokerages and asset management companies operating in SpainTo contact him, visit his website and write to the address listed there. Feel free to join his LinkedIn network or to follow him on Twitter.

31 comments:

Kevin Lossner said...

Thank you, Miguel, for the funniest dose of truth I've enjoyed in a long while!

Is it any wonder that profit margins are "razor thin" for LSPs with inefficient processes, who often quote lower to end customers than a competent individual translator with a smidgen of self-respect and economic sense would do? When I consider what sort of "qualified professional" they'll probably get to do the work (in my language pair), I'm not the least bit annoyed. I just smile and think that these are good times to be a practicing attorney in the field of tort law. And that these cases will generate interesting translation work :-)

Corporations are right not to carry large translation departments on their books. I like to think that I played a role in helping a former employer realize the value of modern translation technology and efficient outsourcing, though maybe they were just cheap bastards who would have laid off everyone in the translation department anyway. However, I do think that keeping the project management in-house and supporting this role with the best workflow and server-based translation environment technology available makes sense for large companies and even many SMEs. I've seen a number of companies move in this direction after a long history of getting shafted by unreliable, large LSPs.

Financial Translator said...

@Kevin Lossner Wouldn't it be hilarious if there were some kind of rule that said "the bigger you are as a translation agency, the less profit you can make"? One of the things about translation is that there is no benefit to a larger scale. In any case, the model you mention of in-house project management makes sense. I often wonder why it isn't more frequent, because the added value some companies bring seems almost nonexistent.

Danilo Nogueira said...

Give'em hell, Miguel!

I am also a financial translator and a firm believer in the power of saying "no" to crappy offers.

Your analysis is brilliant!

Adam Asnes said...

Good post. First time here on your blog. Found it via twitter link.

I really wish that our industry's market leader was...well...a market leader. They have half OK marketing, and do some things really well, but many times I think their spotty delivery of both technology and services taints our industry. I for one, would like to see them doing an awesome job all around, as odd as that sounds. It would lift the industry. I can appreciate that what they are trying to do, as a sheer scalability issue, is difficult to deliver - but stupid mistakes repeated over and over elevate to something else. To me, asking vendors for lower prices in a crunch is not a bad thing to do occasionally, but as an insensitive form letter blanket policy, they have asked for trouble. You can bet they are well aware that they have to continually adapt their value, but it seems a little human side relationship building is in order. Besides, as a market leader, shouldn't they be able to command somewhat higher, not lower prices to customers? You know, like IBM or any other services leader...at least outside of the jumbo Microsoft-like project work.

Ariadna said...

"Curioser and curioser!" (c)
As was wittily commented by someone at proz, these guys look pretty much like the Titanic crew building them their personal iceberg.

Financial Translator said...

Hi Danilo,

Thanks for your comments. Speaking of small worlds, we met at the ATA conference in Atlanta back in 2002. Nice to "see" you again. Cheers

Jill said...

Thanks for a great analysis of the problem, Miguel. You really know how to cut through the B.S. and tell it to us straight. Love the Mordor/Shire analogy! Keep up the good work!

Otto Motor said...

Funny thing is, Lionbridge's translation tool does not even produce productivity gains, but losses. It is clumsy, slow, unwieldy, an just so far behind the power curve that it will never be able to catch up with the best tools. Lionbridge just does not have the resources to make the tool good.

Financial Translator said...

@Otto I actually haven't had the privilege of using the LB CAT tool, but I'm not surprised.

SK said...

Interestingly Lionbridge have just launched a Vendor Management & Recruitment twitter account, good to see they are dedicated to fostering good relationships with their partners!

Oystein said...

Great piece, Miguel. First time here, but will subscribe from now on. Thanks for the insight.

What got me laughing first, was the quote "and do pay people, first." I know several people who worked for Lionbridge in the past (in various countries) who swear they will never work for them again because they didn't pay them for months (even when they were working on-site, begging for payment). That was years ago, and maybe they are more serious now. But if their cash flow problems get serious again, I don't for a sceond think they will hesistate keeping payment back from translators, first!

Financial Translator said...

@Oystein
I read in another forum that the company officially changed payment terms from net 45 to net 60 days recently. Nothing to stop them from imposing net 90 days.

Gio Lester said...

Insightful and fun. Thank you, Miguel. I used to work for Lionbridge but stop many years ago specifically because of their pricing philosophy. Their new pay-to-work-for-me approach is shameful to say the list.

Gio

Claudia Moreira said...

A Hello from Brazil, Miguel!

Thanks again for the excellent text.

Regarding this issue with Liox, it really pisses me off the way they think they are doing us a favor, when this is actually a two-sided relationship.

In my answer to local management here, I've asked if they really needed to opress their work force in order to remain competitive. This makes no sense!

Best regards,

Claudia

Financial Translator said...

Hi Claudia,
Thanks for visiting and commenting. It is very courageous of you to protest, never an easy thing. However, it would probably be more effective if you rounded up six or seven colleagues and very respectfully sent the same message. That would be more powerful. Just a suggestion.

Charlie Bavington said...

Great post, Miguel. My jaw did indeed slow hang lower and lower as I read first that they thought they deserved some credit because they pay people, and second that the 5% cut is somehow justified by the allegedly excellent (but unquantified) productivity gains brought about by the TW. And I note the use of another weasel word in that section, namely "share".

However, I would like to raise an eyebrow, speaking as one of those you mention who maintains Lionbridge have the right under a free market to attempt to impose such a cut (subject to contractual procedures being observed), as regards the description of their action as "feudalism". In microcosm, perhaps, if you interpret their actions as a misguided assumption that freelancers are beholden to them and no other. But not in any wider sense, in my view.

We are not vassals, tied to the land and the landowner, with no choice but to accept what scraps the aristocracy throw our way. We don't need to actually revolt. We have choices. I suggest we (by which I mean those involved with Liox - I am not, in fact, in that unfortunate number) exercise them, and if enough of us do so, then that serves the purpose of a revolt, again in microcosm, and Lionbridge's fiefdom would, unless they changed their approach, go the way of the fiefdoms of history.

Meanwhile, however, please continue to ridicule the methods by which they (or any others like them) announce and implement their policies, and more power to your elbow.

Financial Translator said...

Hi Charlie,
Thanks for your comment. Regarding the unfeudal nature of the Lionbridge master-slave relationship, consider the following: 1) if you work for them, you are earning a low rate, that is a given; 2) if you want to continue working for them, you must subscribe to their Mickey Mouse tool; 3) and that is an added "sunk" cost that raises the cost of walking out on them. Believe me, that is intentional. Business types talk about that kind of arrangement all the time: they call it "stickiness," when the bother of suspending a subscription to a service outweighs the incovenience of bad service. Bankers talk about it all the time. Have you ever tried to move your current and savings accounts to another bank? I don't mean opening an account at another bank. I mean the whole kit and caboodle. A nightmare, what with the automatic payment for all your utilities, rent, etc.; the coordinates your clients have for your wire transfers, your credit cards, and so on. If on top of that you add the supposition that Lionbridge probably accounts for 40%-60% of many of its translators' turnover, the refusal to swallow the Didier Hélin meatball sub is onerous indeed. You (sort of) owe your soul to the company store.

Now, I'm not advocating torches and pitchforks. Like you, I recommend simply exercising your privilege as a freelancer to take a couple of weeks off. Get a sudden cold. Go visit that spinster aunt of yours. Take up canasta. Learn a new computer program. Read a book. And mull over your choices. Especially if you're in an exotic language or a very in-demand specialty. Perhaps invite a couple of colleagues to synchronize their colds with you. From the anecdotes around the Web and Lord Vader's hesitancy (and the generalized incompetence of the company), I just don't think they are fully prepared for that and would probably cave.

Sean Oliver said...

Some great discussion here. Yes, language services don't seem to be a great basis for a publicly traded company... the real money in language services is the small, boutique shop that does lots of project managment and other formatting tasks for select clients, on a narrow range of content (just medical, just HR, etc.). Too much expansion = price pressures, as all clients start asking for volume discounts eventually. Sounds like you all are right in line with the "No Peanuts" campaign. You should check it out:

http://nopeanuts.wordpress.com/

Sean Oliver

Financial Translator said...

Hi Sean,

Thanks for visiting. I am well aware of the website. Thanks for the link so other can check out their content. Regards

Sabine Schlottky said...

Hi Miguel,
Excellent post, frustrating reality! They are definitely not integer...
I said NO quite some time ago when an intermediate agency asked me to subscribe to Lionbridge's tool.
Take care!
Sabine

Another Adam said...

Hi Miguel,

Thank you so much for your brilliant analysis! One thing about Lionbridge that no one seems to be mentioning these days is the way they calculate your wordcount. Both Translation Workspace and its predecessor, Logoport, calculate internal repetitions. For example, your document contains sentences A and B that are similar, but the TM does not contain a sentence C that would be similar to A and B. Trados would categorize A and B as no matches, but Workspace counts them as fuzzy matches. This way, you earn less for the same translation with the same TM than you would with Trados.

There is nothing wrong with that particular kind of analysis; it is admittedly more accurate. But all methods of quoting translations are purely conventional, and none could take into account all the unpredictable aspects of particular source texts. The point is that if your per word rate is X with Lionbridge and also X with another company, you will earn less from Lionbridge, and they won't tell you about it.

Financial Translator said...

@Another Adam

Thanks for your input. It is an important issue. It also decreases the tool's appeal for the independent translator or LSP when invoicing a client who is not Lionbridge.

C. Brayton said...

This inspired rant bolsters my contention that this thing of ours is a poster child for the sleazy underbelly of globalization. I constantly ask myself: I went to graduate school for THIS? So what do we do? Revive the Wobblies?

Financial Translator said...

@C. Brayton Believe me, I do not have all the answers. Nay, even half. My feeling is that, for the freelancer, the large agencies have gone below subsistence and sinking lower. That may revert or it may not. I'm not sure either way.

Aurora Humarán said...

«The pay-to-work scheme is shameful to say the least and obscene at worst.»

Amen! Thanks for your great posts, Miguel. Your analysis on the matter is superb, and should be read by all fellos translators.

Cheers,

Au

Galina said...

Hi Miguel,

Thank you for the amazing post! I got here thanks to a link posted by a friend on FB, and I will be definitely coming for more!

Thank you for your brutal honesty and personal opinion. I personally don't even bother to reply to emails from companies such as this one if I see any ridiculous job offers with almost humiliating prices.

Speaking of this 5% discount, I was talking to a colleague at the ATA conference this year, and he drew my attention to the fact that their email went out to all freelancers AT THE SAME TIME as Lionbridge (through GeoWorkz) was sponsoring the conference (platinum sponsor):
http://atanet.org/conf/2010/sponsors.php

Bad timing, to say the least.

I really hope end clients are aware of the problems posed by translation corporations, such as this one, and will choose to turn to smaller, quality-oriented companies with their requests.

Cheers,
Galina

Johnny Speiermann said...

You are most likely right about freelancers being too dependent on a few customers. I know lots of freelancers that have only 1-3 clients.

I also know a few freelancers that just accept any rates - they are simply too scared to lose work.

Financial Translator said...

Thank you for visiting and dropping by. I would also hope that end clients begin to become more wary of hefty providers. My feeling is that mega-agencies like Lionbridge are a clear case of market inefficiency. They provide worse service than boutiques. What keeps them in business is the huge scale of the marketing machines they run.

The timing of the Didier Hélin email was, as you say, bad timing, but also a little more: 1) sneaky because it was pushed through when a lot of bloggers would be at the ATA and 2) arrogant, since the finality of the tone was meant to bully people into accepting it as a fait accompli, which it clearly wasn't.

Victoria said...

"Great productivity"? Don't make me laugh, Lionbridge.

I recently had the misfortune to take on a job for which the client then insisted that I use Translation Workspace. About the only positive thing I can say about the whole experience was that I did not have to pay for the software or a subscription to use it (client/agency took care of that).

The past month, working on this project, has been one of the most miserable ones of my working life. Instead of an increase in productivity, I was forced (by the slowness of the software) to work at around a third of my usual pace.

The software frequently crashed (one or two times freezing up so badly it took me a whole morning to sort out). And that's not including all the annoying "error" dialogues that popped up for no apparent reason on a regular basis.

Oh, and then there were the chunks of text that I discovered had mysteriously vanished when I started proofreading. And although the quality and reliability of the matches was ok, I've worked with much better. Sometimes the software didn't even recognise frequently recurring 100% matches - ok, not a problem to retype, and I really wouldn't care... except that this means Translators Workspace clearly does NOT always do what it says on the tin.

All in all, Lionbridge's software, which they claim to be increasing productivity to the extent where they are entitled to a 'share of the benefits' through a discount (on top of the fees they already extract - isn't that already a 'share of benefits'?), is actually more trouble that it is worth. In my humble experience, of course.

From now on, I think I shall be taking that ten-foot bargepole I keep for Lionbridge and other companies I consider unethical, and applying it to their software as well. Frankly, I wouldn't touch it even if a client wanted to pay me three times my usual rate to do so...


(Great post, by the way, Miguel!)

Laura Dossena said...

Simply GREAT. Thank you for that, really!

Héctor said...

It seems ATA retired LB's mention on their Sponsors Page.