And Translators Are Still Asking: How Low Can ProZ Go?

Reposted from Translation Tribulations
Monday, January 09, 2012

How low can ProZ go?

Since The Great Moderator Purge at ProZ a few years ago, things have continued to get curiouser and curiouser, and The Translation Workplace has evolved into more of a Translation Workhouse, or as some colleagues from former Iron Curtain regions who have the historical background to comment authoritatively might put it, a gulag. One from which, thankfully, most serious translators in the major language pairs have escaped to a better life. After being gagged there for several years and dealing with other nonsense, I stopped being a paying member of the site in 2011. The experience of this German colleague provides further confirmation that I made the right decision. For years, there have been rumors, some quite plausible, others less so, of corruption in the Blue Board ratings, and for some, access to this data remains one of the few justifications for membership. But if the ratings themselves are skewed by arbitrary actions… let her story, posted on another translators’ forum and reposted here with permission, speak for itself:

Hey folks,
I know I don’t need to tell you how bad ProZ is for the industry, and I don’t want to turn this into a discussion about that site, but if you need a little story to convince others to stop supporting ProZ with their money, here’s a funny one from today.

A while ago I did one project for an agency that turned out to be a typical broker. Absolutely no QA, low rates (earlier, they were looking for a 50K legal translation within 2 days for 0.09 USD/word – without adding any value to the project themselves), and so on. The project was small enough for me to use as a test to determine if I wanted to continue working with this guy. After all, he had 30 5-star ratings on the Blue Board.

But as it turned out, my initial feeling was correct: he sent me three emails way before the deadline asking me when I would deliver, but when it came to paying me with equal speed after timely delivery, the excuses and bossy behavior began. He said I should be happy about getting paid after 30 days because that is supposedly “GREAT” in our industry, and he declared that he was under no obligation to pay me when I wanted to be paid, etc.

So, long story short, I went to ProZ to leave a negative rating. My review included all necessary information and described my experience. I didn’t mention any names, nor did I use foul language or similar.

First attempt: my review got censored and deleted without any explanation. I sent a support request and asked what was going on. Got a reply that told me to resubmit my review.
Second attempt: I resubmitted my review, and removed the word “arrogant” from it, just to be sure. It got censored and deleted again, without any explanation.
Third attempt: I simply selected one star and added “Not recommended.” to the comment field. It got censored and deleted again. This time, I received an email telling me that I was not allowed to add any comments and should only indicate my WWA rating.
Fourth attempt: I simply gave a 1-star rating and added no further explanation. [This was finally let through.]

WTF?? If you see a bad rating, don’t you want to know why the rating is so bad? Leaving a bad rating without any explanation makes the translator look bitter and vengeful. And why are comments allowed for the good ratings then?

Anyway, I’m happy I don’t waste my money on Proz, and I’ll cheer for everyone who stops paying for their membership. If you want to share this story with paying members, feel free to do so. 🙂

Verra interesting.
Posted by Kevin Lossner at 11:16 PM

Labels: Blue Board, ProZ

46 comments: said…

Ruh roh. Bad ProZ! Thank you so much for sharing this, Kevin. I hadn’t heard this story.

January 10, 2012 7:38 AM


Kevin Lossner said…

It’s a new one, Jill. Just discussed yesterday on a private board. But it’s not the first of its kind I’ve heard. As one person on Twitter put it, “I’d love to be shocked, but…”

January 10, 2012 8:40 AM


Anonymous said…

After much umming and ahhing, I finally renewed my ProZ membership for the year last week. Shame this didn’t come up beforehand – I might have made a different decision.

January 10, 2012 8:57 AM


Kevin Lossner said…

@Anonymous: I do believe there is a refund policy at PrAdZ for cancellations….

January 10, 2012 9:03 AM


Anonymous said…

Thanks, I shall bear that in mind!

January 10, 2012 10:53 AM


Neli said…

Thanks for this info. I renewed my membership a few weeks ago, and hesitated a lot at the time.
Your post has confirmed my doubts and I have just submitted a support request to get a refund.
I hope they won’t try to stop me or claim a refund is impossible.

January 10, 2012 12:58 PM


Jorge said…

Could you please mention where this was first posted? I’d like to take a look at that blog.

January 10, 2012 1:54 PM


Tatjana said…

Thanks Kevin for posting this.
The BlueBoard has indeed been one of the main reasons why I am a paying member but if it is not fair, why pay for it? Then other groups like Zalungspraxis on Yahoo in Germany or Payment Practices would be sufficient, wouldn’t they?
I am asking myself whether there are other negative issues that members could report about not connected with the BlueBoard?

January 10, 2012 1:56 PM


Simone said…

@Neli & Anonymous:
The one good thing about Proz is that the cancellation seems to work smoothly. I cancelled my membership a few months into the then current term and got a refund (for the remaining months) without much trouble. Let’s hope they won’t change that!


January 10, 2012 2:02 PM


Kevin Lossner said…

@Jorge: This did not come from a blog. It is from the business forum on Stridonium, which is a private forum for professionals, which is totally off the Google indexes, etc. This platform was created several years ago in response to the endless security breaches and lack of professional standards at ProZ. It’s small and a bit Anglophilic, but I am very comfortable there. The atmosphere is a bit like the stacks at my old college library: quiet, friendly, collegial. No endless flood of silly newbie questions asking how to write an invoice with VAT or use basic Trados functions.

January 10, 2012 2:14 PM


Sandrine Pouchain said…

Thanks for sharing this Kevin. I admit I am very surprised to see that Proz could behave this way. That’s good to share such experiences that show Proz real behaviour. This site is not as reliable as I thought…

January 10, 2012 2:41 PM


Charlie Bavington said…

I think the main surprise here for me is that you were still paying Proz up to 2011 🙂

(I missed that blog post on account of being on my hols in August.)

Sadly, however, the bare truth is that those running any website have ultimate control over what content it has (and those inspired to set up ‘community’ websites do seem to be cut from similar cloth, also sadly). Presumably there was more discussion on the site you’ve taken it from, but I am a little surprised, given the sort of members it has, that she didn’t make more effort to establish why the comments were removed, but the rating itself was allowed to stand (if that had gone, you’d have a proper conspiracy on your hands!). I do know they are a bit twitchy about what you can say about companies in some countries (Italy, for one).

January 10, 2012 3:07 PM


Paula R. said…

Good one Kevin.
Paula Rennie

January 10, 2012 4:13 PM


Kevin Lossner said…

Paula, I presume you’ve read the original post and know that I don’t deserve the credit for blowing the whistle on this one. I admire the patience she showed in trying to post the rating and let others know how the agency had treated her.

@Charlie: make more effort? How so? How far can she or should she go? Send a spy to Argentina? Sleep with Jared and hope for revealing pillow talk? I fear thingZ move in mysterious ways at Ze TranZlatorZ ParadiZe, and we may never know. Besides, AFAIK it’s against Ze RuleZ to ask 🙂

January 10, 2012 5:43 PM


Charlie Bavington said…

Just ask, maybe? Once would be enough – as I’m sure you know, you either get quoted a rule or (but don’t hold your breath) get given a reason.

Since I feel sure that had such a question been asked, then the response, of no matter what kind, would also have been reported, I surmise she didn’t ask (I believe only pulic questioning of decisionz is against ze rulez). If she had, then there either would have been no mystery, or a proper intriguing mystery. As it is, I feel like somone who has video taped a detective story and missed the last 15 minutes 🙂

January 10, 2012 6:13 PM


Charlie Bavington said…

More effort? Merely by asking, which I believe is allowed as long its done privately and actionz are not questioned in the forumz. She obviously didn’t ask, because any answer would either solve the mystery (I wouldn’t hold my breath for that) or provide more anti-proz ammunition (quote rulez) and/or make the mystery deeper (refuse to answer) and would have been quoted too, I feel sure.

As it stands, it just looks like the usual rubbish site moderation/admin. There’s a surprise. In essence old chap, at this stage in the tale, I’m not sure why corruption is the conclusion, rather than just cluelessness. Unless there’s something we’ve not been told….

Where’s my tin foil hat? 🙂

(PS: this may be basically a duplicate post, in which case delete it or select the one prefer. If any!)

January 10, 2012 9:00 PM


Kevin Lossner said…

Charlie, I’ll let the original poster answer your concerns publicly or privately as she sees fit. As for “corruption“, it takes many forms as you know, a number of them being possibly relevant to Ze Zite. And even should the idiocy to be observed there prove to be in earnest with no intention to deceive, I do think the definition of “the process of decay; putrefaction” applies rather well when one considers the trend of the past five years or so. Or do you see it differently?

January 10, 2012 11:25 PM


Simone said…

@Charlie: Believe me, I’ve had my share of support requests, including this time.

As Kevin indicated in his quote, I sent in a support request right after the first removal of my review. I got a standard response claiming that I had posted defamatory and personal remarks in my comment. This is why I removed the word “arrogant” from my review, as this is the only word in there that some people may consider “personal” (even though it’s equally subjective as “friendly”, and all those reviews talking about “friendly PMs” are accepted without hesitation). Nothing else in my review (imho) was personal or defamatory. I mentioned “low rates”, “no LQA” and the general lack of quality that’s also illustrated by numerous mistakes on the agency’s website. And even my opinion of the PM was based on his rude e-mails in which he first called me unprofessional and then even went on to make fun of me.

So, when my review was deleted the second time (without the word “arrogant” in it), I sent in a very long support request in which I detailed my experience with the agency and explained each and every segment of my comment. I then asked how else I should describe these negative aspects of that agency. How else should I say “low rates” or “no LQA” if not with these words? The word “censorship” was also part of my support request, just in case you’re wondering.

Yet again, I received a standard reply telling me that a moderator had removed my review because of personal or defamatory comments.

When I submitted it the third time (with just “Not recommended. Period.” in the comment), I received an automatic email notification telling me that my review was rejected for personal comments and I should only indicate my LWA rating. At that point, I was 100% sure that they were making fun of me because this is not the first time that I had a lengthy and endless discussion with Support trying to make them tell me explicit rules that I supposedly violated (last time that happened was the reason I cancelled my membership – similar to this time, they were unable to cite specific rules that I was said to have violated).

So, since there was a long translation waiting on my desk, I didn’t feel like sending in another support request. And since good ole Dotty is not my type, a little quickie with that guy isn’t an option either. 😉

Hope that clears things up a bit for ya!

January 10, 2012 11:37 PM


Kevin Lossner said…

Well, Charlie, since Simone has ruled out other means of persuasion with King Henry & the court, it looks like she’s gone about as far as one can reasonably expect for “more effort”. It’s always good to get the facts rather than make assumptions. And there are plenty of facts to go around with regard to that site, from people I believe we both know and respect. There are clear commercial interests at stake here which have very little to do with the real interests of translators or translation buyers, and if you point your sharp mind in that direction, I think you’ll be quite a bit closer to the mark with whatever path of reason you choose.

January 10, 2012 11:57 PM


Marie-Hélène Hayles said…

Just thought I’d clarify a point made by Charlie – “I do know they are a bit twitchy about what you can say about companies in some countries (Italy, for one)”. To be fair to Proz, that’s actually to protect the person posting the review. Italy has a bizarre law whereby you could be successfully sued for defamation *even if what you say is demonstrably true*. I know of at least one colleague who was threatened with a lawsuit by an Italian agency if she didn’t remove her BB comments. For this reason, it was recommended that you provide a simple rating with no comment at all.

Of course, this has nothing to do with Simone’s experience, which is pretty depressing, really.

January 11, 2012 10:09 AM


Kevin Lossner said…

Gez Marie-Hélène Hayles, that sounds like a law made for Mr. Bunga-Bunga… but then the Swiss aren’t much better. They believe in suppressing the truth if it might hurt business. No wonder most of the tinpot tyrants on Earth hide their stolen money there.

January 11, 2012 10:17 AM


Charlie Bavington said…

No, Kevin, I think it’s fair to say I see things similarly to you. As I believe I’ve said in various places, I think it’s a shame the overall quality of everything on there has declined over the years (an inevitable corollary of growing numbers, IMHO), and at the same time, I respect (if not agree with) Henry’s decision to focus on maximising revenue. “Decay” would indeed be a reasonable one-word description.

I suppose the question hinges on the extent to which one thinks he is entitled to protect his income stream. I wonder whether, if he started the site again knowing what he knows now, the BB would exist at all? At what point does protecting his revenue become corruption? I would say that in a business context, this requires some kind of active intervention from the other party, such as a gentle reminder by a corporate member as to how much they pay the site (this kind of thing has been discussed before). I personally wouldn’t describe unilateral overzealous interpretation of posting rulez as “corruption” myself, it seems too strong a word, but I would not go so far as to say anyone was wrong to do so, if that is how they see it.

It is nonetheless entirely unacceptable that the “support” team only responded on autopilot and made no effort to, for example, suggest an appropriate rewording that would be OK for the BB.
(Still, I have myself been asked to edit posts which have in fact been deleted, so their incompetence is not in doubt.)
And I certainly apologise for the phrasing I used before, since clearly Simone went to some efforts! It all sprang from the number of times the words “but why?” sprang to mind as I read through it – Simone’s obviously done her best; my “but whys?” would now need to be directed at the zite, but that is impossible. Which does indeed leave us just with our interpretation based on what we know or think we do. For me, to get a full picture, that would include knowing what country was involved and the membership status of the agency, but even the incomplete picture leaves an unpleasant taste in the mouth.

And the sad truth seems to be that in general on there, while positive subjective opinions are OK, negative subjective opinions are not. See also the utterly pointless WWA nonsense. Or indeed the forums.

Hence, that the BB is of limited use is not at issue. I cannot surely be the only one who could grade agencies but does not, simply to avoid the kind of hoo-hah Simone got embroiled in (be it with proz or the agencies)?

January 11, 2012 3:56 PM


Kevin Lossner said…

@Charlie: I think the meaning of her “but why’s” is clear to all of us now. It’s just another way we protest unjust action, if only to shout it to the empty sky. She certainly did do all that could be expected of her.

Of course Henry is free to focus on whatever legal thing he cares to, but if in doing so, he misrepresents what he’s about or others mistake the proposition on offer, we are just as entitled to call attention to relevant details should we care to. If the Italians, the Swiss or any others have a problem with that, they can, as my father used to put it so nicely, “take a long walk off a short pier”.

Somewhere in all the various repostings and discussions of this case, someone asked me about trustworthy alternatives to the ProZ Blue Board. For the German-speaking world, I can heartily endorse the Zahlungspraxis Yahoogroups list. The gent who runs it is (or was?) the BDÜ member site webmaster and runs the list by strict ethical standards, quickly clamping down on anonymous libels and the like. It’s a good source of information. When I was fighting that sleazebag in Zurich, it was a great source of information. The Payment Practices site offers good info for a modest fee (far less than PrAdZ membership. I trust it far more than the Blue Board.

January 11, 2012 4:09 PM


Nelia said…

Update: my first support request to get a refund was closed yesterday with the answer “Please attend the Meeting clients a webinar”… I re-opened it and told them that I disagreed with the ethics of their website and that it had not got me any client since I started working.
This was finally accepted and I should get my refund within 2 days (hopefully)!

January 11, 2012 4:33 PM


Tatjana said…

@Kevin: yes, the Zahlungspraxis group is still managed by the BDÜ webmaster and it is indeed a very reliable and good source.

And Payment Practices is also very good and the fee is small. ATA members even get a discount on the annual fee.

I had always thought the BB to be a reliable and good source. Now I have to ask myself, how many negative ratings might have been deleted that we do not know of? Anyway, this issue leaves me with a slightly bad feeling…

January 11, 2012 4:39 PM


Kevin Lossner said…

Hard to say, Tatjana. Most of the trouble I hear about isn’t really ProZ fault as I see it. It’s agencies blackmailing/threatening translators over a bad rating that has been allowed, or in some cases translators unjustly threatening with a bad rating. This sort of enters new territory for me. But… in the light of other things I know a lot more about, it fits a pattern. And I have noticed that old posts of mine criticizing various ProZ advertisers have quietly disappeared in the old Argentinian tradition. So I might agree with Charlie that this is just another way for the SiteStaff to keep the bread on King Henry’s banquet table buttered.

January 11, 2012 5:03 PM


Janet said…

Hi Kevin,

I’m sure I missed something, whatever happened with “that sleazebag in Zurich” – is there a link with the low-down?

January 11, 2012 11:25 PM


Simone said…

Congratulations, Nelia.
Good to hear that one can at least still leave the site.

@Charlie: I agree, I think the BB wouldn’t exist if Dotty were to reopen the site. I remember a discussion in the forums about a year ago, in which several people called for an extension of the BB. They suggested including some additional fields like “what are the agency’s standard payment terms” or “price range of rates”. This would be extremely helpful for translators – but probably damaging for many agencies. Needless to say that these suggestions have been ignored. I’ve often found positive BB ratings saying things like “payment on time” or “good rates”, but when I got in touch with the agency, it turned out their standard terms were 60 days and their desired rates were far away from two-digit word prices, etc. So, even without all the trouble above, I still don’t trust the BB.

By the way, the agency in question was from the US. I don’t think I can see their status, can I? I just know that the PM (who seems to be running this agency on his own) is not a paying proz member. And to be honest, he claims some pretty bold things in his CV that don’t fit his low rates at all. I would never worry about lawsuits from these kinds of people, but it’s not the first time that proz has ruled in favor of the low-quality agency.
In that other case that eventually made me leave proz, an agency had indeed threatened to sue me. The hilarious part was that they accused me of ruining their good reputation and spreading lies about their bad quality after they had sent a sample full of errors via mass mail to a public translator listing themselves. No NDA or client protection or similar. I had a good laugh and never heard from them again, but proz bowed down (I assume the agency also threatened them) and removed all my related forum postings even after any mentions of the agency’s name had been removed (so there was no violation of forum rules – I then had a lengthy discussion asking them why other forum posts are allowed to explicitly mention names and why my posting wasn’t even allowed without any references. They were unable to explain their own behavior/rules and instead put me on permanent moderation.) Ah, what a funny site it is!

January 11, 2012 11:33 PM


Really Wild Cat said…

Thing is that if a major agency can lead ATA to change their guidelines (my assumption, but my guess is as good as yours) – then why could another agency not have BB ratings removed?

January 12, 2012 9:03 AM


Kevin Lossner said…

@RW: not sure of the specific matter to which you refer here, but one of the problems with the ATA and some other organizations is that they allow corporate members, who may end up dominating the agenda. This is why the German organizations such as the BDÜ reject such memberships and focus their efforts on supporting individuals who provide language services.

January 12, 2012 9:14 AM


Simone said…

oh, NOW it’s getting interesting. The guy has just responded to my (comment-free) rating and claims it was a bad translation and that he had complained about it – needless to say, this couldn’t be further from the truth. Do you think it’s my turn now to threaten proz with a libel suite?

January 12, 2012 10:06 AM

Simone said…

Oh, right, I almost forgot about Zahlungspraxis. He doesn’t have an entry there yet but he certainly will in a few minutes. Thanks! 🙂

January 12, 2012 10:21 AM


Charlie Bavington said…

And there’s the whole crux of the problem. Too often, these disputes ultimately come down to “he said/she said”, with neither party usually in a position to back their position up with evidence from a independent third party. Assuming that computer forensics are not called in!

And it comes to taking a default position of believing freelancers or agencies, proz usually sides with the agency. If it hasn’t been already, I’ll wager your entry will be removed now because of the claim of a quality issue. Bit of a surprise that your agency was so slow to realise this is how it works. Get rated 1; call “quality issues” no mtter how long after the event; rating removed. Easy peasy. That’s the impression I get, anyway.

See also this thread on that very website:
where roughly the same thing was said.

January 12, 2012 5:54 PM


Simone said…

Well, we shall see. I’m equally curious, but I have the gut feeling that you’ll be right in the end.
I’ve been requested to submit a copy of our e-mail communication (with the e-mail headers as evidence). I’ve done that and so far, I can already proof that the agency never complained and that they are lying about having complained to me about lack of quality. Proz says they have requested the agency to submit evidence of their claims. I’m quite curious to see those..
(Until both parties have responded, Proz has hidden the rating from public visibility.)

Since the circumstances (no NDA or anything) allow it, I’ve actually contacted the end-client and asked them if I could see the final German version or if there were indeed any quality complaints. I don’t normally approach end-clients like that but I hate it when people are not satisfied, especially when I’m not even informed about it. Not sure if I will get a response from them.. but I’ll keep you updated.

January 12, 2012 9:23 PM


Kevin Lossner said…

Saw an interesting comment here on Ze Zite in response to something Charlie B. wrote. It does look like PrAdZ finds ways to keep the Blue Board safe for certain miscreants, though I must say I have seen necessary action taken at times in the past. However, since the SS (Site Staff) took over from the moderators, the job vetting and management of issues has been far less professional.

@Simone: I think this is certainly one of those times when contacting the end customer is justified. When you have your evidence in hand I would use it to nail this outsourcer’s coffin shut. He’s already dug himself a nice grave, though the Translators’ Workhouse may be pleased to keep him around as a zombie 🙂

January 13, 2012 12:19 AM


Really Wild Cat said…

@ Kevin: the part about unpaid tests in the ATA’s guidelines was removed “not so long ago… and I think I know which corporate member (think the Big Apple) pushed for a change in this matter.

January 13, 2012 11:55 AM


Kevin Lossner said…

@RWC: REALLY? I used to quote that a lot. Well, I’ll have to tell Mr. Melby and others that my respect for the ATA just dropped a bit. A further sign that the corporates belong in a different organization. I think I may drop my plans for the conference in San Diego this year and just visit family there instead.

Let’s call an apple an apple, rotten or not. I presume you mean our imperfect spamming friends at TransPerfect? The masters of the super duper rush job cattle call to all translators for 500,000 words overnight. Quality guaranteed, of course 😉 Hey, ProZ isn’t the only reason we need lists like this one!

January 13, 2012 12:02 PM


Sandra Mouton said…

Aaah, I do enjoy a bout of ProZ-bashing! But I enjoy playing devil’s advocate and the occasional polemic without which life would be so boring. So, here we go:
– is useful to find clients for those of us who aren’t veteran translators Mox’s Calvo-style like some of you guys. And, yes, you can find your clients there without being a total mug, you only have to ignore the low-end sweatshop agencies.
– is useful to meet new colleagues and make friends when you move to a new city/country.
– the BB, while it isn’t perfect (what is?) is one of the useful tools available to weed out non-payers.
I could go on and on but I don’t like to do people’s advertising for them without being paid.
So, isn’t a democracy with a foolproof constitution and the attached Supreme Court to guarantee the people’s right to peaceful protest? Don’t tell me it’s big news for you.
So, a thirty 5 stars rating doesn’t guarantee that all will go smoothly? Again, it’s hardly a scoop.
Simone , yousaid yourself that you took on this small project as a test of the agency. Well, it looks like a very effective procedure to me. You have your answer. Because, ultimately, as the Sieur Bavington rightly said, it’s a he said/she said issue and only you know what happened. And it’s good: you devised a test and you got a relevant, usable answer.
Apparently several veteran translators among you (and I mean it in the sense “experienced”) decided that you no longer needed or wanted to have anything to do with ProZ. So don’t. Just please, try and hide a little of your contempt for the annoying newbies and not-so-newbies who dare to insist that it works quite well for them.
I realise that this post is too long and that most of you will have concluded long ago that I am ripe for the looney bin but, a final remark, just because I like being offensive in the comments section of the blogs I like and find interesting:
“the definition of “the process of decay; putrefaction” applies rather well when one considers the trend of the past five years or so”
Doesn’t this smell a wee bit of “I remember when it was all fields here” or “the meat used to be so much tastier”?
End of rant

January 13, 2012 4:52 PM


Mark said…

I find it a little worrying that an entire conspiracy theory is being based off the experience of a single translator. We have only heard one side of the story at that. If the original comment that our mystery German colleague posted contained the word “arrogant”, I wonder what other potentially abusive language it contained that ProZ would not risk allowing to be published.

Personally I have a whole different set of concerns about the Blue Board – as some people have pointed out, ultimately it is a “your word against ours” system, and ProZ certainly aren’t going to arbitrate in disputes, what are they supposed to do, investigate every single one?!

But it is not just that, it is the lack of objectivity of the BB that personally bothers me far more than some alleged censorship. NO translator is going to shoot themselves in the foot by criticising a current customer. So as a result, most BB entries are either generic, fawning praise of the outsourcer (“responsive PMs”, “prompt payment”, “Very happy to work with them again. Oh, PLEASE can I work with you again?!”), or they are the comments of embittered translators who have had a bad experience and now feel the need to vent their anger, and have no problem burning their bridges by posting criticism. There is very little middle ground there as a result, and that is one of my main problems with the system.

As it is though, it is WAY better than nothing, and generally, using a bit of common sense and discernment, the BB has helped me and many other translators take many a prudent decision regarding whom to work for and whom not. Or is anyone seriously suggesting that there are NO negative comments published along with negative ratings? That’s simply not true…

P.S. I do not work for ProZ, I am not even a paying member any more as I have moved on from being a freelancer. I have no vested interest in ProZ, I just think this whole discussion is rather overblown.

January 14, 2012 1:10 PM


Anonymous said…

Each to their own. I’m all in favour of choice and if people think ProZ is worth using, they should use it.

My objection to ProZ is how it is presented as “ProZ or nothing”. It’s like the Trabant in East Germany: it’s wonderful! Much better than walking! Everyone should have one! When ProZ’ benefits are listed, it’s seldom with any acknowledgement that similar things, but often better, are available elsewhere.

“- is useful to find clients…”

The first step towards finding clients is for people to market themselves properly to potential customers. Giving them the idea that this isn’t necessary because work is on offer online for the taking is counterproductive.

“- is useful to meet new colleagues and make friends when you move to a new city/country.”

There are numerous other sites for translators where you can meet colleagues. Some of them predate ProZ.

“- the BB, while it isn’t perfect (what is?) is one of the useful tools available to weed out non-payers.”

There are other sites where you can obtain information on customers’ payment record. Some of these have two notable advantages: one, they are run by translators, for translators; and two, they are private, which goes a long way to avoiding libel issues.

I could go on. 😉 However, I think it’s important to note that ProZ gains huge advertising exposure by putting most of its content in the public view. So, in the same way that people discuss TV programmes, it gets discussed, including critically (as, in all fairness, does Kevin L.’s blog).

Marc P.

January 14, 2012 1:36 PM


Simone said…

@Sandra: I don’t find your comment offensive at all. 🙂
I fully see your point, since I was a paying member for a little more than a year myself before I canceled my membership for various reasons (some of which I explained above). For beginners (especially those without other credentials like a membership in professional associations or similar – I was in that category myself) it may indeed appear as if proz was the only option to get started. And it can be scary to quit proz when you’re not sure yet if you will find enough other clients.
Would I tell newcomers to avoid proz at all cost? No. This would be unfair since I haven’t done that myself. What I do recommend, however, is to really think about what you need and why you think you need proz.
Sign up for a month or two, take advantage of Group Buys to get all the software you need, browse the directory to gather all addresses of agencies you need, check the BB for whoever you want to check out. But after one or two months, ask yourself if you really need proz. If you do feel that you need a paid membership, this might be a sign that you need to improve your business. Proz doesn’t offer many additional benefits compared to the basic (unpaid) membership. However, the fact is that with your money you support practices by proz and their sweatshop agencies that are putting the whole industry at risk.

So, this whole argument isn’t so much about the arrogance of experienced translators towards paying members (I’m sorry if you feel that way – that’s not intended on my part) but more about the Sisyphus feeling that some of us have: people try to educate others about the dangers of sweatshop agencies and the low rates promoted by proz only to see a busload of new members sign up and throw their money at proz. This can be quite frustrating and may explain why our arguments may sound too harsh.

You are right in that I used this project as a test and got away without losing money (just a lot of valuable time due to proz’ reaction). It raises the question though: if I’m not allowed to tell others about my experience, then what is the Blue Board good for? Why are people paying to have something like the Blue Board then?
(By the way, if you want to get in touch with other translators, there are already many of them on Google+, Twitter, Xing etc. – just search for “translator” and look around.)

@Mark: Your argument is flawed. You’re saying that no translator would be stupid enough to criticize their current clients. Well, if there’s reason for criticism and unhappiness, why are these translators still working for those clients then? Now THAT would indeed be stupid. 😉
And the reason why we’re seeing so many generic positive reviews but hardly any criticism – well, it seems you can read about this reason right here in this blog post. 🙂

January 14, 2012 6:00 PM


RobinB said…

Kevin: Our translation tests are also unpaid, and there’s absolutely no way that we’re going to pay people to translate standardized test pieces that are not in the slightest bit related to current projects. So I’m fully in agreement with the change in the ATA’s policy, as it brings the ATA into line with reality at the premium end of the market.
Nevertheless, I hope very much that we can meet up again in San Diego this year (though I presume you’ll also be at the BDÜ conference in Berlin).

January 15, 2012 6:54 PM


Kevin Lossner said…

Robin, you and I both know that the “value proposition” offered by F&B is not quite the same as your average linguistic chop shop asking for freebies. I really have a hard time picturing you and your partner engaged in a cattle call to “fill your database”. The wisdom of a policy is in its selective exceptions.

Berlin’s always a safe bet with me; we’ll see about San Diego.

January 15, 2012 7:24 PM


Simone said…

So, for those of you who are still following this topic and waiting for the outcome:
My negative 1-star review has been made visible again and the agency’s response has been deleted after proz has reviewed the evidence I submitted.
They haven’t said anything at all about why my original comment was deleted or whether I would be allowed to edit it now that evidence has been submitted. But when I click on my review, there is no “Edit/Delete” option (which normally appears when you leave a review), so I take it, I’m still not allowed to add any explanation to my rating.
Take it as you will..

(The end client hasn’t said anything about the translation’s quality yet; I’ve only been informed that my query has been forwarded to the appropriate people. But since the agency apparently wasn’t able to submit evidence of their “BAD quality” claims to proz, I don’t expect any serious complaints from the end client.)

January 19, 2012 1:53 PM


Claudio said…

Hi there

I blowed proz-zozz on December 2011, without any regrets, after having understood that they didn’t really want check & remove shenanigans, trolls and liars, but rather their hunters (like me hit by some ban 😉 )

coming to BB, I never relied on them when positive, but rather when negative, as clearly, a <=3/5 means that this outsourcer is a pain in the neck (mainly a bad or no-payer)

this is why I still have BB next to PP in my Firefox Favorites and as far as prozzoz let me see it for free, I’m happy

January 24, 2012 1:02 AM

About No Peanuts! for Translators

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This entry was posted in Resistance. Bookmark the permalink.

6 Responses to And Translators Are Still Asking: How Low Can ProZ Go?

  1. Barry Leon Appleby says:

    I did not renew my membership with for several reasons.One of them was that
    I did not receive any acknowledgement or feedback when I submitted a proposal for a workshop at the Rome conference in 2011. I attended that event and found it to be less well organized that
    the previous conference in Prague in 2010. I found the prices charged for various events, all of
    which were priced at 25 euros, far too high, give that most if not all translators are still paid at rates which have risen for decades. Secondly, the vegetarian options provided were an utter
    joke. Thirdly, a two-hour talk which was supposed to be about English legal terminology turned out to be an Italian lawyer explaining, in remarkably poor English, her problems in finding equivalents in italian for certain English legal terms. Finally, the jobs advertised for which one had to submit a bid in order to be considered, were all at rates below what I currently receive from my regular agency in Stockholm, whose top rating on the BB is actually accurate, since I have been working for them for several years and never had any problems in getting paid.

    I find Proz very useful for the Powwows, which provide a much-needed social forum, while the
    conferences, although very overpriced, also fulfill the same function. Proz was clearly founded as a business venture and thus differs from other organizations.

  2. bob says:

    GREAT ! A reaction against those slave-masters –

    Those sites are run by IT investors (those who created the IT bubble and failed before the real estate bubble). ProZ is a mouthtrap for extra-naive people. (Canada)

    What could we do to multiply blogs like this in all languages?

  3. Below is an e-mail exchange I had with Proz staff regarding the Kudoz practice (last message is first). This was the final for me. I was considering renewing anyway, since I thought the BlueBoard was worthwhile, but no longer! Thanks for the post.
    Hi Ingrid,
    I would suggest you submit a support request at
    Support staff will be better able to help you.

    Kind regards,

    Original Message Sent: 2012-06-13 09:10:38

    Yes, and I\’m not asking for Proz to set rates, but I think there should be a limit to how many innane questions one translator can post on Kudoz for the same job and in a row. This particular one has posted appr. 170 questions, and answered five, since March of this year… This is clearly not in keeping with the purpose of Kudoz, which was (and I\’ve been a member for many years), at least in the beginning, a forum for professionals to help each other – not a way for inexperienced translators to use the expertise of others to further their own interests. Please also see your own \”help\” section for Kudoz, where it clearly says that all other avenues should be exhausted. It saddens me that you cannot see this as a problem and it makes me even more sure that it\’s not in my best interest to remain a full member of Proz. If Proz would really be for PROS, I would feel differently, but that is not the case anymore.
    >All the best,

    > Original Message Sent: 2012-06-11 12:16:31
    > ====================
    > Hi Ingrid,
    >>This is your opinion and more than 20 k members think differently.
    >> does not set rates and Kudoz has rules for everyone.
    >>If you think you need anything from me, please do not hesitate to contact me anytime-.
    >>Kind regards,
    >> Original Message Sent: 2012-06-10 07:30:14
    >> ====================
    >> I have decided not to renew my membership in Proz. It has devolved into being a forum of non-professional translators that are, in actuality, using Proz to gain knowledge they don\’t have in order to offer cheap translations in competition with serious and professional translators. This is further evidenced by the fact that the only job offers I tend to recieve through proz are offered at very low rates. It\’s, quite simply, not worth it.
    >>>I looked at the questions posted yesterday – all by a very inexperienced translator who is using Proz instead of a dictionary. There are people that reply, of course, but I have noticed a trend over the past years of less and less people responding. For good reason! We need to elevate our business and our status as translators, and that is not done by allowing full access to Kudoz questions by people who are undermining the very core of our professionalism.
    Kind regards,
    Ingrid Abramson

  4. using quality marks as political instrument

    You are receiving this message on this venue because I have been permanently gagged on Proz and have no other way to warn you about latest practices. is the de facto network site for translations; a bit like LinkedIn, but then for translators only. To distinguish between good translators and bad translators, Proz uses so-called quality seals: translators whose translations have been peer-reviewed by colleagues can get a special seal of approval, which the site’s visitors are told is a seal of quality. This is called the PRO badge, and it’s displayed prominently in the translator’s profile. Many potential clients filter on this badge when they are looking for quality translators; there’s even a special selection box for it in Proz’s searching system.

    In fact however, the badge is used as a tool to smother all criticism on the site. When you dare say that moderatorship on the forums has become so strict that you can no longer contribute to the forums, the moderators simply remove the badge. Permanently. Just to settle their personal vendetta of course, as future forum contributions, let alone negative contributions, are no longer to be expected. This besides other measures taken, like a temporary forum ban and the fact that all your postings will be vetted by the moderators before publication for the rest of your life, effectively making it impossible to tell anyone on the forums about what was done to you.

    Full story on

    “As you should know, members of the Certified PRO Network are expected to act in a manner consistent with professional guidelines and site rules as an ongoing requirement for participation in the program (this is part of the agreement you signed when your application to the network was accepted). Hence, given your repeated violations of site rules and policies, you are being removed from the Certified PRO Network.”

    Note how nothing is said about the quality of the peer-reviewed translations. Clearly enough, the seal has nothing to do with that. The mail goes on and lists “all” terrible crimes committed… these are:

    1. Rule number 4. Not staying on topic. (Read: mention that blue is a color too in a thread about the color red)
    2. Rule number 8. Public discussion of administrator actions. (Read: publicly ask why a certain posting of yours was removed)

    That was it. No one got killed, no one was threatened, no one got scolded, no one got personally attacked.

    I should add to this that besides the occasional posting that got removed for one reason or another over a period of 10 (!) years (“repeated violations”), no formal warnings were given before this.

    Read my lips: no warnings were given or messages were sent. Not a single one. My record was entirely clean. No one ever said: “Do this and this one more time, and we will take your badge.” No one ever even said: “Please don’t do this and this anymore.” did not warn. did not even ask. simply took. You critisize the forum moderators (even without mentioning names), your badge gets removed. You cannot appeal. The measure is permanent and irreversible. There are no official rules outlining which crimes result in badge removal and which not – it is all left to the whims of the moderators. admits this themselves in their reply to the complaint I filed. I quote:

    “no warning is required”

    To show you how rolls: a complaint about power abuse of the staff member in question, Lucia Leszinsky, was handled by Lucia Leszinsky herself. Surprisingly, Lucia could not find any fault with the procedure she followed. And to add insult to injury, she added the following site rule I’d like all of you to be very aware of:

    “8. Although verified credentials, peer review and other parameters are considered in evaluating prospective participants in the “Certified PRO” program, the right to participate is ultimately granted by–and can be revoked at any time by–’s staff.”

    There you have it. Proz’s final argument that concludes everything. The alpha and the omega. The badge has nothing to do with quality. can grant and take as she pleases.

    It is of course Proz’s good right to run their site the way they wish. It is not their right however to mislead visitors and tell them they use quality seals to separate the good from the bad, when in fact they use these very same seals to smother any criticism. Especially not because as the largest translation portal on the net, Proz should realize that whatever decision it takes has a direct influence on the income of the translators affected. You steal my badge, and my 4-year old my have less to eat because potential ignorant clients think that without that badge, I’m not good enough as a translator.

    Being the biggest player on the net also means bearing the responsibility that comes with it. That however has proven to be too much of a task. The seal turns out to be nothing but a stamp of approval from for being a good indoctrinated, brainwashed and borged citizen on their site: someone who only sings, claps and dances because of all the great miracles performed by’s divine staff.

    The official story behind the badge sounds fantastic: it is only granted to translators who display a “professional attitude”. I don’t know about you, but to me “professional attitude” means: only accepting subjects you specialize in, adhering to deadlines given, asking questions to the client whenever ambiguities arise, charging rates that allow you to give an assignment the time it deserves, specializing further whenever you have free time on your hands, et cetera. “Professional attitude” to me does NOT mean ass-kissing the moderators of a forum.

    What’s left is a bunch of translators who are very good at ass-kissing or prudent enough to stay out of site politics, and an endless stream of wanne-be translator newbies: people with seven target languages who can’t spell a single word correctly in English, people who ask more than 170 questions about a short text they’re supposed to translate, people charging less than 0.01 USD per word, all these people are allowed to act as professional translators and sell their services to unsuspecting clients using as their venue. These amateurs are cuddled, pampered and supported wherever possible at the cost of professionals who dare mention this.’s very existence depends on these newbies, because the professionals alone do not generate enough income to keep the site viable.

    The Pro in Proz has nothing to do with Professionalism, and everything with Profits. Blinded by the need for more money to keep the site running, Proz has slowly turned into Amateurz. The real professionals have either been gagged, banned or chased away and the wash is getting poorer and poorer.

    Therefore after long deliberation, I have just taken the big plunge: after more than 10 years of loyal membership, I have demanded Proz to erase all traces of me on their site, as I no longer want my name associated with their “product” in any way. Proz can only be powerful if I let them be.

    I can take this step because my own websites are more professional than will ever be, and because I have enough direct clients already. However, I shiver at the incredible power Proz wields over people who are less established.

    Last but not least, I challenge Proz to debunk the following statement:
    The PRO badge can (and as has been shown: will) be revoked at any time by Proz staff for whatever reason, or even no reason, without any warning or whatsoever about pending removal, no matter the quality of the translations or the business reliability of the badge’s wearer. Hence it is rubbish used merely for show, an utterly worthless token that says nothing about the things that really matter: the professional integrity of translators and the quality they deliver.

    I look forward to Proz proving the opposite, but am already drinking to my victory, as they have lost this battle already.

    Yours truly,

    Loek van Kooten
    Your English/Japanese-Dutch translator

    P.S. If this message was posted on a Proz venue and censored afterwards, this only proves its point. If this message was posted on a Proz venue and I do not reply, I was banned from said venue.

    I hereby waive all copyrights on this text. Use it freely as you deem fit, translate it, copy it and paste it everywhere you want, but don’t ask any questions to Proz… it may cost you your badge.

  5. benfeys says:

    Henry started out by getting his (now former) friends to help develop his business for the promise of a share in his success and then never paying them anything.

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