Friday, January 15, 2010

What the translation industry can do for Haiti

Modified reposting of entry by Tammi Coles in the Milengo Blog. Tammi is our Geeky Marketing Diva, and has a lot of experience in nonprofit advocacy. In her words, "coalitions and collaborations = conservation of effort = victory."

Like you, Milengo staff worldwide heard the news about the earthquake in Haiti. As the reports and photographs poured in, the extent of the devastation became clear: full neighborhoods have been destroyed, government offices and services have crumbled, and basic access to food and potable water has degraded.

We have also witnessed an amazing public rally for support, including reports of initiatives from leading technology companies to mobilize their customers and employees in the efforts.

These reports started a conversation between Milengo CEO Renato Beninatto and Lexcelera CEO Lori Thicke about just what translators and localization service providers could provide to the effort.

We don’t have to look too far for ideas.

Pledge the efforts of your company
The folks at One Hour Translation put out a press release earlier today offering a simple, free translation of up to 250 words per each organization and individual affected by the earthquake. One document may not seem like much, but in an industry of over 40,000 companies, the potential impact on medical aid documentation and charity websites is enormous.

Offer your services as an individual translator
The French-based Translators Without Borders (founded by Lori) take it a step farther by offering translators the chance to answer the call of the humanitarian groups that need their time and effort. Their largest partner, Medecins Sans Frontieres/Doctors Without Borders is already on the ground in Haiti, with over 1,000 patients already in their care and an inflatable hospital on its way. Whether the need is for training materials for volunteers or media announcements in multiple languages, your talents are welcome.

Spread the word one SMS and Tweet at a time
Messages on Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter have made a considerable impact on Haitian relief efforts. @RenatoBeninatto sent out a message on Twitter regarding the efforts of Haitian-born singer Wyclef Jean to get donations for the work of his nonprofit,, from U.S. residents. And CNet News reported that a similar SMS donation campaign driven by Verizon and the Red Cross raised $4 million USD within days, with each SMS a donation of just $10. The effort to both make a donation and spread the news virally is too simple to ignore.

Help Coordinate the Efforts
Doug Green from Translation Source, in Houston, TX, wants to make sure that our joint efforts are not so diluted. So, in order to make sure that language assistance has been properly mobilized, and that the language industry puts its best foot forward. He has created a Facebook group, a Twitter account, and an e-mail address to concentrate information:

Facebook: Interpreters and Translators for Haiti
Twitter: @IT4H

Doug also tells us that Pacific Interpreters has already stepped forward and begun to donate all over the phone interpreting assistance for Haiti.

We hope to hear more on Twitter and on this blog more about what you, our colleagues in the translation industry, are doing to help. Add your comments, ideas, feedback and more below.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Guest Post: Serge Gladkoff's Response to the GALA Controversy

Serge Gladkoff was kind enough to post a response to my previous post, but since I don't want it to be buried in the comments section, I am promoting it to a full entry, so that it is more visible. Please notice that he states that this is NOT GALA's official position, just his opinion. I am inserting answers to his questions in italics.

Hi Renato,

Here, in your blog, I can respond more freely, since it would be most inappropriate for me to discuss GALA in the group where I am Administrator.

There are lots of things mixed in in your post and in replies to your post, so I will enumerate them.

1. Renato, may I ask you why do you think GALA is the only Association that should not hold conferences, when ALL other Associations (LISA, ALC, ELIA) are having them? You are writing that GALA all of a sudden became competition to LISA and ALC - a) this is not the case actually, b) it has all the right to be competition though, and c) it is wrong to say that GALA should always keep low profile and do not do this and that. It's the same as to say that ALC should not hold conferences because it creates competition to LocWorld, for example. Free market is a free opportunity for everyone.

Because GALA is the newcomer and because it had vowed - at its inception - not to organize events, but to co-locate their events with other organizations. And I am not asking GALA to keep a low profile, I want it to take a leadership and high-visibility position, and I don't believe that organizing events is the best, nor the most profitable way to achieve this.

2. Another comment is that all the initiatives that you have outlined are less than perfect to generate revenue - at least, just yet. In fact, GALA has pioneered a lot of these ideas already - joint exhibits (first in the industry!), joint ads (first in the industry!), collaboration with others in the industry (GALA is arguably the leader in these kinds of efforts). They're great ideas, but haven't yet lead to substantial revenue (except possibly in the collaboration case, and the revenue went to everyone BUT GALA). The fact remains that conferences are #1 events for Associations, across all industries, for a number of reasons.

You argument is "because it is like this for everyone else, it has to be like this for GALA." This is the argument of a follower, not a leader. When I say that I want GALA to take a leadership position, I mean that I want it to be different. In my post, I gave examples of initiatives that could be done by all associations, not only by GALA. All of them have issues. Two of them have contacted me asking how I thought they could implement some of my ideas. GALA seems to have adopted a defensive position.

3. I personally agree that there are probably too many events in the industry, but this is unavoidable in a sense - real Karl Marx, "the crisis of overproduction" :). The number of products in the sector indicates maturity of a sector. It is unfair to pound one particular player for this. What I can say is that this wider landscape gives more variety for industry players. Weaker programs may suffer, but there are more opportinity for ideas, in general. What I can say is that we definitely not need five events of ONE organization in one year - let it be five DIFFERENT events :).

Serge, you make good points from the point of view of supply. But what about the demand? As Common Sense Advisory asked several years ago in its report Best and Worst Language Conferences, what is the ROCA (Return on Conference Attendance) for so many events? Instead of organizing different events in different cities with essentially the same program, why not piggy-back them? Why do I have to go to Prague and Miami in May? Collaboration might include agreeing on doing different events at the same location. My frustration is that the discussion starts with the wrong premises. The whole GALA Event controversy starts with the posit: "We need to make money, so let's organize a conference." It would be better if it started like this "Our members need something, let's do it."

4. Timing and cooperation - cooperation does not mean that all requests are granted and all comes to the best of everybody. I personally understand Marta's frustration about GALA 2010 timing, but the wheels for GALA 2010 were in motion far in advance, and it may not be possible. That does not mean that GALA is not cooperative at all. There are couple of things that are beyond our control - for example, there's SAP Forum in May too, etc. Besides, ALC should not be worried because European events actually do not compete with USA events - the audiences are typically different. It is true that actual cooperation is horrendously difficult to achieve, and instead of complaining, a lot of patience is required.

When you say that European events do not compete with USA events, you justify my argument. Let the Europeans (EUATC, ELIA) organize their events and let the Americans (ALC, ATA-TCD) organize theirs. Let GALA get their help to work on other initiatives. I always proposed that events should be local and regional, and larger initiatives like standards and PR should be global. What I can say from the conversation that I have had with other associations, is that contrary to what you say, GALA has not been cooperative, but confrontational, in the last couple of years.

5. In my personal view, GALA is very far from getting to lose its leadership. On the contrary, it is on the rise, and I can see this from inside as Board Member. There are lots of ideas in circulation, we have a VERY strong Board this year, and the plans are huge. Yes, I do not know what are the presentation topics of GALA 2010, but I am confident that the program is going to be great, I have enough information about that as insider.

Leadership is earned, not claimed. You cannot say "We are the leaders," with any credibility. As for the content of the event, maybe with the exception of the keynote speaker (if you are paying for one), I probably have all the speakers of the next GALA event in my address book, and if I thought hard about it I could probably even tell you the subjects that will be covered. So, although I can agree that the content will be great, I seriously doubt that it is going to be DIFFERENT.

6. You are writing that you feel betrayed. Renato, excuse me, but it shows... I don't know what is the essence of a conflict between you and GALA, but am sure that GALA would be cooperative. Or so I think.

I have stated the reason why I feel betrayed under your first point. GALA vowed not to organize events. It was going to be a different association. Guess what: It is organizing events and it is just like any other association. I feel betrayed because the only reasoning that I hear is: We need revenue, we need revenue, we need revenue. How about value for the membership? How about innovation? How about being run as a non-profit/non-revenue interest group or think tank? LinkedIn and industry blogs have done more to advance relevant discussions in the industry than GALA, or any other association for that matter.

7. We can ask, is it a good thing for the indistry that GALA organizes events, or bad thing? Well, the only answer is this: if GALA manages to create good event, AND be cooperative with other constituencies, it is definitely good for the industry. IF GALA is not successful, then it's bad :).

No comment.

8. GALA Board is NOT a groupthink. We express contrary opinions. But as decision is made, we support it. That's the only way to work, otherwise it's not the working group, but bazaar.

Sorry, Serge, but what you just described IS groupthink. According to your source, Wikipedia:

"Groupthink is a type of thought exhibited by group members who try to minimize conflict and reach consensus without critically testing, analyzing, and evaluating ideas. Individual creativity, uniqueness, and independent thinking are lost in the pursuit of group cohesiveness, as are the advantages of reasonable balance in choice and thought that might normally be obtained by making decisions as a group. During groupthink, members of the group avoid promoting viewpoints outside the comfort zone of consensus thinking. A variety of motives for this may exist such as a desire to avoid being seen as foolish, or a desire to avoid embarrassing or angering other members of the group. Groupthink may cause groups to make hasty, irrational decisions, where individual doubts are set aside, for fear of upsetting the group’s balance. The term is frequently used pejoratively, with hindsight."

9. Re: "I heard that GALA has taken arrogant position to ELIA" - a) it is wrong to repeat other people opinions (due to the effect of "broken phone"), b) I can assure you that GALA IS cooperative, and yes, there may be personal frictions, but these are somewhat inevitable due ot differences in personalities, you just need to be patient.

I was trying to be polite. The correct statement is that "I KNOW that GALA has taken an arrogant position towards ELIA," because I was there when it happened. And I haven't heard of one-sided cooperation. It takes two to tango! True leaders can overcome personal frictions. 

10. GALA Cancun was great. The lasting effects you will see.

I will take your word for it, but I am not holding my breath :)

11. Interviews on local TV channels, Renato - I leave this prerogative to you :). I don't think at all that TV is the channel for our industry. TV is, clearly, a consumer channel and we are in B2B sector.

I beg to differ. There are countless business programs on TV. And CEOs and VPs and Localization Managers also watch TV, read Oprah magazine, and listen to the radio. At least I do! Furthermore, I would speculate that between 25% and 30% of all the work done by GALA members is B2C, not B2B. Don't the needs and interests of these members matter? 

At the end of the day, it doesn't matter what you do, what matters is who and how many you reach. How do you influence the conversations, how do create perception in the mind of people. This is where I expected GALA to be leading. Instead, it wants to organize events... go figure.

12. Vocal disagreements should be constructive. I don't think that you did best to support GALA as GALA member and in fact ELIA Board member. Perhaps we could bridge the divide between GALA and ELIA somehow?

Now we are talking. I and the rest of the Board of ELIA will be happy to talk with GALA and any other association for that matter. GALA's PR person, Rebecca Petras, has suggested a PR Summit for the industry. When can that happen? I propose Istanbul in April or Berlin in June.

Finally, for the record, from a visibility and influence inside and outside the industry perspective, I believe that Common Sense Advisory and the ATA have established a leadership position in 2009, because of their effective public relations efforts.


- Luigi, gaining visibility are NOT NECESSARILY contrary to the spirit of cooperation. :)


Sunday, January 10, 2010

Source of the Controversy in LinkedIn's Localization Professionals Group

Background: Serge Gladkoff, owner of the Localization Professionals Group in LinkedIn, deleted my response to a comment that he made about my entry on Some Ideas for Associations to Generate Revenue because they were "negative" in nature. As the response was deleted, I have no record of it, so I tried to recompose it to the best of my recollection here. I am posting Serge's original response to my entry in the comment section to this post. Click here to check the firestorm on LinkedIn (BTW, thanks for all the supportive comments).

I had forgotten about this post until Serge brought it back up in LinkedIn. In fact, I received over twenty comments to the post in my blog, on Twitter and on Facebook. Most of the comments were very supportive of my ideas.

But I agree with Serge, Association politics is not interesting to most people, who are actually confused by their proliferation. Hence my motivation to write my last two blog entries, one explaining the association landscape and one making suggestions to alternative sources of revenue for associations.

My main beef with GALA is that I feel betrayed by the association, to which I have devoted a lot of effort and dedication. I feel betrayed because at its inception, it vowed to work with other groups and not to add to the confusion in the industry. It had the wonderful idea of creating a movement similar to the “Got Milk Campaign” for promoting the industry, it started a commendable relationship with Localization World (I know the history… I was there!), and made moves to make the industry more visible.

Then, things changed and the association started talking about sources of revenue and creating the reference event in the industry that would attract 2,000 participants (catering to clients, LSPs, and freelancers). So, from being the association that would bring sense to the industry and collaborate with others, GALA all of a sudden became a competitor, fighting for the share of pocket with LISA, Localization World, ALC, ELIA, ATA, and all other existing events.

As Marla Schulman – the president of the ALC -- nicely put in a comment in this blog: “So far I am disappointed to note that while GALA has been talking this talk as well, they have not been walking the walk, most notably with their latest announcement of their conference to be held just one week before the ALC's already scheduled annual conference taking place in Miami, May 19-22, 2010 (this despite specific requests made by the ALC asking them not to schedule their event at a conflicting time with ours).” I have also heard comments from ELIA, before I joined its board, that GALA had taken an arrogant position and that ELIA was not interested in pursuing a relationship with GALA anymore.

In my opinion, the GALA Cancun event did not bring any value to the industry as it attracted only somewhere between 70 and 100 participants, but no lasting effects. No press coverage (not even in Multilingual, let alone CNN, WSJ, NYT), and no new major discussions (unlike the ATA in New York and Localization and Translation in Thailand). And also in my opinion, GALA Prague 2010 should be cancelled, but I don’t expect it to happen.

Serge states that GALA 2010 will raise money for the association and deliver value for the members, because it will be relevant and well organized. How does he know that? GALA still has a call for papers out until January 10. So how can we know that it will be good if we still don’t know the content of the event?

Serge says: “Why is this industry so fragmented? It is fragmented because instead of cooperation, we are immersed in individualism and often only see competition, fight, desire to win over the others.”

And I say: GALA is losing its leadership in the industry because it is trying to do exactly what he criticizes in others. I feel like the mother who says that her son is the only one marching right in the military parade. Maybe I am wrong and everybody else is right, but I have my doubts.

I would rather see the seven Board members of GALA (why 7?) and their staff of three focus their efforts in more relevant stuff than begging people to go to their event in Prague. All the GALA resources will be consumed between now and May on the event. Is that a good use of our common resources? Is that the best that GALA can do for the industry? Why aren’t the seven board members giving interviews on their local TV channels? Why aren’t they meeting with other associations to see how they can pool resources for some of the activities that I have suggested in my blog post that generated all this controversy?

I am a member of GALA and I want it to succeed as a legitimate representative of the industry. The best contribution I can make is to be vocal about my disagreements. As I said in my previous post, “I don't like to be the easy critic who doesn't contribute with any solutions,” so I will keep pushing GALA to stop organizing events and taking the leadership role in other activities that only leaders can do.