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.


  1. Anonymous12:05 AM

    This is Serge Gladkoff's response that I mention in the blog post above

    Hi Renato,

    There are no comments to this post because most of group members are actually foreign to the problems of industry Associations :).

    Renato, you call this particular blog of youirs "411", but in reality your list is confronting the 101 fact - one of the primary vehicles of Associations to raise money is member conferences, delivering value to members. Yes, conferences cost travel, accomodation and registration fees to attendees, but they may be well worth their money AND raise the money for Association, too (also for further common good) IF they are well organized, AND deliver value to their members.

    This is exactly what GALA 2010 is going to achieve in Prague.

    And please, do not respond here with criticism of GALA 2010 event.

    Ask yourself - 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.

    IN reality, this world is very large, and industry members can win TOGETHER with the others, rather than OVER them, even though we are too often also competitors, of course.

    To succeed on the front of delivering the common good, the things that create "the tide that raises all ships", completely different mentality is required.

    We should forget negation and greed and welcome any cooperation we might get, even the one that is less than we expected, or different from what we expected, or pursues private interests, like all individuals, or companies, or even associations and groups.

    LIVE AND LET OTHERS LIVE, that should be the principle; more than that, also LIVE TO HELP OTHERS LIVE should be the principle of any industry constituency that pretends to be an umbrella for the trade.

    This has NOTHING to do with "groupthink" by the way.

  2. Well, the question is: in an industry where members are actually foreign to the problems of industry associations, could there be any associations winning a leadership whatsoever?
    The following question could be: has GALA ever won the leadership in the industry?
    In my very humble opinion, there are far too many associations in the industry. Nevertheless, they only picture its reality.
    Serge is right in stating that the industry is fragmented because of an excess of competition that mines any effort for cooperation, but associations should be help, trigger, cooperation. Associations are a means for theirs members to gain visibility and this is in contrast with the spirit of cooperation.
    I think that the problem is not negativeness. You said, sommesedly, that that king is naked, but in your mouth, being so authoritative, your words sounded like a howl, no matter if you also pointed the new/old dresses to wear.

  3. So this is the essence of the post that Serge feels is the most negative ever made in the Localization Professional forum? Following the thread of the dispute there, I wondered at times whether his command of English was really up to the task of moderation and actually understanding a point being made in all but the simplest language. Whether it's that or merely some sort of an axe to grind is not clear, but with a concept of moderation like that, I think my attention is better directed elsewhere.

    Personally, I am less than enthusiastic about most of the large-scale industry events I have seen in various fields over the years. Although I have enjoyed the few I have attended very much, I have derived greater benefit in the long term from smaller events or even virtual resources and contacts. I lack the stamina, the time and other resources to attend a dozen major conferences per year; I would rather have the opportunity for selective virtual participation or review of most of the information presented. Bigger is by no means better, and the average mortal's ability to process information has limits that are lower than most such events allow. The most useful interactions for me have always been the discussions off on the side in small groups; I don't need GALA, LISA, tekom, the ACS or any other organization to facilitate this for me.

  4. Anonymous12:20 PM

    I have to say that I could find more charitable interpretations of GALA's actions and I would argue that GALA has been trying to reach out and work with others as much as possible without harming their position. Maybe one could argue that this is the problem - everyone wants to look out for number one - but the principals in these organizations often have considerable personal stake in what's going on, and it would be suicidal for them to value an abstract cooperation over pushing what they see as best for their organizations. Far too often “cooperation” is defined by one organization in terms that are impossible for another to comply with in good faith. It's not to say that one is abusive of the other, but that they have real conflicts. Cooperation cannot mean consolidation unless the concerns of all those affected by consolidation are met. If I have put my blood, sweat, and tears into building an organization, no “cooperation” will be possible if it means that my organization will be harmed by it, but I would gladly cooperate with others in cases where there is genuine complementarity or common interest without competition. But events, which pay the bills and keep the lights on, are another matter.

    It's fine and dandy to say that GALA, LISA, ALC, Localization World, etc., should cut the number of programs back, but I don't believe it will happen when it is people's livelihood on the line. If Org X and Org Y decided to combine their efforts into one event rather than two, it's doubtful that the would do as well combined as they would independently. It's also not certain that a combined event would actually meet the expectations of both sides.

    While the conflict with ALC's conference is regrettable, I've been involved enough in events planning to know that often the choices organizations face for timing and location are *extremely* limited by factors that outsiders simply don't see. The result is that outsiders sit around asking the sorts of questions you do.

    The reality may be that wheels were set in motion many months before anything is announced and that by the time announcements can be made there are other competing announcements that came out in the interim. I have no idea when ALC announced their dates and locations, but it is entirely possible that GALA, acting without knowledge of ALC's plans, already had a hotel contract in place *before* they knew about the conflict, so it wasn't necessarily a deliberate act of sabotage or failure of GALA to live up to what it preaches. I have absolutely no inside knowledge of the particular case, and I could be wrong, but I doubt it: GALA would have no interest in scheduling things that close when it would only hurt them, so I suspect the imputation of motivation in the statement from ALC is not entirely accurate.

    I mention all this really only to illustrate why, even though everyone says they want cooperation, actual cooperation can be horrendously difficult to achieve.


  5. Kevin, I do not pretend that my command of English is perfect, however it is good enough to make proper judgment about essence of the posts.

    This statement is MILDER than original post. For details of judgment and criteria you can visit relevant discussion in LocPro group.

    As for the actual essence of Renato opinion, I'll reply to this here.

  6. 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.

    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.

    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 :).

    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.

    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. be continued due to 4096 character limitations of this blog :)

  7. ..continued :)

    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.

    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 :).

    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.

    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.

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

    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.

    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?


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


  8. @Serge - Your mail (received fourfold, thank you) to me stated the following:

    "I find this statement quite offensive and demand a public apology in exact venue where you have published this, namely in Renato’s blog.
    I hope you are a man who is able to do this."

    Man enough? What kind of nonsense is that? I think the age of pistol duels is past. As far as your feelings are hurt, of course I apologize for that. I think we all have to deal with quite enough bruising I our daily lives. However, I do stand by the essence of what I said. The simple fact is that your English is often quite difficult to follow. I find myself guessing at your intent at times and trying to plumb the depths of my forgotten Russian to sort out what you might mean. An inability to express oneself clearly is often indicative of an inability to understand a text in another language as well as one assumes.

    You're fond of citing Wikipedia; here's a link which discusses important relevant research:

    Communication is critical. It's all very well to claim that the text posted here is "milder", but I would like you to produce the original text to demonstrate that. I have read the entire thread on LocPro and the comments of those who saw Renato's post before it was deleted, and their comments indicate that it had none of the characteristics that you claim. What am I to believe here? That these people are shameless liars and partisans or that perhaps there is a simple misunderstanding? I experience frequent such misunderstandings in an international setting with colleagues whose English skills are adequate for basic conversation but who lack a command of the subtleties of the language, take irony and parody literally and frequently do not know common colloquial expressions. I'm sure we all experience this at times, perhaps even in our own native language. So really, Serge, I am giving you the benefit of the doubt in assuming that you might not have understood the register and subtleties of the original comment.

  9. Having read the original post, I think the recreation of the original posting on Renato's blog is a very close if not an exact replica of his posting that was deleted, especially in terms of tone, tenor and substance.

    And again, I have to say from any reasonable moderation stance that I can think of, I cannot see a good reason for deleting it simply because he may/may not have said that "XXX has lost its direction or leadership". Since it was deleted we will never even know if this is true.

    Surely, we as professionals can discern and handle this level of comment without getting defensive and resorting to suppression and arbitrary censorship .

    I fundamentally question the judgment made by the moderator that characterized this as negative enough to be suppressed and deleted.
    In my opinion this was clearly a use of "excessive force".

    The news is filled with anti-Obama (or any current administration) comments constantly and this free and sometimes reckless speech (unfortunately) is very much a part if not the very essence of democracy - for most of us, the haters and ugly voices are quickly identified and mostly dismissed by most reasonable people.

    However, I defend their right to speak, as this is what produces transparency, accountability and progress. This is what differentiates America and other truly open societies from the totalitarian societies.

    I am glad that there are other forums within LinkedIn and the web where openness and free-speech are seen as less threatening.

    I have posted this in the LinkedIn group but I have now learned that it could be deleted since I have stated an opposing opinion and have thus also copied it here so it can not be suppressed.

  10. I am really wondering if there isn't a problem on that LinkedIn group. I suppose that's why my attention was called to it the other day. Have a look at Does the moderator of LocPro typically invite members to duel?

  11. Frank Wang8:11 PM


    We are adults. We all know the politically correct statement kids pick up in middle schools. Rubbing it time and again into the readers' face does not make your argument any stronger. Each organization/group has its own rules and policies, to keep them running the way the organizer sees fit. When you join a group/organization, you accept the terms. Or you can choose not to join or to leave. It's that simple. Don't complicate the issue with politically charged terms which we all know by heart.

    There is enough negativity/bashing both in the LinkedIn thread and here, from those defending Renato. "USSR", "dictatorship", "dark, veiled and hidden" (from yourself). If those are not bad enough, how about this one: "Following the thread of the dispute there, I wondered at times whether his command of English was really up to the task of moderation and actually understanding a point being made in all but the simplest language." May I paraphrase it into "You moron, you don't know what you are reading or doing"? Has Renato or any of his defenders said anything about this? I would definitely quit a group that allows this attack on a colleague.

  12. Frank,

    I guess I continue to speak because I did NOT accept or expect that a comment like the one that was deleted could or would be removed without some kind of due process.

    And precisely because we are adults, we do not need to make examples of personally-oriented disrespectful remarks. They speak for themselves, don't they?

    You should watch CSPAN or British parliamentary proceedings sometimes if you think this discussion was not civil.

    Also, you misrepresent my comment which was: "Censorship always works best when it dark, veiled and hidden. You don't have to justify it then."

    In functioning censorship nobody protests because nobody knows.

    In this case the censorship was visible and questionable and that was made it disturbing and worth a little but of furor.

    Maybe we do need to pick up our Middle School textbooks and refresh our minds on why it is important to speak up when you see something that you believe is just plain wrong.

    I hope that the furor will cause some change and raise the level of transparency and accountability in all the groups in LinkedIn. As a community member I reserve the right to be heard, especially when I speak with civility and respect.

    The group does not belong to Serge, it is only what it is and has value, because the community has decided to trust the integrity and moderation.

    Perhaps I am overly sensitive as I grew up in South Africa under apartheid=institutionalized rascism. One thing I learnt very clearly from middle school there: nothing will change if you do not speak up.

    I am glad that we are able to have this discussion and I do appreciate the point you make about how some people do make personal and ethnically based insulting remarks. I agree it is not appropriate.

    But as CSPAN shows, democracy is messy but still worthwhile.

  13. Thanks, Kirti, for your comment. I also grew up under a military dictatorship in Brazil, where the walls had ears, so you couldn't really say what you thought. I empathize with your reaction. In my book, I will go out of my way to defend your right to disagree with me.

  14. To lighten the mood here a bit I recommend that people take a look at the The Daily Show clip called Fright Club between minute 1 and 3 on the link below.

    We have former Governor Rob Blagojevich claiming that he is "blacker than Obama" and also a leading Democratic Senator Reid) saying that Obama was elected because he was a "light skinned" African American who has "no negro dialect unless he wanted to have one".

    So we have elected leaders who are ABLE to say really stupid things. Somebody in the world at large puts their stupidity in context.

    One hopes they will be much more careful about what say and do in future. Transparency drives accountability.

    Is it really any more complicated?

    I don't see Obama or any of his supporters trying to take this off the air or even scolding these guys for this. The community will.

    Leadership positions should be held to higher standards and codes of conduct. Obama has to deal with it just like Bush did before him, because it comes with the territory.

  15. I know I am a little late in responding to this but thought it was worth having my say nonetheless, if only because I thought Renato's original post was such a good one.

    I am a relative newcomer to the GILT industry, having only joined in 2003, but one of the first things that struck me back then was the lack of cohesion and co-operation that existed within the industry. I thought then, and still believe, that this was down to two things: too many competing voices (associations), and a lack of will to openly discuss our problems.

    I left a successful career in banking to join the localisation industry because I genuinely believed it had a vital role to play in world business and the march toward globalisation. But if we think we're being discussed at Board level in any major organisation, we're just kidding ourselves. This can't be right. (And yes, when I see the kind of bonuses that are still being paid out, I DO regret leaving banking...)

    I like to think I have some appreciation for how Renato feels. A few years ago, I sponsored some research that found the GILT industry was terrible at localising its own websites. This did not make me popular. People told me that we should not be (and I quote) "airing our dirty laundry in public". But the truth is, I believed in saying it how it was. I believe that healthy, critical public discussion is the only way to move forward.

    It is a fact that there can be no edification without deliberation. And deliberation requires discussion, criticism, suggestion and counter-suggestion. Sometimes the criticism may not be particularly constructive, but we are adult enough to know when someone is being helpful or hateful, or just plain obstructive.

    It was good to read Renato's blog post. There are too many conferences and too many associations competing for air space. To move forward, we must move forward together. I hope some of his suggestions are taken to the next level of discussion. I'd be happy to participate in any forum that would take these ideas further.