I am shocked and dismayed at the actions taken by ProZ.com and Henry Dotterer in regard to recent discussions on that Web site concerning privacy issues.
For the record, I am a paid-up full member of the site. I participated in the recent discussions on the forum on ProZ.com involving the implementation of ProZ's new outsourcer ratings system for freelancers (the "WWA" feature), and the implications to individual privacy of the site collecting and storing unsolicited third-party ratings on individuals, as did many other members and users of the site.
To my dismay, I was subsequently banned from forum postings *and* from contacting or sending messages to any site member (including moderators for matters related to site membership). No evidence or even citation of an extant rule having been broken has been provided. I can only conclude that this banning was personally motivated based on my having expressed opinions in opposition to the site's hopes, rather than by any true desire to inform a paying member that a rule had been violated by citing the rule and requesting editing of the offending posts. Indeed, an subsequent e-mail from Mr. Dotterer to me informing me of the forum ban (but not of the private messaging cutoff) stated, "I have blocked your right to post to ProZ.com's forums. This was necessary given your insistence on making legal interpretations concerning WWA, despite my requests to the contrary. As far as I know, you are not a practicing attorney, and are not qualified to comment on these matters...I have proposed to the moderator group that we add a rule concerning this situation: "Legal interpretations and challenges to ProZ.com policies and features should not be made in the forums, but sent in writing to ProZ.com headquarters."
Evidently, I am to understand that I was banned legitimately based on having violated a rule which did not existwhich is clearly unworthy of a professional organization selling Web services to the translating public. Surely a paying user of a commercial service should not have services curtailed on the basis of informal "requests" from an individual working at the company?
Three service tickets submitted over the period of several weeks have yielded no replies other than "this issue is being forwarded to Henry", with no response after that. Of course, if this is a personal matter on Mr. Dotterer's part, that would not be unexpected, as the majority of the staff are conicidentally surnamed Dotterer. However, a meaningful response from someone would seem to be appropriate more than a month and a half after the initial request.
For a site with links on your publication, and which endeavors to represent itself as a valuable tool for our profession, such behavior is unacceptable. I do not wish to resign my membership or to obtain a refund; I merely wish to enjoy the same functions that othersboth paid-up members and non-paying "users"enjoy. I have violated no rules of the site, and indeed immediately edited one forum post when it was suggested that mentioning the death penalty in the context of an example in a completely separate discussion constituted political speech. So you can see that I am compliant and happy to obey ruleswhen rules exist. I moderate for Web sites unrelated to translation issues, and I certainly can understand the complex issues involved with running an online communityyet running roughshod over the rights of paying members is certainly inappropriate when the only possible motivation is retaliation for having disagreed with one's opinion.
I do not want Mr. Dotterer or anyone else to misunderstand. I'm not out on some kind of sick vendetta against him or his company. I simply do not appreciate having my functions at the site cut off without notification or reason. ProZ has to realize it is running a business and as such needs to adhere to predictable and existing rules in treating their customers, even when some of those customers might annoy them. ProZ are quite well aware that there is little recourse for anyone they ban or cut off, especially when they systematically refuse to deal with the issue. The hope seems to be that those people will simply "go away". "If you don't like it here, request a refund and leave," the cry goes up. Well, it's not that I don't like it; I simply like it much better when I get what I paid for, which includes unvetted forum posting rights and private messaging functions.
I would not normally contact a forum of this type with such an issue, but I suspect I am not the only one who has been banned or had site functions revoked or limited as a result of the discussion in question, and other "legal opinions" have been offered on the forums subsequently with no apparent consequence. Perhaps Mr. Dotterer would like to appropriately provide to you solid evidence of a then-existing rule having been violated, rather than vague accusations of "I told you to stop that!" in the midst of a discussion on a forum. He is evidently uninterested in doing so for me.
Terry Thatcher Waltz, Ph.D.
Albany, NY, USA
The following is the response received from ProZ's representative:
Thank you for the opportunity to reply to Mrs. Thatcher Waltz's letter.
First of all, I must question Mrs. Thatcher Waltz's neutrality. Two years ago, Mrs. Thatcher Waltz was removed from the role of ProZ.com moderator for conduct toward members that was inconsistent with site policies. Now, Mrs. Thatcher Waltz is a moderator at a site competitive with ProZ.com. She has assisted and continues to assist that site in developing copies of tools originally created by ProZ.com. She has even shared plans to create a new website for translators. ("I am preparing to roll out a Web site... Coupla bucks a month...")
Since her removal as a moderator two years ago, Mrs. Thatcher Waltz has been highly critical of various aspects of ProZ.com, sometimes going to extremes. In the latest WWA discussion, for example, Mrs. Thatcher Waltz posted more frequently than any other site user. She made a total of forty-eight (48) posts, several of which had to be removed by moderators for rules violations. Together, her posts would fill twenty to forty typed pages. She also sent eleven (11) emails directly to the site founder, refusing to stop even after he requested that she not email him personally. In short, if evidence were required that ProZ.com is tolerant of criticism from its members, Mrs. Thatcher Waltz provides it in abundance.
In her criticisms, Mrs. Thatcher Waltz has a tendency to stretch the truth. For example, all seven of the support tickets that Mrs. Thatcher Waltz has entered this year have been responded to, almost all within 24 hours. In one case, our developers even added a feature in response to a request that may have benefited only her. The three support tickets that she claims were not answered were in fact responded to. What did they request? The explanation of her forum block that she had already received - not just in the email she quotes, but in a warning issued a week previously.
There are other inaccuracies in Mrs. Thatcher Waltz's letter, but rather than dispelling them, we would simply point out that although Mrs. Thatcher Waltz has the right to resign her own membership and receive a refund at any time, she has not done so. This appears to put her among the more than 90% of our community expressing satisfaction with their memberships. In explaining her continued use of ProZ.com, Mrs. Thatcher Waltz has written, "I have to do what benefits me most as an individual in business." This is fine. But what we require in return is that she respect the rules of our workplace.
ProZ.com has become the leading website for translators not by being the sort of company that Mrs. Thatcher Waltz would have your readers believe it to be. We have done it by earnestly pursuing our mission of providing translators--including Mrs. Thatcher Waltz--with "tools and opportunities to network, expand their businesses, do better work and have more fun."
ProZ.com Community Manager
While doing some international translation agencies prospecting, I stumbled into Andrei Gerasimov's article here, back from April 2001, and it confirmed something I had already suspected, by saying, about having given references to agencies: "he also sent questionnaires as long as my arm to the top Russian publishers who had given me letters of recommendation".
I have always suspected agencies who demand three references "sine qua non", which means their onlne form won't upload unless these fields are filled in, and the contact e-mail address has an "@" somewhere.
Though some of them blame ISO 9000 for such requirement, I fill in these fields with a message like this:
"My house policy forbids disclosing my clients' contact information to safeguard them against spam and job peddling. You wouldn't like that either."
If an e-mail address is mandatory for submission, ".@." has worked fine everywhere so far.
When a translator complies with such requirement, I can envisage some scenarios, such as:
1. The translator's satisfied clients will get messages from that agency saying, among other things, that "We can do it better, faster and cheaper than this jerk!".
2. Some employee in that agency makes money on the side by selling valid e-mail addresses to spammers.
An even if everything were on the up-and-up, imagine one translator who naïvely gave away his three best direct clients' e-mail addresses to, say, 30 agencies. Each of these satisfied clients would receive 30 possibly long (as demonstrated in the beginning) questionnaires to answer! Depending on the country, they might download that translator's picture from Proz or wherever to print and glue on a cloth doll to stick some pins!
There is definitely something wrong in all this. And yet, I have refrained from delving into the usefulness and validity of such references. Food for thought, both for agencies and translators.
José Henrique Lamensdorf
São Paulo, Brazil