Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Lionbridge’s Translation Workspace: my thoughts

Late last year Lionbridge announced Translation Workspace: an online CAT tool that all Lionbridge's translators will have to use (like Logoport now). With the difference that, unlike Logoport, translators and agencies will now be able to use the new tool for their own projects and other customers.
The catch: unlike Logoport, which was free, users will have to pay a monthly  subscription for Translation Workspace. From what I heard, the minimum subscription charge will be 10 Euro a month for freelance translators, and 50 Euro for agencies. Besides that "tenancy fee", users will also pay more depending on how many words they process through the system in a given time period (for now at least, work done for Lionbridge will not be subject to this surcharge).
Although there may well be some useful features in this new web-based tool, the advantages claimed in a Lionbridge blog post do not seem impressive:
Finally, a robust tool that sets translators free from their PCs and laptops, and from the fear of losing their work due to a crash.
I don’t see how the new tool will set translators free from PCs and laptops: you’ll still need a computer to connect to Workspace. Not losing your work due to a crash is certainly a benefit – which you can also achieve in other ways (for example, using RAID disks, performing on-site and off-site backups, or, better, a combination of such solutions).
No more panic attacks when the power goes off.
When the power goes off, your Internet connection also goes down, so, no more Translation Workspace.
Bye-bye to time-consuming backups and file downloads.
I hope they are not suggesting to stop backing up your computer. Sounds like a bad idea to me.
There is no need to fill up the memory of their machines with heavy TMs and other language assets, and invest in external hard drives to keep up with the growth of their data.
Memory is cheap these days, and so are large hard drives. Even big translation memories do not take much space.
Everything will be there, in the cloud, allowing them to share, collaborate and get into the crowd.
For large projects, real-time collaboration could be a big advantage, true (if implemented well), but for all other projects this doesn’t seem to offer any real benefit over other tools (some of which also allow hosting memories on line).
Lionbridge touts this as a low-cost alternative (to SDL, presumably – and I think that is the main reason why SDL has recently come out with its own cheap offering, as I mentioned in an earlier post). If you look at the details, however, it’s not all that convenient: we are a small company, and 50 Euro a month (about 70 dollars), mean 840 dollars a year for a tool nobody else will be using except for Lionbridge work. That is, we’ll have to pay for the privilege of working for Lionbridge.


For another translator's take on Lionbridge Workspace, go and read Jill Sommer’s post “Would you pay to work for a translation agency?


  1. First of all I am amazed at this kind of business model. They are truly asking translators who work for them to pay for using their tool of choice? If I have to pay than I'll rather use the tool of my choice. Period.

    In my humble opinion it is strange how "the translation market" (aka big players in this business) have developed more software for translation purposes as if that alone will guarantee better and quicker translations. None of that will happen, no matter what else they come up with in the next years, whatever platform that software will run on and how much they will charge us for it. Because it is not the software that translates, it is the translator!

  2. Yes, I'd prefer to do my backups regularly. At least then I'm the one responsible for my work and I'm not at the mercy of my ISP. I have a backup computer and backup drives, but what I don't have is a backup Internet connection. At least not one that isn't slow and ridiculously expensive to use.
    Furthermore, what if you'd like to retreat to the rural countryside for a week to complete a major project in peace? Or what about NDAs and the necessity to keep confidential information away from undesirables?
    Thanks, but no thanks.

  3. Frankly, I see this as the confirmation of a business strategy I've seen Lionbridge implementing for a while: IMHO they're positioning themselves at the very end of the quality chain. No translator with an established client base would link himself so tightly with one customer and one tool he can't directly control. So, they're likely to attract newbies and translators who need to work no matter the rate and the conditions (and this tools is only the last of a series of impositions from Lionbridge on their translators): this will mean low quality, at least on average - plain and simple

  4. Hey Riccardo, this is published word for word on another blog from Merlin Translations (?) - http://www.merlin-translations.com/2010/04/01/lionbridge%E2%80%99s-translation-workspace-my-thoughts/. I tried to post a comment citing who the real author is but it doesn't appear to allow comments. Thought you might want to know.

  5. They seem, in fact, to have stolen a lot more than that (there are many more posts that are lifted word-for-word from my blog).

    I think other bloggers should also check that site out and bring appropriate action, if they find infringing material.

  6. I totally agree with your take on Translation Workspace. I am in favor of working in "the cloud" but I would like to choose what tools I pay for and for which clients. I would probably use it for Lionbridge work if it was free like Logoport, but I am not interested in paying a monthly fee for it.

  7. “No more panic attacks when the power goes off.
    When the power goes off, your Internet connection also goes down, so, no more Translation Workspace.”

    They probably just mean that you will not lose your unsaved work. And this is only one reason for a panic attack, the other being the inability to continue working, especially under a rush deadline. The Workspace can indeed offer no help for the latter, so I agree that the statement is quite misleading.

  8. Lionbridge’s Translation Workspace.. May be it will be helpful for their in house translators.. and not for the other freelancers!! wjat do you say ?

  9. Is there ANY guarantee of confidentiality?

    There can't be ANY without inspection of their software.

    Don't we sign confidentiality contracts with our customers? How can any serious professional even think about working on such an opaque, cloudy external platform?

    They never talk about this in their shiny ad emails.

    And paying so expensively for such a "privilege" product while torturing language to make it sound attractive ... well, what a business plan treating you suppliers as idiots!

    I hope that this plan will royally fail and put things back into place.

  10. Totally agree with all of you. I’ve been working almost exclusively as a Berlitz/Bowne/Lionbridge freelance translator for the last decade. Until now, the negative aspects were compensated by the fact that I had enough volume to pay my bills and something more. But I can’t see any benefit for me in this new scenario. Not only they are forcing you to pay for a tool that, most likely, we will not use for our own projects, but they will apply a cancellation fee equal to 3 months in case you decide to leave! I think that at least we should be free to stop paying when we have a big project for another client or want to take vacations... So I’ve made up my mind and I’ll go for “Thanks, but no thanks” as kraz said. I’ll leave now, before they start charging me just for breathing Lionbridge air!

  11. Confidentiality is the issue here and others profiting from my know-how.
    Cloud-translation is not fool proof as to this, since there are many listeners on the net with probably ill intent.

  12. Be Carefull when deciding to give the Translation Workspace a try for a job - you ACTUALLY END UP PAYING TO WORK FOR LIONBRIDGE.

    The system says it's totally flexible and allows you to make changes in your subscription freely - so this helps you decide to give it a try.
    But it's a deceptive message!!!

    See the message you get when trying to CANCEL your subscription:

    US$213 for cancelling the account!! That's absolutelly ridiculous, a total rip off. I feel so betrayed. Everyone should know about this, it's very deceptive.

    Hope you don't fall for this as I did.

  13. things i love: paying to work for a dark overlord using a tool that sucked to begin with and now doesn't even work with win 7 or office 2010.

  14. Good translators will be able to easily find other clients to work with, so Lionbridge will end up loosing a lot of human capital. Who will end up using TW? Probably younger untrained translators who are eager to find a job even if it means they have to pay. In the long run, the quality will suffer dramatically, and Lionbridge will pay a huge price tag for their short eyesight.

  15. Not only paying for the privilige of working for Lionbridge, but with one of the worst tools in the market.

    I also said: Thanks, but no thanks.

  16. Even though I have not worked for Lionbridge for years, they still keep me updated on their exciting Path to Profit. I just received the next instalment and you couldn't have made it up. Last week I received a message (which, incidentally, clearly stated ‘DO NOT REPLY’) in which we are asked to reduce our rates because the climate makes it ever so awkward for Lionbridge to make ends meet. A few days later we are invited to join their Job Posting Pilot Program, which means that for a monthly fee you increase your chances to get work. Of course this program is only open to people who already pay a monthly fee for the use of their pointless Workspace… So they somehow believe it would be to our advantage to a) work with their tool and in their workspace, and pay for this, plus b) pay to be able to get work, and c) work against a reduced rate of our normal rate. Does this sound good? In the meantime, TAUS seems to have quite a few TMs from Lionbridge available, so I wonder if the information translators feed into this magic Workspace is also somehow put to work to line the Lionbridge pockets? I find the whole thing totally ridiculous and a blatant insult to our intelligence.

  17. I think only newbie will work for them. For that reason, I refuse to work on any job if I knew the TM sourced from LionBridge....considering the low-quality translation inside the TM from such newbies :-]... I think you all should be aware with the legacy TM from LionBridge. As possible, avoid them.

  18. I have to share my recent experience with Lionbridge and their Translation Workspace. I was offered a job of about 50K words, 10K of which were no match, there were some repetitions, and the majority of the source was in the 70-99% match range. I have worked as a professional translator for over 15 years now and I have extensive experience with various translation tools, so I didn't have any problems with the interface. It was very similar to TagEditor and of course the shortcuts are almost identical.

    However, the progress of the job was much slower than expected. It seemed like it didn't move at all. As I said, as an experienced translator I knew what I should expect. At first I wasn't paying too much attention to the match ratings, I was just using whatever was offered, but when I realized that it is just too slow, I started checking out higher rated matches. It was a disaster. For instance, I'd have a 25-word sentence with matched three words rated as an 83% match! The vast majority of higher-rated matches were just useless and in Trados analysis they wouldn't even make it to the 50% match.

    To cut the long story short, they have cheated me for at least a half of the objective wordcount (you can figure out how much cash that is from the project data). I then realized why they insist on using their tool - it's the analysis. It has nothing to do with project management or availability of translation memory (if they want the memory, it's childishly easy to export from Trados and import into any tool) . They are lying, cheating bastards and I strongly recommend you pass their offers.

    Oh, not to mention their (un)responsiveness. I'd wait for a week for them to answer a simple question (which was crucial to the formatting of the UI in the manual I was translating), and then when I was one day late because of their deception and lack of communication, I'd get a threatening e-mail to please deliver ASAP or face consequences.

  19. In my view this so called 'workspace' is just for feeding their TM - one step less for them - higher margins for them - more work for the translator who has to adapt to a new system, who pay for it (what!?) and last but not least they'll keep the TM and can save even more next time. Sorry, but it's just ridiculous. sounds like another player who uses a fully automated quoting system and translators are just the 'feeders' - thanks to automation no more work for the 'agency' - just implementing the IT environment, get some freelancers and let the money machine run... oh, forgot the terms of service - translator is responsible for all contents and liable ... sorry, but I don't want to be just the 'tm feeder'

  20. On another note: the tool is slow, cumbersome and in no way compatible with Deja Vu, for example.
    I agree with all who say "part of my quality service is the amount I put into researching the right terms and building quality TMs, why should I enable others, who don't want to spend the time and give them a free ride?".

  21. Not only Lionbridge asks translators to pay to use their tools, but they charge a 3-month cancellation fee if you dare cancelling your account! This is simply abusive, and the best part is: they often don't pay their vendors on time! No self-respecting translator should ever work for Lionbridge.

  22. I know this post is old, but just for the record for new readers like me (I came here looking for a tweak with a MS Word + TWS issue, didn't find any). I have been working for Lionbridge as a freelancer for a about a year now using their Translation Workspace tool (which is really a great and most importantly LIGHT tool) and I have never been charged not even a dime for using it. They have paid all my invoices on time and completely and the rates are fair enough for me (no, I don't work for peanuts). Cheers.

    1. If you work for Lionbridge, yes, I believe the tool is free. But they tout their tool also for use for other customers... and I believe for that you have to pay.

    2. It is free for a certain period only. I worked for them for about a year when the message came. Curiously enough, when I decided not to change to a paid plan, there were lots of email alerts of jobs available... could be coincidence of course, but I received notifications for about triple the wordcount I used to get. This has stopped after a couple of months now...
      I really would not have been against being able to use their tool for other jobs too, but after having used it and having connectivity issues to the TM's, constant crashes, 25fold email support conversations without results.... Their package is imo not even past pre alpha stage and most definitely not in the payworthy range.
      I moved most of my work over to OmegaT and am, in comparison to TWS in cloud 7. Of course, it is all local, but it seamlessly and simply works, open source!
      I did get into some interesting projects through Lionbridge, I have to admit, but all in all not my choice.


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