Community refuses to become a business
When I left Andrew Morris’s Standing Out Facebook group for translators some years ago now, I made a conscious decision to ignore him. I was appalled at the way that a man who seemed to advocate reasonable behaviour and respect between colleagues could viciously turn on people outside the group in an obvious attempt to rally his members behind him against the “outsider”, but decided the best way of dealing with an attention-seeker was to have nothing to do with him at all. I have broken that vow of silence twice, to report on his contributions to two different conferences that we both attended. You can read those posts here and here, and I particularly recommend scrolling down the comments section of the second post, which reveals much about the kind of man we’re dealing with. This post will be the third and, I hope, the final time I mention Andrew Morris here.
I cannot ignore Standing Out now because since last Thursday I have spent considerable time helping to deal with fall-out from his decision to begin to charge for membership of his Facebook group. The fact that the implosion of Andrew’s Facebook group was caused by a row over online communities and money is another reason why I have to say something about it. Not to do so would be unfair to Dmitry Kornyukhov, whose efforts to secure donations from members of his non-Facebook based translators’ community I criticised here a few weeks ago. So here goes. Andrew’s plan is to demand a fee of €4 a month from his members. It doesn’t seem that much, does it? I’ve heard it said that Andrew considers it to be the price of a latte. Well, he obviously drinks in more expensive coffee shops than I do, but the price label isn’t that far out.
Yet those €4 caused as big a furore as I can remember seeing in the translation world, so it’s worth considering why. Firstly, people obviously liked Standing Out. It offered what felt like a safe, comfortable environment where they could chat and socialise and encourage one another. Perhaps they weren’t always comfortable with the way Andrew behaved, but it was worth putting up with his eccentricities for all the friends they made and all they believed they could learn there. They felt like a community and events and meet-ups were organised to contribute to this sensation. There were also Facebook subgroups on various specific topics and language combinations, which many translators found useful.
So why didn’t they just stay and pay? Some, of course, will do just that. Andrew inspires intense personal loyalty strong enough to make some people dip into their pockets without question. However, many Standing Out members felt betrayed. Andrew may have been the founder, but they had built the community and they had contributed to the content that made people want to join. Now they were being expected to fork out for the privilege of forming part of something they had always thought belonged to them.
Andrew, on the other hand, clearly saw it as a business decision; a new “phase” in a development he had obviously been planning for some time. It’s hardly surprising that he should. One former Standing Out member quickly calculated that if Andrew managed to get a quarter of his more than 5,000 members to pay the €48 euros a year, he would be making €60,000 a year before tax, a sum not to be sniffed at. Not unreasonably, Andrew was asked what he was going to do with the money. He flatly refused to say.
None of this implies any actual wrongdoing on Andrew’s part, although his callous disregard for how group members who had trusted him and looked on him as their friend might feel is unpleasant in the extreme. What it does show, though, is the confusion between business and community which also marked Dmitry’s venture. This is obviously a 21st-century phenomenon not confined to translators, but it seems to have been poorly handled by both of them in different ways. We’re getting used to businesses wanting to draw us into communities to make us feel fuzzy and warm about their products or services. What we find more difficult is when people build communities and then want to turn them into businesses. In Dmitry’s case, I believe he is genuinely confused about what he has on his hands with The Open Mic. However, I don’t think Andrew is confused in the least, and it seems possible that the introduction of charges might have been planned, if not from the very beginning, at least for quite some time. It may also be a response to the relative failure of his paid-for group, Standing Out Island, which has only just over 50 members and does not appear to have met expectations either for them or for Andrew. Over the weekend, he seems to have begun making rather confused noises about maintaining some sort of free group, although without giving up the idea of making his main focus of operations paid-for.
But the damage is done. The suspicion that they have been taken for a ride all these years is what seems to have hurt many Standing Out members most. They feel they have been used – drawn into what appeared to be a community in order to be exploited. Former Standing Out stalwart Claire Cox expresses the disappointment of disillusioned former group members very clearly in her latest blog post. Nor did Andrew’s handling of the move or his reaction to criticism of it help very much. Not even close collaborators were given prior warning of his plans, which prompted some of his group administrators and people who had put a lot of work into Standing Out to walk away immediately. Those who stayed to challenge his plans were simply told they could pay up or leave. Others were treated even more rudely than that. Many members left straightaway and others are simply waiting to be thrown out when they refuse to pay.
I was alerted early on and became involved when some colleagues suggested setting up a group or groups as alternative to the ones that will soon no longer be free. It seemed a good idea to help give these people who had lost something they valued a friendly, welcoming place to go. So, the Standing Up and Standing Up Exchange Facebook groups were born. The names – some like them, others hate them – are obviously no coincidence. They will certainly make the groups easy to find and they also carry a rather attractive hint of rebellion, although if enough members want to change them they will, of course, be replaced. The point is to have places where people who liked Standing Out but didn’t want to pay for it can go and do exactly the things they did in the Standing Out group, and in the Standing Out Exchange, which was a jobs platform.
The response to the new groups was phenomenal. On the first day alone, my fellow administrators and I allowed almost 500 members to join Standing Up. There were times when we couldn’t add them quickly enough. Those keen to join seemed to be a rather interesting mix of people bitterly hurt by Andrew asking them for money, others who’d always been suspicious of him but stuck around for the things they felt they got out of the group and some, like myself, who’d seen Andrew in his true colours a long time ago and distanced themselves from him. Whether the new groups will be a success is anyone’s guess, but the early signs are good. The former Standing Out members are getting to know people who had been demonised by Andrew and finding out that, in fact, they have a great deal to contribute. It is as if a wall has come down in the translation world, although, of course, what happens in this brave new world is up to all the group members. Standing Up has three administrators who have no wish to take over the group or become a new guru, nor would any one of us be allowed to if we tried. Meanwhile, I will watch the Standing Out membership figure with interest, especially when those payments come due in January. Time will tell whether people feel more at home in a free community or a cult.
Thanks for this measured view, Simon. And much as I hate being called an SO stalwart, I can’t deny that I have been an enthusiastic supporter of the group for some time, although I have had concerns about the founder’s ever-changing, flash-in-the-pan schemes for several months now, as I discussed with colleagues in San Francisco. There’s nothing like a bucket of cold water as a wake-up call, though, and Thursday’s announcement was precisely that. Thanks, but no thanks – I’ve definitely seen enough! I hope the new group takes off; looking promising at the moment. Thanks for stepping up to the mark 🙂
Thanks for the comment, Claire. I don’t want anything to do with that particular mark, but I was pleased to be able to do something for all the people in your position.
I simply meant for standing up for what you believed in, nothing more sinister, I assure you!
I understand, I just wouldn’t want anyone to think I had any wish to "lead" anyone anywhere.
Hello, Simon. I am one of the "few" members that decided to stay to at least see what would become of Standing Out. Not because Andrew forced me to, or hypnothised me, or even threatened my family to ensure my unwavering loyalty or whatever it is you might want to call it. No sir, I decided to see what would become of Standing Out at least for a month or two, after which I’ll have enough insight to decide if I stay or if I leave. Hence, I will refuse to cry "wolf" before I actually see one, even though some wolves disguise as sheep and look more real than the wolf itself.
To the point, and allow me to correct some of your false statements for the sake of honesty and truth. As a former journalist, I do believe you know the difference between opinion and facts, so here are FACTS and not mere ill-based things that all of a sudden I decided to write and mask them as if they were facts:
1 – As far as we (the ones who decided to give it a go and try the paid SO) were told, all past posts of Standing Out will be available for everyone to see, members and non-members alike, just so the "Oh, we collaborated and now he’ll take advantage of our collaboration" voices come to a halt. I believe that Claire didn’t read this announcement because she missed it or because she had already left, but it’s posted for anyone to see;
2 – The "It’s not the money amount per se, it’s just that (insert whatever excuse you might feel appropriate here)" excuse is pathetic. The problem in fact is that, no matter how little, people don’t like to pay for anything they didn’t before. I understand that – be it too much or otherwise, money is a matter that messes up with our emotions. However, and since you’re a journalist, you know as well as I do that people think that paying for information is something stupid. It’s a cultural thing, much like "Why should I pay for a translator when there’s Google Translate?" is. I think we both also know that nothing beats the price of being the first to know something, personally I know nothing more valuable than information. If not information, there are those that pay to feel well somewhere or with something. A good pair of shoes instead of a crappy one. Or maybe an executive flight instead of a low-cost one. That being said, what gives ANYONE the right to tell me that I can’t or shouldn’t try SO or anything else for that matter for whatever reason? I’m still lucid enough to manage my own money, so what’s it to anyone? Unless "anyone" is on a personal crusade against whatever/whomever, and I believe there’s no need to talk about that any further, so obvious that it is.
3 – You (and countless others better informed than you that couldn’t come up with a better excuse) talk about betrayal like Standing Out and its members were ever in a romantic relationship, a marriage of sorts. Or like the owner had ever said that SO would be free forever. None of that ever happened. No one can say that Andrew ever said that SO would be free forever, SO Islands being a clear example, nor did anyone ever pledge the in sickness or in health votes. Betrayal is a very strong word used by very bitter people, and althgough I understand the bitterness, I cannot say the same about the spite.
4 – Talking about Standing Out as a cult is getting a little bit washed up and catatonic, by now I would expect some originality on the matter, but again personal crusades and spite seem to have an adversary effect that does not combine well with lucidity, let alone good sense. I will say this about the cult, though: “And those who were seen dancing were thought to be insane by those who could not hear the music.”
5 – I’m not sure where are you trying to get with the money aspect of his decision. I won’t ever work, or coach, or train, or motivate, or support someone professionally for free. Neither should you, he, she, him, her, they. We that advocate better practices about payment/rates should point a finger to someone else for trying to make a legit living out of what he or she does best? Hypocrisy is just the better term that comes to my mind.
6 – After showing discontent, most (if not all, I guess not all though) moderators of the several SO groups asked Andrew if they could keep the groups to themselves, to what he immediately said "Yes, carry on". Truth be told, if it was me, and after so many childish behaviours and even some insults (mostly from people that I HAD NEVER seen a post prior to this incident), I wouldn’t have had the same degree of graciousness, far from it in fact. Suddenly, all criticism came to a halt from said moderators, long enough to grab what they could and run away. A looting of sorts, even if consented. Refer to hypocrisy and add a pinch of cynicism to said people.
7 – 500 or so people left. In between, circa 200 arrived. OK, not as phenomenal as it would look like, but let’s say half phenomenal. 10% of a community, phenomenal… well, OK, I’ve read worst in the Sunday edition of The Sun.
8 – Next time you ask your butcher, baker, local supermarket or whatever service it may be what it does with the money you give it for your products or services, please let me know the answer. HOWEVER, Andrew did say what would part of the money be used for – to improve Standing Out. Some certainly for him, but it’s nothing we didn’t know about already, nor did he hid that from us. In all truth, he did say to someone after posting this (later on, that is) that he didn’t feel he had to say what was the money being used for. I would have said the exact same in order to not repeat something I had said before. I’m guessing Clair did also miss this, even if it’s public, but who cares, right? Whatever sounds the more melodramatic.
9 – All of the previous are facts, not opinions or half-truths or made-up concoctions based on suppositions. Don’t mind me not playing a couple of violins while writing all this, as I do not have the patience for lyricism when what really matters is the truth. For it to be true, just taking someone’s word is not enough in my book, and shouldn’t be in anyone’s as well. After all, what matters are FACTS. They are there. They haven’t been erased, altered or tampered. They can be checked. At least if one really wants to not take sides. But that’s never been the case, has it?
I’m sorry I took so much of your time – in order to compensate for that, I certainly will not be posting anything else about this matter again, as after all all I’m doing is defending a friend that seems to hit some nerves here and there every now and then for no other reason than (insert motive of choice here). I would do the same for you or Claire were you my friends and were you being pounced at for no other reason than (insert motive of choice here), mind. Moreover, I guarantee that I have no hidden agenda here like profit or whatever that may be. Notwithstanding, I will be able to decide after one or two months if the new Standing Out is worthless to me or not, after which I’ll stay or I’ll leave. However, I will certainly give it a go instead of throwing tantrums around and believe the end is nigh. Until then, I will disregard this for what it is – an opinion without nothing else but he said/she said "facts". I honestly wish you all the best.
Thank you for your comment, João. I’m approving it now because I don’t want you to think I’m trying to suppress or censor it in any way. Normally I would hold it back until I can reply properly, but I certainly will be replying when I have time because I don’t like being accused of hypocrisy and malice any more than you would.
I left SO weeks after I joined. I didn’t like the vibe of the group. I don’t know AM, therefore I can’t give a personal opinion about him. However, what happened didn’t surprise me. One thing that made leave the group was that feeling of showing off AM put out so very often. I don’t like that attitude in anyone, so AM would not be the exception. Joäo, you know how I feel about this. We talked about it a long time ago. You know where I stand (no pun intended). I’m your friend and that won’t change. Do I agree with what you just said? No. But I respect it. That being said, we’ll be chatting one of these days! Take care!
Thanks for your comment, Ana. Friendships shouldn’t be broken over this.
I said I would not reply ever to this and I hate to break it, but in this case it is only due to the respect that Ana Silva Dias deserves from me, as she is a friend, maybe one of the best I’ll ever get. I’ve known her standing since long ago, and yet we mutually respect each other’s views about this. I do participate in SO and think it’s positive, shes doesn’t, and yet we stand on very friendly terms. That being said, she is entitled to her opinion, while I am to mine. As for the hypocrisy and malice, maybe I got it all wrong to begin with from your side Simon, but that’s what it certainly looks like. And THIS was in fact my first and last reply to any of this. Good luck.
So you’re allowed to have your opinion, Ana’s allowed to have hers but if I express mine it’s hypocrisy and malice? That doesn’t seem quite right to me…
No no, you got me wrong: you certainly are entitled to your opinion, as long as it’s an educated one. When you don’t know what you are talking about (and you don’t, as you know what someone told you, and not 100% straight facts), then it stops to be an opinion and it’s now called "hearsay". Add that to the fact that you have some quandary with the owner of the group and the end result is what you wrote: a mixture of fabrication, incorrect information and unresolved matters. That’s alright with me, it’s your page, but calling it an "opinion" is a bit of a stretch. Good luck.
I’m really beginning to lose my patience with you, João. When I talked to other people and listened to their accounts of what happened I was interested in why they had left Standing Out and how they felt about it. They’re perfectly entitled to tell me about that, and they’re not wrong – it’s their experience. Do I like Andrew? No, I don’t. At the beginning of my article I explained why and even provided a reference so that readers could make up their minds based on his previous behaviour towards me. So I AM entitled to my opinion and I AM entitled to write about it on my own blog, whatever you say and whether you like it or not. The overwhelming reaction to my piece, even from people who have nothing against Andrew, is that it is a reasonable and restrained one. But if you come around here insulting me again I may not be so restrained with you.
OK, let’s answer these points of yours:
1. There is, as I said, some confusion about what’s going to happen with past posts, etc. Any comment of Andrew’s about this is not available "for everyone to see" because, of course, only group members can see it.
2. I am genuinely interested in the problem people have with being asked to pay in these circumstances and I think it happens when people believe they form part of a community which belongs to them, only to find out that it actually belongs to someone else who suddenly decides to start making money out of it.
3. You don’t need a romantic relationship for betrayal. You can betray a friend too. Lots of people thought Andrew was their friend. Now they realise he never was and they’re hurt. I understand that and maybe you should too.
4. If it barks and wags its tail, it’s a dog. If it isn’t a cult it should stop acting like one, and its leader should stop acting like a cult leader (imposing petty rules, telling people what to think, demonising outsiders, exploiting members…).
5. The problem comes with people who to some degree fail as translators and then decide to turn their hand to training to earn their living. That’s why I prefer, with a few honourable exceptions, to get my training from people who make their living from translation alone.
6. As has been shown be recent developments, there was nothing in these groups, useful as they are, that couldn’t be replicated elsewhere. So quite why Andrew had to "give his permission", I’m not really sure.
7. What I described as phenomenal was 500 people joining a group in one day. Obviously many people have remained, although how many of them are now committed to SO and how many are just waiting to be thrown out neither you nor I know. As for the 150 (I think it was nearer 200 actually) who joined, I happen to know that a good many of them just wanted to read the arguments going on in the group – what has been described as the "popcorn factor".
8. Andrew is not a butcher, baker or supermarket owner. It is doubtful whether he "sells" anything as useful as meat, bread or groceries. I know for a fact that he was directly asked what he was planning to do with the money, presumably giving him the opportunity to say he was going to offer new services or improve the existing ones, and, just as directly, he replied that he felt no obligation to say.
9. A blog post is an opinion piece. It always amazes me that some people seem to be unable to understand that. It should be judged by the standards of a column or an editorial, NOT a news story. What I have tried to do is to analyse a situation which is interesting because of the questions it raises. Why were people so upset because Andrew wanted to charge them? What are the dynamics of online communities? What exactly is the nature of my objection, and the objections of others, to the way Andrew operates? So obviously there are going to be elements that go beyond the bare facts of what happened.
But your claim that in contrast to me you have stuck to the facts is frankly laughable. You have insinuated that I am a bitter, spiteful melodramatic, hypocrite on a personal crusade (all your words). I don’t think many people who know me would agree with you, and I think the description, together with the nasty insults against some of my friends, says more about your twisted view of the world than it does me.
In the interests of openness, I should say that I have received another comment from João which I’m not going to approve because it takes the discussion no further and continues with his offensive tone towards me. I shall not allow any more of his comments here unless they add something new to the comment thread.
João, I appreciate you feel a strong emotional connection with Andrew, but your tone comes across as strident, sneering and disrespectful to the many people, myself included, who have articulated their fundamental disagreements with his decision in a moderate and rational way. You implicitly deplore "tantrums", but there appears to be a clear element of just that in what you have done yourself.
Thanks, Oliver.I couldn’t agree more.
To be scrupulously fair, the "leader" of each subgroup had a few hours’ prior warning. We weren’t involved in the decision in any way.
Thanks for correcting that detail, Marga.
Hi Simon! I read your latest post with interest. Some of the points you make are valid and obviously AM’s decision has caused an unprecedented rift/ruckus, ironically just when it seemed that the translation scene was calm and cooperative across all areas. I think it highlights one thing in particular: the fact that we translators have a highly sensitive relationship with money. Many of us baulk at the idea of earning "good money", have guilt issues, imposter syndrome (and I am speaking from personal experience!)and somehow feel it is "dirty" or "wrong". AM is clearly an entrepreneur which makes people in the translation world automatically suspicious it seems. Either way, I personally see value in his content curation, the positive framework he provides, and the great advice from colleagues on the site, so I will be "dipping into my pocket" to pay 4€ for something I consider to be a valid work expense, and I really don’t care what he does with the money, just as I don’t feel I have to tell my clients what I do with mine. I think it is absolutely fine for people to choose to leave and create new groups, diversity is wonderful, but I would prefer it if I weren’t branded a cult member, or AM a guru, because it is really just a cheap way of de-legitimizing someone, without recourse to facts. I really hope we can all move on from this and enjoy a productive and fruitful future in translation!
I hope so too, Galina. If so many of the people I have talked to had not used the g- and c- words, I would have held back from it myself, but I’m afraid I see it as calling a spade a spade. Personally, given the way I have seen Andrew behave, I find it impossible to understand the loyalty shown to him by some people any other way.
I’m not on Facebook so I was blissfully unaware of all of this. I strongly believe in the need for all professions to build real, supportive, and bullshit-free communities, and this is especially true for freelance-heavy fields as we (often) lack the legal protection 9-5 workers (sometimes) enjoy. So although I know nothing (and thus will say nothing) about all the past events, well done for taking the lead on building something new to these altruistic ends. Good luck with the new group, I hope it is successful.
Thanks, Victoria. If you ever do decide to appear on Facebook, please come and join us.
I look forward to the time when we’ve had enough of this issue, to be honest. Feels like it’s been done to death now. There’s a new suite of FB groups for those who don’t like SO; we all move on. Let’s not get distracted. Andrew Morris is a high-profile figure, but the profession is bigger than one person.
I will make every effort to do that. I certainly have no wish to be rehashing this post ad infinitum.
Thank you for your balanced view of the recent fiasco in a teacup, to use the more polite name for it than the hashtag shortcut.
As with "The Book of Standing Out", so the Standing Out group on Facebook (which I voluntarily left in early 2014 – amicably, it should be noted – because I did not agree with Andrew Morris’ conduct at the time on ethical grounds): the perceived value of both the book and the group came from the collective contributions of those participating.
Notwithstanding his being the founder of the group of a free social media platform, that Andrew should unilaterally appropriate that collectively constructed value and propose to monetise it for his own ends (which to my knowledge he has refused to divulge or clarify up till now) in a take-it-or-leave it announcement with expulsion from the group by a certain date if existing members do not pay to my mind put him on very shaky ethical ground indeed.
In the real world, using a "pay-up or else" approach normally only works if one is entitled to payment in the first place.
I would like to record here that a comment above has erroneously stereotyped translators as "sensitive about money" or some such. This is certainly not true from my perspective nor from that of many other translators who gain 100% of their income from translation and other language work, and do not seek to make fellow linguists part of their revenue stream.
For me, the act levying *any* amount – EUR 0.01, for example – in this situation where the income thus gained accrues to a single individual, would be an unprincipled one which goes against the grain of basic human decency.
I am of the view that those who for reasons of their own – which they are free to have, of course – subscribe to this crazy scheme do so at their own peril; the hackneyed image of a lemming racing off a cliff and floundering in the sea springs to mind.
Thank for your comment, Allison. I agree with you. There are some noble exceptions, but once most of us start trying to make money out of our fellow translators we are on a slippery slope.
Hi Simon: I’m new here, and read this post with interest as well as the two it linked to (including the comment in question, with incredulity). Thank you for a measured post that deals with many of the notions that have been swirling in my head since the announcement.
To clarify, I’m still a (non-paying) member of SO: I was undecided as to whether to stay or go, and recently Andrew Morris revealed that he has taken on board the widespread… feedback… and decided to open a separate, paid group, leaving the current one free, if not intact. In the meantime, I have come to a decision as to whether or not to pay for my membership, but I’m sticking around the ‘old’ free group to see where it goes.
So why was I undecided? From how active he is in the forum, I have no doubt whatsoever that Andrew Morris invests much, much more time in the group than anyone else: he writes lengthy posts every day, he responds to others’ posts and comments, and of course he must do all of the behind-the-scenes admin as well. That’s a lot of time and effort: more, I suspect, than any of the rest of us put in. Now, notably, it’s not Andrew’s long daily posts that make me want to be part of Standing Out: it’s mostly the contributions of the other members. But I do believe that those daily posts, and a lot of the other work he does, sets the tone of the discussion, and he should be given credit for that.
All of the above goes to show that I do recognise the worth Andrew provides to Standing Out, and I disagree with some of the comments I’ve read (not here) which suggest that SO would get along just fine without him. HOWEVER. Contrary to how it might seem up to this point, I am far from being a cheerleader for this new paid scheme.
I completely agree (and I simply don’t see why João above struggles to understand this) that it’s not about being €4 a month out of pocket. In fact, I’m sure you, Simon, resent as much as I do the implication that we are just tightwads hiding behind invented principles. For me, rather than having to forego my monthly latte, what I objected to was the idea that what purported to be a supportive community in which everyone was equal was never really equal after all: for one thing, the leader appeared to see himself as infinitely more valuable than all of the other members of the group put together (because even a ‘measly’ €48 a year per member is infinitely more than the 0 everyone else gets); and for another, the leader was able to make unilateral decisions that would completely shake the foundation of the group, without consulting the opinions of the members and without giving much in the way of an explanation. Finally, it would be one thing if anyone believed that being at the helm of Standing Out was a completely altruistic endeavour from which Andrew gained nothing. On the contrary, his many posts on the topic present him as highly successful; clearly either despite or because of his online position of authority. If Standing Out were nothing but a drain on his time, I have no doubt that he would have packed it in long ago. I don’t see him as an underappreciated figure who is finally asking for his due, and as such, I don’t feel any responsibility to place money directly in his hands.
As I’ve said before on other fora, the bottom line is that it’s down to him. If he thinks the community he has helped build (emphasis on the ‘helped’) is so great that the others who contributed to creating it should pay him for the privilege of belonging, that’s up to him. And if the other contributors wish to pay for it, that’s up to them. And if I think it’s a bit of a cheek for the so-called leader of a group to make a move that benefits nobody but him at the direct expense of every other loyal member of said group… It’s up to me to decide not to be a part of it. As far as I’m concerned, that’s not what leadership is about, and if I’m going to pay any leader/admin/mediator for membership of a Facebook group, it won’t be one who operates in this way.
I’m particularly grateful for your comment, Megan, as someone who is neither for or against Andrew Morris. I think you’ve summed up the prevalent feeling among Standing Out members and recent leavers that the money itself is not the most important thing, it’s suddently realising that, although you thought everyone was equal in the group, one person in particular is more equal than the others. Now where’s my copy of <em>Animal Farm</em>…
Thank you, Simon, for your even-handed summary of the situation. With time, I think you will be vindicated.
I would like to say that there are people out there capable of distinguishing between the generous, well-prepared, tangible resources and support they offer for free and other paid-for courses – again, offering real results and resources. Of course, free resources attract customers for other products, but everyone’s a winner in such cases, as long as the separation is made clear. And while intangible benefits are all well and good (they do exist), when these begin to look so intangible that they can barely be identified, and where things that were free are suddenly not, it all begins to look like one big tedious scheme selling little more (sometimes a lot less) than sparkly dust. And in this case, I think it was a lack of uptake on the new, paid-for products that led to AM resorting to the monetization of something on someone else’s platform, free and built by the community, with profits entirely for one member of the hundreds or thousands of contributors, in a move that made a lot of people feel embarrassed.
I don’t really see that this move chimes in with the supposed positive ethos, good attitude and team spirit meant to come with following AM’s methods; neither am I sure what those methods are, really. I am reminded somewhat of the old traditional (Chinese?) story of Stone Soup, in which a community is tricked into collaborating where they haven’t before by a traveller who turns up and, in exchange for a bed for the night, makes a soup for the hungry villagers using an ordinary stone credited with magic powers. All the villagers add their few individual ingredients to make a wonderful, complete soup together, thinking that this is all thanks to the magic stone. In the end, it was their capacity to collaborate and contribute their bit that made the wonderful broth. You can look for the bit at the end of the story where the traveller reneges on the deal and charges all the villagers for the soup they made with their own ingredients, but it isn’t there, LOL. Well done to the traveller for his initiative: I’m sure no-one minds when he sets up his soup stone shop. But it hasn’t been like that.
Credit is due, I think, to trainers such as Jo Rourke or Marta Stelmaszak who do not spend all their time obsessing over monetizing absolutely everything and are truly focused on offering real value and honesty. Both offer very generous and useful support outside of their paid courses because of the genuine vocation for helping people that natural trainers have. And I think those are the issues here: no-one minds people making plenty of money – I hope that kind of trainer DOES make money. But questions can be raised around honesty and value for money in the case of SO. The page about Standing Out on AM’s website makes no mention of it being a Facebook page that’s being paid for (or indeed what payment is for at all). I would be embarrassed to be responsible for a project I had to be so coy about. And of course, if AM isn’t, that’s fine, if his followers aren’t, then bully for them, but my opinion is that it’s a poor show.
I thank you for writing this article, Simon, as I know you have worked to avoid straying away from what you have good grounds for saying. Time will tell.
Joao, we do not agree on this issue but I really enjoyed meeting you in Coimbra and hope we can take a coffee and some pasteis again one day. Galina, wish I was going to make your talk in Berlin but I might not. Budget depending, though, see you there. Allison, one day I shall manage to be as succinct as you are!
Thanks again Simon, I have observed your examination of the issue over time and I know you have addressed it for the right reasons. I think you’ve done a good job here. And now it’s up to everyone else to make up their own minds, of course.
Thank you, Kate, for your comment and your support.
I see that zero lessons have been learned.
Open up your eyes! Stop being so naive. Those who sell to you deserve your scrutiny (Question: what makes you trust the "trainers" you promoted above beyond their name recognition?) not effusive endorsement.
Stop jumping from one Instaguru/Savior of the hour to the next, failing to realize the problem lies with this entire cult-of-personality culture rather than with an isolated individual, misstep or mischief.
Wake up people!
Well, I never knew such drama existed in the translation world! I have read about this person and in fact joined the group about a year ago on other people’s recommendations but left after a few weeks. I think it was the pictures of the car that put me off. Plus the stipulation that anyone posting had to include a photo. Too time-consuming.
Since then I have not participated in any other translator Facebook groups (only e-mail groups) and I like the idea of an open community discussing real issues (to be frank I get a bit bored of inspirational quotes and branding/marketing. I just like translating – I’ve been doing it for nearly 20 years.) So thank you for directing me to the new groups 🙂
Thanks, Lydia. That car seems to have put a lot of people off!
Thank you, Simon, for an interesting, thoughtful analysis of the situation. This is, of course, not the first time that a "community" has woken up with some anger at the discovery that it is part of a business or is perceived as such. Quite aside from AM and his dubious undertakings, I have more than a few reservations about the place that Facebook has assumed in communication among colleagues and sometimes between service providers and clients as well. There are surely more "awakenings" ahead.
Thank you, Kevin. I understand what you’re saying about Facebook, but I still think the benefits outweigh the disadvantages. Mind you, I must stay off it over the next few days because I have a lot of work to do.