Officially accepting bitcoins as of now... or f##k you, Skrill

(Clueless? Start here, then go here

Yeah. Why not? Untaxable, nearly anonymous, low transfer fees, no account "freezes" or "limits" whatsoever. All the advantages of cash, and none of its caveats. Lots of ways to spend, and new ones appear every day. Why not indeed...

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Unfortunately there's a catch — exchange between "fiat" currencies (dollars, euros, bahts), and BTC isn't as smooth as one could hope for. Your flexible friend, the credit card, will not be accepted, because bitcoin deals are irreversible, while credit card transactions are very much so: 

Buy bitcoins => pay with card => tell your bank that the card was stolen => ... => Profit!!!

Paypal? It's even worse. While credit card companies are mislead by scammers, Paypal deliberately, and knowingly supports them, and their business to undermine competitor's positions, Google will give you all the nasty details.

So we ruled out two most popular online payment methods. Unfortunately others are either not perfect, or not usable.

Don't get me wrong, you can exchange bitcoins, perhaps even easily, but it will require you to jump through a circle or two  accept the fact that your favorite tools will not work here, find, and implement alternatives. Most people are either too lazy or too busy for that, and prefer old ways. Guys who run companies are also busy, lazy, and reluctant to do new things, plus they face legal, organizational, and devil knows what other barriers. Bottom line — I can't imagine wide acceptance of bitcoins in our industry any time soon. This makes my "accepting bitcoins" announcement a little more than a hogwash. Or not.

Everyone knows about Skrill, arguably the only efficient way to handle ongoing (and annoying) pecky projects that bring 0-250 EU per month. "Industry standard" SWIFT is not an option (obviously), Paypal, and SEPA have regional limitations, and can be expensive, and other solutions are simply not worth mentioning. Skrill on the other hand is ubiquitous, and fees make it perfect fit for both customers, and vendors: flat 0.5 EU to send money, and flat 1.8 EU to withdraw. Jolly good. There is a downside, of course, Skrill can randomly and permanently freeze your account with all the cash for no specific reason, but it is an acceptable risk, as long as your turnover is moderate...

Was acceptable, not anymore, last November flat rates were replaced with percentages, making Skrill more expensive than SEPA, but slightly cheaper than Paypal. And they can still take all your money. Reasons are not important, but I assume that they have decided to pose as "payment gateway", and p2p transfers were sacrificed. Anyway Skrill no longer an option, but there's and alternative. Any assumptions?

Yep, bitcoins could be a perfect solution of micropayment problem, and many others, but first we need to let our customers know that they exist. How? Start accepting bitcoins, and make sure everybody knows J

 

 

And one more thing, if you have taken my pitch seriously, and made all the pre-arrangements, such as installing, and syncing the wallet, then you are probably choosing between one of three major BTC exchanges to settle in. You have probably accepted the fact that they will demand your passport, proof of address, and some other random proofs, and report all your transactions to big brother and/or your government. If you think that this approach is killing the buzz, do yourself a favor, and click little ugly banner below. Yes, bitcoins must be anonymous, which means they must be bought with cash.

Perpetual Freelancer: Six Flag Theory and you

This post have been making circles around my head for a while now (I mean a long while), mostly because I am lazy, and also because I am not really a fan of "I feel so important, when I state the obvious" posture, which is often seen in professional blogs. In fact Rants never have never become an active blog for these very reasons. Anyway... Even if stuff below seems obvious, the bigger part of freelance crowd never gave it much thought, but they really should.

I am talking about certain international lifestyle (keywords: Perpetual Traveller or Tourist (PT), Sovereign Individual, Six Flag Theory), which implies distributing your life interests across a number of countries (flags), and treating those countries as mere service providers without any patriotic sentiments. Consider your home country as you would consider a phone company, a mobile carrier or an ISP. Does it have all the features you need? Is it expensive? Is it a good bang for the buck? Is it any better than competing providers? How about fine print? Disclaimers, and limitations of service? You can also use one provider for broadband and another one for television, cut TV cable and go on with online services like Netflix, cut your landline wires in favor of SIP, etc. And most importantly, if quality of service goes down, or price goes up, or if there is something else you don't like, you just change your provider. This is a smart way to work with your service providers, and pretty much everyone applies this approach already. Six flag theory/PT is about the equivalent "smart" approach to the selection of countries for various aspects of your life.

As PT you spend the most of your time in a country that is good for living (your idea of good... from small, but dignified gingerbread town in the mountains to untamed seaside resort with blooming nightlife), legally reside (pay taxes) in a low or no-tax country, use a current account in the easiest banking jurisdiction, and keep your savings in safest one. You also carry your business in a top business haven, and acquire citizenship that gives you the widest travelling opportunities. And it's easier than it sounds, believe me.

PT lifestyle is generally applied by the lucky few, who can afford to move freely around the world — rich layabouts, international/online business owners and some C-level executives, but it is also available for your average middle-class fella (or gal), given that he (or she) is a freelancer. We are mobile, we can take our laptops, and go any place with a broadband, and stay there as much as we want, then go somewhere else. This kind of mobility is a basis of PT. Obviously a spouse can make things harder, and kids will make them discouragingly difficult. But nothing is impossible.

So... Which of the following applies to you:

  • You live in a country with very high cost of living, and find yourself with only 30 or 40% of your wage after all the bills are paid.
  • You live in an oppressive police state. They have come for your neighbor yesterday,and tomorrow they might come for you. Torchlight procession is just outside your window.
  • Taxes are unfairly high, and you don't know what are you paying for, because the place is a total mess.
  • Your country is just too dull, and far from everything you like, and you feel that boredom is killing you slowly.
  • Your government is very snoopy, and gets snoopier every day. Have they banned Tor? VPN? Are they planning to ban encryption altogether? What can they ban next? Window curtains?
  • Your government is very greedy, and gets greedier every day. Simply no comments, getting greedier is what governments do.
  • Your political views/religious beliefs (or the lack of thereof)/sexual orientation/idea of fun are prosecuted, or discontented in your country.
  • Your home country is dangerous/undeveloped/futureless for you and your kids.
  • You just feel like getting out for no specific reason.
  • You just feel insecure for no specific reason.

A lot of matches, huh? Despite the fact that you live in well-fed Western/Central Europe? If you are from a corrupt post-communist oligarchy like myself, the list probably got you slightly depressed. Relax, muslim countries are even worse, and USA is the worst of them all. Anyway the above bullets represent the reasons why people choose to become PT.

Before talking about what you can do, let's discuss some theory. First of all PT is a philosophy, and state of mind, not a cookbook or a checklist. For me it's about personal sovereignity, and freedom as libertarians view it, as well as invisibility, security, and privacy that come from being everywhere, and nowhere at the same time. Some people talk about world citizenship and cosmopolitism, others praise the untamed, unregulated capital, etc. There is something for almost everyone. If you care for some advanced reading to form your own view on the subject, start with H. G. Hills's PT, and The Sovereign Individual by James Dale Davidson. Bye-bye Big Brother (BBBB) by Grandpa is another title worth checking out.

So... without further ado six flags are:

  1. Citizenship/passport of a country that doesn't tax your worldwide income, and has a good visa-free list. If your current citizenship fulfills the requirements, then you are lucky. Otherwise you might want to get another.
  2. Legal or tax residence. It should be low-tax or no tax jurisdiction. Countries that tax only local income are also good.
  3. Business haven. For a freelancer (self-employed, private entrepreneur, etc.) it merges with p. 2, because you probably work under your name, pay (or don't pay) taxes as a private person. If you have a full-blown business with suppliers, sexy female secretary and other goodies, make sure it operates in a friendly low-tax jurisdiction. So called "classic offshores" look like an easy, and obvious solution, but there are implications.
  4. Banking haven. This is easy — place to keep your money, away from Europe, I would say. Obviously away from US.
  5. Playground, one or more. Places where you hang out. You probably already know what your playgrounds are (the place on your desktop wallpaper), but I'll give you some options to play with. What do you think about Amsterdam, Paris, Rio, Pattaya, Hong Kong? London perhaps? Montevideo? In case if you are wondering, my preference is South-East Asia.
  6. The Cyberspace to bring them all and in the darkness bind them. All things online: Your communications, web presence, collaboration, cloud, etc. You might want to keep those out of NSA's (or anyone else's) reach. Can also be the place of your primary and/or secondary online business.

Before you decide that this move would be too drastic, note (again) that PT is not a checklist. You can employ any number of elements, start small and move forward at your own pace... or start small, and stay small. No need to take any irreversible steps, such as selling your apartment or denouncing your current citizenship. In fact you can even physically stay in your home country, if you are fine with it, which might not be such a bad idea after you secure your business and assets offshore. Nothing is fixed, and specifics depend on your own situation — citizenship, goals, tolerance to risk, etc., however there some common common principles. If this post generates any interest, I will describe my own experience and findings on the subject in the series of posts, one for each flag. Please subscribe, use Share block on the right, or add a comment. This way I can assess the level of public interest to the subject. Bottom line or what was it all about:

  • Living in paradise (your idea of it)
  • Ditching taxes legally (four-zero amount directly to your pocket y/y)
  • Getting off the your oppressive, snoopy and greedy government's hook
  • Decreasing your cost of living radically (if I told you, what are the monthly food-and-lodging costs in Chiang Mai, you would call me a liar)
  • Stashing your hard-earned cash in a really safe place, away from the imminent storm, as well as sticky-fingered bureaucrats (for example Russians were robbed to the cleaners twice by their banks and government within last 25 years)
  • Reaching that elusive thing they call freedom... or something very similar
  • Personal feats — higher self-esteem, broader outlook, dense and diverse experience and impressions... all these will make you wiser, and more relaxed, driving away whatever brain bugs you might have
  • Did I mention women? I do now J

Post about Common good and Sex with Strangers

It is actually about the revamped web site, but I will start from afar.

January is a strange month for L10N crowd. December is traditionally hyperactive — every translation buyer and reseller is eager to make it by Christmas no matter what, getting rid of all the loose ends, accumulated for the whole year of indolence. And all the tin soldiers, including yours truly, are expected to run the extra mile for the common good, so that GPM, and the team could go on holiday with an easy mind, and considerable bonus.

But we don't mind, more work means more cash, and annual December tsunami of crash jobs transforms our pupils to dollar signs, when it comes to invoicing.

But then suddenly it's all over. Christmas and New Year holidays are followed by [relatively] lethargic January, but we are still in high-throttle mode. Bored, and agitated, we are desperately looking for occupation to channel all that energy. Computer games, blogging, moving furniture, sex with strangers, extreme sports... You name it.

For me January 2013 was a month of web tinkering. I completely reworked visual part of my site, and made some major changes in its content. It was fun, though not nearly as much fun as sex with strangers would be. Here's how it looked before:

Look around and compare. B&W rules, is it not?

On content side there's a Dashboard (hit Googies button on the left, for now it includes Acronym Finder and Multitran scripts, as well as a couple of interesting links), Freelance L10N Quote of the Day page, and snippet (more on that later), various dynamic elements across the site, and modified messaging. Yes, that was a marcom speech.

Note that it's still WIP, so expect minor hicups. Suggestions, and bug reports are welcome. Did I say that black and white rules? I guess I did...

Bookshelf update — controversial Russian reference

On Monday I have announced a «very special reference» to be posted the same day. Obviously it didn't happen, but it's better late than never. Without further ado I give you ГОСТ 2.105-95 Общие требования к текстовым документам. What's so special about it?

First of all, being an active [inter]national standard, this document is mandatory, and you are formally  obliged to follow it, at least for technical translation.

At the same time, it contains huge amount of outdated, unneeded, unrealistic, and controversial provisions, that nobody follows these days. Obviously, this opens a wide array of abuse possibilities for a willing reviewer. Here's some examples:

  • You can't use any acronyms, unless they are outlined in National Standards.
  • You can't use minus sign (-) in the continuous text, type the whole «minus» word or die.
  • Table of contents title should be centered.
  • You can't use borrowed words, if Russian analog exists (:trollface:).
  • Table column is actually called «графа», my friend.
  • A zillion of conventions for tables, UOMs, external, and internal references, you are definitely violating all the time.
  • Etc.

Have fun.

PS: <Serious mode on>Those who are making their first steps in this business, and aim for hardcore technical translation, should learn this this paper by heart, as well as all other relevant standards. We have all become too relaxed, too casual with all that MS Office apps, CATs, search engines, and online dictionaries around us. Being uncompromisingly rigorous, and precise in the world casual Margarita-drinking dabblers may become one's real competitive edge. Note however, that this path is tough is unrewarding for most.<Serious mode off>

PPS: I'd like to know more about applicability of government-imposed National Documentation Standards to real word translation work in different countries. Have you heard about those? Are they relevant? Usable? Feel free to post a comment, if you have something to say.

Comeback... sort of

I am posting this after a really long break, caused by a couple of local crunch periods, as well as one major flood, which once again changed my idea of peak, and sustained productivity. Besides, there was Mass Effect 3 (Shepard... Noooooo!), which has also taken its toll on my time. Anyway, I'm back, and willing to invest some more time in this blog, whether anyone reads it, or not.

Today I will publish a very special reference that will allow a peaky, sore, or simply bored reviewer to soundly fail any Russian translation in technical domain. No kidding!

I am also poring over a couple of big posts, that will most likely make their way here:

The 1st one is about stepping above, and beyond the limits of freelance career. Our means to evolve are quite limited... Or are they? Think about it. I know one thing: when I am fourty, there should be no crunches, or floods in my life.

The 2nd one is based on several online discussions I followed, or took part in. Quite a lot of people are upset about low rates, unfair agency practices, competetion... and they seem to think that translation market can, and should be regulated to solve these problems — mandatory translator accreditations, forced rates, more demanding unions... What a bunch of pinkos. Nyet, Molotov! Not a chance!

Stay tuned!

Oh, one more thing. According to successful bloggers, one should engage their audience into discussion to become established. Soooooooo... How do you like Mass Effect 3 ending?

Android phone for a Freelance Translator

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This may sound unobvious, especially for a conservative bunch, skeptical about all that gadgetry, but Android qwerty slider is arguably one of the best productivity/GTD tools a Freelance Translator can get. I am pretty sure, that Windows Phone 7 devices can also do the job with different tools and methods, and so does Blackberry, but I don't know much about those two. And no, iPhone is not an option here. Give it to your kids. In this post we shall cover capabilities of Android phones in context of Freelancer's life, and workflow.

Mail Client with Push notifications

All your customers naturally want you to reply their emails ASAP, and you want to comply. From my experience, reaction time is one of top Translator's qualities from PM perspective, 20 minutes during your business hours is a good figure, and in case if you think that it would be like "conforming to a customer", you are right, that's exactly what it is.

Why Android? Because of its integration with Google Apps, and specifically Gmail. You are getting immediate push notification on incoming emails, the phone can vibrate if necessary. When you receive such notification, you simply swipe the screen, and type your reply. The experience is as smooth as with your regular texting.

Why slider? Onscreen keyboard would make it much slower, and more painful. Trust me, you don't want to try that.

Your phone provides seamless access to your business email when you're away from home, AND when you are on your couch, in your kitchen or your garage. You don't have to attend your desktop to check the email anymore, which is a good thing. Spending 10-30 minutes less per day in front of the monitor can actually help you live longer.

Wi-Fi Tethering

Any freelancer needs a backup Internet connection. Period. If you don't think so, wait untill you loose a customer because of missed deadline. Android phones can tether (share) their 3G connections via USB or Wi-Fi, which means that all your Wi-Fi devices will stay connected during the outage, and switchover will be relatively transparent. I know, that there are lots of smarter/more efficient/cheaper ways to get a backup connection (you can buy a USB 3G/LTE modem, or a router with two WAN inputs), but this one is good enough to stay online, use email, and various online resources. Besides, if you already have the phone, you don't need to buy anything.

The feature is called 3G Mobile Hotspot, and it's available with all newer versions. There should also be unofficial mods/apps with the same functionality.

Getting Things Done

Another great feature is project tracking/GTD across all your devices: tablets, laptops, PCs, etc. At any point of time you may have 4 to 10 and more projects on your shoulders with deadlines ranging from "ASAP" and "in 3 hours" to "in 5 weeks" and "whenever you have time" (the worst of them all). Even seasoned translators make mistakes here, forgetting about very small tasks with very large timeframe, confusing "Noon" with "EOB", and "EOB our time" with "EOB your time" (happened to me recently).

You can register your project emails as events or tasks in Google Calendar, and access your project schedule from all your devices — PCs, tablets, laptops, et cetera. Even from Internet-enabled TV, if you have one.

This will work not only for your projects, but also for other stuff your need to do at some point as a business, or house owner (financial reporting to government, paying your bills, and taxes etc.), and even as a partner/spouse/parent/child (birthdays, and other important dates, school events, you name it). Adding GTD to one's lifestyle requires a major change of habits, and it is not for everybody, but anyone will benefit from using this approach for production, and bookkeeping.

There are plenty of free, and paid apps, that synchronize with Google Calendar. My preferences are Gtasks, and Pure Grid Calendar.

Social Media

I am only starting to use Social Networks for marketing, my Twitter account is like 2 weeks old, so I don't have much to say on the subject. Pretty obvious however, that it makes much more sense, if one maintains their social influence (tweeting, retweeting, answering comments, etc.) on a small screen, and while doing something else, like travelling in a subway, or waiting in some kind of line. There are plenty of native and 3rd party clients for your social accounts. Things to try: Hootsuite, Twitdeck.

Conclusion

To sum up: qwerty phone improves your relationships with your customers, ensures peace of mind as a backup connection media, helps to maintain your schedule, and bookkeeping, as well as to stay away from your monitor. In the end it saves great deal of time. Worth a try, don't you think?

I have probably missed one or two interesting use cases, so comments/additions are welcome. I also encourage WP7 owners to describe their solutions for issues above.

Bookshelf update

I have added another good reference for Russian translator's bookshelf. Unlike Milchin it contains no typographical rules, but includes the exhaustive description of every possible use case of every single "official" punctuation rule, which may be useful in QA battles. This particular edition was issued to revert some notorious changes that were introduced in previous version, and inscribed illiteracy into norm. Format: FB2+DOC. Link: Правила русской орфографии и пунктуации

Why do I hate Logoport (aka Translation Workspace), part 2

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Part 1 can be found here

As we have found in Part 1, Translation Workspace is a business model based on charging your suppliers for the privilege of working with you. It was never intended to act as a "real" CAT tool or tested as such. I don't think that TW developers have ever heard about such illusive ideas as productivity, ergonomics or user experience, and even if they have, they couldn't care less. The result is major usability flaws, which make Translation Workspace even better target for our devoted hatred. I wanted to make a numbered list, but I couldn't decide which flaw is the worst to put it on top, so it's unordered bullets.

  • Repetition handling. Surprisingly, Translation Workspace doesn't save a segment to TM immediately when you close it. I think it happens once in several minutes, so if your file contains considerable amount of reps, you'll have to retype them, use copy-paste or save the file before opening each repeated segment. Major waste of time.
  • More on repetitions. "Master" TM overrides your changes no matter what. It means, that if a segment is present in Master TM and occurs in a file more than once (imagine 20 instances), and you need to edit it, you'll have to go with retype, copy-paste or find and replace. In the ideal world, where nobody is hungry, everyone is using solar power, and can date Megan Fox or Johny Depp if they want to, Master TM would contain only perfect, thoroughly checked and approved translation units. In real world however (goodbye, Megan) Master TM is the legacy of the time, when nobody cared about localization for developing countries (Russia in my case), content was sourced to very cheap local sweatshops and published without any checks. Being a professional, you have no choice but to correct all that is wrong, so even more of your precious time goes to waste.
  • Stability. All facets of Translation Workspace are highly unstable on my scrupulously clean finely-tuned working system with the best broadband you can get (believe it or not, I can watch a 1080p movie from Netflix server on the other side of the world without any hiccups). Every 30 minutes or so Translation Workspace hangs. Sometimes for good, sometimes it returns to normal in 10+ minutes. And no, I am not the only one with this problem. Guess what it does to your precious time?
  • Latency. Moving between segments is always accompanied by a delay. It can be anywhere between several seconds and half a minute based on the server workload. Having delays like this for such a small packets of data is a major failure in the world of Telepresence and MOO shooters. This is bad for two reasons. First you loose ~2h per 1000 segments compared to any real CAT tool (This is big. 1000 segments may often correspond to ~2000 adjusted words which take approximately 4 hours to translate in a normal tool. 4h+2h=6h => ~50% overhead). The second reason is described in the next bullet.
  • Pop-ups. Lots of pop-ups. Obviously, the process of translation implies strong concentration. Open the segment -> Type your translation -> Place tags if needed -> Move to a next segment > Go on. Carefully set up hotkeys, no pauses, no distractions. For experienced translators it develops into a meditative state of mind, in which one almost completely ignores the external irritants, which may include TV, construction work outside or your wife saying something about supper or taking away the garbage. Loosing this concentration is painful, and that's exactly what happens when continuity the process is interrupted by a pop-up window. "Are you sure that you are freaking sure sure?" Pop-up when you move tags in a fuzzy TU, pop-up when you're closing a segment with different spacing around a tag, pop-up when "new segment is coming from TM" whatever that means, pop-up for no-specific-reason-just-for-the-fun-of-it, etc. I haven't used Logoport for a while, so this list may be incomplete. Anyway you work slower, and guess what, waste your time.
  • XLIFF editor doesn't support any export. Yes, it's true. Not only poor souls have to buy Logoport, they actually must work in it. No choice at all.
  • Various minor, but still irritating bugs. For example, hotkeys may just stop working for reason unknown. It can be solved by restarting the application, but given the exhaustive five-step login process, it converts to even more time waste.

No big conclusion here, sorry. Just one thing: time is money; everyone who wastes your time is as good as thief and should be treated as such. Feel free to post your experiences here, I am sure I have omitted something.

Dixi