Virtual Watercooler

As many of our readers know, we have mixed feelings about large, catch-all, welcome-all translation sites as While we applaud their efforts to put on virtual and in-person conferences (and are happy to donate to their raffles) and think they have solid terminology databases (with many not-so-stellar entries), the site tends to attract a lot of newbies and folks who translate "on the side" or "as a hobby," which is not good for the professional linguists in our profession. The problem is a basic one of economics: lack of barrier to entry. We rarely participate in online discussion groups and forums because there are so many folks who are just looking for basic advice (that they should consider paying for, or taking a class, or buying a book). Don't get us wrong: hundreds of our top-notch colleagues are on Proz as well, but the true professionals seem to be outnumbered by the folks who are willing to work for peanuts and ask for advice on whether they should use Google Translate instead of Wordfast (really). Thus, we've shifted our focus to the listservs of professional associations, which are limited to paying members (ATA, UNIVERSITAS, NITA) and to Watercooler. Many times, you get what you pay for, right?

Judy discovered the Watercooler Network, run by affable Brit Andrew Bell out of Australia, when he invited her to join earlier this year. Back then, the well-designed site was still free of charge. Since then, Andy has had to shift to a modest fee-based model, which has yielded, in his words "mixed results." What Judy likes about the site is that it creates a real barrier to entry (read: $24.99 every six months) to keep out the folks who are not serious about our profession. It's the same idea as the one behind listservs: they are only open to members of the particular professional associations. Judy is a regular paying member of Watercooler, and has recently started contributing content to the site. The layout is simple, easy to navigate, and the site is equivalent to a listserv on steroids: you have your own Facebook-like profile page, can post video, comments, articles, participate in contests, etc. At the moment, the site has roughly 100 members, and many are coming around and realizing that this is a site worth re-joining (unfortunately, many left once they had to open their wallets). So consider supporting a fellow linguist in his quest to continue building a private network that will benefit us all. Try the free 30-day trial. See you at the Watercooler? 


GG on November 10, 2010 at 9:08 AM said...

I actually left before the owner decided to charge, because the Watercooler was a real mess, as for the interface, and I didn't like it at all. I hope they changed it and I will give it a look.

Judy Jenner and Dagmar Jenner on November 10, 2010 at 9:16 AM said...

Thanks for commenting, GG! Yes, it's worth another look -- personally, we don't remember another layout, and the current one seems intuitive and nice to us. Of course, as with all things web, it's subjective. The best part of Watercooler is the high-quality linguists who have decided to support it. ;)

Alex Eames on November 12, 2010 at 4:45 AM said...

I've agreed to contribute some content to Watercooler as well. :)

What I like best about it is that it is not browsable by search engines and outsiders. In essence, it's a private forum, which certainly has its place in the mix.

Anonymous said...

My 30-day free trial is about to expire and I'm getting ready to acquire a membership. I love "The Travelling Translator" group!
In terms of your opinion about ProZ, I tend to agree. I've been part of that site since 2005 and this year I've been contributing as a forum moderator. I truly believe in trying to make it as professional as possible because it has an immense potential.
Happy New Year!

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The entrepreneurial linguists and translating twins blog about the business of translation from Las Vegas and Vienna.

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