Clown Words

by Translation Guy on March 22, 2013

Cloudwords ( is an easy to use translation management application designed to enable brand name global companies such as American Airlines force more cost efficiency with their translation vendors (internally or externally) and allow them to centrally manage the entire process in the cloud.

This is a direct quote from an email they sent me today because I was up on their site a few weeks ago, another sad chapter in my endless search for a translation project management system that actually makes the job easier for my project managers. No luck so far.

But I have found plenty of kludgy time sinks.  And Cloudwords stands out, even in that lineup of IT pathos. It’s more like a parody rather than a software program – a kind of Dumb and Dumber version of translation best practice.

The premise is that anyone can be a translation project manager.  Simply by following a series of basic steps, even someone who doesn’t know anything about translation can run their own translation project! If only it was so easy. If only it didn’t take months of training. If only they didn’t have to be whip smart and have the kind of personality that finds pleasure in service and calmness in the face of customer fire.  If only each project or client didn’t require a unique solution almost every time out. Then it would be easy.

The mechanics of setting up a project take but a few moments of a project manager’s day. Larger organizations than mine will likely be able to better harvest the minor efficiencies of project automation tools, but not me.  And this is good, because then I will more easily win away their customers with a superior service based on customized workflows and careful attention to client requirements.

But the big selling point behind these cloud solutions is that it automates the linguist selection process. This is accomplished by allowing project managers to select a linguist from a large pool of candidates who will be “forced” to offer more competitive pricing.

The theory is: build a better barrel-bottom scraper and the world will beat a path to your door. Pooling is the method used to harvest a catch of translators from the global carp pond for a few breadcrumbs. Selection is, of course, skewed to amateurs and incompetence, a small price to pay for lower prices, I suppose.  Having flown on American Airlines, I can understand why they might adopt such a strategy, but for best practice, that carp pond model is like fishing with dynamite.

Fishing expeditions are useless for the kind of quality we are trying to achieve. We use the lobster tank method. Project managers and interested clients want to choose that particular two-pounder that will be the juiciest for the particular job. And once we find the correct crustacean, the search is over. It can be a lifetime gig, at least until they screw up and get dumped in a pot. But I say that with affection and gratitude to all the hard-working linguists who make our clients so happy.

Cloudwords and programs of that ilk all reveal the programmer’s secret vice.  In their hearts, they believe that anyone who can’t code is a moron.  And that’s probably true. But we’re not the only ones.


  1. Dan says:

    I had a meeting last week that pretty much as exactly like that comic strip, I wanted to laugh out loud or facepalm in the middle of it.

    • Ken says:

      Dilbert is like that.

  2. Elia Iglauer says:

    “better barrel-bottom scraper”, that is a great turn of phrase and quite apt given the givens.

  3. Peter says:

    Maybe in a decade or so the code will be smart enough and something like this could approach the ability of an actual professional, but not now.

  4. Jessica says:

    Nice dig at American airlines near the end.

  5. Tatiana says:

    Theoretically it sounds good, but lowest bidder is never really a bargin in the end.

  6. Well, not really going to complain about it, poorly designed translation software just means more people will end up looking to hire people who can actually do the job right.

    • Ken says:

      Well said! I’m with you.

  7. Julie Brooks says:

    This, this is… just ridiculous, why would anyone trust such a system?

  8. I can understand the appeal of the ease that the program advertises, but one has to think about actual results and what they produce for your bottom line at some point right?

  9. crowdsourcing or cloudwhatever, is just the madness of crowds as a sales technique.

  10. Vania says:

    Well, it certainly sounds like these people’s client list will be ripe for the picking down the road.

  11. Valerie says:

    I’ve heard of these guys, and it comes from the CEO of, which is a really well managed company, so this is something of a surprise that they would engage in such foolishness.

    • Ken says:

      The only well to sell translation services to Wall Street is with technology. Us hamsters on our treadmills don’t spin off enough leverage to attract the interests of guys used to big govmint handouts.

  12. I’ve only heard of one of the companies on the website that they claim to have revolutionized multilingual communication for on their site, and that seems about right.

  13. Susan says:

    Do people still sunscribe to the notion that cheapest is best, I understand the wanting to save money (especially in this day and age) but you get what you pay for.

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