May 262010
 

A few weeks ago the majority of Europe’s airspace was closed for a week because of the Icelandic volcano eruption. Many people were forced to consider other travel options. Some people in the blogosphere have been pondering what the world would be like without air travel. Life would not be the same at all.

It’s not until something we take for granted is taken away from us that we realise just how much we rely on it. I thought it would be an interesting exercise to imagine what freelance translating would look like if we took away our equivalent of airspace, which is cyberspace – i.e. the internet. Eeeeeeeeeeek! Don’t go there!

Many of us probably do experience broadband outages from time to time. They are very annoying and inconvenient. But that’s more like a delayed flight than a cancelled one. How would we cope if they actually took our internet away? I’m not going to be too cruel to your imagination and take our computers or cell phones away, just the internet. So let’s see how it’d be. There’d be no…

  • Email
  • Web sites
  • Google
  • Skype/Yahoo Messenger internet telephony
  • Software Downloads
  • Online collaboration
  • Social networking

If you wanted to buy an ebook, you’d have to make a phone call or send a letter and we’d have to mail you a disk. That business model would no longer be viable. We would not be able to publish tranfree because there would be no email. You would probably have never heard of either of translatortips.com anyway.

No Email
Having no email would hurt translators even more because it has become the mechanism for sending and receiving work. Before that, we had to use the postal system, fax, or direct modem to modem file transfer through phone lines. That only stopped about 10 years ago. Anyone remember the Zmodem protocol on WinComm? And the painfully slow 28.8 kbps file transfer?

Of course, the upside of losing email would be no spam. D’you know what? Annoying though it is, I’d rather have email with spam than none at all.

No Web Sites
Having no web sites would be equally traumatic. What would you do when you want to find out the usage of a term you’re not very familiar with? Go to a specialist bookshop? Phone a friend? (Fifty fifty? 😉 What would you do when your five-year-old asks you a hard question? No google, no answer. Go to the library? Yes. The web allows us access to all sorts of stuff we could only find by going and looking in the physical world before. It saves us a lot of time. But the internet giveth and the internet taketh away. For every time-saver on the web there are loads of time wasting activities that spring up to fill their place.

No Skype
Without Skype or Yahoo messenger (and all the others) we would be paying full price for all our international phone calls. Actually, I think we’d be making a lot less phone calls altogether. This would make collaboration harder and more costly. We’d also be in touch less often with friends and family abroad. Perhaps this would make us more efficient in our communications? Is it possible that we are in touch with others too often and too much these days because it’s cheaper? If we had no Skype or email, perhaps we’d write more letters? When was the last time you sent someone a personal letter? I can’t even remember.

No Software Downloads
Without web-based software, and free trials, we would miss out on a lot of excellent productivity enhancing tools. Many of those lovely software applications that make our lives more productive would probably never even have been created because there would be no viable publicity or distribution system for them.

No Online Collaboration
No web-based TM sharing or software. If you wanted to share a glossary or TM with someone, you’d have to mail them a CD or suffer direct modem to modem transfer (shall we allow memory sticks in this scenario?)

No Social Networking
No facebook, no ProZ, no internet forums to discuss work, hobbies or whatever floats your boat. These sites are all useful in their own ways, but the inability to network with others would make translation an even more isolated profession. Being able to talk to other people – even through text-based forums – is a really helpful way to develop relationships with people you would otherwise never “meet”. It’s also a great way to have a short break when you’re half way through a translation that makes you want to go to sleep. They are the fun side of the business.

Freelance translating without the internet would still be possible, but it would be…

  • much more difficult
  • much more time-consuming
  • more expensive, and
  • a lot less fun

I vote we keep the internet. It’s pretty useful!

 Leave a Reply

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>

(required)

(required)