On April 19th and 20th I had the privilege of attending the TAUS Tokyo Forum. It was an interesting conference with presentations on a wide range of topics. The one thing that really jumped out at me though, was a single comment from a single slide.
Professor Hitoshi Isahara of Toyohashi University of Technology was giving an update on the TKUN project. As part of that project they are preparing for the upcoming Rugby World Cup to be held in Japan in 2019. Their mission will be to disseminate news and updates in English. To do that they will be post-editing machine translation (ok, please bear with me...I know PEMT is a dirty word for many of you, but PEMT is not the point of this post).
The interesting thing, and the part that jumped out to me - they will be using Rugby fans (with no translation experience) instead of professional translators. Why? In the preliminary tests they did, the Rugby fans had the domain knowledge and terminology knowledge that the generalist professional translators they tried did not. Even though these Rugby fans were not translators, and may not have even been bilingual, they produced higher quality output when editing the translation.
What Professor Isahara really needed in his experiments were professional translators that specialized in Rugby. I'm sure the thought crossed his mind, but that thought was probably immediately met with, "How would I go about finding that needle in a haystack?".
This is exactly what TM-Town was built to facilitate. Connecting those in need of specialized translation with domain experts. The status quo of routing translation work to the first professional translator with their green light is not the future. It is just not efficient. Think of your own experience. When you have a translation job that truly matches your interests, abilities and expertise - you are able to work faster and produce higher quality work. You need less time to research terminology.
After the acquisition by ProZ.com, many ProZ.com members wondered, "what is unique or different about TM-Town?". In my opinion this is one of the major differentiators - TM-Town helps the Long Tail Translator (the specialized expert with deep domain knowledge) more easily get discovered for work that is right in their wheelhouse.
If 'general' is one of your top 3 fields, you probably aren't going to find anything unique about TM-Town. However, if you are Rugby enthusiast, a wine connoisseur, a particle physics geek - then you are going to love TM-Town.
There are not going to be hundreds of jobs coming through for Rugby, but when that job does come through, if you are the Long Tail Translator for Rugby, you'll own that. Not only that, but as the expert with specialized knowledge, you are in a great position to negotiate higher rates. As Chris Anderson says in his book The Long Tail - "Our economy and culture is shifting from mass markets to million of niches".
Until now, there has not been an easy way for clients to find the specialist with the domain expertise in the material that needs translation. TM-Town is setting out to change that.
My advice to you is to follow your passion and find your long tail(s). I truly believe that the translators with specialized knowledge and expertise will be the ones who benefit from TM-Town over the long term. So go out there, find your niche and own it!