Author Archive

Matt Rouge translation update for May 12, 2009

May has been a very busy month for Japanese-to-English translation. For a major Japanese automaker, I have translated a press release and Q&A document concerning a new 4-stroke marine outboard engine (obviously, this company makes more than cars).

For a major Japanese movie and television production company and broadcaster, I have subtitled the pilot episode of a TV series. I’m happy to report that my work has met with approval, and I’ve been given another pilot to subtitle.

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Matt Rouge writing update for May 12, 2009

The past month has been busy, and more and more work keeps coming in!

I received some good news this past week: Hits are up for my ghost blogging client’s blog and ecommerce site. We are having a meeting this Friday to refine strategy further. It also seems I soon may have another ghost blogging client. On ghost blogging, I am working with Rhoda Israelov of Say It For You, a truly wonderful writer and blogger. You can catch her blog here. Ghost blogging is very enjoyable work and helps me achieve balance in my workload, as I am able to work ahead on posts when other work is light.

Other work, however, has not been light. I am very happy to have been selected as the editor of the global newsletter of a major Japanese automaker. Although I do Japanese-to-English translation as well, this job involves very little translation. I receive stories from around the world and edit them to make them fit the newsletter format.

I also continue to make progress on the “mystery business lit book” with my coauthor. We’ve both been so busy, though, that it’s increasingly hard to find time. I suppose that’s a good problem to have.

Many thanks to my clients who have been entrusting me with numerous jobs this year!

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Twitter's follow limits: 100% poppycock and delusions

In this post:

  1. I started using Twitter more.
  2. I came to understand the Ugly Truths of Twitter.
  3. I now quote from, analyze, and mock the Twitter Support follow limits page.
  4. I sum up the problem and suggest how to fix it.

I started using Twitter more.

I had been using Twitter mildly for a month or two, and last week I decided to make better use of the site. I used the tried-and-true method of following a bunch of people and reciprocating all follows. Joyously, I saw my following grow, but I soon butted my head against Twitter’s 2,000 follow limit. Perturbed, I researched the situation and…

I came to understand the Ugly Truths of Twitter:

  1. Most people who build big followings do so by reciprocating all follows.
  2. Most people who reciprocate all follows do so automatically by means of software. They also use bots to automatically follow people based on a variety of criteria; these bots later unfollow those who do not in turn reciprocate (“deadwood”). The result is that the bots are able to get around Twitter’s follow limits by ensuring that the number of followers is roughly equal to the number of followed.
  3. Most people who build big followings via such automated tools are, according to their bios, social media experts, MLM marketing gurus, Twitter fanatics, wealth coaches, life coaches, law of attraction preachers, etc. I even saw a Beanie Baby broker. I didn’t think such a thing existed anymore.
  4. Many, but not by any means all or perhaps even most, of people with such big, fake, automated followings automatically send out junk content to their followers: repeating sales messages, an automated stream of links, etc.

Bots following bots. What a mess. What a joke. All of which makes Twitter’s follow limits an apt object of ridicule.

I now quote from, analyze, and mock the Twitter Support follow limits page.

One would think that no one knows Twitter better than the 30-human-strong organization known as Twitter, yet the follow limits page comes across as crushingly naive:

We do not limit the number of people who can follow you, but we have put limits in place to stop people from aggressively following others. Everyone is allowed to follow 2000 people. After that, follow limits are based on the number of people who are following you. Follow limits cannot be lifted by Twitter, and everyone is subject to follow limits, even high profile and API accounts.

Yes, we would hate for you manually to follow thousands of people–that would be unnatural. But if you use a bot to up your total (tick.tick.tick), we’ll reward you by raising that 2,000 limit–in fact, the sky’s the limit! Because that’s not aggressive (Guy Kawasaki *cough*).

Though follow limits do help with spam control, the limit itself improves site performance by ensuring that when we send a person’s message to all of their followers, the sending of that message is meaningful.

Perversely, the limit formula punishes manual users and rewards automated users–who, one would suppose, are much more likely to spam.

We believe that following 2000 people is a reasonable limit for the number of people an average person can follow. [Later on page] If you follow too many people, there is no way you can keep up with everyone’s updates in your home page. If you’re following more than 2000 people, you’re missing quite a few updates from many people you follow. You can view a profile page to catch up with someone’s latest updates.

Don’t they sound like a preachy parent here? “There are starving children who would beg for the updates you’re wasting.”

They are right, however: I think it would be difficult to monitor with any kind of care more than a few hundred people’s tweets. On the other hand, it is by no means too high a number if one were to filter a large number of tweets based on keywords. For example, one could monitor a very large number of users in one’s city with the keyword “real estate” and extract a good, digestible amount of information from that, since the number of tweets with that keyword in it would not be very high.

In any case, if that’s the belief, then why not impose an absolute limit on follows? Am I to understand that because Guy Kawasaki has more than 100,000 followers he is thereby made able to follow 100,000 himself? Whereas the “average person” can only manage 2,000?

Avoid hitting Twitter limits by not following aggressively– if others see that you’ve tried to follow 500 people but only 12 are following you, they may not follow you back, and worse, they might block you.

Twitter is an opt-in community– that is, you can follow who ever you want, but no one has to follow you back. If you use aggressive following tactics, no one will want to.

In fairness to Twitter, this page went up November 24, 2008, which, in Twitter time, was a century ago. Also in fairness to Twitter, however, this ridiculous policy explained thus ridiculously is still the law of the land on the site. Clearly the company’s notions about the sociology of their own site are hopelessly obsolete.

If you have a public account, I can follow you but you don’t have to follow me. Unlike most social networks, you follow me on Twitter NOT for the sake of a mutual connection, but because you want to get my updates, regardless of whether or not I get yours. If I want to read your updates too, I can– and unlike social networks, if you change your mind and un-follow me, it doesn’t stop me from continuing to follow you.

Again we have mommy wagging her finger and telling us how to use the site.

Verily, this quote represents severe ignorance of human nature, sociology, and game theory. People reciprocate not just for the aforementioned scammy reasons; they do so also to please and placate friends, family, colleagues, and acquaintances. If we are in the same circle, and you follow me but I don’t follow you back, that’s a dis.

More importantly, however, Twitter users soon understand, game-theory-wise, that the “payment” for a follow by a stranger (automated or not) is reciprocation. They want followers and don’t have the time or inclination to vet all their follows, so they follow back. Or their bots follow back.

I sum up the problem and suggest how to fix it.

First, I don’t know what the actual cost to Twitter is in server space, etc., but the inescapable conclusion is that a high percentage, perhaps even a majority, of tweets are junk: spam, or at least slick, insincere content. Savvy users can choose to cordon off the crap, but it will affect inexperienced users and turn a percentage of them off the site.

Second, the astronomical following/followers numbers are meaningless once one understands whence they come, but they are still likely to influence some inexperienced users. For example, Cheesy McWealthcoach follows 34,282 with 33,540 followers thanks to effective automation, but a new user quite possibly could think “Wow!” and be influenced. If the technique didn’t give these jackanapeses some benefit, one may assume they wouldn’t use it.

In contrast, I have come across vanishingly few users with a real following a la Oprah, Ashton, Stephen, et al. I have seen a very small number of users with a few thousand differential in the favorable direction–but I have yet to see anyone with, say, 500 following and 5,000 followers. I think this fact tells us something: it is very hard to become ultrapopular on Twitter without preexisting fame and prestige.

My suggested solution is simple: impose an across-the-board “social follow” limit of 140 x 14 =1,960 (or 2,000, whatever): that is, this would be the number of people listed in one’s profile under “following.” If Twitter believes this to be the right number, then Twitter should stick to it. This would make moot the bots, as their follow announcements and thus reciprocations would end once they hit the limit.

As I suggested earlier, there could be very legitimate reasons why someone would want to follow a much larger number of users and mine the tweetstream. I thus think it would be appropriate to have an unlimited “non-social follow,” but Twitter would also need to ban off-the-grid follow announcements and reciprocations.

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Matt Rouge writing update for April 12, 2009

I hope that everyone has had a pleasant Passover or Easter….

As you can see, I have been adding a lot of new content to the site (the pages about the type of writing I do; the links are to the left of the screen), and I am adding more at a rapid pace.

For the past week, I have also been gearing up for my new ghost blogging client, working to understand his business and writing new posts. This is quite a new and exciting job!

In any event, I didn’t have a lot to report on, but please stay tuned for new pages and posts.

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Matt Rouge writing and translation update for March 30, 2009

March has been an extremely busy month at Marrubium, and I would like to give thanks from my heart to the clients who entrust me with their important writing projects.

Please go to Marrubium Writing for a full update on my recent writing projects. In this post, I also give thanks to my good friend and writing partner Rhoda Israelov, who has obtained several new clients for me in recent months.

Then please take a look at Marrubium Translation for a full update on my Japanese to English translation projects.

Although I continue to be busy, I am always eager to learn more about your new and interesting projects. Feel free to contact me at any time!

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Matt Rouge translation update for March 30, 2009

During the month of March, I have been exceptionally busy with Japanese to English translation. For a major Japanese automaker, I have done the following:

  • Translated a script for a video about a new type of engine.
  • Translated website content concerning the company’s social responsibility policies.
  • Translated an interview with an important outgoing executive.

This was a good chunk of work, but, as an exception to the rule, most of my Japanese to English translation work was not for the Japanese automobile industry but instead for one of Japan’s largest manufacturers of steam turbines and process pumps. The company is in the process of updating their website and has added a wealth of new content. I had translated a video script for this company several years ago, and I am quite proud that, based on my work, they selected for this latest project the ad agency in Japan for which I have done work for the past five years.

This has been one of the most difficult translations I have done in my career, which is saying a lot, as I regularly deal with highly technical subjects. I not only translated Web pages about the company’s products but also about global warming, biomass power generation, and other difficult subjects. If I have a good technical Japanese vocabulary, which I do, why does difficulty arise? There are two main reasons:

  1. The Japanese terms involved are not commonly used in industry. They are not in my technical dictionary, and I have to search for relevant cites online in order to come up with a translation about which I can feel confident. I have developed a variety of techniques to come up with these cites, and, at worst the ad agency has to ask the company to confirm a term or two. In the case of the major Japanese automobile makers for which I translate, over the years the ad agency and I have come up with a body of “canon,” or recognized translations for all of the companies’ technical terms, and, for that matter, every aspect of their business. We follow this canon to the letter, developing and confirming new terms when necessary.
  2. The Japanese cites articles, papers, laws, or other materials originally in Japanese or English for which I have to find the “official” translation. For example, the Web content I translated mentioned a Japanese law, and I had to search for the translation that is commonly used in the English-speaking world; I couldn’t just make up my own. As another example, a Japanese document I recently translated cited extensively from the Sarbannes-Oxley Act. I couldn’t just retranslate this back into English; I had to find online the actual text that had been quoted.

The Web content I translated involved both issues, and, in order to provide a correct translation, I had to proceed quite carefully.

In addition to my translation work, in March I also did quite a bit of advertising writing in English, which you can read about in my latest post on Marrubium Writing.

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Matt Rouge writing update for March 30, 2009

I hope you enjoyed the recent post explaining new goings-on at Marrubium. I have remained in a flat-out state for all of March with various writing projects. I am thankful to be doing well in this economic climate and give heartfelt thanks to my clients.

My writing partner (who has also become one of my best friends over the nearly three years we have known each other) and I are making significant progress on our book. In fact, we have gotten most of it written at this point and have sent the table of contents and three sample chapters to some influential people (my coauthor is a very experienced HR and general business guru who has built a wealth of connections over the years). Thus far, the reaction has been highly positive, and we are both quite hopeful. Full steam ahead on this project! (By the way, once we get a book deal, I will lift the veil of secrecy about this project and reveal all!)

It’s about time that I honor another very good friend, mentor, and writing partner: Rhoda Israelov, of Say It For You. Rhoda has been writing for 30 years and has been featured extensively in the Indianapolis Business Journal and other prestigious local and regional publications. She is a certified financial planner (CFP) and thus also has extensive experience in writing about financial matters. Say It For You offers ghost blogging: that is, she will write your blog for you, and you can say it is by you, “From the Team of,” by Rhoda herself, or whatever works for your particular situation. Her blogging style is simply amazing! Check out her blog to see why I think so.

I am honored to report that Rhoda has seen fit to reward my meager talents by taking me under her wing and providing me with clients.

Recently, Rhoda and I created original website content for a local Indianapolis pharmaceutical firm (no, not Eli Lilly, but a pretty exciting company nonetheless). The content consisted of new landing pages describing how the product can help alleviate the symptoms of a variety of conditions that the company had not previously promoted. The president of the company is quite pleased with our work.

Rhoda has also obtained for me my first ghost blogging client, about which I am really excited: this too is a local Indianapolis company, a manufacturer of products for the home. About this client I must say no more, as I will be ghost blogging for them, after all.

In addition to my writing work, in March I did quite a bit of Japanese to English translation, which you can read about in my latest post on Marrubium Translation.

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Welcome to my new site

Thanks for visiting my new site. I have a post on one of my other blogs, Marrubium Writing, that explains my goal for this new site and what I’ve been doing lately. Enjoy!

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Matt Rouge writing and translation update for March 12, 2009

I have a new post on Marrubium Writing that explains all my new blogs and what I’ve been up to lately. Enjoy!

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Global Marrubium update for March 12, 2009

Spring is around the corner, and soon the horehound will be in bloom! In this post I’d like to update you on everything that’s been going on at Marrubium and with the Web presences I’ve been creating for it. I now have four blogs:
My personal blog. Full of wit and wisdom. Enjoy at your leisure.
This site. The one you know and love. I apologize to those to whom I’ve given my card, which says this site has an explanation of the panels you see in the header. It will soon! I will be adding new pages about my philosophy of writing and good things like that.
My new site, herewith explained:

I am fluent in Japanese and can and do claim, credibly, to be one of the top Japanese-to-English advertising and PR translators in the world. But. When I go out and network, my goal is not to be tagged as “that guy who knows Japanese.” Owing to human psychology, this is a difficult endeavor, since people naturally remember the most unusual or interesting thing about a person. Since I am dull in most other ways, people recall my Japanese ability.

Back in 2000, when I had completed my Purdue MBA, I faced the same dilemma: promote my Japanese ability, which made me stand out from the crowd yet got me pigeonholed me as “that guy who knows Japanese whom perhaps we can use in Japan.” Or not. I wanted to be known as “the marketing expert” and find a job in Indianapolis, my hometown, but, again inevitably, I found myself returning to Japan.

Fate has worked in my favor, however. Back in Yamato, I worked in the drug industry and the semiconductor industry, further augmented my Japanese technical vocabulary, and, most importantly, translated/wrote advertising and PR materials for my final employer. I was then “discovered” by an ad agency that does a lot of work for several Japanese automakers and other major companies, and I have now been working with them for five years. Being a translator for multibillion dollar (or, rather, several hundred billion yen) companies has allowed me to prove myself as a writer for such companies, and now I am truly living my dream.

Contrary to what I have found to be a typical presupposition, about 75% of the work I do for Japanese companies is translation-based, and 25% is direct-to-English. I have also encountered a tendency for people to think that translation-based writing is “just translation.” It’s an understandable thought: people think of dry technical manuals or instruction sheets in which the style of the prose is unimportant. Or treated as unimportant. When I translate advertising and PR materials, however, I must create a translation that satisfies the client as to literalness or accuracy while at the same time creating copy that sounds natural and appealing to a worldwide audience. This task, to say the least, is difficult.

In response, therefore, to the responses my marketing messages have thus far received, I have divided said message in twain: Marrubium Writing will deal with writing, whereas Marrubium Translation will deal with translation. I have created new business cards that list my title as “Writer,” which I am using at my networking events. So far, so good. I am also expecting some SEO benefits from this change.
Previously, I had this site on redirect to Marrubium Writing. Henceforth, I will be using it as a metablog for all of my endeavors. It will contain both my writing and translating marketing messages, and I hope that it will provide an SEO boost as well.

Current situation and goals for 2009
I have been fortunate. Although the auto industry is doing poorly around the world, the companies for which I work still need writing and translation. Lots of it, apparently, so I have been busy.

I welcome advertising and PR translation work, but, in reality I get so much of that right now that I am not actively seeking it. Instead, I am seeking the following:

  1. One-off advertising and PR projects: print ads, website content, press releases, video scripts. I am up for anything and everything for which I feel a resonance.
  2. Ghost blogging.
  3. Newsletters and other periodic pieces.

If you are an ad agency or Web developer, I will be your staunch ally. I am creative, careful, and timely. If you are a company looking for a one-time marketing boost, I am an MBA who will visit you, listen to understand your situation, and create some stellar materials for you. All at a price that you can afford.

Thanks for reading, and I look forward to hearing from you!

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