"Admin": What it is, what it isn't

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OK, it’s time to have a heart-to-heart talk about "admin" work. What is it? Well, it hasn’t been easy for us to describe without looking very closely at the work we’ve done during this first “startup” year. I think we have it worked out now, and I hope that this section helps clarify things for you.

One mistake we made early on was getting into the habit of using the word “admin” to describe everything that wasn’t translation work. This is misleading, and now it’s time to break out of that habit.

Realistically, there are several categories of work. Some will be kind of obvious, but others might be more surprising or unfamiliar, and hopefully more interesting. The advantage in re-describing “the category formerly known as ADMIN” is that now the terms might be more representative. Hopefully, this will make it easier to figure out what work you’d choose to do.

Translation Admin

The easiest to describe, and probably the most obvious, is "translation admin" (all this is outlined in greater detail in The Tao of the Guerrilla Translator, but I’ve included it here as contrast to other tasks.)

Before the translation

This is the standard set of tasks done before beginning a translation, including:

  • contacting the author
  • working out details about the author bio
  • determining which images will be used in the post including the license for the images

After the translation

Work done after the translation is complete includes:

Finally, if the piece seems particularly popular or relevant in a specialized way, we may choose to solicit specific websites that might be interested in republishing the piece (perhaps even for a little revenue).

This is all routine “translation admin”; exceptions happen, but most of the time those exceptions will be pretty self-evident as far as requirements.

Other types of "Admin"

Now, here are the other types of work formerly called “admin”. These presently live on specific Trello boards, broken down by large overall category (Community, Sustainability, Web Presence), and cover a wide range of things including:

Co-op and Business development

This has included a lot of investigation and correspondence in the past, but now mainly includes:

In addition, there’s work to do promoting both the pro-bono and revenue-generating business, including:

  • Maintaining active relationships with authors, publishers, bloggers, others, fostering mutually beneficial bonds (online and offline). Following through with our commitments (this is non-negotiable, as our reputation is in the hands of these people). This includes on time completion of pro-bono translations we’ve contacted authors about; if we fail to do so after making contact, that makes it rather difficult to propose larger projects or “ventures”.
  • Creating ventures with these individuals and entities, including planning, scheduling, budgeting, team creation, and communication, using our workflow tools and protocols.
  • Taking part in online and real-time discussions, presentations, etc., establishing and maintaining our presence in an integral way - that is, not producing promotion or advertising, but rather being involved in other communities in the most natural and relevant ways we can.

I hope it’s clear but if not, let me say it: we’re not suggesting that you join all kinds of groups just to get us more work – we’re hoping to encourage everyone to consider building new work possibilities on the strength of our real relationships. There’s a balance to be struck here, especially since we’re not working with an old-model concept of a “sales pitch” or having a “sales” department. The heart of this would be to participate in things you already like, and be open to seeing opportunities for long-term projects as well as short-term work. It also won’t be a “full-time” endeavor for anyone, ever. So, with the question of balance, this isn’t exactly work that we can value as a repetitive task, it’s more of an attitude of participation and partnership – except, of course, for the actual planning of a project once it’s beginning to take shape . At the same time it’s important to realize that this relationship-building process won’t be satisfied with only superficial interaction, for instance social media commenting and “likes” or +1s, in the absence of more substantive collaboration – in other words, adding more Facebook time won’t really cut it, and as with everything we do, it’s not about time spent but about results achieved.

Actually, let me pull back the focus for a second because part of that last point is critically important. We aren't waiting for anything to come to us; we need to actively pursue it, even if we're still in the process of "building the machine". It isn't something that any one, or two, or even three of us is going to shoulder long-term. Building the relationships that “pay off” both in support and paying work is not simple, but it's the main reason we're going forward with trying to make this a gig we can both enjoy and support ourselves with - because the reputation we've built has come hand-in-hand with a great deal of encouragement and offers of future projects. We can't rest with the few people who have already extended a hand to us. There are many more, and we need to engage with them. Seeking work falls to all of us.

Website maintenance and Web Presence

This includes:

  • Ongoing management of our web hosting, domains, any fees, upgrades
  • WordPress maintenance
  • Specific projects like the upcoming upgrade/migration
  • Maintaining and monitoring our online presence

Community - Communication

Online Tools and Technology

  • Maintenance of tools, and supporting tutorial materials
  • Working on contributing to the development of the Open Value Network Operating System (or OVN/OS).

This needs a little explanation: we will collaborate with the OVN/OS to help them modify their system-in-development, which will in turn help us to assign value to all the work we do (including the pro-bono work). This is so that some means of accounting for all time spent is openly accessible and assigned value, against which some future forms of payment (monetary or otherwise) may be applied. Note that there is a governance structure attached to this system, which means that the work we do with the OVN/OS crosses several fundamental parts of our model (and reality). This means taking part in conversations, practical demonstrations and giving feedback on our needs to their development team.

It should be fairly obvious but the point in my writing this is to outline that whatever anyone thinks is "admin", which they may or may not feel suited for, expert in or, dare I say, interested in, may be surprising in its scope, volume and, not least, effort already expended by some of us. The paid translation part is what comes as a result of all this, which will be shared among us all as a cooperative.