Is crowdsourcing localization an option?

Crowdsourcing TranslationAfter learning of the Localization World keynote address topic, I decided to attend the conference in an attempt to identify why our industry leaders chose a theme this year that flirts with commoditization and inferior quality, when everyone else avoids them.

Coined by Jeff Howe of Wired magazine, Wekipedia defines it as follows: “Crowdsourcing is a neologism for a business model in which a company or institution takes a job traditionally performed by a designated agent (usually an employee) and outsources it to an undefined, generally large group of people in the form of an open call over the Internet.”

Jeff gave examples on how iPhotoStock and Wikipedia were able to reduce costs by creating a virtual workforce made up of volunteers and industry enthusiasts that perform small chunks of work at their leisure virtually for free, or 10-100 times cost reduction.

The difference between outsourcing and crowdsourcing, is that instead of outsourcing work to few selectively chosen and paid professionals, you divide up the work into many small chunks and tap into a high volume of amateurs (first crowd), debutants (second crowd) or undiscovered talents (third crowd), that will do your work for you at a much reduced cost.

With the advent of free web technologies, making work available online is not the real challenge. The challenge is in investing time and resources building outsourcing communities by weeding through vast crowds, identifying the hidden talents and intrinsically motivating them to do work for you, and [with a drum-roll please] virtually for free.

Hmm, would you please tell me why would professionals in a high demand market such as translation, do the work virtually for free? Jeff’s answer was that the trick is to identify the third crowd that likes to do it for self-satisfaction or recognition.

But translation is intensive and laborious work and unless one gets something in return, not many get enough joy from it to do it for free!

If you live in a fantasy world where localization is not a must-have, time is on your side, quality is not necessarily a requirement, company brand and image are a non-issue, and you have resources to invest in wikis and source management, then Crowdsourcing may be your answer.

For the rest of us that live in the real world, where quality and timely localization is a live or die endeavor, there is no substitute to hiring professionals and paying them their earned dues. Anyone that tells you otherwise is fooling you, regardless of your age!

Download – 10 Tips on Achieving Quality in Translation

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