Is Crowdsourcing Localization an Option?

Why the case of crowdsourcing translation is not proven

Crowdsourcing Localization

After learning of the Localization World keynote address topic, I decided to attend the conference. This was in an attempt to identify why our industry leaders chose a theme this year that flirts with commodification. Why hint of inferior quality when everyone else avoids them? Read to find out if crowdsourcing localizationis an option for your company…

What is Crowdsourcing?

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. They did that by creating a virtual workforce made up of volunteers and industry enthusiasts. They performed small chunks of work at their leisure virtually for free, or 10-100 times cost reduction.

Crowdsourcing vs. Outsourcing

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. Then you tap into a high volume of amateurs (first crowd), debutantes (second crowd) or undiscovered talents (third crowd). These crowds 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.

Crowdsourcing Localization Paradox

Hmm, would you please answer this question for 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. The one that likes to do it for self-satisfaction or recognition. Then engage it.

But translation is intensive and laborious work. 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. That entails paying them their earned dues. Crowdsourcing localization is hence not an option. Anyone that tells you otherwise is unfortunately trying to fool you!


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