Crowdsourcing for the Greater Good

February 25th, 2014

One buzzword that has been growing in popularity over the last few years is “crowdsourcing.” Though the concept of crowdsourcing isn’t anything new, the term itself is barely a decade old. Crowdsourcing involves opening up participation in a particular task to anyone willing or able to help. While at times participants are rewarded financially, much of today’s online crowdsourcing is done for intrinsic benefits. If you’re a translator, it’s very likely that you can find opportunities involving both of these options.

One hotspot for crowdsourced translation work is Duolingo.com. On this website, users go through different language lessons, trying to translate sentences as accurately as possible while learning another language. In both the lessons and the designated translation portal, users are translating and editing material from all over the Internet. Essentially, in return for free language-learning software, you are translating content. This website, which now translates articles for CNN and Buzzfeed and is available as a mobile app, was developed by Luis Von Ahn, the internet crowdsourcing pioneer who also developed Captcha. Captcha is the challenge response system that makes users type in text to verify that the user is a human and not a bot. Many times, this copied text is actually a method of digitalizing and preserving old books – a great example of efficient crowdsourcing.

Another source is Wikipedia.org. Wikipedia is the fifth largest website on the web and contains encyclopedia articles that are crowdsourced by users from all over the world. If you’ve ever compared article content and availability between languages, especially among lesser-known languages, you know that there is always work to be done. Wikipedia has many resources to help users translate, as advanced formatting involves some Wikipedia-specific markup, and certain protocol must be followed. See here for more information: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wikipedia:Translate_us

Mozilla Firefox, which is a free and open-source Internet browser, offers a portal called Mozilla Translator, where volunteers can translate and edit content and make it available for more people around the world. The organization has an entire community dedicated to localizing these materials, and it is always looking for help. See here for more information: https://wiki.mozilla.org/L10n:Contribute

These are just a few examples of opportunities available to translators who want to use their skills for the greater good. While there are no guarantees, being a consistent, knowledgeable contributor can lead to opportunities that do offer financial return. Nevertheless, it is always a great feeling seeing your work online for the whole world to see, and contributing in crowdsourcing efforts as a translator is great way to practice your skills, build your portfolio, and make a difference.

As a translation agency, we recognize that there are pros and cons to crowdsourcing. Anytime work is divided among many translators, quality levels will vary according to experience and training, term consistency will decrease, and a large amount of thorough editing will be required. Any project we accept at CommGap from our clients is handled by our hand-picked translators and editors, as crowdsourcing would not be sufficient for the specific requirements of these crucial translations. Nevertheless, we think that crowdsourcing can be a viable tool for organizations with more limited resources when editing practices and standards are followed. With the exponential growth of the Internet, it is exciting to see where these methods will lead to in the future.