Pros and Cons of Crowdsourcing

July 9, 2016 |

By Sarah-Claire Jordan

Pros and Cons of Crowdsourcing artSome of the biggest companies are looking to make translating and localizing their web content faster and easier by using something they have in excess, maybe: customers and fans who have a bit of free time on their hands. Many people may know this as “crowdsourcing,” which is essentially the process of enlisting people to help with a project via the Internet. Generally those who participate are not compensated, but sometimes they are.

The pros of using crowdsourcing as a way to translate and localize web content may seem quite obvious. First of all, you generally do not have to compensate any of the participants who use their free time to help with something like translating web content. What they do tends to be just translating and localizing a few words at a time, from three to five words usually. This is quick and easy work that some professional translators might find tedious to deal with.

Even so, some companies do figure out ways to at least reward contributors. Though it got called out for being a successful company asking for people to help for free essentially, LinkedIn did offer those who contributed to the translation of web content a badge and some premium services. This is one way to deal with fears that people might cry “exploitation”, even though it is a purely voluntary act to contribute to any crowdsourcing project.

Another advantage to using crowdsourcing is what many call “wisdom of the crowd”, which is just another way to say “two heads are better than one.” It is a simple concept that most people can easily grasp, and means that generally, the more people you have working on something, the more information you have access to. Not everyone knows everything about how to translate and localize something, but many people together can piece together what they collectively know to get the job done. Mathematics are also at play here, as the more input you have for something, the more likely you are to come up with the best answer, á la the concept of averages.

All that being said, using this particular method isn’t necessarily the best way to go in some cases. Probably the most glaring con to using volunteers to translate and localize is the fact that many contributors are not language or localization professionals. They may be bilingual, or be language students, but many do not have the proper training to handle a lot of the types of content that need to be translated. Facebook had a rather novel way of approaching this issue by simply asking participants whether they were professionals or just bilingual and giving them translation and localization tasks based on their responses.

This leads to another huge issue, which is the lack of reviewing and quality control that so often goes along with this particular method. In many cases, the content is only reviewed if at least half of the other contributors say that the translation is not right. Otherwise, any criticism gets drowned out by a sea of approval, many times from non-professionals. If companies can figure out ways to use crowdsourcing and still get accurate and relevant translations that professionals would approve of, then by all means they should go ahead and use it. If they can’t mitigate the cons, however, it might not be the best route for them to take.

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Category: Business Translation

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