Gamification and Crowdsourcing in Translation

A while ago I wrote a post on crowd sourcing and how the idea has been implemented into our industry particularly in web translation. Sites like Duolingo that use crowd-sourcing to translate the web, are also implementing the idea of gamification into their model. The idea of gamification is to increase people’s interaction and motivation to an otherwise mundane task. The gamification process,  by using badges for accomplished work is used as a form of reward as you advance and accomplish the task. Taken from the gaming industry, the idea of badges, points, and other rewards, has demonstrated to increase interaction, participation and engagement in the social media world.  So much so, that there re businesses implementing the idea in their marketing efforts. Duolingo also has another great incentive as well : learning a language while helping translate the web.  It is a brilliant combination one that truly works hand in hand.

Another example of  gamification and crowdsourcing in translation is Twitter. When I first saw the Twitter Translation Center, I actually  looked into it in order to participate (at that time I had no idea what crowdsourcing was nor did I know that it was on a voluntary basis) and they also use the same badge system that Duolingo uses, the only difference is that Duolingo uses it to measure progress rather than task completed as in the case of Twitter. The best quality translations get voted and you are rewarded a badge in your profile.  According to the Twitter  site, you have to rank among the 20%  to receive one and your translations are voted among your peers  for accuracy and relevance.  I don’t know how much of a motivation that is for me really. As a professional, I cannot imagine the level of proficiency and accuracy these translation can actually have when in the case of  Duolingo they  are being translated by beginners and intermediate students of a particular language. It does have the advantage that instead of using machine translation, (which is equally as bad) they actually use translators.

Other examples of this new gamification idea  is Foursquare where they reward their visitors with badges too or name them “mayors” whenever you visit a place often . I believe this is the biggest example of the idea  although it is a purely social site Yet,  in the end there is a monetary reward by deducting a certain percentage off your bill if you frequent a  place enough. (Great publicity for the  venue, and not spending a dime in advertising) . Other than social media I do not see a place other than the gaming industry for the use of the system, particularly in business and marketing.  Other than in sales , I guess where you have to reach a certain  goal, this system would be flawed in other areas.  Yet, now they are hosting gamification summits to help business improve engagement. Mine however do not come in the forms of badges. and furthermore, other than the examples above gaming and translation do not go together, however gamification and crowdsourcing seem to go hand in hand. (Why else would you contribute?)

To a certain extend, Linkedin had done it as well by placing the status bar of completeness in your profile. I have read that is truly not an example of gamification and I have to agree to a certain degree. What gamification does is offer incentives to have you complete a task not necessarily to say how far you are on your task, which is what the status bar indicates. Yet, they put it as an example . There are other examples of course but I wanted to keep it relevant to our industry and how this gamification idea coupled with crowdsourcing is affecting to a degree our competitive edge.

Crowdsourcing: Who Truly Benefits?

It seems that I follow quite the same path as other bloggers about the same issues tackling our industry. Yet, this one to me is the  most troubling simply because out of  MT, TM, and other advances affecting the industry the simple fact of supplying our expertise and ability on a volunteer basis, drives me a little crazy. What drives me crazier still is that here no one questions it. I have researched and read extensively on crowd sourcing, and all I could find was how it benefited the business community by saving them time and money; yet in all the articles I have read they did not mention  how it benefited the  translator . Surely the experience, but what these companies recruit are at some level (not all) specialists in their field , or end users of a product or service (mainly in software and computer applications) that know particularly well on the subject. For this reason, I find that the true winners here are the companies recruiting such volunteers. Yet, the idea behind crowd sourcing is the effort of collaboration and the know how these volunteers have on the subject. There have been two sides to this, because it can have wonderful results or less than average ones too. I found this video on YouTube and found it interesting on the pitfalls of crowd sourcing.

The reasoning behind it is completely understandable. The internet  has  grown at such a rapid rate that the demand for immediate information is key. Part of the reason why most of these machine translation services sprung up as well.  With the number of websites , social media sites, software applications and cellphone apps, there is such a demand for quick information that not even half  of the demand could be translated manually  much less the  information that is passing through our fingertips without us being aware of.  However, because of this as professionals we  should be at an advantage point and we are not.  As businesses  become more global, they  have found a short cut by implementing this idea to cut costs with higher output and immediacy. What was once done by one employee and possibly took  days to complete, they gather a group of people  (through an open call) many of these  volunteers or through a highly reduced rate to translate this information. Since translation is group based, many different ideas are discussed within the group to bring out the best output.  This is where most of these companies benefit from crowd sourcing. Software applications and programs are the first to benefit as  does the end user. There is  something to be noted here, that although crowd sourcing can be beneficial in one area it also depends on the level of collaboration and the level of expertise of the volunteer. (Maybe that is a good business defense).  Social media sites like Twitter, Facebook and Linked in are all using crowd sourcing to translate their sites for free and by many accounts with many disastrous results. Yet, the incentive to reduce costs is the most enticing factor here.

Like MT sites like Google Translate and Yahoo Babel Fish, there are crowd sourcing sites as well.  Sites like  #Translate Answers , Cucumis and  Lang8 are for those who seek a a quick translation to an answer they seek or to perfect a translation they already have. Duolingo  like Lang8 is another site that sells the crowd sourcing idea  in that premise -by using it as a language learning website.

I understand that not everything in life is money but if you ( (as a large corporation) are recruiting your group for the best output of your service or product, then it should be compensated. I do believe in volunteerism but to me I would do that for particular social causes , organizations, and  non-profits  who ultimately are working for a “greater good” and that output is so much better than any other compensation. Organizations like Translators Without Borders is a great example of this. I have actually applied with them to help NGO’s around the world . Yet other organizations such as Global Voices Online and UN Volunteering Service   have used crowd sourcing as well for the same principle.

In conclusion, crowd sourcing as we know it will only continue to grow. As the demand grows, so will the necessity and the immediacy of its information. This idea is only a feasible when there is large collaboration, and someone willingness to help translate . In my opinion, without any incentive  why would any one continue?