- Amount of content going up
- New approaches needed to localization to enable translations that are viable from
a quality, speed and cost perspective
Here are a few examples of the content types:
• E.g. user generated reviews for example of web store items, of restaurants
and hotels, etc.
• Corporate blogs, private blogs
3. Help topics
• Possibly written by engineers
4. Helpdesk replies
• Done by support agents, possibly posted in a knowledge base later.
5. Forum posts
• Useful posts in user forums, maybe organization’s agents or users
6. And of course, the traditional user guides, web pages, etc. haven’t gone
- All in all, huge amounts of different content is produced in many organizations
Who is writing this content? Almost everybody.
Professional writers: technical writers, copywriters
Texts are not only written by trained writers, but by people within and outside of the
organization with varying backgrounds and in various kind of duties.
One solution to the increasing localization needs is crowdsourcing.
One definition of crowdsourcing:
Crowdsourcing means getting work or ideas from a group of people rather than
individuals. Mostly online, where it is possible to reach large communities. Internet is
the factor that actually makes crowdsourcing possible.
Originally crowdsourcing meant that a problem or large amount of work was exposed
to a large group of potential contributors without knowing who or how many of them
in the end would participate in the task. The group was previously undefined. Typical
crowdsourcing tasks could involve e.g. design crowdsourcing, crowdfunding,
microtasks and open innovation.
Localization crowdsourcing means that translations are not acquired from a single
translator and a single proof-reader, but instead from a larger pool of people.
- At first this might sound like a substantial change to the traditional approach, but
actually it’s not that far away from what translation agencies have been doing for
years: splitting large tasks between several translators. Not crowdsourcing, but
some of the arising issues and benefits are similar.
- In localization crowdsourcing often refers to sourcing work to a previously
unknown group of contributors outside of the organisation itself, for example to
the fans of a product. But this can be expanded and you can talk about external
and internal crowdsourcing of translations.
- Not ONE crowd, but instead a company and its products are surrounded by many
different crowds. There are crowds within the organization, it’s not all external.
- Different crowds can be interesting for different purposes in localization.
- Internal (broadly in this case): anybody who has a professional relationship to the
- The internal crowd can be e.g. experts on the topic within the organization,
partners, resellers, subcontractors, etc. This is work done by people who are
already professionally involved with the product/service.
- Possibilities for internal crowdsourcing especially in multinational organisations
- Translation and localization, internal crowdsourcing can relate to translation or
validation of texts, or testing of a localized product.
- The main drivers:
- Low translation budget
- Highly specified topic, for which it might be difficult to find translators with
the necessary expertise.
- Internal target group
- Closest to the original meaning of crowdsourcing.
- External crowdsourcing = Community Translation. This means getting translations
truly outside of your regular process.
- The community might consist e.g. of users and fans. Sometimes, for example for
small scale software developers, this might be just be a bunch of developers
helping each other out with translations.
- Probably the best known community translated products are Facebook and
What advantages might you get from including them compared to a professional-only
- Stickiness – engaged users are likelier to stay on board.
- Community is your target group, they are your users and therefore to some degree
also experts on what kind of language they expect there to be.
- The community can be very quick and productive. This does not necessarily
happen, sometimes you might get to wait for a long for those final strings to get
- Valuable feedback from people who are involved early on.
Why would someone want to work for free for you? Very important: community
translations are not a one way process. The community has to get something out of
- It is rewarding to work towards common goal with a community.
- Users maybe want to be part of your product creation process.
- The users want to thank you for creating a good service and give something back.
- It’s fun to translate!
- People want to keep their language alive by translating software into it.
General crowdsourcing workflow.
- Built around the same blocks as a “regular” translation process with professional
translators with translation, editing, implementation.
- Main difference: more than one translator means possibly several translations.
- Other users vote between translations and provide their own suggestions.
- Iterative process
- Mostly in crowdsourcing the process is not as linear as depicted here. Several
stages might be ongoing at the same time.
So how do you know if crowdsourcing – internal or community translations - might
suit you? Here are a few questions that can help you:
- Is my community active on user forums and in social media? If your community is
active otherwise, they will most likely also want to translate. Or if you’re thinking
about an internal process, are your colleagues and partners willing to contribute
and do they have the skills needed to contribute?
- Do you want perfect grammar or street credible language? Your crowd often
knows best what kind of words they use for certain terms and what kind style they
use in their regular communication, but they might not always be masters of
- If you have a fixed, tight deadline, crowdsourcing might be a risk. But then again, if
you have a large or very active community, they might even be quicker than
- Crowdsourcing will most likely have less direct costs than professional translations,
but it will demand time from you, especially in the form of community
Good practices around crowdsourcing
- Make it easy for your participants
- Don’t force them to spend much time e.g. on learning tools
- Be there for your translators, if they have questions or comments. This goes for
both internal and external translators. If you have volunteers helping you, they
need to see that you value their input and also that you value your own translation
initiative enough to spend time on it.
- Be flexible. The people will not be fully dedicated to your project, make it possible
for them to contribute small bits at a time. You probably want to utilize their offtime, so the alternative might be to play a game.
- Don’t forget about rewards. In a way that suits your crowd. People might want to
do something for free, but if you offer them a small sum of money or something
similar, they might end up thinking that you’re cheap, since you don’t pay enough.
Just remember that everybody needs some kind of reward for their participation, a
simple “thank you” is often enough, you just have to remember to say it.
- A good thing to do mostly is testing. If you can, do crowdsourcing into one
language first and then add more.
You can combine crowdsourced translation with professional editing and you can also
combine professional translation with crowdsourced editing.
If the process and tools are flexible, any combination is possible, but not always easy.
Crowdsourcing has its downsides too and there are things you need to focus special
attention on. I’ll pick out a couple of these:
1. Be sure you are aware of the limitations of the crowd and to prepare accordingly.
E.g. implement necessary QA.
2. There is always a cost, it’s never completely free (at least your own working
3. Community management is not always easy.
A few concluding thoughts:
Determine your expectations. Don’t expect crowdsourcing to be something it isn’t.
Make a good process. The process is similar than the traditional process of buying
translations, but not completely. And remember that you have to be engaged too.
Analyse the risks. Risk analysis is part of common business practice everywhere.
That goes also for crowdsourcing.
Do it! (Or at least, consider it) Be open about the concept and check if it fits your
needs. There are a lot of myths about crowdsourcing, both for and against. Go past
those and see if it’s good business for you.