The use of crowdsourcing to harness the power of the masses to translate web content has become all the rage at behemoth social networking sites like Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn. In an attempt to make these sites accessible to a broader user base, the sites are asking users, rather than professional translators, to collaborate on the translation of site content. Though it’s a noble goal to expand the reach of sites like Facebook to an international audience, turning to crowdsourcing for translations hurts translators and businesses alike.
LinkedIn, a social network that aims to promote and support professionals, recently polled those members who are professional translators in order to gauge their potential interest in translating the site “for fun” or in exchange for nothing more than a profile badge. The site generated a great deal of controversy and managed to offend quite a few members, since LinkedIn was clearly looking for something for nothing. What LinkedIn failed to realize is that asking translators to work for free further devalues a profession that already struggles for recognition. In fact, many translators deleted their LinkedIn profiles following the incident, as they felt that their professional needs were no longer in line with the site’s priorities.
While the idea of tapping into the collective wisdom of a community has its merits – after all, translators reach out to each other all the time to debate issues in translation, terminology, etc. – websites must acknowledge that their image, content and reputation are at stake when they turn to anyone other than a professional to translate their content. Interestingly enough, after receiving numerous user complaints about the quality of localized translations, Facebook did turn to professional translators to edit flubbed translations and improve the consistency of translated terms across the site. Indeed, if websites insist on employing crowdsourcing to cut costs, they must acknowledge that at a bare minimum, professionals should be involved to provide quality control to avoid alienating their user base through poorly rendered content.
At the end of the day, there’s really no substitute for a professional; perhaps crowdsourcing will demonstrate that to companies the hard way.