Thursday, June 04, 2009

Crowdsourcing growing in power

Perhaps the most powerful force on the planet is the Power of Community. Until some years ago, a community used to be limited to the people one could meet regularly and face to face -- after all, being in close social contact is both the means and the key purpose of creating and maintaining community. So, one's community was one's village, one's street, one's neighborhood, and later on, it was the people who had similar interests or shared prior experiences.


The World Wide Web has had a dramatic impact on the reach and power of community and also in the manner in and speed with which communities form. Social applications such as Facebook and Myspace, Twitter and LinkedIn have created new opportunities for building new communities and rediscovering old ones. And socially created and maintained resources such as Wikipedia have demonstrated the power of internet communities for creating useful artifacts. Wikipedia is now available in 200 languages. One problem -- if that is the right term -- with the World Wide Web is that a number of key resources are available primarily in English, which is not a lot of fun for the bulk of humanity, which doesn't understand the language. It would be nice if all of that stuff could be translated into other languages. Which brings us back to community and that old friend, crowdsourcing. A project called Lingua lauched by Global Voices a citizen-journalist site founded by Ethan Zuckerman of Harvard's Berkman Center for Internet and Society has volunteers from around the world translating important sites into other languages. The interesting Technology and Society site, TED is actively having many of its posted videos subtitled in other languages through Lingua. The advantage of using volunteers?
“The volunteers are deeply committed to making the best translation, and they don’t care how long it takes them,” [June Cohen, TED media executive producer] explains. “There is a passion there that you don’t get from hired guns.”

And then there are the cost savings. Ms. Cohen estimates that a professional translation service would charge $500,000 for the translations already completed by volunteers or in process.
So there you are: It costs less, it's quality is superior. How can you beat that

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