Business, NCTA


New Trends in Crowdsourcing: The Kiva/Idem Case Study from NCTA BM on Vimeo.

Wisdom of the crowd or something for nothing? BY SARAH LLEWELLYN

The final general meeting of 2009 took place on December 12 at The Center in San Francisco. Despite the rain and the upcoming holidays, the meeting enjoyed an excellent turnout, with over 40 members and non-members in attendance.

Things got underway promptly at 1:45 p.m. with announcements regarding upcoming social events and first quarter workshops.

Then it was time for NCTA President Tuomas Kostiainen to present the annual NCTA awards—awards conferred by the NCTA Board on two members “for extraordinary volunteer service greatly benefiting the NCTA.” The first award was for Volunteer of the Year and the proud recipient was… me! (Thank you, Board!) I received a one-year free membership and a beautiful bouquet of roses. The second award was Honorary One-Year Membership and went to Nina Bogdan in recognition of all her hard work as a volunteer and her “incredible achievements as the key driving force behind Translorial.”

Before proceeding with the day’s feature presentation, there was a brief review of the 50th ATA conference, which took place in New York last October with the highest attendance ever (just short of 2,400 delegates) and 80 exhibitors. Four NCTA members who had attended the conference —Nina Bogdan, Scott Saylor, Yves Avérous and myself—each gave a short presentation on some of the conference highlights.

The it was time for the meeting’s special presentation, entitled “New Trends in Crowdsourcing: The Kiva/Idem Case Study.” Guest speakers were Monica Moreno, localization manager at Idem Translations, and Naomi Baer, Director of Microloan Review and Translation at Kiva. Naomi is also responsible for developing the infrastructure and program required to support Kiva’s growing translation community, and for leading the team which manages this volunteer program.

Monica began the presentation by asking the audience what they understood crowdsourcing to mean. One view put forward was that it was a good thing when it involved non-profit organizations, but bad when it involved for-profit organizations. Monica provided the Wikipedia definition of the term and explained that it was a method of using “the wisdom of the crowd.” She stressed, however, that crowdsourcing translation is not a means of reducing costs. On the contrary, crowdsourcing models are enormously costly to establish and maintain.

Naomi explained some of the benefits of crowdsourcing translation. First of all, huge volumes can be translated in a relatively short period of time— something that would be well beyond the realm of a translation services provider. It took Facebook’s community, for example, just one week to translate 300,000 words from English into Spanish. Secondly, content that might otherwise not be translated for years, if at all, can be translated through crowdsourcing. This is the case with Tier 2 languages, for example, or material that would only be of interest to a very small market segment.

One of Facebook’s crowdsourcing management pages.

An overview was then given of four major translation crowdsourcing models: Facebook, Intel Moblin, TED (Technology, Entertainment, Design), and Asia Online. Of these, only TED is non-profit.

One of the biggest challenges of a crowdsourcing program, says Naomi, is sustaining interest over time. To be successful, a program also has to build a community, provide a solid technological infrastructure, create a simple user interface, establish a quality control process, and be a scalable model.

Before describing Kiva’s crowdsourcing model, Naomi gave some background on the organization, whose mission is to “connect people through lending for the sake of alleviating poverty.” This non-profit, microfinance organization has gone from $2 million in loan volume in 2006 to a cumulative loan volume of $100 million in November 2009. With such rapid growth, it soon became clear that Kiva needed a solution to address the language barrier. As a non-profit organization with limited resources, it developed a hybrid professional/volunteer translation model. It uses the services of professional translation agency Idem, a company deeply committed to giving back to the community, to provide expertise and linguistic support (glossary/TM development, translation/consulting services, etc.), and a team of 400 volunteers (professional and amateur translators) to ensure fast turnaround of around one million words per month from Spanish, French, Portuguese or Russian into English.

Finally, Naomi gave some insight into what motivates the Kiva volunteers. Not only can they learn about microfinance, but they can gain valuable translation experience and/or improve their translation skills through Kiva’s mentoring program. They also enjoy being part of a lively community and having an opportunity to connect with other professionals. But for many, it is a way of “giving back” by using their skills to help alleviate poverty.

Door prizes were donated by Adobe (Acrobat 9) and were won by Emily Oster and Kristen Templeman.  The afternoon’s refreshments were provided by Luz, Inc.

The NCTA thanks Naomi Baer and Monica Morena for their interesting and highly informative presentation. SL