I’d like to write some things about crowdsourcing activities. Since 2011, I’ve been part of the moderating team for translating Twitter into Swedish, being part of the very beginning, together with a couple of other swedes. It sure has been interesting, and I sure feel quite proud about the efforts we made populating the basic grammar, deciding what “tweet” should be in Swedish (FYI: the verb is “tweeta” in its basic form). The decisions we made were seen by anyone who uses Twitter in Swedish, which was kind of cool.
The Twitter Translation Center (TTC) is a crowdsourced effort for translations. This means that while we were a couple of guys moderating translations and having final say, most of the translating was done by regular Twitter users. Our job was usually to take the translation with the most votes, and select it as the final one (if it was good, but they usually were).
After a while, Twitter introduced the use of a JIRA tracker to keep track of new phrases that were imported and needed to be translated. That was good, because most (90%+) of the system was already translated, so keeping track of new additions was a welcome change. Later however, more and more strings were exclusive to moderators only (due to secrecy and releases and whatnot), and more and more strings became “ultra-priority” which were also only available to moderators, and also very much ASAP tasks. This is where I believe it stopped being fun for me.
I believe that for a system like this, having hard deadlines is totally out of the picture, as long as you don’t pay someone for their job (Twitter did send me some t-shirts etc, but that doesn’t really count). The whole point of having a crowdsourced translation is that it is a collective process that grows in a more or less organic manner. To be frank, too many and too sharp deadlines spoils the fun of it. I have enough deadlines in my job as a software engineer, if I wanted to feel the same in my spare time, I’d rather just work longer hours. I think, that part of the point with working with crowdsourcing is that things have to take time. It should be slow, and I really mean slow.
It might seem ironic that I don’t think there should be any pressure on volunteers in this case, having worked for a long time in the students’ union and all, but let me be clear: that is a completely different thing. Within the students’ union, or any other association, every member is equal, and have a say when it comes to the goals and activities of that association. Twitter on the other hand, is a company, meaning that their main goal is to create profit for their owners, and volunteering as a translator does not give you a say about anything, apart from the translations you’re approving or rejecting. That is the fundamental difference, and that is why I think one can expect more from someone who volunteers for an association than someone who works for free, just for the fun of it, for Twitter.
So goodbye TTC, it really have been a pleasure, but in the end it just did not work out.