LinkedIn – the professional networking site with 41 million members where ‘relationships matter‘ – has today managed to mightily annoy professional translators who use the site by asking them if they would like to translate the LinkedIn site in exchange for a LinkedIn badge or ‘because it’s fun’.
Jeff Howe, the man who invented the very term ‘crowdsourcing’, has described it as a ‘firestorm’ for LinkedIn.
First a brief recap of LinkedIn’s small social media disaster story and then below the 10 big translation crowdsourcing questions, with which I’ve tried my best to summarise the day’s main points and what you’ve all expressed.
Obviously feel free to dive in with your comments at the end.
What did LinkedIn do to annoy professional translators?
In a mass email sent out this morning, LinkedIn’s Principal Product Manager, International Nico Posner (‘cross cultural communication skills combined with strong technical acumen‘) invited us to complete a user survey to:
Help us improve how LinkedIn serves you. The questions will take less than 5 minutes to complete and all responses are completely confidential. Your answers will help us better understand how we can improve our service to you.
Most of us fell for it, it seems; after all, five minutes to help them improve their user experience, no problem. By the third question, outrage seemed to have been the mindset around the globe.
It was the question about how we would like to be compensated for our efforts that did it. There was an option for a shiny LinkedIn badge and another which said something like ‘nothing, it’s for fun’ but, strangely, no option which even remotely resembled ‘I would like to be paid’.
@NTceline Yeah, that annoyed me a little, too. For “other incentives”, I wrote “Uh… payment?” #linkedinfail #xl8
Twitter started humming with indignation. Dozens and dozens of tweets from scores of professional translators, some of whom I’d never even met before, and not one of them with a kind tweet or comment about LinkedIn today.
@pikorua even suggested we start a rebellious LinkedIn group “Translators against Crowdsourcing by Commercial Businesses” – so we did – and as I write it has 70 members and several dozen angry comments, all in the space of a few hours.
Such was @spokk’s outrage that he created a new blog – the Bilingual Joe Translation Blog: “Where your translation work is done for free by Bilingual-Joe and his bilingual friends. Expect only the best from a bilingual. Remember; they must be smart, we don’t understand them!“
10 big crowdsourced translations questions for LinkedIn
The debate about crowdsourcing and web companies using crowdsourced translations has been going on for a while now (most famously with Facebook), but here are ten questions professional translators were asking about LinkedIn’s efforts today.
In a year when Ernst&Young rank ‘talent management’ and ‘reputation risk’ in their Top 10 list of global business pitfalls, any company with translation needs would also do well to reflect on their own answers.
- Do you realise that incoherent translation will communicate incoherent thought and an incoherent image to your foreign users?
- Are you willing to offset the increase in user numbers with a certain number of foreign language users thinking your translation – and therefore your company – sucks?
- What happened to better sales copy = more sales/conversions? Does that not apply for some strange reason to translated texts in foreign languages?
- Would you also consider crowdsourcing your other departments – copywriting, marketing, accounting, legal advice and strategic planning?
- If, for arguments sake, we say that a crowdsourced translation could be 70% of the quality of a professional one, is a 70% quality standard acceptable for your product and for the other areas of your company? What would happen to your business if you applied a 70% quality standard in accounting, sales, server uptime or programming?
- Is free really a cheaper option with the image of your company or are there hidden costs you should be considering in unrealised sales / sign-ups?
- Is that reduced sign-up/sales/advertising rate sufficient to offset the apparent cost of free or would you get better returns paying for professional translation and having the extra users/sales?
- If your customers are professionals, why have you decided to annoy a group of your professional translator users? Doesn’t this dent your image somewhat?
- Do you not understand the benefits that a professional translator with years of multi-lingual, cross-cultural experience on hundreds of projects can bring to your project?
- Do you understand the difference between someone who more or less speaks two languages and a professional translator?
Thanks for all your tweets and participation today everybody! It would have been nice to link to all your comments but that would have meant a very long post indeed. I think my favourite sarcastic comment, though, was Bob Kerns’s on our new LinkedIn group, who wondered if LinkedIn might be able to:
put me in touch with a professional, English and German-speaking painter and decorator with 15 years of experience, who will strip the old wallpaper off all rooms of a house consisting of 20 appartments and offices and will then paint each room, preferably each in a different colour, naturally by tomorrow afternoon, and FOR FREE, I will be pleased, on satisfactory completion of the work, to translate the term “LinkedIn” into a language of my choice.
Update: LinkedIn Replies
Despite initially requesting a conversation via e-mail, Nico Posner then declined the offer of a podcast interview so that everyone could hear him out and suggested this blog post had ‘fanned the flames‘ of translators’ ire. Perhaps, but I would argue that the firestorm was burning nicely by the time I sat down to write this on Tuesday.
Nevertheless, in the interests of a fair hearing, here are five points which I think sum up Nico’s response by email to me and on the LinkedIn group, for those of you who haven’t read them over there:
- LinkedIn was just ‘evaluating various approaches to expanding our interface language offering‘;
- While professionals ‘with established reputations‘ would probably not be taking up LinkeIn’s generous offer, newbie translators might like to do so ‘not only for pride and glory, but hopefully to land more paid work‘;
- Apparently crowdsourcing does not generate any cost savings and, furthermore: ”The reason why we did not include the “payment” option as an choice regarding expected rewards in the survey is that a) if we build the system and then find some way to pay translators, the net cost will exceed just taking the traditional approach, and b) other social networking sites who use crowd sourcing (there are only a handful) did experiment with paying crowd sourcing translators for their work with disastrous results, due to the change in motivations for doing the work‘;
- ‘The two primary advantages of crowd sourcing are a) speed of translating the entire site into a new language and b) language reach‘;
- “If we pursue crowd sourcing, we will likely be engaging the same number or more linguists/translators to review the content, and provide backup translations“
The answers of professional translators on LinkedIn to his statements have been unequivocal and, if anything, even more infuriated than the initial feelings but clearly feel free to post your reply in the comments here too, for the sake of open discussion. Mr Posner or other LinkedIn representatives are also very welcome to participate in the debate in this blog’s comments.
But I do wonder how many positive replies they got to the user survey they sent out? I haven’t seen one anywhere yet.