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Business - Written by on Monday, June 29, 2009 20:19 - 7 Comments

Kevin Morris
LinkedIn’s Crowdsourcing Dilemma

A NY Times article published yesterday covered the story of LinkedIn‘s plan to use crowdsourcing to translate their site to languages other than the already-available English, German, French and Spanish. According to the article, a survey was sent to thousands of professionals in the LinkedIn network to gauge their opinions about providing their services to translate the site.
Here’s a chart showing the responses to LinkedIn’s survey question regarding incentives:

“What type of incentive would you expect for translating the LinkedIn site?”

Source: http://linkedin.files.wordpress.com/2009/06/graph21.jpg?w=502&h=321

The concept of using crowdsourcing to translate content is not new. Facebook, Mozilla and TED have used similar strategies. Ming wrote about Facebook’s translation initiative here.
When first looking at LinkedIn’s effort to utilize crowdsourcing, it appears as though they’ve made the right moves. They engaged their audience, asked for opinions with a survey and acknowledged the importance of incentives when looking to users to make contributions.
There is an interesting factor at play here, though. LinkedIn is known as a professional network. And given that LinkedIn serves this professional purpose, it’s worthy to note that direct financial compensation was left out of the possible responses for the survey question shown above.
As a result, LinkedIn has received a flurry of feedback over the last two weeks, much of it coming from translators themselves voicing their opinions about professionals being compensated fairly. A Twitter hashtag was established (#linkedinfail) and a LinkedIn discussion group was formed (Translators against Crowdsourcing by Commercial Businesses), now with 300+ members.
Here’s a look at some of the comments that have been posted in the past two weeks:

If LinkedIn goes ahead with an open call for translations, they’ll likely attract both professional and amateur translators. The issue then is that a professional and an amateur participate for different reasons. The professional looks for financial compensation, while the amateur seeks out, for example, recognition within the community (ie. “You’re the #1 translator of [ language name] based on submitting [x number of translations]“).
That becomes interesting because one of those deals – the amateur – is a much better one for LinkedIn (provided they put in place a system to ensure some standard of quality in translation).
So, if you’re a translator – which side are you on? Is this an opportunity to contribute to a community and gain valuable experience? Or, as some have questioned, is this the exploitation of professionals?
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Jun 29, 2009 20:42

I think they did the right thing by asking their community, but they probably should have just added the extra answer that had to do with direct compensation.

It never hurts to ask for help from volunteers, so I don’t blame them for that.

It’s more interesting to me that there are over 300 people who really care enough to make/join a new twitter hashtag because of this.

There really are more important things to take a stand on imo.

Web Media Daily – Monday June 29, 2009 | Reinventing Yourself...
Jun 29, 2009 21:07

[...] LinkedIn’s Crowdsourcing Dilemma …Wikinomics [...]

Rob Salkowitz
Jun 30, 2009 11:36

Great piece, Kevin. IMO, it’s not a clear distinction between amateur and professional in this case. Yes, money is the traditional form of compensation for doing a professional job, but being recognized within a community of professionals as a skilled practitioner has real, tangible value – especially when your work is out in public for all your potential clients to see, along with the raves and ratings of your peers. As a professional network where most people surf with a purpose, LinkedIn has more tools at its disposal to reward contributors than meets the eye. For example, LinkedIn could sweeten the pot by doing some search engine optimization to ensure that the most prolific and highly-reputed translators came up first in site searches. It could mean more “real” jobs at higher rates from a broader range of clients.

New York Times & American Translators Association Join LinkedIn Translation Debate | Matthew Bennett
Jul 2, 2009 18:44

[...] have also been articles published this week in BusinessWeek and on the Wikinomics site which make reference to the [...]

Cognitive Design » Blog Archive » Psychology of Crowdsourcing
Jul 13, 2009 20:39

[...] One answer pulls on the so-called “big tent” theory of motivation claiming that the key comes from the fact that crowdsourcing offers a generous menu of alternative motivations. This way passionate and talented contributors are bound to opt in from the hundreds of millions of candidates on the web. Some evidence to support this comes from the interesting post on Wikinomics about LinkedIn’s Crowdsourcing Dilemma. [...]

Lorenzo Pappalardo
Nov 8, 2009 11:40

Kevin, do you think any member of a crowdsourcing community could choose his\her own compensation? I mean a sort of self selection of incentive in the same way of self selection of the task?

El Crowdsourcing o tercerización masiva | Marketingaholic | Blog de Juan Quaglia
Sep 24, 2010 19:02

[...] [...]

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