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dotSUB Extends TED's "Ideas Worth Spreading" to Hundreds of Languages
Posted by Donald A. DePalma on May 14, 2009  in the following blogs: Translation and Localization, Web Globalization
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TED, the conference for "Technology, Entertainment, and Design," announced a crowdsourced translation model that has already begun to make its 450+ videos of thought-provoking talks available in dozens of other languages. TED is using dotSUB technology to manage this community translation effort.

The TED.com site currently hosts talks from "the world's most fascinating thinkers and doers," like Shai Agassi, Tim Berners-Lee, Bono, Jane Goodall, Seth Godin, Al Gore, and Burt Rutan, who are challenged to give "the talk of their lives (in 18 minutes)." In an intersection of video and crowdsourcing, TED revealed its year-old project to increase the size of its audience by making its content available in multiple languages. Using dotSUB, with dotSUB, the creator of browser-based subtitling technology, TED has enabled volunteer translators, reviewers, and project managers to translate its content. TED's organizers expect that having its talks available in dozens -- and eventually hundreds -- of other languages will dramatically increase the number of people viewing them. No wonder. Our research consistently shows that both consumers and business users of the web prefer having content in their own languages.
  • The seed. The site's organizers engaged dotSUB to subtitle a small set of these recorded presentations into 23 languages, including the usual Asian and European suspects plus some less frequent choices for first-tier translation such as Kannada, Polish, Swahili, and Thai. This professionally translated sample showcases videos in a variety of languages and, TED hopes, will serve as the seed to encourage its TEDster community to translate all its videos into as many of the world's languages as possible -- click here to see the languages with the most translated talks to date.

  • The tool. TED also collaborated with dotSUB to build a full project management platform and dashboard for handling the crowd's workflow and translations. The software offers video subtitles, time-coded transcripts, and the ability to translate any TED talk into any language. The dashboard lets individuals click on any of a core set of languages, or choose from a pull-down menu of many more. The dotSUB components render final subtitles through a new application programming interface that lets volunteers view their work; then, TED reviewers approve the translated videos. This first version is impressive, even when compared to longer-running efforts at crowdsourced translation pioneers such as Facebook and Plaxo.

  • The community. While the project has been in beta, more than 200 volunteer translators have already contributed their expertise, with more than 300 renderings already available into 40 languages. Prospective subtitlers can learn the rules of the community at TED's well-documented translator portal.
What's the impact?
  • Valuable but free content finds its way into other languages. Much of TED's content, while offering visionary glimpses into a range of issues, falls into that category of "nice to have" but unlikely to have anyone pay for its translation. A demonstrably eager community has already begun choosing the talks it most wants to see in other languages. An easy-to-use tool, a clearly thought-out process, and accolades for the translators at this high-octane site raise the likelihood of this community succeeding in its goal. Massive amounts of content at other sites and in other sectors wait to be freed from their linguistic straightjackets.

  • CT3 is branching out into other multilingual delivery channels. Last year, we outlined the amalgam of community translation, collaborative technology and processes, and crowdsourcing into the CT3 model (see "Translation of, for, and by the People," Dec08). Previously restricted to just text translations, the TED project has allowed this new approach to translation to cross the paper and pixel barrier to work with voice and video, too.

  • Commercial content providers may test the crowdsourced translation waters. The TED initiative could accelerate video translation at for-profit enterprises that sequester their valuable assets in English and just a few other languages. dotSUB's founder Michael Smolens thinks that commercial producers such as Paramount and Sony might feel the pressure to open up their catalogs to community translation, an approach that is already popular among Chinese fans of American television shows. Of course, the film studios will always balance their traditional concerns with digital rights management against the prospect of a much bigger market, a challenge that most owners of entertainment-focused intellectual property find daunting, but NBC/Fox efforts like Hulu offer a model and a platform for extending the linguistic reach of commercial content providers.

  • Perspicacious language service providers will see dollar signs. While many LSPs will feel threatened by TED's community approach and the prospect of lost revenue, others will see value in dotSUB's project management tools and browser-based functionality, as well asthe business opportunity to professionally manage armies of volunteers or professionals undertaking translation of large troves of public domain, user-generated, and other high-volume content stores. They will also pitch their services to companies using community translation that still rely on professional agencies to do at least some part of the work.


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Keywords: Localization, Multimedia (audio, video, e-learning) loca, Translation, Web globalization

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