Crowdsourced Translation Fuels HootSuite’s International Expansion

Crowdsourced Translation Fuels HootSuite’s International Expansion

Common Sense Advisory Blogs
Crowdsourced Translation Fuels HootSuite’s International Expansion

Posted by Nataly Kelly on April 27, 2011




Globally speaking, HootSuite is on the move. We previously profiled its crowdsourced translation environment – along with 103 others – in a report on how organizations are harnessing the talent of linguistically diverse online communities. The company is making several announcements this week about enhanced access for users who speak different languages and reside in different parts of the planet. We spoke with HootSuite’s Marketing Director, Dave Olson (@daveohoots) to learn more.
Yesterday, HootSuite heralded the arrival of the Spanish version of its web dashboard with a bilingual blog post.  The company also released an infographic depicting usage in numerous parts of the Spanish-speaking world.

Source: HootSuite (Click here to see the full infographic)

Why did HootSuite choose crowdsourcing over conventional translation methods?  “We did try them,” Olson explains, “but HootSuite includes a lot of specialized social media-specific vocabulary which our users understand best since they use and talk about the tool with their local friends and colleagues. We think this real-world knowledge provides the best translations.”

According to Olson, the crowdsourced translation project was launched in August 2010, and the company quickly saw traction in Spanish for localization of the mobile platforms.  However, major movement did not begin with the Spanish version of their web platform until they hired a Spanish-speaking employee to rally the troops and ensure progress. Our report discussed the fact that HootSuite is doing some unique things with crowdsourced translation – for example, they allow users not only to suggest languages for crowdsourcing, but to actually vote on which languages to do next.

HootSuite’s crowdsourced translation work also has broader social importance. As Olson points out: “Before we had the translation tool built, our iPhone developer (@richerd) noticed that someone wanted an Arabic version and offered to translate it. Richerd programmed the right-to-left display and worked around some unique pluralization conventions and we released the first localized dashboard for Arabic. Months later, when the crisis in Egypt erupted, our tool was a huge help to people on the ground.” As we noted in a previous post, crowdsourced translation is what enabled social media to play such an important role in Egypt.

Olson shared another compelling example. Shortly after HootSuite released the translation tool, the company was contacted by a group in Wales that wanted to work on the translation as part of a special day to preserve the Welsh language.  “They didn’t make too much progress, but the idea of combining this traditional language with modern technology was inspiring to us,” he said, adding that the long Welsh words were tough on the product layout.

The power of technology to breathe new life into endangered languages is a phenomenon we’ve been writing about for years, most recently in our discussions with Google and Microsoft in the run-up to International Mother Language Day and in a longer interview with David Harrison.

HootSuite’s announcement shows that high-tech giants aren’t the only ones making a significant difference in the lives of underserved linguistic communities.