No, Getting Users To Translate Facebook Into Other Languages Isn't Exploitation

from the you-are-getting-compensated dept

A few people have sent in the recent story about how Facebook has relied on volunteer users to translate the site into other languages. That story has resulted in something of a debate from users who feel that this is somehow exploiting these translators, since they’re working for “free” for a company that is supposedly valued at $15 billion (despite revenues of about $150 million). This is the same old bogus Nicholas Carr argument that this is somehow exploitation because the users aren’t getting paid in cash for their labor. That, of course, is missing the point. No one is being forced or compelled to do these translations. They’re doing it because they are getting compensated in their own way. It’s either recognition from the community, or merely the fact that doing this enables them to use Facebook more effectively — and that’s compensation enough. For the users who do the translation, it’s obviously a fair trade, otherwise, why would they take part?

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Companies: facebook

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Comments on “No, Getting Users To Translate Facebook Into Other Languages Isn't Exploitation”

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Oliver Young says:

Why can't we all just get along?

Mike, Mike, Mike! You and Nick are both right. Is it fair for some people to feel this is explotation? Of course. Is it fair for Facebook to use those who don’t? Yes. Unless these people are pulling a Billy Bragg and getting upset ex post and demanding a percentage of $15bn, I say no harm no foul. More power to Facebook for crowd sourcing/exploiting users to do something most of us would demand a bigger payment for.

Wolferz (profile) says:

I'm geing exploited!

Perhaps I should just show up at peoples houses that have messy yard and clean those yards up complete with cut back the bushes, cut the grass, edge and blow off the drive ways… then go to the front door, ring the doorbell, and whine that I’m being exploited because they aren’t paying me.

It is the exact same difference. No one made any one do anything. It was offered on a volunteer basis. If they wanted to get paid for it then they should have refused to do it till face book offered to pay them what they wanted to be paid. This is called haggling and is supposed to be done BEFORE services are rendered… not after.

If you do the work without agreeing to the fee then don’t be surprised when the person you performed the service for suddenly doesn’t think its worth anything. I mean after all its not like you can undo it. So they have gotten the service completed for free. Expecting them to pay after the fact with no prior agreement is… absurd in the extreme. It’s hard to find words that describe just how utterly ridiculous and retarded that is. The English language just isn’t equipped for such extremes.

I imagine these are the same people who think the world owes them a free ride. The same people who think taxes are theft and that if they do put forth the slightest degree of extra effort beyond what their job requires they should get a raise (IE they emptied the trash can when it got full).

*sigh* I only hate stupid people… the problem is people are stupid.

icepick314 says:

Fool Me Twice, Shame on Me...

haven’t people learned from CDDB debacle?

the database was partly volunteer based but now it’s closed proprietary service being bought by Sony for $250Mil…

i don’t know why people are volunteering to multimillion dollar company when it will do absolutly nothing for them…

if you got time to volunteer, there are many other meaningful places like Red Cross and YMCA….

Jason Still (profile) says:

Re: Fool Me Twice, Shame on Me...

if you got time to volunteer, there are many other meaningful places like Red Cross and YMCA….

looking at the financial statements for the red cross, it looks like they had something in the neighborhood of 3 billion in revenue last year. Oh noes! I feel so exploited for volunteering and not getting a cut of the billions!

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Fool Me Twice, Shame on Me...

That’s why exists as an open source, free forever, service. People aren’t going to fall for that one again, and the FOSS movement provides a way to ensure it doesn’t happen again.

“do absolutly nothing for them”

Huh? No, they translate the site, making it more useful for them. This makes the site more attractive to non-English speakers, which introduces more friends, etc. So, it makes a site that they can’t use to communicate with people in their own language into a site they can. How is that “nothing”?

Nobody’s being fooled into thinking that they’re working for anything other than a single company. As long as the translations attract more users, that should keep costs down and attract more revenue. Better for everyone. Maybe the translators can even use Facebook on their resume when applying for other translation work?

Paul (user link) says:

how is this any different from open source?

if someone volunteers for something, i think its an insult to say they’re being exploited. its like saying they’re getting used & abused without knowing it. they know full well what kind of compensation to expect (usually recognition or in some cases just the satisfaction of helping out). i don’t hear anyone complaining about open source developers being exploited.

Errant Garnish (profile) says:

Blown out of proportion

The AP article cited was a relatively neutral exposition about volunteer translators. Only one quote made any point about the foolishness of contributing free labor to benefit a for-profit enterprise — and the point was directed at the volunteers, not Facebook.

This post is a little hyperbolic, methinks. Oh wait, am I getting compensated for this post??

Signing off…

Eric the Grey says:

Same concept, different year...

This is the exact same thing that happened to volunteer online guides in the major popular online games. A bunch of Everquest guides decided that ‘volunteer’ meant they should be paid, and tried to sue for back wages. All the other games who had similar programs terminated them pretty much right away.

Greedy people spoil it for everyone else. Those who want to improve things on their own end up being pushed out by them.


Nadari says:

Self-Centered Volunterism

Certainly Facebook could afford to pay for translators, and wouldn’t it have been a wonderful move by the company to hire the help of some of their global users in some big campaign. But facebook didn’t become a multi-million dollar company by overlooking opportunity. It is a site that is valuable because it is a massive marketing database of consumers.

Many (Most) of those consumers are young, idealistic and narcissistic. For them ‘volunteering’ doesn’t mean helping others in need. It means marketing themselves – not giving to help someone else.

So of course ‘volunteering’ for multi-million dollar company is attractive to them. Why volunteer to help the poor? They want to be associated with wealth, power, popularity — they want to be cool, and along with adding it to their resume, adding it to their self-marketing talk among their peers, they hope (expect) to get some benefit from it, maybe some special badge on their facebook page? Maybe some ‘bonus’ that can distinguish them from others in the world of “t-shirt message social consciousness, my webpage shows I am global, I bought the latest tech toy I am valuable, look at this item I bought that shows I care about this issue because the corporation marketing it had a starving african child in its advertisement and will give .000001% of their millions in profit to buy rice for poor kids in foreign lands where they can’t afford ipods”

It is a value that spans the world for my ‘hip’ peers who want to get involved the same way they all want to wear the same popular brand of blue-jeans, do their hair the same way their favorite actress does, and post a video of themselves on youtube in hopes of becoming a star.

A few months ago, I read a very interesting article, “Getting Rich off Those Who Work for Free”

“one of the most interesting questions in business has become how much work people will do for free.”

‘Clever entrepreneurs and even established companies can profit from this volunteerism–but only if they don’t get too greedy. The key, Benkler says, is “managing the marriage of money and nonmoney without making nonmoney feel like a sucker.” ‘

“Cable TV news channels are pageants of volunteerism, with much airtime filled by unpaid guests. The majority of these people aren’t motivated by Kropotkin’s spirit of mutual aid–they seek fame, an audience for their ideas, higher fees on the speaking circuit. But for those minutes on air, they are working for free.”,9171,1590440-1,00.html

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