Crowdsourcing, outsourcing, community outsourcing…finally explained
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Crowdsourcing, outsourcing, community outsourcing…finally explained

Crowdsourcing, outsourcing, community outsourcing…finally explained

CommunityThese are buzzwords within the localization industry; well, truly, within the entire business world. Arguably, businesses in every industry could (and maybe should) consider these production models.

Here are a few definitions and thoughts on these delivery models based on Moravia’s experience.

First, outsourcing is simply any work a corporation does not want to do (manage, hire for) internally. It is the umbrella term for all the models I will talk about in this blog. A corporation will define the work, maybe even mandate how it will be done, but it will be completed by a vendor. Anyone who sends Moravia work is outsourcing that work. You will also see terms like these:

  • onshoring (outsourcing the work to companies and resources in the same location as the business), or

  • off-shoring (sending the work out-of-country, usually to a lower-cost country), or

  • near-shoring (a production location nearer the business, but not local), and even

  • ‘right-shoring’ (choosing the business model that is most logical and effective).  

Crowdsourcing, a subset of outsourcing, has been called a ‘digital production line’. The crowd workforce is spread all over the globe (networked in the cloud), and many companies who do this work boast huge workforces on the payroll – 100,000 resources or more waiting ‘on the bench’ for work to come in.

It involves dividing work into discrete, repeatable tasks, completing those tasks, and then assembling the result of those tasks back into the whole. The tasks can either be unspecialized (production level) or specialized (requiring training, experience, professional certification).

Crowdsourcing is highly scalable; the workforce is available instantly and you get as many or as few resources as you need.

The types of things that can be crowdsourced include data entry, data collection / research, testing of software or websites, SEO keyword testing, sentiment analysis, review of user comments (in forums), answering technical questions, programming and coding. Translation can, potentially, be crowdsourced.

One of the main characteristics of any crowdsourcing job is that the contributors are typically paid.

OutsourcingCommunity-based outsourcing uses a huge group of resources as well, but has some significant differences.  Waze (a mobile app that involves a community that posts traffic and route information) and Wikipedia are two excellent examples of a community completing an effort. Twitter also used a community model to complete translation. Their intro paragraph, here, is an interesting description of their crowdsourcing model and effort.

In the community-based production model, businesses get tasks done by inspiring a community of interested people to do that work. It works if there is already a community in place, and if they are motivated by a free product, kudos, or the ability to gain experience that will benefit their careers.

The most important distinction between crowdsourcing and community work is that community work does not pay the contributors (in terms of coins and bills).

I would argue that some things can’t (yet?) be broken down into distinct tasks/parts, and therefore cannot be handled by crowdsourcing or community outsourcing (feel free to argue with me in the comments section). These would be jobs that require an on-site, highly specialized resource-based solution. Some that come to mind include helpdesk functions, marketing writing and transcreation, language quality initiatives. Really, I would rule out any scope of work with the words ‘initiative’, ‘program’ or ‘process’ attached to it. These jobs would be handled by another model called Managed Services. So….

Managed services can be defined as a service that is outsourced, rather than a task. Managed Services involve and include staffing just like the above crowd models, but also ‘go deeper’ to provide process management and creating flexible solutions when business needs change.

It is more ‘black-box’, where the client may hand off many different processes (HR, technology, solution-building) to an outsourcing vendor in order to meet a specific, defined goal. The client does not necessarily mandate HOW the goals are achieved. It is delivering a solution that involves the outsourcing of a team that is performing a mid-level value-add function where a custom-engagement is called for.

Managed Services usually involve work that cannot be broken down into a task-based model. Also, there may be multiple services involved, whereas a crowdsourcing project typically includes one task or similar tasks. This work does not engage a huge crowd as a general rule. Rather it engages a smaller number of highly qualified resources who complete a process, with some discretion about how to get that done.

Managed Services work would handle content development programs, content quality programs, social media programs including community moderation, departmental functions (such as a service providing all localization management and production work). Managed services could also include things like HR management of staff, placement of employees on-site, workflow development and process automation. (I am not saying that some of these would not be part of the crowdsourcing model). There are many other examples, any of which you can put below in the notes section.

My table below clarifies it for me (probably because I wrote it):


Managed Services 

Project level

Program level

Task based; can be done using a checklist

Process based

Huge number of resources, all doing the same thing

Many different roles / jobs; perhaps fewer people

Replicable work

Work task and product varies from day to day

Quick turnaround 

Longer-term work

Labor intensive (think data entry)

Brain intensive; daily creativity

Unspecialized skill (not to say easy tasks, but tasks that most resources can do)

Certified, specialized, experienced skills

High fluctuation between no work, and a great deal of work; varies monthly even weekly.

Fluctuation would be less, but work can flex to meet peaks and valleys. Some staff would always remain working. More stable, constant work.

There is some work that falls squarely between these two models, no doubt.

If you disagree with me on what crowds can handle, feel free to post comments below. We are all friends here and the dialogue will be useful. Or at least lively.