At LOTE3 [Sam Muirhead] shot a 9 minute video interview with [Ben] getting everybody on the same page on the unMonastery. This is in itself a major contribution to the project; and its value was further enhanced by the community rising up to provide subtitles for the video in several languages. We used a web platform called Amara, sort of a highly specialized wiki that only does translations for subtitles of videos, and does them really well. Wikis work so well because they “packetize” the effort needed to complete a project: you don’t need to have the bigger picture, as long as you can perform the task at hand you know you are helping out. But, as I raise my gaze from the act of translating I cannot help wondering: this is something really valuable. Over maybe three weeks, we had complete subtitles in nine languages, with two more under way. Could we do this again? Could we make it into a sort of service? Did a “translation team” somehow emerge from the act of translating?
My tentative answer is a qualified yes. “Qualified” because it does not feel like a team. The dozen or so people that worked on this did not really talk with each other; in many case they don’t even know each other. They interact by editing each other’s subtitles (when they translate into the same language) and by adding value to each other’s work (when they translate into different languages). But functionally speaking this does, indeed, work like a team. It can do so because it encodes the knowledge necessary to initiate the process and govern the tools (this is mostly in [Lucas G]'s head) and because somebody has the traction and centrality in the community to put the word out and reach people with very diverse linguistic skills (this was mainly down to [Noemi] and the official ER social media accounts). Does it make sense to make it somehow official? We could have a way to sign up for the translation team. The team would be dormant – simply a group on the platform that contains names of people who are up for doing some translation. As translation tasks come through, translators are informed, so they can take up as many (or as few) lines of text as they want. Some of these tasks would likely be paid, others – like Sam’s video – would be labor of love, to be compensated through kudos and hopefully some small acts of kindness at some point.
But then, why stop at translation? An organization by teams of self-selected people agrees with Edgeryders, and with Internet collaboration a large. In a sense, it is the perfect complement of the notion of project that Edgeryders is built upon: a project is a collection of people with complementary skills organized around a goal; a team is a collection of people with similar skills organized around a class of tasks. In the kind of work Edgeryders plans to do, it might make sense to have a foresight team (people interested in futurism), an engagement team (Internet socialites who can drive signup and content resharing), an event team (people that know ho to pull off a Living On The Edge event) and so on. As people in the community lay their hands on paid and meaningful work, which is our main common goal here, each of us is just a few clicks away from mobilizing whole teams with great skills. This means each of us can perform as a whole company, and therefore compete with companies – and that is, indeed, the main Edgeryders vision.
The main roadblock is, as often with open networks, that it is hard to come up with an a priori way to incentivize and compensate participants. We have always insisted on explicit social contracts: “if you do X, you can reasonably expect Y to happen”. This is hard here because compensation depends on a number of independently made decisions. If people manage to bring in paid and meaningful work teams are great: less entrepreneurial (but skilled) Edgeryders can augment the ability of the more entrepreneurial ones to deliver; and viceversa, the entrepreneurial folks can specialize in channeling paid work towards the skilled translators (or whatever). But this outcome depends on the balance between the two groups of people: if you end up with a lot of hired guns serving very few entrepreneurial breadwinners, the arrangement risks being exploitative for the former.
I have no elegant solution save the usual one of tight expectation management and slow, organic growth. If we were to create one or more teams, I would recommend “Join a team just to see where it goes. If you are not comfortable with the arrangement, don’t join. If you do join, you need to give people the space to experiment with creating a piece of our open cnsulting ecosystem, and the permission to fail.”
What does everyone think? For reference, the translation team as of today would look like this:
- workflow organization: [LucasG]
- helpline and animation: [Noemi]
- English: [Lucas G], [Alberto]
- Estonian: [henri37]
- French: [Alberto], [Marc]
- German: Lorenzo (not on Edgeryders), [Matthias]
- Greek: [Sotiris]
- Italian: [Alberto], [Bergamo-Hub],
- Polish: [Justyna Krol]
- Portuguese: [pacheca]
- Romanian: [Noemi]
- Russian: [Elena Karlsen]
- Spanish: [Lucas G]