Want Your Video to Go Global? The Power of Community Translation [Transcript]
LILY BOND: Welcome, everyone and thank you for joining this webinar entitled, “Want Your Video to Go Global? The Power of Community Translation.” I’m Lily Bond, from 3Play Media, and I’ll be moderating today. And I’m joined by Darren Bridenbeck, the Community Development Manager at Amara. This presentation should take about 30 minutes, and we’ll leave 10 to 15 minutes at the end for questions.
Before I hand it off to Darren, I wanted to give you a brief overview of how 3Play Media integrates with Amara. 3Play Media is a closed captioning and transcription company and Amara is a DIY community translation company. We integrate with Amara so that once you have captions for your videos you can send your file directly to Amara, where there’s an open community of volunteers working on video translation. When the transitions are complete, they’ll be imported back into your 3Play Media account, where you’ll have access to all of our account System Tools. And with that, I’ll hand it over to Darren, who has a great presentation prepared for you.
DARREN BRIDENBECK: Awesome. Hey everyone, this is Darren Bridenbeck with Amara, and it looks like I’ve got the ability to share my screen. Cool. Awesome. Thanks, Lily. All right, well, let’s get started.
[AUDIO OUT] to talk a little bit about community subtitling with everyone here, and like Lily mentioned, I’m the Community Development Manager over at Amara, so I really help focus on getting new organizations set up at Amara, figuring out a good workflow that’s going to fit their goals and their needs as an organization. And then also just having in-depth discussions with those organizations about how do you want to foster your community, how do you want to grow a community, and help them subtitle your videos into a bunch of languages to reach a global audience.
So that’s a lot of what we’ll talk about today. I kind of go through a few different organizations and how they’ve done this, to give you a sense of the spectrum of some possibilities of how this can be done, as well as talk through a little bit about if you wanted to get started and do something like this, kind of where to get started, and some best practices.
So once again, just to kind of put things into perspective here, as far as how Amara fits in– if you have heard of Amara before, we are a platform that allows collaborative subtitling to happen. And most of this presentation is going to kind of cover it from a volunteer perspective, although our platform has been used for internal private groups or groups of contractors that wish ti use our tool set to create subtitles.
Like Lily mentioned, another tie-in here is that we’ve got this really cool integration here that happened with 3Play a little while ago, that makes it super easy to import videos from 3Play into the Amara platform so you can start using that in our system, engaging volunteers to subtitle them, and into new translated languages, and a bunch of other cool stuff like that. And last but not least, you might have heard of us just because we are working with some other larger organizations. TED Talks is one. Scientific American, as well as Vimeo, all kind of use our platform in different ways to engage their users, their viewers, to create a bunch of subtitles for their videos.
So once again, just before I dig into the community subtitling side of things, I just want to show everyone a quick view of what the editor looks like so that you get a sense of how this is all done. That way when I’m [? talking ?] through the actual community side of things, you have something to attach it to. So this is a screenshot of the Amara editor, and it’s kind of in the translation mode here.
What you can see is the in the top right, here, we’ve got just really a few simple steps that users need to do to create a subtitle using the Amara editor. This is the actual tool set that volunteers or contractors might use to create subtitles here. And there’s really a few simple steps. Typing the translation. Syncing it and making sure it looks all correct. The third step is to translate the metadata, like the title of video. Then last but not least, we have a fourth step, which is review and complete. We always encourage folks to give it one last look before you submit your work. It’s kind of that carpenter’s saying, “Measure twice, cut once.” In my case, it’s kind of like, “Measure five times and cut three.” But the hope is that folks look over their content and make sure it looks good before submitting it.
One kind of the important things to note here on the editor is that, note on the left hand side here, there’s an English caption kind of stored. And in the middle section, that’s where your actual translation would go. This comes in super handy when we start talking about best practices. So just kind of keep that in your ear for when we come back to this.
I also want to mention that if you go to Amara.org, you can play around with our subtitle editor for free. We do have an open platform where you can add a video and play around with it, just as you want. So this is something that you can definitely see immediately if you’re interested in trying it out for yourself.
Now that we’ve got that out of the way, let’s talk a little bit about some community subtitling action and kind of sink our teeth in here a little bit about how this works. There’s definitely lots of best practices. There’s lots of things to avoid and be wary of. But what I think would be most valuable here is instead of going through a bunch of checklists and kind of looking at these Do’s and Don’ts, just look at a few organizations that have done this really well. And kind of the two that I’m going to show here are like each side of the spectrum of different ways that you can set this kind of system up.
Now once again, I want to mention I’m from Amara. I definitely have way more experience doing this with Amara’s platform itself, but I still think that some of these principles could apply regardless on if you’re using Amara as your actual workflow or your tool, or if you’re using some other kind of system, whatever that might be. So let’s take a look.
First off, I wanted to show Scientific American. So they’re definitely a newer organization when it comes to community subtitling. They started back in 2014, and they’ve really approach this with a pretty organic and very flexible kind of low overhead management solution. I’ll talk about how their workflow works specifically, but just to put this in perspective, they started, once again, back in 2014, essentially opened up this opportunity, said “Hey, we have a system. We have a place where you can come translate our videos. Come help.” They put it up on social media and got a few hundred volunteers jumping in that were just fans of Scientific American’s content that wanted to help.
One kind of cool success story of this launch with Scientific American is that they had this one translator from Hungary– maybe he’s not from Hungary, but he speaks Hungarian– and he translated like 15, maybe 20 of their videos into Hungarian. Well, somehow, some way, one of those videos– which is called “What Happens to Your Body When You Die?” It’s a kind of cute little animated cartoon, kind of in that style of that Dumb Ways to Die viral video that happened in Australia– I’m not sure if anyone has seen that, but it’s kind of in that same cutesy little style. But definitely scientific, definitely interesting to watch.
This Hungarian translator got this into Hungarian, and it made its way onto a bunch of different blogs in Hungarian-speaking countries. Within one month, that one video had gone from below 50,000 views to 1.5 million views, most of which originating in Hungarian locations. One kind of cool fact is that out of the whole globe, there’s about 10 million Hungarian speakers. So in some sense, you could say that a tenth of all the world’s Hungarian speakers have seen this video, thanks to one passionate translator for Scientific American who came in and translated it.
This is hopefully just to give the breadth of the fact is that Scientific American really just created this opportunity for their fans to come in and interact with their content in this new way and create subtitles. And because of that, they got this really unexpected, awesome boost in viewership. So I want to sink our teeth into how this actually works, and go beyond just the success that Scientific American has had. So I’ll actually– sorry, one more slide here that I wanted to show, which is just kind of going back to that organic sense of things.
Scientific American gets about 30 or 40 new volunteers each month that are joining and just getting excited about this opportunity and continue to contribute. So it’s really something that just kind of slow cooks for Scientific American, without having to put a ton of emphasis on this project from a managerial perspective. Once again, the concept here is just providing the opportunity for someone to engage in their content like this can have really just awesome benefits without a lot of extra emphasis from your organization side.
Now how do they do it? I was getting ahead of myself there for a second. So the way that this kind of comes back to the idea that once again, this is how it’s been done at Amara, but these same principles could apply for other organizations that are interested in this kind of effort. So starting on the left here, anyone can join Scientific American’s community. There’s no barrier. There is no kind of thing keeping someone from getting involved. If someone finds this community and sees that Scientific American has this opportunity, anyone can join.
Additionally, anyone who joins can just start subtitling right away. And the kind of beauty with Scientific American’s approach is that they let anyone contribute for as much or as little as they have time for. So if you only have, let’s say, you’re on a lunch break from work and you’ve only got five minutes to work on your German translation of a Scientific American video , and you hop out after five minutes, as soon as you’re done somebody else could come along and progress that translation to kind of continue off where you left it.
Additionally, let’s say that second person completes that German translation. A third translator can come in and iterate off of that. So let’s say this is other new person notices, oh, Darren and Joe Schmo didn’t get that German noun correct. They can come in there and edit it, and it re-updates for Scientific American. This is the kind of flexible approach that Scientific American’s really benefited from. It allows volunteers to come in, get started quick, see the fruits of their labor, get published immediately, and kind of get that translation high. Kind of like what you saw with that Hungarian translator who came in, did 20 of their videos, and one of them happened to get kind of picked up and go viral. This flexible model allows that kind of excited, motivated volunteer to come in and contribute a lot of work.
So I think that kind of covers Scientific American’s workflow. I guess the important things to take away from here is that they let anyone come in and help out, and they let anyone come in and contribute with each other.
Oh, I guess there’s one last thing I wanted to mention on this right hand slide here. You can see these kind of little hop-scotches as one volunteer translates, the next one translates, and someone reviews. As that happens, actually, on Amara’s platform, folks are getting notifications and email saying, hey, there’s a new version. Darren just edited your subtitles, and go check out what they did. And here you can send them a message.
This is something that Amara just does on its platform. And this kind of collaboration, this kind of notification system, regardless of what system you use, I think is the key ingredient to what makes a flexible workflow like this really shine and be something that’s vibrant and keeps people in touch with each other. So definitely, as you’re thinking this through, if you’re thinking about your own organization, keeping people in touch as they’re collaborating is just a really important thing when it comes to building a community.
All right, so think of this as kind of one side of the spectrum here. A super flexible system. A super open system. And I want to look over at another organization, which is TED Talks. They are definitely a flagship organization when it comes to community subtitling. They’re definitely a little more experienced in this for a little bit longer than Scientific American. They started back in 2010, and they invited their fans and viewers who come in and start subtitling. They did kind of an open call, similar to how Scientific American started off. But the way they did this was pretty organic. And they just started kind of building people, building excitement, once again kind of similar to how Scientific American kind of started.
Since then, they’ve really matured and got more sophistication our of their workflow to kind of create the kind of culture and the kind of community that TED has identified they want to have. With TED, their mission is to share ideas, share great ideas. It’s really foundational to that mission for them to be able to get their ideas beyond just English-speaking cultures. And so they needed some kind of solution to either dub their videos or subtitle them and get them accessible to other folks in the glove. Subtitling was an approach they were looking for.
And in the last five years, they’ve got more than 40,000 volunteers around the world engaged, and they’re now translating not only just the normal TED talks, they also have these events called– not sure if you’re familiar, but TEDx talks, which are like a mini-version of a TED conference where people are independently organizing speakers to come in and give TED-style talks at these events. They happen all over the globe. They’re spoken in tons of different languages beyond just English. So they actually combined that effort, as well, into the project, and because of that now have over 40,000 videos that are a part of the TED community translation project. To see them kind of grow and evolve.
Now as far as where they’ve come from, when they started, and what’s happened because of this effort, it’s been pretty surprising, I think, to watch this kind of unfold. Like I mentioned, this is definitely something that’s just having subtitles, having accessibility across different languages is something that’s just a strategic– want to share ideas, they want to share their talks, and subtitles are a key way to do that.
And I just saw something just pop up on the WebEx, but I think everything’s OK.
So subtitling is just a key thing for TED, key to their strategic put their organization out there in the world. But there’s been some unexpected kind of wins here. First off, a third of their views come from subtitles at this point, which is amazing, when you think of kind of how they’re kind of putting this forward. I don’t think they necessarily had that kind of number in mind when they first started five years ago.
Additionally, they’ve got a bunch of distribution deals because these subtitles exist and because they’re able to kind of get them out there into different organizations. So if you look up– Netflix is a great example, which is just hyped on their Facebook page a while ago. But you can now see TED talks on Netflix in a bunch of different languages, thanks to this kind of an effort. So this is kind of one thing where it’s part of their mission, but it’s also something where they’ve just gotten a lot of readership out of having this as an opportunity. And they’ve also gotten a lot of opportunities on the business side to help sustain TED as an organization, and kind of continually feed their mission through just kind of these distribution deals that feed the organization as a whole, financially.
So as I mentioned before, TED has a pretty vibrant community. They have those TEDx organizers and people kind of already internationally place that are just really charged and excited about TED. They have a really, really vibrant community, one that leads each other, one that engages each other. They actually actively promote these volunteers to become what they call Language Coordinators, which I’ll talk about in a second. But these Language Coordinators are people that really help guide new volunteers. They help manage their language. They help motivate each other and do a lot of reviews and quality checks.
They just– kind of because of the way they’ve supported their community, they’ve grown and grown and grown. And even though they started off in a very organic place, kind of similarly to Scientific American, because of the way that they chose to facilitate their community and kind of nurture that community, it’s allowed them to grow into the kind of community they want to have that can support itself and scale itself just through the kind of sheer excitement over TED.
So let’s take a look at how TED does this. Once again, similarly looking at this with Scientific American, let’s kind take it from the top here. So instead of Scientific American, where anyone can just join, TED has an application process where volunteers need to apply for the team and get accepted by an administrator before they can come in and start subtitling. Once they’re accepted to the team, they can go in and look for available work. It’s not this kind of flexible, iterative process like Scientific American uses– although TED used to do something similar to that– now they have a process where their volunteers have deadlines and only one person can really work on a specific language for a specific video at a time. So there’s not really this concept of oh, I’ll do it for five minutes on my lunch break, and then I’ll log off and maybe I’ll never see that video again, or never pick it back up. They really have this intentional kind of push here, where it’s like, hey, if you start subtitling, you’re expected to finish it by the deadline.
Additionally, and kind of most interesting here, I think, is on the right-hand side, where you can see there’s a three-step process. Anyone can create a translation. Anyone on the team can peer review it. But only managers on their team can do that final approval. Now, once again, I don’t want to be overbearing here, but this is an Amara workflow. TED does use Amara, so this peer review and manager review is something that’s facilitated through our platform. But I’ve definitely seen ways that other organizations have done this in kind of more DIY ways. Spreadsheets and things like that. But they really kind of focus on this three-step process before subtitles get finished. And that’s really how TED organizes their workflow.
Now to kind of peel the layer back a little bit, I mean, why? Like I mentioned, this is a huge part of TED’s strategy as an organization, and the tighter you can define and understand what makes subtitling important and what makes having a community help subtitle important, the better you can envision your workflow, envision the process you want your community and your volunteers to go through, so that it helps create the community you want to have. So kind of looking at this step by step, with TED, they have to have their volunteers fill out an application. When a volunteer gets accepted, that’s an exciting moment for a volunteer to be able to say, oh my gosh, I got accepted. I’m part of the TED translation project.
Additionally, with kind of locking these subtitles into individual– only one user can kind of start and finish a translation. And they have that sense of a deadline. There’s this kind of sense of urgency. There’s also a really deep sense of ownership that volunteers have over their translations. Since it’s really just one user that’s doing this, it’s really exciting to feel like you own that translation. You’ve got it from start to finish, and you’ve submitted it, and once it goes through the review process, you’ll be able to see your work actually up on TED.com.
And then last but not least, they have this peer review and manager approval system. That provides not only another chance for their subtitles to become a little bit more higher quality before they get published, but it also gives their community another kind of deeper layer of interaction, where they can collaborate with each other, get to know each other, and additionally, continue to contribute in the language that they can speak in.
It’s actually kind of interesting. Some languages are so highly covered by TED– like French, for example– it’s sometimes hard to find available work to translate in French on TED’s community. We’ve actually even gotten support tickets about that, saying, hey, I’m a French translator but I don’t see anything I can do. And that’s because everything’s taken up. So that having peer review like this allows another level of engagement with volunteers that they can have with TED’s content, and they can contribute to TED in another new way.
Cool. Well, let’s take this one step further, because TED had a great system. It’s a very intentional system. It helps build the community they want to have. But there’s a whole other side of this that TED addresses really well, which is how do they sustain that community. How do they grow it? How do they scale it?
Starting here on the left, like I mentioned, there’s a three-step translation review and approve system. The only folks they can do this final approval are people that are called Language Coordinators. Those are essentially super volunteers on TED’s community. They’re people that have been active interacting with others, helping show leadership in the team. They’ve done lots of reviews. They’ve done lots of translations. And TED staff actually hand picks these translators and kind of asks them if they want to become a Language Coordinator for their language. These are the folks that are helping mentor new volunteers. They’re helping do those approvals. And they’re just there as kind of base of leadership within that language community.
Moving on to that middle section here on this slide. They also have done a lot of work to highlight and kind of surface the credits and the kind of the efforts of these volunteers on TED.com itself. So you can actually go to TED.com, there’s a little translation section there, and you can take a look at every single last translator that’s been involved in TED’s projects, and exactly how many talks they’ve translated, how many they’ve reviewed, which languages they’ve done, right in their own profile on TED. They also kind of float up– they have a Top 10 translators that they have featured. Being on that Top 10 list is a huge point of– I don’t know, it’s just kind of something that is really amazing to see for yourself. And I know that it’s something that’s really motivated others, and the TED community just really rallies around those statistics, those contribution numbers, and it’s something that really pushes motivation and gets people excited together.
Additionally, another way that they’ve really sustained this community is they’ve hired dedicated staff to help oversee the project. Now when you look at TED’s community of 40,000 volunteers, TED has a handful of staff doing this –maybe two or three. And it’s really a pretty good ratio for number of people that are focusing on this effort versus the number of volunteers that are engaged in it. And this is just something that we’ve seen time and time again with communities, even ones are very organic, kind of fluid like Scientific American. Having someone who can engage with and interact with the community on a face level from your organization just gets people excited.
I don’t want to use too much of the rock star mentality or kind of an analogy here, but it’s maybe something similar. Although it’s a dramatic analogy. But it’s maybe like meeting a rock star, I guess, from your favorite organization, if you’re following me there. Where if you contribute and you make a translation for an organization, and someone from that organization reaches out and says, “Hey, thank you so much. Nice job. We’d love to see more translations from you. This is amazing.” That’s a huge boost of motivation. That’s an amazing experience that a fan of your content might not be able to get any other way, unless they are contributing subtitles to your project.
Additionally, you can kind of see in this little infographic here, having a community manager to kind of look at a big picture, take a look at how the community is doing as a whole, and kind of give these kind of larger strategic updates and direction– super valuable for a community to have.
So there’s a bunch of other organizations that are building communities with Amara. What I was hoping to show you was two different kind of organizations that are doing this from very different sides of the spectrum. Scientific American, who’s really on that flexible, open, iterative kind of approach, where anyone can join and get involved– as kind of almost like Wikipedia style, I guess, it’s something that gets compared to often. And then on the other side of the spectrum there’s TED, that has a very sophisticated, slightly more complex workflow, that requires a lot more attention, but really fosters a specific type of community to grow and flourish.
There’s lots of places in between here. Lots of different ways to do this, beyond just those two there. But hopefully that kind of gives you the two boundaries to kind of think of. And like I mentioned before, there’s other ways of doing community subtitling projects. Amara’s mission is to make this as easy as possible and to really make it easy for people to subtitle videos that we can see every video get subtitled. But we’ve seen organizations use things like spreadsheets to translate or offline tools in combination with some Word documents. There’s lots of other ways that you can do this and get a really DIY workflow going. But hopefully, just showing you how Amara can do this is a helpful way to think about some basic principles to put into perspective, regardless of what tool of choice you use.
Now I want to kind of shift focus a little bit. Instead of looking at some organizations and how they do it, I want to kind of look at, let’s say, your organization that’s really into this idea. You want to start doing some community subtitling, and you’re not sure where to start. So let’s take a look at just some basics here. By far, the two most important things to consider is, do people care about your content? And do you care about sharing your videos in a global way through subtitles? If so, you’ve got the foundation for a very strong subtitling community.
I want to go back to that first point here, which is, are viewers passionate about your content? Passion comes in many, many forms. I think one that people look at a lot is a view count for videos. So how many views your videos have, how many subscribers does your YouTube channel have, things like that. So this is a great number, sure. It’s going to give you a pretty good idea if people are passionate about your content.
But there’s also organizations that we’ve seen do this that have view counts in the hundreds. View counts in the thousands. And they start a community subtitling project and they are shocked to see their videos getting translated into a half dozen different languages. And this goes to show that it’s not necessarily the number of people that you have immediately that are viewing the video that determine the number of languages you can get that video translated in, and then expand your reach through that motivation and excitement that your volunteers have with your content. I think I don’t want to hit this reference too many times, but Scientific American is a great example of this. Their view count was pretty good, and it went from being pretty good to outstanding, with just the help of one volunteer.
So once again, you’ve got people that you think are excited about your videos. And if you’ve got the motivation to share those with the world, you are in a good position. I guess I want to dwell on one more thing here before I move on, which is the second question, which is, do you want to engage them in a powerful and innovative way? Like TED, knowing how subtitling and community subtitling fits into your organization strategy, fits into your organization’s identity, the more that you can have a clear vision of that and what that means for your organization, the better it’s going to drive the success of your effort. And if it’s something that’s tightly closely to what’s important to your organization, I think it really goes hand in hand with your success.
All right now, let’s get down to kind of brass tacks here and how does this actually work. Well, here’s just three best practices on getting started. First and foremost, English captions are a huge boost to any subtitling community, for two main reasons. One, it opens up the bottleneck. So you have translators looking at a video, saying, well I could do this in Spanish, and another one saying I could do this in French, and German, and so on, but they’re kind of stuck waiting for an English caption to be there to make their work a little bit easier. If you have English, it makes it really, really simple for a German translator to say, cool, I’ve got a German transcript to work off of. And bam! They can get started. French, same thing. Bam! They can get started. It really helps people get going quickly with those English captions.
Another thing is that having those captions gives you not only the text, but the time code. So it can save your translators tons of time by even copying and pasting using the same time code as that English caption. Depending on the language and how it expands or contracts, it can save your translators in 95% of their time that they would have spent syncing, not having to worry about that. Now this is kind of what I mentioned back when we looked at the Amara editor, up a few slides over– I’ll skip up there really quick.
Remember how there’s an English caption here on the left, and Spanish being translated in the middle on the Amara editor. This is hopefully to illustrate the importance of this. Amara actually has a way that you can use those by default, and automatically import those into your translation so that you’re using that just kind of from the beginning. But that’s kind of hopefully to illustrate the importance of having an English caption. It’s going to speed up your translator’s work, and it’s going to allow you to get multiple translators involved simultaneously.
Back to the slide at hand. And I also wanted to mention, once again, a great way to do this, starting with English captions is, of course, you can create them yourselves. But we also have that really awesome 3Play integration where you can launch a video off from 3Play if you’re already using them as a service, and get them into Amara, and away you go. You can start using our editor and the subtitles are imported and used as a reference for your translators.
The next step here is when you’re starting a new community, you want to make sure you have the most exciting stuff there to engage them with. So find your most exciting and interesting videos. Maybe start with the ones that have actually the highest play count, because you know those are more of your sure winners. And launch with that. Definitely don’t launch with too many, though. Typically, somewhere between 20 and 50 videos is plenty. If you’ve got a really long back catalog of videos, don’t throw the whole book at them. It can sometimes lower motivation, as a volunteer, seeing this huge pile of videos that feels like, oh my gosh, I’m never going to translate all of these into Hungarian, or into Spanish, or whatever language. So start with just a few that are really engaging.
And then make sure you promote this. There’s definitely some more standard approaches with a newsletter, social media, things like that. But an in-video mention is a huge way for you to engage your viewers directly while they’re watching your content. So having a little announcement about your community is a great way to get people adopted into your subtitling effort. And additionally, once you want to start– once you have some results from that promotion effort, and once you have kind of opened up your campaign, it’s really important to kind of get that information back out into the ether and do your social media and your newsletters and let people know what’s happened from that launch. To let people know, one, hey, this is actually real. And then two, so that people can actually start to benefit from having this crowd subtitles, and start actually watching your videos with subtitles that have been created.
So once again, kind of a two-part promotion. One, get the word out that you have a community subtitling project. And two, share the results of that launch so people can actually start using those subtitles. And hopefully you can even adopt more subtitlers who go, oh my gosh, I saw this get announced. I didn’t know if it was a real thing, but obviously they’ve now got a bunch of translations, and I want to join too.
The next side of things is sustaining a community. So like TED, they started organically. They got a lot of folks involved. And then they started to make a pivot and use things like an application process and a quality control process, and they were promoting volunteers to be language coordinators. It’s important to have a vision that links to your strategy as an organization, to kind of move this into a sustainable place.
Some main things here to think about is recognizing your volunteers in a meaningful way. It’s definitely important to make sure that recognition matches your community. So you definitely want to be listening to your community as you launch your campaign. Try to understand what makes them tick. Interact with them a lot, and get to know who is a part of this effort for your organization. That way, when you start recognizing them, it’s something that matches and you have a pretty good feeling that it’s going to make them feel good about their contribution and hide their effort.
Something to be wary of is giveaways. Things that have some kind of monetary kind of incentive to them. Because you really want to make sure you’ve got your recognition matched with the reason you’re volunteers coming in. One thing that we’ve seen at Amara is that volunteers come in because of intrinsic motivation to help your organization share their content. Someone watches your video, they think it’s awesome, and they want to show their uncle or their aunt, or their friend who speaks another language besides English, and wants to share with them. That’s a huge motivation for a lot of volunteers. And if you give them a $5 gift card, sometimes that doesn’t feel as genuine or exciting for someone because it feels a little transactional. So definitely making sure that you recognize your volunteers in a way that fits the reason they’re there is really important.
Next step, appoint a community manager from your organization. This does not need to be a dedicated staff position, especially as you’re growing and starting a new community, but just someone who can look in an hour or two week, see what’s going on, and interact with this community and get to know them a little bit. And let them know that you’re there to support them is a great way to make sure you’re fostering a community. You’re listening to what they want and need. And you’re able to kind of move forward in a informed decision as you kind of think about how to scale. Which is next up.
You’ve got to think about how you want to move forward with promoting your effort and supporting the folks that are getting involved. TED, once again, does a great job with this. They’ve integrated this in so many different places in their website, and their culture as an organization. But they’ve also worked with their community who have very specific kind of thoughts about how subtitling should be done and translation should be made. They worked other volunteers to develop a bunch of documentation, a bunch of support guides, help videos, really in-depth stuff about subtitling and how they work within their community that’s really specific to them and really resonates with their volunteers. So definitely thinking about how you want to continue to promote and get more volunteers in, as well as how you want to support volunteers once they are in.
Looking at scalability and kind of support, I want to compare two teams, once again. TED, just because, I’m hitting them a lot, but they do such a great job of this, it’s hard to ignore. But I want to compare two organizations and how they’ve approach this QA and scaling, and how they have listened to their community and addressed it.
So Epic Rap Battles of History is one organization that’s done a different way than TED. For those of you that don’t know, Epic Rap Battles of History is a really pretty big YouTube channel, kind of comedy themed of fictitious rap battles between historical characters, and sometimes fictional characters. Their videos span about three minutes long. Their typical viewer is a teenager, boy, male. And they’re super passionate about Epic Rap Battles. At the time they launched, they had eight million subscribers on YouTube. Now they have 12 million subscribers on YouTube.
And the way they started their approach was they had six videos on their Amara team– and by the way, “team” is the term I use for a community space where people can subtitle. They had six videos added in there. They sent out one singular Tweet. I don’t even think it hit 160 characters. It just said help us subtitle our videos, with a link back to this place where they could do it on Amara. Within 24 hours, they had over 200 volunteers and over 20 languages on each of those six videos. By the way, they also use the same workflow as Scientific American. It’s that flexible, open, iterative process where anyone can get involved.
So Epic Rap Battles looked at what was done. They said, this looks really great to me. We really like these 20-something languages that we’re getting on each video. And they were really impressed with that. So what they did next is they kind of got to know their community a little bit, saw who was doing what, interacted with them some. And they said these 20 are languages are great. Let’s shoot for more.
And what they did is they added a bunch more videos. They added about two season’s worth of their videos. They went up to about 20-ish. So from six videos to 20. And they went on to Facebook and Twitter and started doing promoted posts to the demographics that they didn’t hit those first 20-something languages. And they said– it had a little more sophisticated call to action, explaining the project a little bit and encouraging folks to join. What they saw was within 24 hours from that effort– that more kind of focused, promoted, kind of targeted effort– they saw 2,000 volunteers get involved within 24 hours. And they quickly had one of their videos getting translated up to 60 different languages. And they now average, I think, somewhere between 30 and 40 translations per video.
So they were– once again, kind of recap here. They did a launch with a handful of videos. They saw what they got their community and learned from them. They liked what they saw from that. They enjoyed that open, flexible workflow. And what they wanted to prioritize in their organization was kind of more of the same. More of what they got already, but in different languages. So they used those geographically targeted promotion on Facebook and Twitter to get the attention of the markets that they didn’t have represented in their team already.
Now TED– once again, I’ve kind of hit you these once again– but they started off with that really organic workflow, similar to something that maybe Epic Rap Battles or Scientific American started off with. And then as they grew and kind of saw how their community was developing, and seeing some of the challenges their community was having, and kind of how they were interacting with their content, they realized they needed to approach things a little bit differently, through an application process, through this kind of promotion effort to make folks from normal volunteers into Language Coordinators. And then to credit them on TED.com and use this quality control process to kind of provide more opportunities for volunteers.
This also just does– you really need to know your community here and who your viewers are. TED has a very different demographic than Epic Rap Battles of History. Plus their content is longer. They have videos that are about 20 minutes longer, whereas Epic Rap Battles has videos that are three. So these are all kinds of things that you’ve got to take into consideration when you look at how your community is interacting with your content and how you want to grow that community.
So that kind of bring us to the end here. I know we’ve got about 15 minutes left for questions, and if anyone has any ideas or comments, this is definitely an evolving kind of space. This is something where I get surprised, really, pretty frequently with how different organizations want to structure this with them. And there’s really not a whole of wrong ways you can do this. So I’m really excited to hear any questions folks might have. Any ideas people might have, on how to kind of take community subtitling to the next level. We’d love to hear any thoughts on that. And feel free to email email@example.com. That’s the way to get right back to Amara. I think that leaves us about where with what I had to share. And I hope this is really helpful for people.
LILY BOND: Awesome. Thank you so much, Darren. That was really interesting.
DARREN BRIDENBECK: Hey, no problem.
LILY BOND: So we are going to get into Q and A. I want to encourage people to continue to ask questions while we’re starting to go through them. While I compile the first couple of questions, I just wanted to mention that we have several upcoming webinars that you can register for on the link on the screen. Next week we have one on Netflix and the ADA, “How A Landmark Case Changed the Legal Landscape of Closed Captioning.” And I really encourage anyone who’s interested in how the ADA is scoped to impact closed captioning for online video to register for that.
So Darren, I’m going to start out with a question here. Where do these volunteers come from? How do you get them to help with your videos to build a community?
DARREN BRIDENBECK: Awesome. Yeah, that’s a question that comes in a lot. And something that I think the way Amara’s structured, there’s maybe sometimes a lot of questions about that. Because we do have a public platform where people can come in and volunteer, and add their own videos from, let’s say, their own personal YouTube channel, into Amara and start subtitling them. And in that way, we have this big volunteer pool. This big, public kind of community of people almost similar to Wikipedia.
And some organizations come in and say great, you have all these volunteers. We want to have your volunteers help us subtitle our videos. Which by all means, we really try to get the word out about new communities that launch on Amara, but we see pretty much nine times out of ten, the most passionate volunteers are folks that are already fans of an organization’s content and then learn there’s a new opportunity to subtitle their videos and translate them. So although it kind of can come from both Amara’s public community and yours, we see kind of the most die-hard translators come from. They’re already fans you have, that just don’t have the opportunity yet.
LILY BOND: Great. Along those lines, someone is asking if there’s a way to make your own private team of translators.
DARREN BRIDENBECK: Definitely. One thing that Amara teams have is a setting to make a team public or private. And additionally, you can control that team membership through an application or an invitation process. So that comes in really handy if you have private content and you have your own– if your video is through a paywall, or something, where it just shouldn’t be accessible for everyone. You’ve got to hide those videos in a private team at Amara and control the membership to that team, and that invitation or that application process.
LILY BOND: Thank you.
DARREN BRIDENBECK: Yeah.
LILY BOND: Someone else is asking, do you have to pay people to translate, or is there a way to do so?
DARREN BRIDENBECK: So Amara– there’s nothing stopping you from paying your translators and growing your team. At the end of a month, we’ll send you the activity that’s happening on Amara, and you can use that to pay your translators if you wish. Most communities on Amara that are at least public are typically volunteer based, so it’s people that are just fans of your content coming in and helping out. Amara also has another offering, which I didn’t talk at all about here, which is more traditional model. It’s called Amara On Demand, where you can just come through and pay for translation and a video for a language that you want. I hope that answered that question, Lily.
LILY BOND: Yeah, that was a great answer.
DARREN BRIDENBECK: Cool.
LILY BOND: Someone’s asking, what if I don’t have viral content or name recognition, but my videos still have interesting content?
DARREN BRIDENBECK: I think that’s a great opportunity to start thinking about cross-promotion. I think it also comes back to that idea, do you have any kind of viewership, even if it’s small? Are they passionate about your content? Because it only takes a few, and like that Hungarian translator, we actually see this in a lot of communities across the board. There will be a translator who just takes it upon themselves to translate all of your videos into their language, or a bulk of their videos– of your videos– into that language. So if you know that you have viewers that are passionate, it doesn’t take a whole army of translators to translate your videos. Sometimes it only takes one or two.
And additionally, if you feel like maybe you don’t have– you feel like you have the potential to have that global interest, or that kind of passion to subtitle, start thinking about something that’s kind of interesting and applicable. Start finding ways to cross-promote and gather other people’s interests and see if they would be excited about promoting your translation effort with them. If you have a shared mission with another organization or a shared interest with another organization, engage them in maybe helping them spread the word as well. We’ve seen a lot of really cool opportunities with that, where, let’s say, there’s some kind of celebrity or star that’s featured in a video. But the video itself doesn’t have a whole lot of views. Kind of nudging that more famous person to tweet it out on their networks can really help you get more eyes on it and get more subtitles.
LILY BOND: That’s a great idea. And there’s another question here. How do you work with a video that you don’t own?
DARREN BRIDENBECK: Oh yes, this is a common question, especially for educational platforms. So Amara, I think even 3Play have something where it’s an embedder that will wrap around a YouTube video you don’t own. So if you have something that was created in Amara, you can actually use an embedder that Amara has, or used 3Play’s embedder, which will wrap those subtitles around it. This is getting a little bit a techie, and I hope this doesn’t lose people, but with Amara’s service itself, you don’t need to host videos on Amara. You just need to have a stream-able video that you can reference. So if the video is public on YouTube, you can use it on Amara. You can subtitle it in Amara. And then you can use our embedder or 3Play’s embedder to put those subtitles on top of it, even though the subtitles aren’t uploaded to that YouTube user’s channel.
LILY BOND: Great, thank you.
DARREN BRIDENBECK: And of course there’s always the old fashioned way of contacting the YouTube user and telling them, hey, I’ve got a German translation for your video. Do you want to put it on?
LILY BOND: Yep, there is always that. I think we have time for one more question here. Someone is asking, how many languages can you translate into?
DARREN BRIDENBECK: Amara supports somewhere beyond 250. And what we see a lot of limits is actually 250 including Klingon, which is actually a recognized language. One of the limits that you’ll see is with some videos hosts. They won’t support the same languages that Amara does. They don’t have the same kind of breadth of support that Amara has.
So for Klingon, it’s a great example. I don’t think you can find that on YouTube or many other video hosts. And being that most– although Amara does have an embedder that can wrap those subtitles on top, most organizations don’t use Amara’s embedder as a final viewing destination for your viewers. They more use Amara and our embedder for like a workspace. So making sure that your video host has support for those languages is really important. And a lot of them actually have ways that you could make customized languages if they don’t support that.
LILY BOND: Great. Thank you so much. I think that’s about all we have time for, but Darren, thank you so much for a really interesting presentation. We really enjoyed having you here.
DARREN BRIDENBECK: Thank you so much. It’s been a really fun time for me, and I hope that everyone who has joined has gotten something out of it.
LILY BOND: Awesome. Well, yeah, thank you everyone who joined. We will send out an email shortly with a link to view the recording and the slide deck, and I hope everyone has a great rest of the day.