Crowdsourcing the language bubble breakout

When searching in English you are reaching only English content on the web. But we could crowdsource search in other languages to native speakers. Where is crowdsearching when you need it?

Much have already been said about a filter bubble. Search engines like Google and other information feeds like Facebook personalize results to you so that you find easier information which is relevant to you. This is both good and bad. Good is because often it works very well and you faster find information you are searching for. Bad is, arguably, because it is locking you in the bubble of information you already know or is close to what you already know. Your opinions and worldviews are thus reinforced as more and more information you are exposed to aligns with existing opinions and worldviews.

Personally, I don’t worry so much about this. I know how to increase search results per page on Google so that I get 100 results displayed and can very fast skim over all of them without the need to click through pages. I get information from many different sources and especially by following links more than just one level deep. So even if you get initially personalized link, further links are not personalized anymore, or at least not personalized in the same way. Have you ever opened one Wikipedia page to end up having dozens of tabs open? Lastly, many service providers are well aware of this and there are many ways they can help – like adding some random or not personalized results to your results set, or even known opposites for you.

At the end it all sums to your personal approach of dealing with conflicting information (and ensuing cognitive dissonance). Do you embrace it, try to understand it and include it into your understanding of the world, or do you just ignore it, or even ignore the signs of it? It was very similar in the past. If you felt that there might be something more to the information at hand, you could just ignore this feeling or you could go to libraries and try to find books which would tell you more, confirming or opposing the information you already have. But it was still your decision how deep you wanted to search.

I am much more worried about the language bubble. We search for information only with keywords in languages we know and we get results mostly in those languages as well. Even if we search in English, we are still reaching only a bit more than 50% of the content on the Internet. So half of the content is out of the reach. Half of human ideas, concepts, solutions, stories, knowledge.

This is not something new. For centuries knowledge was passing from country to country, from civilization to civilization by translations done by scholars. But that took ages. Literally.

What I am missing now is a web portal where people could ask other people to help them find information in other languages. Do you want to find what are current best open government practices in South America? What open source projects are people in China developing? What open source tools are farmers in Africa using to collaborate, if any? It is not really enough just to translate those keywords. Even when searching in English it is often not really enough just to type some keywords to search on, but you have to see what results you are getting, skim them, iterate few times, repeat, and then you maybe find an useful link. When searching in other languages it takes too much time even with automatic tools helping you translate results. If you know that one page is relevant, than automatic translation can give you some help to understand the page. But automatic translation is still too imprecise to navigate around fast while searching.

Furthermore, by publicly asking native speakers for help when searching, multiple similar search queries could be aggregated together. So most searched for queries could be done first. Even more, if there is no useful content already available, native speakers could be even willing to prepare such content. For example, in Slovenia we have since the beginning of 2013 net neutrality required by law. There is no official translation (yet), so when we noticed that people are searching for the law and its translation to help them advocate for a similar law in their countries, we made an unofficial translation.

Such crowdsearching would help you find relevant similar information you might not know you are searching for. When you search in a language you understand you often find additional resources of interest. But this works mostly by having some background knowledge and understanding by which you can determine fast that some link could contain useful information. Native speakers often have a better understanding of such useful cultural backgrounds and common knowledge which can help improve quality of results – even those you have not asked for.

If you have any relevant link, project, idea, comment, feedback, critique,
language fix, or any other information, please share it bellow. Thanks.