People have the power: the crowd-powered terminologist

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Forget the “solitary terminologist”, “People have the power”, says a famous song by Patty Smith, and terminologists are learning to use this power! 

This is what emerged at the EAFT Terminology Summit, organised by TERMCAT, the Catalan Terminology Organisation that is in charge of the secretariat of the Association.

The international terminology community, mainly universities and public institutions, gathered in Barcelona, 27–28 November 2014, and opened a debate about how social networking affects terminology work.

Networking, personal learning, and crowdsourcing of terminology work are among the most effective usages of social media for terminology. Let’s see them one by one.

Networking: “Do what you love, love what you do… And then SHARE

Apart from expanding contacts and networking, terminologists can use social networks to get established as professionals who solve terminology problems. They can, for example, research and ask questions to followers and establish their expertise by answering questions (see for example @terminologia on Twitter). Social networks make it also easier to improve collaboration with experts to validate terminology and get feedback and inputs to the terminology work.

Personal Learning Environment: “I am the owner of my learning”
Social media and blogs enable us to easily focus on the latest news and trends on terminology, providing us with regular updates.


According to Anita Nuopponen’s presentation:


  • Social networks, if properly used, can be effectively used to find terminological resources.
  • Blogs are useful to provide own opinions, reflections and for being an optimal environment for discussing different points of view.
  • Twitter allows us to disseminate information, get visibility, link to useful information, follow interesting conferences we cannot attend through live-tweeting updates.


Conscious strategies are involved by using social networks as technological tools to gain access to knowledge. ‘Heutagogy’ is the neologism that fully embodies this new approach to technology-mediated self education. It means, “I am the owner of my learning at the knowledge society” (Ismael Peña-López, @ictlogist ).



In brief, lessons learned:


  • Let’s share knowledge! Disconnected experts are invisible to the network and irrelevant to the system.
  • Let’s leverage the power of blogging! Blogs are usually more timely than newspapers in discussing new topics and concepts and crucial to raise awareness on the importance of terminology (@terminologia).



Crowdsourcing Terminology work: Trust the network – it probably knows more than you do“.

Since terminology work is expensive, why not involve the crowd to create and validate terminology? (Klaus-Dirk Schmitz). The crowd can help with coining new terms or names, vote for term name suggestions, comment on terminological entries. The crowd cannot do it alone but the terminologist has to be part of the process: terminologists, in this scenario, have to adapt themselves into a profile more similar to a mediator.

“Crowd” is, by the way, a generic term. “Nichesourcing” is a more suitable neologism. It stands for “complex tasks distributed amongst a small crowd of amateur experts…rather than the ‘faceless’ crowd” (B.I.Karsch).

The solitary terminologist vs the crowd powered terminologist 

Old-fashioned terminology is an “in vitro work”: there is no research into term usage, it draws on a limited panel of experts, and takes a long time for validation (@unaeb).
In an ideal scenario, crowdsourcing could be a valuable model in terminology work in particular for:

  • Term collection;
  • Concept based structuring;
  • Creation of new terms;
  • Control of terminology usage (Henrik Nilsson).


By the way, it is important to keep in mind that crowdsourcing requires a considerable amount of preparation work: it needs to be set up correctly (term selection, tools, type of crowd, etc.). The terminologists involved have to prepare and manage the terminology project, as well as motivate and manage the crowd, in addition to being mediators.

The greatest challenge behind terminology crowdsourcing, apart from the resources required to run it, is indeed community engagement.

For example, TermCoord has already embraced the opportunity of crowdsourcing in the initiative “Term of the Week”. The contributions by the readers actually vary widely. They range from a huge amount of comments to no activity at all. Some languages are more active than others, some suggestions are valid and get implemented, and others get discarded.

Examples of terminology work on Twitter

Twitter has been used for creating an online dictionary of digital marketing in Catalan (@SandraCuadrado). In this project one concept has been tweeted, usually an English term associated with a hashtag (that works as connector for all tweets related to it) and a link to a definition. Equivalent terms in target languages have been then requested to experts, together with opinions of users and suggestions to create the corpus.

maria pia

Maria Pia Montoro WordLo
And find, also, a follow-up to the VII EAFT Terminology Summit in Barcelona (2014): how does social networking affect terminology work? here.