Poland, Warsaw, Recruiting volunteers and creating an OTP Community

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Why am I writing this now?

In my presentaiton at the workshop at TEDGlobal 2014 I realized I brushed over some very important aspects of organizing workshops, namely: getting assistance, structuring your comms, using tools, building your team, finding people to join the project and attend - and then also dealing with the expected retention of interest and the user contribution curve. These are important to think about because they give you some ideas on how to action the goals, and prevent you from getting discouraged by setting your expectations too high.

It's good to keep in mind that even among fifty volunteers there may be only few who become regular contributors. And that's okay. Continuous volunteering online differs from volunteering at events because it requires a consistent time investment as well as lacks the immediate pay-off and the fun of socializing, this last point being something I really wanted to address.

Initially I wanted to write this article chronologically, but I realized it would become too chaotic, so instead I went with a list and added some examples of comms going round for the purpose, feel free to edit/reuse for your teams :)

If anything is unclear edit or ask away - you know where to find me.


Let's start from the beginning. Two years ago, at TEDxKraków 2012 me and Krystian met and inspired by TEDx organizers attending who decided to start a Poland-wide Google group we decided to follow suit. After a while there wasn't much that was happening in the group, we got occassional questions about translations and posted information about upcoming TEDx events, which brings me to the next point...

Advertising at TEDx events

That's a great way to find volunteers.

  1. You are in a creative environment with a selet group of people interested in great ideas.
  2. You don't have to go out of your way to find people, they come to you.

OTP Stands

An OTP Stand can be as simple as a poster and a dedicated sheet of paper for interested people to leave their e-mails. Or it can include language games, leaflets, quizzes and a nice corner for the translators to gather.

The times when we organized stands in Poland we contacted the organizers and they referred us to their venue designers who indicated where we can set it up. Usually it's fine to also state your needs. (TV, power outlet, table, chairs/sofas, projector)


OTP Meetups

A TEDx event is a cool opportunity to finally meet the people you have cooperated online with. The more translators at an event the bigger the chance they will be noticed too ;) Even if you are not organizing a Stand or a Workshop, it may be enough to have an excuse to meet some people from the OTP community. I recommend writing to the organiziers about free passes for OTP translators before the registration starts, so you can get a "secret code" to distribute in the OTP community. The worst thing that can happen is that you hear 'Sorry, we can't' - and then still you can try to attend.

TEDxWaw meetup.jpg

OTP Leaflets

A crucial part of an OTP stand, or even better: a TEDx gift bag. After in 2012 OTP leaflets were distributed on seats in the main theatre of TEDxWarsaw there was a surge in the number of volunteers signing up. Recently I met a volunteer who attended a transcribathon for the first time and his decision to attend was motivated by the interest sparked after reading the OTP leaflet two years prior! So the ripples of your actions may only become visible much later :)

This was the first leaflet we distributed at TEDxWarsaw 2013. Later we started using the design by Judith's friend: A more modern KISSed* design *Keep it simple, stupid ;) The new version was also translated into Polish and focused on transcriptions.


Comms example:


I am one of three (of whom I am aware) Open Translation Project Language Coordinators who will be attending the TEDxWarsaw conference this year.

We would like to ask you for thumbs up and support in our little campaign to find more volunteers for the TED OTP. 
As you may know, recently TEDx talks were introduced into the Amara translation platform, 
which means that the creation of subtitles for TED talks and TEDx talks is no longer independent.

Thanks to this integration TEDxWarsaw talks from this year will be added to Amara and available for translation 
from the Amara dashboard, and therein lies the need to find more volunteers who will be willing to create the transcripts, translations and do the reviews.

To promote TED OTP we would like to be able to distribute informational leaflets (view the attached file for the design) 
and we'd be very grateful for a mention from stage before a break between sessions. It could be just a few short words 
mentioning the possibility to help out in the transcription and translation of TEDxWarsaw and other TEDx and TED talks as volunteer translators, 
with the names of Language Coordinators to talk to and the general area we'd be available at.

Which brings me to the last question: Would it be possible to get us a stand, or at least a dedicated/designated area where we could be easily found?

Event badges

Thanks to Kelwalin we had the idea to create the "TRUST ME" stickers for us, but as they weren't too visible from the front we also marked the OTP translators with violet squares, which was mentioned from the stage.

If you are not involved in TEDx, it's still fine to do that if you let the organizers know - but then you have to set up a meeting place for the translators and distribute the stockers. Remember to contact TED Staff if you want to use the official OTP logo!

Making sure your event badges are recognizable to the people "in the know" from the front is one thing, but it's also great if they contain contact information to someone in the OTP.

The badge is something people often keep as a souvenir (I do!) and study during the more "Yawn" times.

PLBadgefront.jpg PLbadgeback.jpg

OTP audience activities

OTP translation workshops

We had a mini-translation workshop at TEDxYouth@Krakow which took 20 minutes. The workshop presentation covered: - What is OTP? - What to watch out for while doing translations? - Error correction worksheet (pair work)

At TEDxWarsawPresidentialPalace we had a movie translation workshop which covered: - What is OTP? - Basics of movie translation - Visual error correction (screenshots with poor movie translations and how to improve them)

OTP games

We also organized a Polish language correctness quiz where people who attended it voted on which option they saw on the screen ( A, B, C or D) they thought was correct. They voted by raising their hand with a colourful post-it card that represented the option they chose. (every participant got a set of four)

We have also played Boggle together :)

On the TEDx team

I really advocate for joining a TEDx team, OTP activities work great with TEDx events and community. So, how to join? You have to approach a TEDx team with an idea, and be ready to take full responsiblity for it.

Right after joining the TEDxWarsaw team I created an Action Plan, which listed goals and actions required. I got my friend to join me in organizing things and we set off :)

Excerpt from the action plan:

WORK TO BE DONE (to prioritize)
1. OTP leaflet translation & design
2. TEDxWarsaw website localization
3. TED.com website localization
4. TEDxWarsaw talks - transcription (gather links to tasks)
5. TEDxWarsaw talks - translation (gather links to tasks)
6. TEDxWarsaw OTP tab, subpage & key information
7. Send out a weekly otp newsletter with highlighted tasks available (Mailchimp)
8. Translation of OTPedia articles
9. Promote the TED talks we translate into Polish. There are FB TED fan groups in Poland but NOT IN POLISH? Start one & find an admin for it. 
If there is one, then ask for posting permissions & delegate to someone good with social media.


1. Should translation and transcription meetings be separate? 
(1 translation meeting a month and 1 transcription meeting a month?) Reason: PPL who transcribe may not know English
2. Maybe start an OTP/TEDxWarsaw internet page instead of a newsletter?
3. Consider using Basecamp for the subteam

Future, future, future:

- Take pictures, write a story about it - perhaps it will inspire other TEDx team to start local OTP subteams :)

In hindsight I see that a lot of these items were not necessary, but I can also tick most of them as done :)

Current areas of cooperation

Now TEDxWarsaw helps by:

  1. opening new communication channels for us: FB fan page, Twitter, website
  2. offering a venue spot for the OTP stand and providing tools (screens, flipcharts etc)
  3. OTP leaflet distribution
  4. Offering free passes for translators at the events
  5. finding venues for OTP workshops
  6. mentioning OTP from stage
  7. giving us a social space to gather and get to know each other :)
  8. letting translators get recognition for their work by posting translated talks via TEDxWarsaw fan page
  9. cake

We help TEDxWarsaw by:

  1. offering workshops and stands at events
  2. training OTP volunteers, and focusing on transcribing their talks,
  3. finding TED videos to play for events, verifying the translation quality and fixing the subtitles if necessary
  4. live interpreting and translation of scripts, bios etc. before the event
  5. providing content for the TEDxWarsaw fan page

Facebook advertising

The first step was to create a FB ad explaining what OTP was. Back then there were no OTP videos on YT, so I felt it will be the easiest for the people to send me an email, to which then I'd reply with instructions on how to sign up. However I overlooked the fact that I forgot to mention it's a volunteer project, so I got lots of CVs. Next time I made sure to make it clear.


FB advert text about the OTP

And off for the weekend, right?
There's something you can help our Translation Team with. Quite an enjoyable way to spend free time, if you ask us!
We're organizing a TEDxWarsaw sub-team for transcription and translation!
Command of only one language is required for transcriptions (English or Polish).
For meetings we're planning cookies and tea  Interested? Contact....


FB advert posted in the OTP Poland group about the TEDxWarsaw 2014 workshop

Dear TED Translators,
Are you interested in attending TEDxWarsaw on March 13th, 2014 (all day Thursday), together with an Open Translation Project workshop (on Friday, March 14th)?
We would like to offer a couple of free TEDxWarsaw translator passes to people who register until the 30th of January (Thursday). 
To register fill out this survey: http://goo.gl/nSI8Gx
By applying for a pass you agree to attend the OTP Translation Workshop on Friday, March 14th – it is a necessary requirement and a great opportunity to meet 
other translators from around Europe, exchange stories and participate in other activities, such as a sightseeing tour of Warsaw on Saturday, March 15th.
While passes do not cover travel and accommodation expenses, we offer travel advice and assistance (hotels in Warsaw, tickets and transportation, sightseeing). 
Once you're accepted, we will get back to you with a more detailed agenda but the initial plan is as follows:
12th March (Wed) - OTP evening meeting
13th March (Thu) - TEDxWarsaw + TEDxWarsaw afterparty
14th March (Fri) - OTP Workshop (10-15) 
15th March (Sat) - Sightseeing (semi-organized trips)
See you in Warsaw,

Using the right tools!

As part of TEDxWarsaw, we now use Slack to the whole project, which is integrated with Trello (an interactive to-do list). We schedule meetings via Doodle (free calendar scheduling) and use GooleDocs surveys as registration forms for OTP events.

For TEDxWarsaw tasks we also have fun looking spreadsheet - feel free to copy! This is just a copy of our actual worksheet. To make a copy you can play around with, go to File/Make a copy. (https://docs.google.com/spreadsheet/ccc?key=0AqwUlCk2VTk1dDhOMlYxVjhEeDVqOGFBYWRGbVFjWHc&usp=drive_web#gid=1)

Right now we are looking into ways of making it update automatically via Amara API


So you can see what I was going for ;)


Sharing responsibilities and recognizing contributions :)

The main contributors, together with the translators are listed here on the TEDxWarsaw website: http://tedxwarsaw.com/translation/

As the idea developed more people wanted to join in, and each of them got their own area of responsibility, so that we could extend our activities, by, for example contacting other TEDx teams in Warsaw and in Poland and sharing best practices.

The core TEDxWarsaw Translation and Transcription team right now looks like this, and we meet in person once in a while to discuss activities and have fun :)


Face to face meetings

Introductory trainings

All in all about 50 people replied to the facebook advertisement, and I still get some e-mails about it today. Out of these, about half followed the registration steps and joined our facebook group: https://www.facebook.com/groups/OTPWaw/. About 15 attended the introductory meetings in Warsaw or via Google Hangouts.

Introductory meeting announcement

Hi all! We'd like you to participate in an hour-long introductory training for people who'd like some help getting started and those who want to help translate TEDxWarsaw talks  
Soon this year's talks will be available for transcription & translation as well!
Please pick the dates you are available in Doodle and we will decide when to meet We can have two separate groups (not a problem)
Place: Cafe Niespodzianka

Introductory meeting follow-up

Hi everyone!
So you've got your TED.com and Amara profiles - I'd like you to try to fill them out to include your areas of expertise 
(so that we know who can help us with what when we encounter a problem :))
Before you start translating/transcribing I'd like you to check out a few things:
1. Watch the 3-minute "Why I translate TED talks" video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IxEgJIMwbfc to tap into the mindset of a TED translator 
2. FOR TRANSLATORS: Read the OTPedia article about translating subtitles for TED: http://translations.ted.org/wiki/How_to_Tackle_a_Translation
(a similar one is available for reviews: http://translations.ted.org/wiki/How_to_Tackle_a_Review)
3. FOR TRANSCRIBERS: Read the quick intro to transcribing TED talks: http://translations.ted.org/wiki/How_to_transcribe_TEDxTalks_in_10_steps 
and then the information: http://translations.ted.org/wiki/How_to_Tackle_a_Transcript
Generally, all of the talks we will transcribe/translate are already on Amara - you can find them here: 
Most of the talks need transcripts.
I recommend using SubtitleEdit to work offline, instead of working in the Amara interface. SubtitleEdit is an open-source CAT, available here: http://www.nikse.dk/subtitleedit
Let's wait a bit for others to join us, and then we can decide what's the best date for the bigger training workshop 
Meanwhile, if you have any questions, me and Magdalena Daniel are here to help you 
Happy subtitling!

Transcibeathons and Workshops

Transcribeathons or transcription marathons, I would say this is the form which is best suited for introducing people to the OTP. They get to socialize/try it out, there are no unnecessary steps and they get on-site support.

Comms example from the first transcribeathon:

Come participate in the world first OTP/TEDx Translatathon, this Sunday in Warsaw, 
organized by Polish OTP volunteers in collaboration with TEDxWarsaw. 

We'll be translating and transcribing TEDx talks. If you haven't tried it yet,
 come, learn and get going! 

(But make sure to first sign up for an Amara account using this tutorial http://tinyurl.com/OTPLearningSeries).

We start at 2PM at Lang LTC (AL. Niepodległości 217/8) and continue till the evening. 
You'll need a laptop and headphones. Sign up here: tinyurl.com/Translatathon

Registration form from the first marathon:


Here are detailed descriptions of some of the workshops and translatathons hosted in Poland:

Poland, Krakow, 1st OTP&TEDxKraków Transcribeathon

Poland, Warsaw, 1st OTP Translatathon

Poland, Warsaw, 1st OTP Workshop - Includes a timeline of pre-workshop activities

Poland, Warsaw, 2nd OTP Translatathon

Poland, Warsaw, 2nd OTP Workshop - after TEDxWarsaw 2014


Sightseeing together

After TEDxWarsaw 2014 we decided to spend the weekend sightseeing together. The sightseeing tours were coordinated via the secret Facebook group for all the translators attending TEDxWarsaw and incluced the Modern Art Museum, Łazienki Park, the Old Town on one day and the Invisible Exhibition (museum in total darkness) on the other day.


Social outings

We are organizing social activities for translators, and will try to organize more of them in the future. These don't have to be related to translations. We went bowling, had birthday cakes, went Tango-ing and met for tea.

PLStands2.jpg PLBowling.jpg

Planning for the future

We will further try to engage the local community and OTP translators and encourage them to get to know each other and cooperate on tasks as well as participate in the global OTP community.

Below a picture we submitted for the 5-year OTP photo challgenge:


Rigbt now we are preparing for a next transcription marathon, a translation workshop for students, OTP activities at TEDxWarsawEd and the next edition of TEDxWarsaw 2015.

Using Trello for the task-list is a great idea, here is a snapshot of the OTP/TEDxWarsaw taksboard with plans for future events, cyclical meetings, high- and low- priority tasks: