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Troublemakers on Immersion

Hi Duolingo staff!

First off, you're doing an amazing job with Duolingo. I love learning Spanish (and I am learning a lot), and I also love giving back to you and Wikipedia by helping translate articles.

I'm new here, but I've already run into several people who "translate" pages by typing in nonsense or offensive language. Most of these "translators" are middle school students. I've done the correct thing, which is to report them, downvote, and reset their translation to the previous one. I've even sent a help message to you about one guy who keeps coming back. I understand that they're doing this to just get points, and it's hard to explain reason to grade schoolers who view this solely as a game. However, it's hurting those of us who would really just love to practice our skills and complete documents.

I can also see that looking into each case and resetting the points must be challenging and time consuming. Could you please consider sharing the load with us? You could give the person who uploads the immersion document the right to ban anyone from translating it. Or you could allow the uploader to select the type of translators allowed - by Translator level or by "Public", "Friends Only", or "Private". With either of these ideas, we can help moderate some of the unruliness that's popping up in Immersion.

I'd love to hear thoughts from anyone else out there. What's the best way to handle this?

Thanks! Emma

March 9, 2015



Limiting access to Immersion by some fair standard makes a lot of sense to me. Is there a way to limit access to Immersion for those accounts that are part of a school class? Seems as if teachers could supplement Duolingo for that purpose, with offline translation assignments, which would be beneficial to both students and teachers: students would have their errors corrected, teachers would know how their students are progressing.


This sort of problem is common to many sites, say StackExchange or Wikipedia. The main idea is that people with more earned reputation are less likely to want to abuse the system, because they have bought into it and because they have had to work a bit more than your average bored troll is willing to. This is an abstraction of the way real world human organizations work - you have to earn trust. On Immersion, the obvious solution is to provide privileges only as you gain tiers. For example, no editing other people's work until you get to tier 3, you don't get to downvote until tier 4, and so on.

I'm sure the Duolingo developers thought of this, but didn't implement it yet (or turn it on) because another thing that has proven to be effective on the internet is to make things as easy for people as possible, and only restrict them when it's really necessary. Now that schoolchildren are using the site in increasing numbers (and being told they need to get a certain number of points? I hope not!) it may be time to turn on these standard procedures.


It's hard to prove one's self when they don't have the ability to change things that are clearly wrong. I've seen high tiered individuals taking movie titles that are originally English, but in the document as that language's translation, which doesn't happen to translate to the same name in English, if that makes sense. For example, I just spent a lot of time on the Eddie Murphy wikipedia article from French to English. So many of those movies have different translations in French. So, in English, you have "Coming to America", but in French it is called something to the effect of "Un prince dans New York", so people were translating that as "A Prince in New York" which, as far as proper translation of movie titles goes, is wrong. And you suggest, out of an annoyance like trolls, that I as a tier 1 would not be able to actually take the time to do a little bit of research and figure out what these movies are really called?

Sorry, I know that sounds really bitter. They do have a system similar to what you describe, the difference is it just limits how many XP you can get at each tier, and your tier is directly linked to how many upvotes you get. It might not keep trolls out, but you can't say that that doesn't make it harder for people to get as much as they could out of immersion.

Really I wish people would just get over the spammers. School children are using the site now. A lot of them get bored and spam or troll. Deal with it. Kids do dumb things. I think the immersion aspect works about as well as can be expected.


Your frustration is related to my second point above - don't punish the many for the offenses of the few, until those offenses are causing measurable damage. I haven't noticed any problems myself, but obviously some people are upset by the trolling and the question is whether that is bad enough to justify hampering all low-tier users of Immersion.


Well said, thenoblesunfish. frankenstein724 - I'm not asking to hinder all Tier 1 translators. My first call was to be allowed to ban a single user from a single page that you've uploaded and are caring for. That would only affect the trolls.

The other call would be for those that upload pages to set whether or not they want Tier 1 users there. That may sound hindering, but that will only be a small set of papers, mainly by those of higher level and with a greater translation difficulty. There will always be a large number of papers open to everyone, and any Tier 1 user can add to this pool themselves with their own uploaded papers.

I did try to just let the spammers do their thing, and then fix my own papers afterwards. It's a bit defeating to have to do this several times for the same troll. The system is not working right now, and ignoring the problem isn't going to help. That's why I brought this up, to see what improvements could be made.


This is a great idea, even if I do not translate sentences and I do not get to immersion. but I saw many users complaint of these problems there.


I am a middle school student, but i take my edits seriously. People really should do something.


Same here. If the author is just assuming it's middle school students based on stereotypes then I'm slightly offended. I have tier 2 to prove it, as you have to get upvoted in order to get to higher tiers.


Sorry, I'm not meaning it to be offensive! You can go to their user profile and it's easy enough to tell from their feed. I was curious as to why people would be so insistent about trashing articles, so I read their profiles. They'll comment about their teachers/school mates. Maybe they're in high school or elementary school, but middle school seemed most likely to me, judging from my own memories of middle school interactions. Does that make sense?


yeah. Some of us kids are immature.


Totally, some kids act like five year olds. I don't know why. No offense taken :)


One simple solution is to introduce tier level 0, a playground of sorts, where people can only work on a discrete set of documents until they get enough votes to graduate. A Level 0 would be unable to graduate until they fulfill certain requirements, for example:

  • Each user needs to translate every sentence in 3 pre-selected documents alone (of adequate size).
  • Each user needs check/correct all sentences in at least 3 complete documents from another user.
  • Each user only advances to tier 1 once 50% of their original translations and their corrections are initially correct and have at least 3 net upvotes.
  • Users can only work on tier 0 documents, but can read and upvote higher tier documents.

This guarantees that every user will make the effort to work diligently, and earn the right to cooperate with others. Fruitless edits will only make you remain in tier level 0 for longer and unable to touch documents from other tiers..This could also serve as a place to throw in people who misbehave in immersion. Once they get enough downvotes, and their edits are detected to be spammy or unhelpful they automatically get bumped down to tier 0.

Another possibility is to create a type of user-reputation model. Each document is automatically evaluated and assigned a minimum tier level. For example, extremely small and easy documents are assigned to tier <2, medium documents tier <3, and every other document to tier >=4.

As far as improving the interaction in documents. A very powerful (and often destructive ) tool called rollback (in wikipedia) can revert every single edit in a document by a particular user. This tool could be automatically given to high rated contributors to use whenever they detect spam. However, due to its destructive nature, it could need confirmation from 5 or more people of similar rank. Or could be reserved for forum moderators who are theoretically already trusted anyway.


I'd agree that Immersion can be a very frustrating experience at times, and sometimes crowdsourcing translations can get, well, just too crowded for comfort.

So any of your ideas for limiting the number/competence/affinity of translators working on a given document would be welcome, along with some level of control over the hackers who don't want to collaborate with others in an effort to learn.


Another way that the uploader could exert some control over the article would be the ability to set a minimum or maximum level limit on those who are allowed to translate an article.


I love the idea of limiting access to a document. It can get rid of a lot of people who abuse translation (spammers, point hogs, people who change 'colour' and 'color around). And it can't be abused, because so what if a person uploads a document and only want to translate it zirself?

And it would cool for like small groups to only translate a document themselves.


I've also had a problem with this, which was so annoying. I also complained, and I hope the staff will fix it soon.


Another problem is the translater who simply uses duobot and uploads it without any editing despite its obvious nonsense in many cases. This is harder to deal with, but perhaps there could be a statement asking people to aviod doing this.


Yeah I've seen this problem but seriously it's not just middle schoolers' I mean, I'm in middle school and I've always done my best to translate articles correctly but I've had a friend who did it and yes I've realized I didn't contribute to this with this comment except, that only a little portion of middle schoolers are bad.

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