How To Outsource Image Moderation
“A picture speaks a thousand words.”
Whoever coined this phrase, believed to be of early 20th century vintage and American provenance, could not have foreseen the challenges created by pictures almost a hundred years later.
In a world drowning in user generated content (UGC), much of it in the form of images, that picture speaking a thousand words, which was uploaded by one of the over 4 billion internet users of the world, could be viewed by any of the other over 4 billion minus one users. These could be males and females, children and adults, Asians and Europeans, judges and policemen, Christians and Buddhists, rich and poor. In short – anyone.
That picture could be saying different things to different people in many different languages, whispering to some, shouting to others, holy to some, vile to others. Like someone said: “One man’s meat is another man’s poison.”
What one person may consider good, enjoyable, or beneficial may be disliked by someone else. We have different sensibilities, tastes, likes, expectations. And there are millions of children and young adults in the mix as well.
Images are especially sensitive. Text needs to be read. Videos are richer, but need to be viewed. Images, on the other, convey their story in an instant, whether it is of a thousand words or a million. While an overwhelmingly large percentage of images uploaded will be safe and innocuous, there is always a possibility of a small percentage being vile and malicious, either inadvertently so or as a deliberate act.
So, what does one do? Surely we are too far down the ‘freedom to share content’ road to retrace our steps.
We moderate the images that are being uploaded.
As a business or owner of a website that invites participation from users, you may not be concerned about the large volume of images being uploaded every minute on popular platforms like Instagram or Facebook, but you are concerned that if offensive content were to find its way to your website, it would mar the reputation of your brand. Hence the need for content moderation on your website, if it is open for external participation.
What could go wrong? For starters, there could be porn and gore. That presumably kills the need for more examples. These are enough to kill your brand.
If you permit open sharing of images on your website, you should consider a moderation solution that will sanitize your web presence and enable you to sleep soundly at night.
How do we moderate?
With the help of image moderation solutions, either inhouse or with the support of a partner.
It was a debate at some stage whether to outsource image moderation or do it inhouse, but with growth in traffic, evolution of tools and technologies and requirement of a specialised skill-set to monitor, it stands pretty much settled for the time being, in favor of outsourcing. As an independent business, you perhaps neither have the expertise nor wish to invest in creating it. You’d much rather be left to do your business, where you have an expertise, and leave the moderation job to the specialists in that space.
On the journey of outsourcing to an image moderation solutions provider, there will come a point, after you have selected a provider, done the negotiations, signed a contract, provided training and many other things, when your work will be handled by an outsourced partner who will, in a way, become an extended part of your team. Hence the selection of a partner becomes a critical step and should be done with care. And because it needs to be done with care, it will consume resources and money, and hence the outsourcer will hope that the exercise does not need to be done again in a hurry, and that it is the beginning of a long-term relationship.
How should you go about selecting a partner for image moderation services so that it becomes a stable, lasting engagement?
The following paragraphs offer suggestions on parameters to use for the purpose.
Quality of Work
In any engagement, the quality of work is of paramount importance, perhaps even more so when you outsource image moderation, as there are brand and legal implications. Prior experience of doing similar work for another client is of great value in this assessment, since one can see examples and judge whether the work being done is of acceptable quality or not. If work is of acceptable quality and can be supported by a confirmation from existing clients, that is even better. Of course, not having prior experience should be an automatic disqualifier if the vendor can offer benefits that offset this limitation.
oWorkers has over 8 years of experience in serving clients from different industries. Our clients are mostly referenceable and prominently displayed on our website. Our team will monitor and eliminate content that has been agreed to be harmful, significantly reducing your business’ exposure to not only poor customer experience but also legal and PR issues and other potentially harmful responses.
Speed of Response
At a generic level, speed of work is a prized and desirable ability. The faster you work, the more you can do, allowing the business to leverage its assets for greater productivity and output.
When the context shifts to image moderation services, it acquires an entirely new dimension since we are talking about moderating content that is constantly coming in with the expectation of millions of users around the world engaged in that process that it will start showing up as soon as we press the ‘Submit’ or ‘Send’ key.
Our moderation teams will be at work so that you and your team can sleep peacefully. With three centers located in the most desirable outsourcing geographies of the world, oWorkers provides 24×7 monitoring because someone, somewhere is always awake and logged in to the internet.
When you outsource image moderation, as a thumb rule, it should not cost you more than your inhouse processing. Getting the benefit of volume and specialisation is one of the objectives of outsourcing. The partner, owing to much larger volumes of image moderation services work handled, is expected to be in a position to attract the right resources at reasonable cost, unlike your business, for whom it is not a core activity.
Comparing quotes from different interested providers will provide a good idea about the general pricing trends. While low is preferable, if the offered price is much lower, or higher, than others, it should be looked into carefully to understand the reason.
oWorkers clients consistently report 80% savings in cost after outsourcing, as compared to pre-outsourcing costs. With options like shared resources, even for companies with low volume of content outsourcing is a great option.
Tools and Technology
The speed at which content is being created and shared around the world, a purely manual method of moderation, especially for the popular social media platforms, is often not a workable proposition, though it might be for an individual business. The vendor should be in a position to offer tools that automate a significant part of the process, with only disputed cases being routed for manual adjudication. Of course, in addition to the manual moderators dipping in to check the output from the automated service from time to time.
Through our partnerships with leading providers, oWorkers offers clients access to the latest technologies when they outsource image moderation to us. In addition, we offer the flexibility for our resources to work on client moderation systems, if they come with one.
When you outsource image moderation, you outsource a perennial activity, one that keeps happening, or can happen, at any point of time, from any corner of the globe. Someone, somewhere, could be accessing your website and uploading content on it. Depending on the service standards your business wishes to offer, and that the partner needs to comply with, what if the facility or location from where these services are being offered, are impacted on account of a natural calamity, or strife of some sort? Does that mean that content being uploaded lies in the queue unattended? Or gets auto uploaded after a defined cooling off period? Both these are sub-optimal for a business. Ideally, the partner should offer the facility of switching to another site that is not impacted. Of course, it is understood that the switch will not cater to the entire volume, else idle space and headcount will need to be retained.
With facilities in three of the most popular BPO delivery locations in the world, oWorkers offers you unmatched ability for business contingencies by switching partial; volumes from one site to another. A multi-site engagement can also be offered that obviates the need for switching.
Hiring and Scaling Capacity
This is a core BPO skill as it is a people dependent business and is as relevant for image moderation solutions as it is for any other work supported by BPOs. Not only does the provider need to ensure there is a constant supply of interested jobseekers to be hired, but also they have access to a deep pool where they can dip and hire a large chunk in one go, either for a short period, or hired for one project and then deployed across the others once the specific need is over.
oWorkers has been consistently ranked highly on Glassdoor by its employees. It must also be highlighted that we have employees who do our clients’ work, and we don’t rely on freelancers or contractors. We are a preferred employer in most of the communities we work in, which gives us access to deep talent pools at low cost; they come to us instead of us having to seek them out. We offer the capacity to scale up by up to a 100 resources in 48 hours.
Cost of resources is an issue of huge consequence for BPOs, since frontline agent cost is perhaps the single biggest item on the Income Statement. Moreover, attrition being a reality for all BPOs, the hiring engine needs to keep working all the time. Joined at the hip to hiring is the Training machinery. If hiring is throwing fresh talent into the company, it becomes the job of the training machinery that needs to take them under their wing, and impart the necessary basic skills required for the workplace, followed by project-specific training to make them revenue generating resources. In any case, the BPO practice of hiring ‘raw’ resources who do not possess advanced educational degrees or any material business experience, makes training an indispensable function for image moderation solutions.
With committed training teams attached to each of its centers, oWorkers is ready 24×7 to take upon itself the task of making new hires job-ready in the quickest time, starting with common skills like typing, language and soft-skills, and graduating to client project-specific skills at the other end. They also carry out retraining of agents who need more support even though they may have ‘gone live.’
On the face of it, image moderation services may not appear to be an activity that might be impacted by language. Language might be considered to be germane to activities like text moderation which have to use one or more languages. An image, on the other hand, is an image. It might say a thousand words but whoever is viewing the image will understand those thousand words in his own language. But look deeper, and language has an impact on an image too. A poster, for example, is an image. Text can be presented in the form of an image. This brings multilingual capability into the equation.
oWorkers offers support in 22 major languages of the world and has the capacity to add more based on specific client requirements.
Internal Quality process
When you outsource image moderation, the delivery team, the most critical team in a BPO, often struggles with balancing many competing priorities. On occasion, this could result in a compromise on the high standards that they might otherwise strive to maintain.
In order that such events do not become visible to the client and mar the relationship, an Internal Quality (IQ) team has become an indispensable part of a BPO’s setup. The IQ team takes samples to verify the health of the process. Where deviations are found corrective action is instituted, including but not limited to counselling of the team member.
Quality Assurance and Quality Control are a part of the DNA at oWorkers, led by an independent team of Internal Quality specialists conversant with modern quality standards and techniques like ‘Six Sigma,’ ‘ISO’ and ‘Lean.’ They are also the eyes and ears that enable the senior management to stay connected with each project.
Financial Condition and Management Support
Eventually, business is about money. Investing money, spending money, making money. The Income Statement and Balance Sheet are where all the different elements of a business meet to portray its financial health. It is the common purpose which binds all functions together.
When you outsource image moderation, it is your expectation that the vendor will deliver value for the revenue it earns from you. It will make necessary investments and incur required costs. This is where the financial condition of the company becomes relevant. A healthy financial condition will allow the business the wriggle-room to make the investments and expenses, knowing that revenue will be earned. If it does not have wriggle-room, it will cut corners and try to avoid value-adding investments and expenses. Eventually your outsourced work will suffer.
Financial decisions are taken by senior management who also provide guidance to the organisation on strategy and management. The greater the involvement of senior management, the sharper the focus of the teams involved in client delivery.
oWorkers has been a profitable enterprise from inception. It follows financial discipline in all respects and refuses engagements that will put pressure on its financial condition, to avoid adverse impact on other engagements.
Our senior leadership has hands-on experience of over 20 years in the business and are alive to each and every project handled by oWorkers.