We plan to test our research questions using a field experiment implemented on the global online labor market, UpWork (as in, for instance, Burbano, 2021). We will advertise two job types requiring workers to translate a 2-page text from English to Swahili, and Bengali respectively and hire teams of two to complete each job. Aside from the language the document is to be translated in, the task types are identical.
We have selected a translation task for our research setting for several reasons. First, there is a clear measure of performance on the task; specifically, how many errors the translator made (word error rate), and how readable the translated text is (translation readability scores are summarized in, for instance, Yeung et al, 2018). Second, it requires creativity and problem solving (e.g. Angelone, 2010) and teammates may benefit from being able to effectively communicate. Google translate and other freely available AI translation software are not yet able to optimally translate and we will clarify in the job posting that Google translate has not worked for our purposes. Third, it ensures we will hire teammates who speak similar languages and are, thus, able to communicate. Fourth it is a relatively affordable task on the virtual labor market we are using. Specifically, one page translations like the task we are hiring for cost about $10-$20 to complete on Upwork.
Team members will be asked to complete the task within 24 hours of being hired and receiving the job instructions, which they will receive immediately after being hired. Giving workers 24 hours to complete the job is a norm for short jobs on UpWork, and will give workers enough time to communicate with their teammates even if they are residing in different time zones and/or have different work schedules. Moreover, this will give them plenty of time to complete the task because evidence suggests one page of text takes about 1 hour to translate (e.g. professional translators have an hourly productivity of about 625 words per hour (Haji Sismat, 2016)).
Upon being hired, both workers in each team will be provided the document to be translated and asked to coordinate in order to decide how to work on the task so that each team member has an equal amount of work to do. They will also be provided with a private Slack channel, and instructions on how to download and use Slack, to communicate with their teammates. In order to reduce the incentives for free-riding and to allow us to quantify the extent of free-riding, workers will be asked to highlight the work they did on the final translation.
Job instructions will also inform workers that their manager is planning to hire them for a subsequent translation job in 1-2 months if their teammate is also available to be re-hired. This information is true as we hope to bring all teams back for a second task to investigate whether the value of ease of conversation changes with more mature work teams. Moreover, it provides workers with some incentive to invest in the relationship with their teammate.