dotSub and the fourth Social Sector

I’m rather taken with – post up a video and the community subtitles it for you. I’m not sure why it is so fascinating. Perhaps it’s just the thought of some guy in Italy or some girl in Russia viewing my footage and then interpreting it for me.

Which brings me to a point I have thought about a few times in the last few years and that was sort-of brought up at the not-for-profit conference I went to earlier this week, CommunIT CU07. Its this: there are no longer only 3 sectors in mixed and capitalist economies – private (companies), public (government) and voluntary (not for profit) sectors. And while social enterprises are held to the triple bottom line of appeasing shareholders (owners), stakeholders (employees) and society, the newest sector isn’t interested in any of that. In fact, it’s not currently a monetised part ofthe economy at all so it’ s completely under the radar. It’s the sector that makes no money and doesn’t even think of financials. It’s the sector that will sit for a few hours and translate someone elses video, or podcast from French into Arabic. It’s the community that will buy a book and leave it (with a code inside it) for people to find and look up on the ‘net and read reviews. It’s the person who will create a wiki page in the world’s largest encyclopedia, WikiPedia.

What do we call this new sector? Community sector sounds naff and doesn’t respect that it’s individuals choosing when and where to volunteer their time. Individual sector doesn’t respect the community element. MySector, Our Sector? Social Sector? Hmmm yes, I like Social Sector.

Yes a sector should affect the nation’s income and expenditure – collecting revenue from selling products and services (private) or collecting from taxes to provide public products and services (government) or collecting donations to provide needy products and services (not for profit). But the Social Sector is upending this standard Western 3-leg stool in a big way. And if you think I am exaggerating reflect on this: if you run a yellow pages company, what will the Social Sector do to your search business? Not Google, Sensis, nor any other online search but social – or technorati. Of if you are in the music, video or film production business, what has Social Sector done on YouTube and will continue to do? We haven’t even seen the beginning of user generated video clips. Social Sector is destroying companies and doesn’t even notice. Government – watch out, Social Sector is only about activism, without even realising it. Look at the response to HD TV crack – imagine what will happen when Social Sector gets irate about global warming and climate change? It’s happening. Not For Profits will have to follow Social Sector closely, because Social Sector will be off organising and running online communities to solve world problems without realising that there are official institutions that have been grappling with logistics for years.

Back to dotsub – if you run a traditional translation business or even a travel guide company keep ahead of the curve. dotsub is about communities translating stuff for free; and even other communities that have free travel guide podcasts online. Monetising user generated content is possible but you have to get back to basics. Well that’s what I reckon anyway.

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  1. Laurel

    Thanks for your great insights relating to the possible global impact of dotSUB. Feel free to contact me directly to continue this dialogue.

    Michael L. Smolens
    Founder & CEO
    dotSUB llc – Any Film Any Language
    360 East 72nd St. #C3104
    New York, NY 10021 USA – email
    1-917-742-0158 – tel
    1-646-403-9944 – fax
    mlsmolens – Skype – website

  2. I think the concept of a “fourth sector” is so new that we’re still figuring out exactly what it means – but I had thought it meant a blending of non-profit and for-profit models (see my blog:, and this site on the triple bottom line (

    You seem to be talking about something very different: a more disbursed/decentralized (and completely unpaid) version of the non-profit sector. That would make the “fourth sector” even further from the corporate world than the non-profit sector is. It will be interesting to see how this all shakes out.

    Maybe we need five sectors?

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