Wednesday, March 9, 2011

The reason why fansubbing groups do not release on a consistent schedule

When I say "fansubbing groups", this does include Licca Fansubs.  We try to release on a consistent schedule, but we often do not.  This post is not meant to criticize any group; it just illustrates a point that most people are not really aware of.

Many people who talk to members of fansubbing groups ask when a certain episode of a certain series is released.  Often the response is "when we get to it", or some other vague and useless response.  To explain why, I will use a hypothetical situation.

Imagine that you are an employee of a company.  You are the project leader for some really important product, and you have 10 people working under you.  The market conditions and research say that you need to create a product once every so many days.  You are, of course, given all the tools and equipment needed to accomplish this.

However, the policies of the company, and by extension the people working under you, are rather strange.  You may ask your people working under you for a 40 hour week, but HR and company policy say they can work any number of hours per week.  They may work anywhere from 0 hours to working all the time without sleeping or resting.  They may take as long of a vacation between working days and not lose their job.  The people working for you are not paid, or if they're paid, they aren't paid very much.  If your people show up at the office, they may spend an hour doing actual work, and 7 hours watching movies on cable TV.  Your people may just conduct other "personal business" while they're in the office.  You cannot fire them (regulations), dock them in pay (they're not being paid and they have a much better paying job elsewhere), or use physical force to make them work.

As the project leader... how do you manage your team of people, as described above, and keep a consistent schedule?  The answer is you cannot.  You are at the whim of your team.

What I just illustrated is your typical team of subbers in a fansubbing group.  It is literally a project management nightmare.

1 comment:

  1. I think it would be interesting to see this situation from a customer's point of view. So I try to give you an example how a customer, in this case a fansub consument/watcher could react.

    As a customer you usually don't want to wait at all. If you have to wait, especially for something of high mental value (and fansub-watchers imho tend to see fansubs as something like that) you are getting nervous and asking yourself and others "When will it come out? How long do I have to wait?". I think this is a kind of natural feeling if you think of how important the role of time has become in our society.

    Of course, people who are familiar with the fansub-scene are aware that they cannot force a group to work faster by saying things like "You're so slow, get it finished right now!". And if you don't have alternatives (e.g. just one group is doing a series in a certain language) then you just have to wait. You can't even say things like "But ... I paid money for this ..." (a phrase often used by unsatisfied consumers), it won't help at all.

    In the last years fansub-groups seem to have moved from "either speed-sub or quality-sub" to "fast and with high quality". And this is something you expect from a "good" fansub group. I don't say that this means you don't have to wait at all, but there's a limit on how long fansub-watchers wait for a release. If you have to wait over two or three months for an episode and the series has about 52 episodes this can be a very long time. Or if you even have just one or two releases a year this is kind of ridiculous.

    I agree with you, you can't really keep a consistent schedule for fansub releases. When working with non-paid-workers things like "How do I treat my members? Am I more a boss or a friend? What do I do to motivate people to continue working?..." (I'm working for a free german online-community as something like a department manager so I'm quite aware of this things) are more important than how much money I pay (i.e. zero). You are dependent on this people, if they don't work or don't work fast enough the release will be late or even an episode will never be released. You have to believe in your members.

    In the past (it was about three/four years ago) I also joined a fansub-group. The work was very exhausting but I also had lots of fun. Sadly the group didn't last very long and I had a lot of other things to do. But it was very interessting to experience something like this. Regarding the release-schedule we also realeased an episode when it was ready to be released.