Subs & Nerds : The ITASA Community

Internet is changing the way economic actors perceive themselves. Nowadays, the web allows people to be less and less passive consumers, and to become active ones. Even more interestingly, sometimes people can cross the bridge and become themselves producers of goods. An example of this is ITASA.

ITASA is a web community which produces and publishes Italian translations of foreign TV-Series. These translations can be paired to video files which can be downloaded from the web (illegally, unfortunately, and so you guys shouldn’t try this at home). In this way, ITASA allows many Italian users to enjoy Tv-Series months before they are dubbed and broadcasted on Italian television.

Interestingly enough, ITASA is an entity operating on the market, but not playing according to the traditional market rules. Indeed, its products (subtitles) are not sold, but donated. This means, in the first place, that translators will not get a single cent for their work. They have to regularly dedicate their spare time to translate subtitles, and on top of that do it quickly (nerds are indeed ravenous when it comes to their beloved TV-series). In addition, there is no monetary (or even non-monetary) exchange between the producers and the consumers. ITASA offers to its users the possibility to donate an amount of money of their choice to contribute to the survival of the community, but this is contribution is non-mandatory.

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A not-so-nerd user (the circles indicate the level of the user, and this user is at the starting level)

How can ITASA survive? Clearly, contributors do not work for money. But they do work for love and glory (Malone et al., 2010).

In defining ITASA, we described it as a web community. Indeed, one can use the website to download subtitles. But this is not all. People can create an account on ITASA, apply for a position as a translator (yes, there is a selection process, nerds are damn serious guys), or contribute to the forum (exchanging opinions about the episodes of their beloved series with fellow fans), or to the blog (where more “official” material, like info on TV-series or interviews, is shared), and so on.

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A much nerdier user (5th level, 994 posts)

So, people work for love, because they enjoy the translating activity per se, and because this activity allows them to socialize with other people (fellow translators or simple users) with whom they share the passion for TV series. Nerd love, but love nonetheless.

In addition, users work for glory, since in ITASA there is a mechanism of recognition of peers’ efforts and contributions. There are different, hierarchically ordered titles that users can proudly hold, based on seniority, amount and quality of contributions to the blog, the forum, and translations (see pics). One can even build a “career” on ITASA, starting as a junior translator and eventually becoming a reviewer, and all these accomplishments are listed on every post a contributor publishes on the blog and the forum, of course, on the users’ personal pages. Again, nerd glory, but glory nonetheless.




Malone, T.W., R. Laubacher, and Chrysanthos Dellarocas. “The Collective Intelligence Genome.” MIT Sloan Management Review 51.3 (2010): 21-31.

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