21/12/2018 | By Fixpocket
Crowdsourcing rapidly mobilizes large numbers of people to accomplish tasks on a global scale. For example, volunteer-based collective projects such as Wikipedia owe their success and longevity to the ongoing efforts of thousands of individual contributors around the world. Complementing volunteer-based crowdsourcing, a paying crowd work industry is now quickly growing in scope and ambition. Crowd work today spans a wide range of skill and pay levels, with commercial vendors providing access to a range of workers and focused support for various task. For example, anyone with access to the Internet can perform micro-tasks on the order of seconds using platforms such as Fixpocket, while more skilled workers can complete multi-hour tasks on professional online marketplaces such as oDesk or work for months to solve R&D challenges on open innovation platforms (e.g. Innocentive).
Incentives and work structures also vary tremendously, ranging from crowdsourcing contests awarding prizes to winners (e.g. programming tasks on Topcoder) to micro-labor platforms that pay workers per task. While not all jobs are amenable to being sent down a wire, there are portions of almost any job that can be performed by the crowd. We foresee a world in which crowd work continues to expand, unlocking an incredible number of opportunities for careers and skilled work in online marketplaces.
Currently, crowd working entails small packets of homogenous tasks with limited skill requirement and low degree of interdependency. The current model is insufficient to support the complexity, creativity, and skills that are needed for many kinds of professional work that take place today. For example, producing a book, an academic paper, or a new car all may involve many individuals working in structured teams, each with different skills and roles, collaborating on a shared output.
In order to accomplish complex tasks, they need to be first broken down into sub tasks, precedence order needs to be defined, the work needs to distributed and then collated back. Deciding how to divide a task into subtasks and managing those subtasks is a challenging problem, especially for complex and interdependent tasks. There are several controls available within an organisational framework; incentive structures, hierarchy and sanctions. These ensure easier management of complex tasks. While some of these methods are available in crowd work (e.g., how much to reward workers, whether to reject their work, or impose a reputation penalty) their power is attenuated due to factors such as lack of direct supervision and visibility into their work behavior, lack of nuanced and individualized rewards, and the difficulty of imposing stringent and lasting sanctions (since workers can leave with fewer repercussions than in traditional organizations, such as to reference letters or work histories). The worker’s power is also limited: requesters do not make a long-term commitment to the worker, and endure few penalties if they renege on their agreement to pay for quality work.
The solution to enable complex tasks to be carried out using crowd workers needs two components.
Crowdwork Marketplace: A platform where workers have listed their micro services and their level of experience in their respective domain.
Orchestrator: A person who shall bear the responsiblity of task management and completion.
Fixpocket, India's Largest Online Marketplace has utilised the above mentioned framework to create service packages for the customers. The package offerings by Fixpocket cater to more complex tasks. It plays the role of the marketplace as well as the orchestrator both. For example, as the part of the digital marketing package, Fixpocket would decompose the task into graphic design, content writing, platform selection, social media marketing and so on. Then, it would select the relevant crowd workers and distribute the tasks among them while ensuring collaboration, coherence, quality assurance and workflow management as the orchestrator.
(Written based on excerpts from, Kittur, A., Nickerson, J.V., Bernstein, M.S., Gerber, E.M., Shaw, M., Zimmerman, M., Lease, M. and Horton, J.J. (2013). The Future of Crowd Work. CSCW ’13, February 23–27, 2013, San Antonio, Texas, USA: ACM)