Crowdsourcing The New Substrate Of Exploitation, Or Deliverer From Evil? You Decide.

Dan Robles is the Director of The Ingenesist Project, a private think tank in Seattle.
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One of the things he’s thinking deeply about is what crowdsourcing means for the emerging economy and the workers who perform Human Intelligence Tasks.

Turking is a phenomenon of crowdsourcing where people perform simple tasks on-line for money. Highly intellectual tasks are broken down into small components easily managed by a simple human decision. Each of these simple human decisions are sent out to humans to perform. The results are then re-combined to become a high value knowledge economy product.
Even companies that perform this service for major corporations are astonished that people would work for so little money. Academic studies declare that people are motivated by something other than money. Somehow Turking provides people with hope, self, validation, and all sorts of great personal benefit – otherwise they would not be doing it. This is good, right?
Wrong….people are desperate and turking is the last treadmill on the rat race to the bottom.

In related news, Ad Age reports that–a content farm with the backing of billionaire investor Philip Anschutz–has 40,000 freelancers, or “turks.” “I hesitate to call them journalists,” CEO Rick Blair said of the site’s mass of writers, whom he refers to as “examiners.”
“Examiners” are paid anywhere from $1 to $7.50 for every thousand page views, based on a black-box formula. Writers associated with a sponsored area are paid only slightly more. “I tell our examiners not to quit their day jobs,” he said. “No one’s doing it for the money. They want credibility. Also, press passes. Most of the major sports teams, we have access to their field and locker rooms. A lot of news organizations dropped their sports reporters.”
Ad Age says Huffington Post is the prototypical content farm with more than 6,000 unpaid contributors and 70 paid editors. That may be, but Demand Media and Associated Content, have both secured major financial deals recently. In fact, Ad Age is running an interview with Joanne Bradford, the newly minted chief revenue officer for Demand Media, where she says, “We are creating first-run, best-in-class content…Our numbers are there because we have created that content.”
I’d like to ask, when you find search results that point to an piece or content from another content farm, how do you respond? Do you make a distinction between professional, semi-professional and amateur content?
Editor’s Note: Particularly well crafted responses to this post may earn the writer a free AdPulp t-shirt.



About David Burn

I wrote my first ad for a political candidate when I was 17 years old. She won her race and I felt the seductive power of advertising for the first time. Today—after working for seven agencies in five states—I am head of brand strategy and creative at Bonehook in Portland, Oregon.