This week I watched a video clip from The Colbert Report with special guest Clay Shirky, the author of Here Comes Everybody. I actually just read part of Here Comes Everybody for my New Media Frontiers class, and I learned how new technological tools make it easier for us to share information faster with each other and how the Internet has led to mass collaboration.

Crowdsourcing, delegating tasks to a large, anonymous group of people as opposed to a specific individual, has become a large part of today’s digital world. It’s a great way for people to collaborate on a mass-scale and accomplish tasks such as creating an online encyclopedia like Wikipedia! or a photo sharing site like Flickr.

Companies have used crowdsourcing to their advantage by posting job tasks on sites like Amazon’s Mechanical Turk and paying people to complete them. The pay is terrible, but a lot of people choose to do them because a lot of the tasks are easy and mindless. And I guess low pay is better than no pay.

I think crowdsourcing small tasks is a good idea, but I do think the pay is way too low. For a verbatim transcription of a three and a half minute audio recording, you can get paid $1.02. That’s ridiculous. I used to transcribe my own interview notes, and that took hours. It would probably take me 15 minutes to transcribe three minutes of dialogue (maybe I’m slow, I don’t know), and that’s knowing the basic outline of the conversation. So, in an hour I could make about $4. Other companies charge $40-80 for an hour of transcription. Someone is being cheated.

But people continue to use MTurk anyway. I guess some things, like categorizing shoes by colors, a task completed by Katherine Mieszkowski, wouldn’t be so bad. You could do it while watching TV. Earning a couple cents to do that while watching Desperate Housewives wouldn’t hurt.

MTurk and other similar sites do provide you with some pocket cash (a few quick tasks do add up). I still feel, however, that the crowdsourcers are being exploited to do tasks that are worth more than they are getting paid. But if they’re happy being underpaid, businesses are going to keep using this sites.

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