Practical example on #Crowdsourcing Using Amazon Mechanical Turk

Everybody is talking about crowdsourcing, about communities generating value added to private companies and to non profit entities. The debate is clear : Why a crowd will do something for free ?
or Why to pay for crowd work and how much ?
There is no answer. We all are still learning, we’re all crowd and company. There is no previous experience on that. In fact, we all are immersed into the the same environement of unknown methods and process using the new e-communication. The only way to get results is through the traditional method of experimentation, test&check and learn. This is the new paradigm, no books, no references, just experiments.

When you mix the social world with the professional world there is a conflict.
In the social world, your friends, your family, your colleagues and fellows, your relations are based on trust and friendship; nobdoy expects being paid to help you. Just think on house moving, sure you get a friend offering his car and his arms and hands to move your stuff, and for free ! (well a couple of beers will be good enough).
In your professional world, working for a company, everybody agrees that for your work and knowledge you will be paid. Nobody expects you working for free.

But then, what happens when you merge social world and professional world ?
What if a crowd, is expected to create something for a company, and for free ?
Or, how much you will pay that crowd for something a professional is too expensive ?

That’s the Saint Grial all companies are trying to find. Getting value added work … but for free or neglectable costs. The funny think is this works ! There are many examples, from the famous Wikipedia to Google maps. Amazon Mechanical Turk is the example of a company that has invented the business around  ‘almost-free-cost’ work of crowds for profitable companies. Not easy. I like the concept of HIT : Human Intelligent Task, it describes pretty well what you expect from the crowd.

I found very interesting the practical example to transcribe handwritten documents into digital. Handwritten docs are not easy to be automatically processed using OCR techniques; if going to a professional then too expensive. So, why not asking the crowd to do it ? Will anybody be interested on doing such work ? Is it ethical ? How can we assure the quality of the work from a crowd ?

If you want to learn a little about that, just read the complete report created by The Code4Lib group, Andrew S.I.D Lang and Joshua Rio-Ross, journal.code4lib.org October 31st 2011  and licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 United States License

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