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Crowdsourcing is now a massive part of internet culture and offers a way for all of us to pool resources like never before, using the collaborative power of the web. A number of web based projects using crowdsourcing as the underlying theory, are harnessing collaboration to solve business problems in more automated and creative ways. You may find that there are repetitive tasks in your business that can be automated using some of these services, increasing productivity and workflow within your organisation. The following post summarises some of the best out there on the web today that offer API access and automation, and provide a way to outsource your business problems at lower cost, and increased reward.
Crowdflower offer workers all over the globe to complete tasks either in a manual instruction based way, or via an API request, with the workflow for those tasks being generated in an automated fashion. They have listed a good example of how others have used their services, which give you a feel for appropriate scenarios, including:
1) An e-commerce client needs to assign 100,000 products to appropriate categories
2) We design and route simple tasks to workers who assign the product to its most appropriate category
3) All of the work is monitored as the tasks are completed to control qualityand assess accuracy
4) 100,000 products are categorized with 95% accuracy by hundreds of workers in under one day.
When you enlisted the help of Crowdflower, the company opens up the job and distributes it to its 500,000 workers from multiple sources, giving both flexibility and scaling power for your task. As the job takes places, internal quality control is provided through their ‘CrowdControl’ system, or if you are using the API through validators. New features to the service include targeting workers in a specific country, or indeed excluding workers in particular locations. Language support extends to French and German, which may be useful if you have to process data in those languages.
Utilising the social web has given rise to CrowdCloud becoming a notable player in the crowdsourcing market. At time of writing more than 45,000 workers had completed work at its CloudCrowd Workspace application at Facebook. As with many of the other crowd sourcing applications listed, CrowdCloud work hard to monitor quality of their workers, making them jump through some proverbial hoops before they even get near your tasks. If they don’t meet the require response, they quickly get weeded out. If the predefined query / responses don’t meet your needs, they can create custom credentials that you can setup to ensure that your task gets completed to your own standards. Other quality control within their system uses other workers ratings to earn credibility – truly an organic, self evolving system that gets better with age.
One of their more interesting clients is the University of Southern California, who have used crowd sourcing to help the University reconnect with “lost alumni” – graduates for whom the school does not have updated contact information. Given the alums name and year of graduation, CloudCrowd Workers are finding Facebook pages, LinkedIn profiles, and Google references. The University will use this information to unobtrusively reach out and invite these alumni to join an online group where they can reconnect with their alma mater and fellow graduates, and bring lost school mates back into contact with one another.
Live Ops takes a completely new approach to call center management. Instead of the traditional – office full of people with digital headsets on, their business model relies on distribution of agents across the globe, who can work remotely. Combined with a screening process, and a flexibility to work when they want, agents who signup to field calls from businesses can earn competitive rates. This flexibility can be passed onto customers, who in turn see fluctuations in call volume being handled in a more efficient way. When it gets busy, liveops can turn on more agents to cope with demand, simply re-routing requests. Quality agents are given more volume, and a feedback loop exists to let the system learn more about the agents as they field calls. An innovative service using crowdsourcing as a core, strategic part of their business.
Amazon Mechanical Turk or ‘MTurk’ as it is affectionately known was one of the first services on the web to bring human power to machines, and provide an API for others to use.
Amazon call their tasks ‘HIT’s’ – (Human Intelligence Tasks). Workers are given ‘HIT’s’ by Requesters collecting a monetary reward for completion with each one representing a single, self-contained task that a Worker can work on and submit an answer to.
The service was initially invented for Amazon’s in-house use by Peter Cohen, to find duplicates among its web pages describing products. Recognising it’s usefulness to other businesses public release followed, showing just how much demand for human intelligence that could be interrogated by machines was out there. The site went live in November 2005, and after being Slashdotted, a rapidly growing, 100,000 strong workforce helped position it as a leading player in crowd sourcing market. Now, five years later the service has progressed and matured. In a matter of minutes and with no software development resources required, businesses can outsource thousands of tasks, manage a virtual workforce and easily download work results. At time of writing a US address was required to use the service, however a forwarding address is one way of circumventing that particular problem to use it.
SamaSource is a San Francisco-based crowd sourcing non profit organisation that brings paying, Internet-based work to disadvantaged economic areas across the globe. Using a variety of mobile and social platforms SamaSource allow you to give work to people living in poverty across the globe through the power of the web, and crowd sourcing.
Samasource workers can perform a range of tasks at very high levels of accuracy, including:
Basic data services – business listings verification, data scraping, image and text tagging, content moderation, and data entry
Advanced data services – subjective tasks including image- and text-based judgments
Language services – audio and video transcription, video captioning, and translation
Call center services – outbound services
The have the advantage of no restriction on who or what person can request a unit of work, and you can support those in less fortunate circumstances than yourself, as well as getting mundane or disruptive tasks completed at a fraction of the cost of traditional outsourcing.