The Sweat of the Crowd

When Chris Messina referred to crowdsourcing as the neue sweatshop he was coming from an anti-corporation, or pro-community point of view.

I would assume that he’s referring to the Mechanical Turk model of crowdsourcing where you can land yourself a lot of work for very little reward. Although there is no requirement to take a task you consider underpaid. There is no minimum number of tasks to be completed on a hourly, weekly or monthly basis. It is not billed as a replacement for you day job. It is certainly not even billed as a community. There are no aspects to the site designed to encourage interaction with other users. You come, you work, you leave. (OK – maybe the sweatshop analogy does apply here!)

There is at least the offer of financial return which is not an aspect of most online communities. If a crowdsourcing project aims to steal someone’s work or intellectual property then this is clearly not correct.

iStockphoto is a community of photographers who are paid for their contributions to a stock photography collection. Everything is in order. Your work is labelled as your work and protected under licence. Payments for work are clearly displayed. Payments are handled on your behalf. The company is actually part of Getty Images. In this example, crowdsourcing as a sweatshop couldn’t be further from the truth.

While the sweatshop analogy for cheap labour is relevant it does imply corporations stealing from the efforts of an individual. Something which any individual would always have the decision to avoid.

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