Oct 29 2010
Ever think about what happens to forms when you fill them out and mail them in? It can be anything from a credit card application, getting an insurance quote, to claiming your promised prize. Saying nothing of how likely you are to win anything by filling out such forms, these forms create a wealth of menial work for someone to pine away on.
I can only imagine looking at a pile of forms and handing them to a staff to proceed with the mountainous task of meticulously copying the information and entering it into the system. Such tasks are undeniably mundane, slow, and expensive. With the internet such tasks can be dissected, distributed, and completed for a fraction of the cost. Microtask is a company that does just that. They take piles of work, organize it into bite sized tasks, send them out to their network of workers all around the world and return the results.
Microtask is a crowdsourcing service for large companies. It lets them process huge quantities of redundant work cheaper and faster. The most basic service is form processing. Companies can submit their forms and have the information uploaded into their system. Erroneous information can be pulled so the data will be cleaned as well. Microtask works by separating the task into sub tasks. So if a form has first name and last name fields, those may be processed separately by different people. Dividing the steps like this both ensures that the information stays confidential and also allows for cost savings. Simple tasks are much cheaper to process, and more complex tasks cost more to complete. By breaking the tasks into smaller chunks Microtask is able to complete the same job for a fraction of the cost.
Microtask’s system is able to integrate with a client’s own workforce as well. So a company can configure a workflow that divides the tasks and then distribute those tasks throughout their own network. The system consists of both data processing as well automated data processing. All data is continually checked for accuracy.
Beyond form processing Microtask can be used for archive digitization. Libraries, national archives, and media houses may have a massive catalog of data that needs to be translated to digital form. Text recognition tools can be error prone. Microtask can be utilizing for advanced multilingual text recognition, structural analysis and assigning keywords. All projects are slightly different and Microtask creates custom solutions for client needs.
One new direction for outsourcing is utilizing social network games. As some may be aware, all games by Zynga are notoriously evil. The amusement level of these games, Farmville, Mafia Wars, etc, is amongst the most nominally interesting in video game history. The addiction level is exceptionally high though. They are designed to never be completed and continually run out of resources. In order to keep playing you either have to pay cash or be subjected to the most inane advertising schemes conceived by man. Imagine being slimed by 30 minutes of spam ads all trying to get your personal information and credit card number. At one point I recall the ‘best’ option for gaining points in Mafia wars was to sign up for an adult dating service. So much for targeted ads, eh? OfferPal, one of the former providers of such scams had to close shop and completely rebrand amidst the furor over deceptive advertising. Their unofficial motto was, “Life is short, have an affair, in order to continue your Farmville game.”
Taking a positive slant on this ridiculous business model is Microtask. They’re currently working towards a solution where companies like Zynga can monetize by using their hopelessly addicted user base to do something constructive. That is, to gain more points in the game they could complete micro-tasks. This would more effectively ensure the game’s profitability as well as helping legitimate companies be more efficient. All the while not tearing down the very fabric of society.
Microtask offers a dynamic solution for distributed work. As more and more companies look for ways to keep their staff productive, using distributed workforces will become increasingly popular. Microtask is able to provide effective crowdsourcing solutions so companies can focus on their core business.