Wasted Work

I’ve been doing some research on the ethics of crowdsourcing, and one thing that is really resonating with me is wasted work.

It might resonate because in my role as an MTurk worker, I’ve had a few HITs rejected (ouch! That is a knife in my soul! Oof! That is a razor blade on my kneecap!). I can understand the reject for the HIT I submitted when I really didn’t know what I was doing and didn’t answer the survey at all–what I can’t understand is why the person who rejected a few HITs did so because s/he didn’t think I spent the proper amount of time on it.

There was nothing in the HIT that required a certain time commitment. I’m a fast reader. I can process four sentences and let you know which one makes the most sense fairly quickly. It’s a gift.

But apparently not to the person who rejected me. And my first thought was–that was a minute down the drain when I could have done something else.

Then I did some research on sites like Crowdspring…where someone posts a job (or shall we call it a contest), people contribute their ideas (logos, names) and then that someone picks one. The winner gets cash. The losers get nothing. Today I was showing Crowdspring to someone and saw that more than 247 people had submitted names for a new product. There’s still 24 hours to submit, so I imagine that number will go up. But 246 (at least) people won’t get paid. And will have their names stored in that requester’s file, perhaps for another product or product extension.

Not fair.

All that wasted work. Wasted talent. Wasted energy. Wasted ideas. Wasted time.

Oh I know the reply is “people know what they’re getting in to…people love doing this…people get work for their portfolio..” yadayada. But unpaid for work that is never used is nothing but spec work. In my ad agency days, we actively fought against spec work. And you know why? Because even though it would get us jobs, the client never really like it or wanted to use it. And the same judgements could be made by looking at a body of work…already paid for..for other clients.

Well this turned into a wee rant. I apologize for that…but maybe the lesson is: “think before you reject.”

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