Last month, the Daily Dot released an article calling for a “minimum wage for microworkers,” which followed the story of an individual who utilized Amazon’s Mechanical Turk platform in order to earn a bit of extra money on the side. Although the author was using it as a side job, many individuals rely on microtasking to live, simply because of their existing conditions – possibly in third-world countries.
Microtasking typically has users take care of the tasks that computers haven’t efficiently been able to handle yet. This could range from anything including transcribing receipts, selecting proper points on an image, or even answering questions for a psychology survey.
In 2005, Amazon released Mechanical Turk (MTurk), aptly named after the late 18th-century faux-automaton that gave the illusion of a robotic chess master, but was actually controlled and operated by a human. Similar to the idea of microtasking, artificial intelligence for example only gains knowledge based on the parameters that living people give it and assist it with behind the scenes.
It still remains as one of the most highly-used microtasking platforms, with a rough estimate of over 500,000 workers participating.
Although Amazon’s platform isn’t the only competitor in the space, they have the tendency to take plenty of commission from existing workers, and continue to ride on legacy interfaces that are difficult to operate. To be honest, the entire process enters a dehumanizing cycle in which the workers become treated as if they were parts of a machine rather than human workers.
Rory O’Reilly and Kieran O’Reilly saw the existing faults in microtasking platforms as an opportunity to leverage blockchain technology and create Gems – a decentralized mechanical turk.
Gems is looking to disrupt the current microtasking world, and will deploy a system that reduces fees, doesn’t discriminate based on whether or not an individual has a bank account, and be equipped with an efficient interface fit for the modern age.
The Gems Protocol being developed is based both on the validity of work and trusted participants, and the Gems Platform will be the first platform to deploy this protocol. The platform will operate similar to any microtasking platform, with workers and requesters creating and fulfilling tasks. However, platform fees will be eliminated, and their GEM token will be the means of exchange.
The need for Gems is arguably quite justified when surveying the landscape of existing microtasking solutions. The inefficiencies of solutions such as MTurk are too great to be ignored, especially considering the current rise of blockchain technology.
One of the key underlying missions that Gems brings to the table in terms of its platform is adoption. Adoption has been vastly perpetuated by market trends, but an alternative would allow even those who can’t play directly with the markets an opportunity to enter this growing space. In the case of Gems, a user would simply sign up, complete their first microtask, and earn right on the platform.
I recently had a chance to talk with Rory O’Reilly, the co-founder of Gems to talk about his vision for the platform, and what is to come of it in the future.
“The vision with Gems is to eliminate existing inefficiencies with current microtasking platforms. These platforms suffer from poor economic incentives, they limit the unbanked, and they have neglected interfaces. With Amazon Mechanical Turk, it’s not their A-E team building it – we can do this better, and we will.”
According to Rory, there are four types of individuals that Gems is seeking to target when building their platform. The first of which are the individuals that are both familiar with both cryptocurrency and gems. They will likely be the first workers on the platform to start tasking immediately once everything is running.
The second batch consists of the individuals familiar with cryptocurrency, but aren’t familiar with Gems. Following them will be existing MTurk and microtasking workers who’ve had access to legacy platforms, but haven’t had access to cryptocurrency.
Lastly, one of the most ambitious tasks for Gems is to assist the unbanked who’ve never microtasked and aren’t familiar with cryptocurrency. Part of that plan is to partner with organizations that’ve made banking the unbanked their mission, and getting the world up to speed with socioeconomic freedom and cryptocurrency.
On the topic of the requestors side, costs are cut simply because they’re able to receive “6 answers in 1 minute as opposed to 1 answer in 6 minutes,” due to more efficient interfaces, the elimination of fees, and fewer individuals having to do each task, according to Rory.
Included on Gems is a “trust score” which verifies the reliability of the worker participating in the network. Every time a worker completes a task successfully, their trust score increases which could then lead to them being “verifiers” who authenticate the work of others. This scoring system also allows the network to target negative actors by removing them, and the score is tied to an Ethereum address in order to verify both longevity and success metrics.
The need for verification goes down as a trust score is built, which the network determines through their “Gems Implied Reputation Method.” This further incentivizes users on the network to act in accordance with the system due to reward amounts decreasing with poor work.
“We’re really going after microtasking platforms and we don’t want anyone to have to suffer from their rent-seeking middleman tactics.”
Gems is taking on quite the ambitious task, and it seems as though they have both the development power and ability to execute on their vision. The protocol itself will not only power the Gems Platform, but any app that wishes to build on top of it, further expanding the potential for the ecosystem.
It seems as though this hidden gem at the moment might prove to completely reshape the way we think about and participate in microtasking. It’s time to give the neglected microtaskers their time to shine.