Crowdsourcing is a technique for farming out labor-intensive tasks over the Internet by splitting them into small chunks that dozens, hundreds or even thousands of people complete at their desks for a few cents each. Researchers at MIT’s Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory are developing a new database system, called Qurk, that will automatically crowdsource tasks that are difficult or impossible to perform computationally. Images stored in a standard database system, for example, could be sorted according to date of creation or some other data tag, whether applied automatically or by hand. Images in a Qurk database, however, could be sorted according to the approximate age of the people depicted, or the appeal of the depicted locations as travel destinations, or any other attribute whose assessment would require human judgment. In a pair of conference papers last year, the researchers described and demonstrated Qurk’s general computational framework.
Over just the last few years, Australia has established itself as a global hub for crowdsourcing platforms. Early last year I wrote about the phenomenon , pointing to leading service marketplace Freelancer.com , which is now based out of Sydney (see my interview of its CEO Matt Barrie on Channel 7 last week), 99designs , which recently raised $35 million as the top graphic design competition platform in the world, and DesignCrowd , another top player in the space. I followed up with a post about the innovative ideas broker Ideas While You Sleep .
micro-job, microjob, geo-local micro-jobs
As a step toward integrating human expertise permanently into our writing tools, we present Soylent, a word processing interface that integrates crowd contributions to aid users in complex writing tasks ranging from error prevention and shortening paragraphs to automation of tasks like citation searches and tense changes. We believe that crowd workers with a basic knowledge of written English can support both novice and expert writers. These workers can perform tasks that the writer might not, such as scrupulously searching a document to save space or updating a list of addresses to include a zip code. They can also provide a valuable outside perspective on a document, pointing out errors that the word processor cannot catch and then suggesting fixes.