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Description: DO one assigned task on your computer. It shouldn’t take you more than two seconds. Repeat 14,399 times. Congratulations! Your eight-hour work day is complete.

Source: NYT.com

Date: Oct. 30, 2010

No such workplace yet exists, but with the fiendishly clever creation of standardized two-second tasks, delivered to any computer connected to the Internet, it is now technically possible to set up.    Microtask, a start-up company in Finland, has come up with the software that delivers such tasks. The company offers to take on “dull, repetitive work” — like digitizing paper forms or business cards — for prospective clients. As it says in a video on its Web site, “Microtask loves the work you hate.”

Microtask is in a position to love that work because not one of its 12 employees actually performs it. Its software carves a given task into microscopically small pieces, like transcribing a handwritten four-digit number in a tiny rectangle on a form. (Handwritten numbers and letters are the bane of text-recognition software.) These tasks, stripped of identifying information about the client or the larger task, can then be distributed online anywhere.        Click here for rest of story

Questions for discussion:

  • Does Microtask have a viable business model?
  • Which industries do feel are the target market for this type of outsourcing?
  • Do you feel that this work will stay in developed countries or move into low wage areas of the world?

3 Responses to “When the Assembly Line Moves Online”

  1. Trevor Hincks

    I think Microtask has a viable business model. This a fairly innovative idea, derived from former, successful models such as the assembly line, made new in our current information age. To be able to break down these bigger tasks into segments that can be processed in a few seconds is great. Obviously there will be different hickups in the plan, but once these issues are worked out, and Microtask can perform these tasks within seconds, this method will become increasingly effective. As we learned in class, it is much easier to manage smaller components than those that are large and complex. The entire Microtask philosophy revolves around this truth.

    As the article mentioned, this outsourcing can be a very effective tool in the translation process. The article touched on how inexpensive it was compared to other translating services, which underlines the objective of providing this service with the lowest cost possible. This means that this work could very well move to lower wage areas of the world. Not necessarily with translating, but with other objectives that will not be so specific to developed countries.

  2. Nianze

    Microtask does have a variable business model. Worker control is precisely what the Microtask model has engineered out — that’s the source of its insidious efficiency. Microtask also helps call centers in answering questions, translating and helping employees in doing lulls work. In fact, this model really reduces labour hours in assembly lines in manufacturing to perform repetitive task. Microtask’s offered to do the same task with internet. By reducing labour in the manufacturing, it also helps to reduce personnel and payroll expenses. I think this software will stay particularly in developed countries to substitute labour hours. In developing countries, a company can easily hire low wages labour to work for.

  3. Joana H.

    Microtask’s business model might not be considered viable, since it is always dependent on other firms’ willingness to outsource their “boring” and repetitive tasks. This entails various issues to be considered. First of all, this kind of business is pretty new (in the market from 2009), and therefore we could say it is still in the “awareness” phase in the buyer readiness (of product’s acceptance) stages; moreover, its main feature of being online, implies that the data needed to be processed have to be moved and shared among different people, and therefore security and corporate data protection might be the second issue. And it’s exactly because of this last drawback that I think banks, which might be the best target for deletion of “boring” tasks, wouldn’t rely on this kind of outsourcing service. Basically, repetitive and congesting tasks are part of every job in every firm, so any corporation would be a possible user of this type of service, especially large corporations and especially in this period of economic crisis, in which a possibility to cut costs, either through Microtask (crowdsourcing) or through Clowdcrowd (widesourcing), would be so much appealing, and not so difficult to put into practice. Moreover workers are not in the position to have lots of wage bargaining power, and hence it’s very easy for these providers to find workforce among developed or poor countries, as the Microtask website states: “We have secured a large enough workforce for our current needs”.

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