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Summary:

ShortTask is a marketplace for tasks, aiming to match-make “solvers” and “seekers”: people who have time to complete brief tasks and people who need small tasks completed. In many ways, ShortTask is similar to Amazon’s Mechanical Turk (MTurk) service. Like MTurk, ShortTask is seeking to address […]

ShortTaskShortTask is a marketplace for tasks, aiming to match-make “solvers” and “seekers”: people who have time to complete brief tasks and people who need small tasks completed.

In many ways, ShortTask is similar to Amazon’s Mechanical Turk (MTurk) service. Like MTurk, ShortTask is seeking to address tasks that aren’t large enough to necessitate the hiring of a contractor or part-time employee. This marketplace is largely oriented around activities that can be completed from home — ideal for web workers — and currently numbers around 61,000 available tasks.

Activities include transcribing audio and video files, annotating images, copywriting, commenting on blog posts or online forums, data entry and online research. Seekers simply publish a task, set a payment level and deadline. Solvers can explore the site and select the tasks they’d like to complete. ShortTask takes a 10 percent commission on each transaction.

ShortTask might be a useful way to find additional work. However, I’m uncomfortable at the payment levels set in the marketplace. Salon published a great article in 2006 examining the labor law implications of Mechanical Turk, “I make $1.45 a week and I love it!,” which suggested that MTurk-like services are undercutting the minimum wage.

For example, today ShortTask has listed a task to transcribe a 22-minute video, within four hours, for $5.50. That’s about $1.30 an hour, or the equivalent of $200 for a month’s work. That particular task is one of the better paying tasks listed at ShortTask; the worst fast-food service jobs will pay you better.

If services like ShortTask expect to flourish, they’ll need seekers to pay fairly, so that a reasonably sized population of solvers can be sustained. More significantly, the marketplace operators should at least adhere to minimum wage levels.

People have fought for the right to be equitably compensated. Codifying that in the services we use to find work is both essential and moral.

What do you think of marketplaces like ShortTask?

By Imran Ali

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  1. This is globalization in action. The work seems underpaid because the site isn’t meant for you or me. It’s meant for all the people in less developed countries who may not be particularly skilled but do have an Internet connection and a basic grasp of English.

    The way to avoid falling into that pit is to have high-tech skills and project management experience, so that you’re the one posting the jobs rather than searching them.

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  2. I don’t think there is any moral obligation to set prices that meet minimum wage requirements for this type of work. This isn’t an employee-employer relationship. An employee essentially sells their time to an employer. In exchange for a fixed hourly rate the employee loses most control over the work they do and the times they can work. You don’t go to work at McDonalds and pick where you work or when you work. An employee can always quit if they don’t like the work or the conditions.

    These types of services are more like micro-contracting relationships. Someone needs a specific task done for a fixed price. It’s up to the person taking the work to decide if it’s equitable for them. If it isn’t they shouldn’t take the work. The benefit, they choose when they work and what they work on, and if their is an opportunity to make a higher than average hourly rate if they can get the work done quickly.

    That said… these rates are so low I don’t see why anyone trying to make the most money with their working time would actually consider doing them.

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  3. [...] Technorati Tags : data entry jobs jobs from home work from home jobs work online at home jobs working from home jobs at home work at home online jobs Read More… [...]

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  4. Silverhammer – you are right, for now.

    How long do you think before the project management jobs get outsourced? They are all email, video conferencing and phonecalls. The only location differentiators these days are access to markets and access to capital.

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  5. “ShortTask is seeking to address tasks that aren’t large enough to necessitate the hiring of a contractor or part-time employee.”

    See, that is where I disagree. Both ShortTask and Turk list jobs that people should be hiring a contractor or freelancer to complete. Many jobs go well beyond the scope of simple tasks. Instead, however, the jobs are listed on these sites in order to take advantage of the extremely low rates.

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  6. @babyis60: That’s not the sort of project management I’m talking about. Sure, I too have had bosses like that, but they’ve already been plowed under by this economy. Real project managers are not generic MBAs who play with email and Gantt charts all day.

    Besides, real managers and decision makers don’t work for those rates even in less developed countries. Globalization has already crossed that threshold.

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  7. Waitaminute… I took a deeper look at the site and gotta ask, why are we spending any time at all on this? It’s just another A. Harrison Barnes scam site, and almost all of the tasks are from his other sites.

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  8. As a graphic designer for 20 years and web designer for nearly 15, I have to say sites like this aren’t worth a look at. They aren’t paying rates any self respecting professional in the western world would consider – they never do – and part of the reason I’ve been put both out of business and then again out of work by company that outsourced to India, is simply that there are people on this planet for whom a few bucks USD are a very lively wage. I’m busy figuring out how to keep a roof over my head in the meantime but it was a good ride when it was valued!

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  9. I don’t agree with the above comments. Maybe there are persons that take advantages of these short tasks. There are not only great skilled and advanced users of Internet. If you are one of these than you can search for work in some other place. But as i said there is not only one category of people and as a consequence we need all kind of opportunities.

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    1. Right ON. I don’t agree with anyone being treated like a slave, but I am still glad this site is here b/c for some this might be all or the best they can do. So, I guess like the others have said if you don’t feel like a slave here work here if you do then don’t work here. I am here b/c I am searching for extra income outside what my husband makes….being a stay at home mother of 2 such as myself is a never-ending job without salary. I wish I could find something decent and honest online to make $200.00 per wk. Anyone know of such a thing?? Please help me out by replying if you know.

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