ShortTask: Connecting Online Job Seekers With Providers

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?

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