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Crowdsourcing Makes an API For Human Intelligence 123

holy_calamity writes "A startup called MobileWorks claims to offer human-level intelligence to any piece of software, with APIs for image, text or speech processing that crowdsource tasks to workers in India. Unlike Amazon's Mechanical Turk, jobs can be sent in by software without human help and can also be completed in 'real time' with a turnaround of a few seconds. The company claims that for problems like OCR and image recognition it makes more sense to find ways to use human intelligence than developing complex custom algorithms." Not a bad plan — sounds like they've lifted a page from the business model of captcha-cracking spammers.
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Crowdsourcing Makes an API For Human Intelligence

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  • by pla ( 258480 ) on Monday August 29, 2011 @07:55PM (#37248318) Journal
    that crowdsource tasks to workers in India.

    Say, I have this great idea for harvesting more cotton by "crowdsourcing" the task to imported workers from Africa...

    Or does this "merely" mean that child labor has "shifted paradgms" from a reason to boycott a company, to a patentable business method?
  • by Dunbal ( 464142 ) * on Monday August 29, 2011 @08:19PM (#37248494)
    Tech support wasn't much better when it was done in the US, in the 1980's. You got the same morons but they cost ten times more. The problem is not India, it's the type of person who lands a job in tech support.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday August 29, 2011 @08:40PM (#37248652)

    That's not true at all. I first got into PCs in the 1980s. My background was in physics, rather than computing, so there was a lot I didn't know. Furthermore, the Internet as we know it today didn't exist then, so calling tech support was often the only option.

    I can think of at least 8 times that I called various companies' American tech support lines for hardware and software problems, and got help right away, without waiting on hold forever, and without going through a script of stupid questions. I vividly recall one time when I had to call a compiler vendor about a bug in their compiler, within minutes the tech had confirmed the problem, and he actually called me back the next day with a workaround. That was well into the 1990s.

    This just doesn't happen today. You're lucky if you don't sit on the phone for hours on end. Then you end up getting somebody claiming to be named "Steve", although he has a very heavy Hindi accent. He walks you through numerous useless diagnostics steps that don't help at all. Finally he says, "Sir, I am unable to be of help to you today. I will be promptly transferring you to second level support." Then the line goes dead because he "accidentally" hangs up.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday August 29, 2011 @09:30PM (#37249092)

    It's done on a computer, why not disguise the worker's end of the project as a game? Then you make a Facebook app out of it. Instead of working for money, they get points. With enough points they can dress up their little cartoon character in some virtual swag and do other things in associated mini-games. Of course this is done while keeping in mind to exploit the other aspects of social media and some people's competitive nature. Also if you package it just right, not only can you get free labor but you might even be able to fool people into paying you to do your work.

  • by C10H14N2 ( 640033 ) on Monday August 29, 2011 @11:43PM (#37249774)

    If you are going to make a statement of fair trade and wages, it should be a trivial task to state that in precise terms. It is a fair question to ask, what a typical quantity of hours and remuneration your company considers "fair" in a given locale, say, Delhi, where roughly 300 INR / day (roughly 6 USD) is the legal minimum wage for labor requiring a secondary or higher education. If you cannot directly speak to that in terms that can be reconciled with the local prevailing labor standards, your vague marketing language assurances on the topic are quite worthless.

egrep -n '^[a-z].*\(' $ | sort -t':' +2.0