An Extreme Approach? How Microtask Breaks Projects Down into Tiny Tasks

One company which have had a reasonable amount of media coverage in the last few months are a Finnish company called Microtask.  I think they’re a very interesting specimen in the crowdsourcing landscape – someone taking an almost automated approach to crowdsourcing just about as far as it can go at the moment. In fact even their CEO Willi Miettinen calls it an “extreme approach.”

Existing microtask platforms like Amazon Mechanical Turk or associated aggregators like CrowdFlower already break projects down into tiny tasks. Microtask’s software breaks a project down into even smaller slithers, and presents the human operators with an endless queue of really minute tasks, each of which can be done in a couple of seconds. This means that the work is suited to jobs like digitising handwritten data or correcting errors in output from OCR software.

Media coverage has hinted that Microtask’s ultra-efficient solution represents a glimpse of the future of work, in the way that it can already take mundane tasks and

“make those little bits of human labor even more menial, discrete and interchangeable”

To be honest I’m not sure I particularly envy the workers in the insurance company who have to use Microtask as a platform for some of their internal work, but it may suit some individuals. For example a comment on one article from a working mother suggests she loves this type of work because

Moms tend to get interrupted 100 times a day, and this work is very amenable to interruption.”

Microtask seem to be doing well. They have secured over a million euros in funding and are motoring along with their business model which supplies a platform for inside the enterprise, as well as a managed service using Microtask’s own labor pool. I suspect we will see other start-ups this year in similar territory, displaying ingenious attempts at breaking projects down into their smallest parts.

What do you think? Is there a limit to what this type of software can do? Does it represent a glimpse of the future of work?

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