CrowdFlower, a company which launched today at the TechCrunch50 conference in San Francisco, is a service that helps businesses find workers for menial tasks and rate them based on performance.
Mechnical Turks, as they’re sometimes called, are people who do tasks that require human intelligence and that a software program can’t replicate — like tagging objects in photos or checking videos for pornography. They do this for fun, or for pennies for every task they complete. No one has ever satisfactorily explained why, but that doesn’t stop them.
CrowdFlower helps businesses find mechanical Turks to finish whatever they need. An aspiring taskmaster can go to the site, list a task and add, for example, the data they need sorted from an Internet feed, or in an Excel file. They can build forms to specify certain responses, or make the task more like a quiz.
CrowdFlower then finds workers off Amazon’s Mechanical Turk, gaming site Gambit, Samasource (which finds workers in developing countries) and other services. CrowdFlower comes out of Dolores Labs, famous on the Internet for its porn-sorting work.
What makes CrowdFlower a bit different is that it feeds back rich analytics on the tasks. If you’re create a task, it shows you how likely results are to be true, depending on how many people agree with the result. You can zoom in to find out why certain items have lots of disagreements. You can go back and look at what the individual users have done to see whether they’re historical trustworthy.
Judges at the conference provided some feedback to the company.
Tim O’Reilly: Mechanical Turk is gaining stream as a fundamental Internet service. There’s still a lot of ignorance about this as a business. Seems to be more of a marketing challenge, not a technical challenge.
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