“Microtasks” are a new kind of online work where people over the Internet complete tasks that require human input. Amazon.com has been running its own program called MTurk (mechanical Turk) for some time now. However, the platform is plagued with geolocation restrictions, high middleman fees, and general poor satisfaction. One new blockchain Ethereum startup wants to change all that with its own competing platform called Gems.
What Are Microtasks?
Before we get into Gems, let’s talk about what a microtask is. Today there are a large number of companies and research institutions that have thousands of small tasks that need to be completed, and they can’t currently be done by machines autonomously.
For example, a company that is engaging in A.I. image recognition training may need a person to identify the contents of thousands or millions of photographs. It may need people to discern which photographs contain cats and which contain dogs. This information can then be used to better train image recognizing A.I.
Another common use of microtasks is listening to audio files and writing down or transcribing what is said. So far, machines are not very accurate in this kind of work, especially if the audio quality is not perfect.
On Amazon’s microtask platform, users need to register, prove who they are, submit numerous identity documents, and pass a litany of proprietary and opaque requirements that could include location and whether or not they were using a VPN. If they don’t pass, they get a denial e-mail several days later — with no explanation of why they were denied, and no chance to appeal the decision.
Users are paid in fiat currency and typically in the amounts of just a few cents depending on the job. Amazon stands in between those hiring and those working and charges high and opaque middleman fees.
Gems to Offer a Better Solution?
The Gems website went live not long ago. On it, the company outlines their plans for an Ethereum based decentralized “mechanical Turk” or microtask platform. Unlike Amazon, Gems only requires an Ethereum address to get started.
Here’s how the platform would work: Users sign up with an Ethereum address and complete microtasks. In exchange for completing tasks, they are paid in Gems and their work is rated by trusted parties. The more highly rated work, meaning accurate work, the user completes the higher their score will become. Higher scores will lead to access to more complex jobs, potentially higher pay, and the ability to become a task verifier and get paid for doing so.
As the Gems platform operate transparently, there are no middleman fees. Instead, only Ethereum network fees need to be paid and are factored into the payout equation.
In addition to tracking user scores, members of the network can stake Gems as a way of saying that they are verifying the authenticity of their work. If tasks are intentionally done incorrectly or a very low-quality, the network member may face a loss of tokens.
Not all tasks will require a stake, it is up to the requester to require a one and also to specify the amount. If the job is high risk and high pay, it may also require a larger staking deposit. We won’t know about this, however, until the platform goes live.
A Chat With Rory O’Reilly, Gems Co-Founder
Bitsonline spoke to Rory O’Reilly, one of the co-founders of Gems about his platform and some of the questions we had.
First, we wanted to know for sure if this platform would have any geographic restrictions or not. He told us that “we [at Gems] don’t foresee [having] any geographical restrictions”.
Amazon’s MTurk program has various certification tests that workers can complete in order to qualify for better paying or more specialized tasks. We asked O’Reilly if Gems intended to offer such a program, and he said that yes, this is something they want to include eventually, depending on the task.
Next, we wanted to know about pay scales, or how much will workers get paid for completing tasks. O’Reilly said that the platform will be completely market driven. This means that requesters are free to offer as much pay as they want, and it’s up to workers to accept the jobs or not.
A Popular Name in Crypto
We noticed that a number of other blockchain projects using the name ‘Gem’ or ‘Gems’ have popped up over the last few years. For instance, there is GetGems which is a Telegram competitor, Bitcoin-Gems which is a company that sells actual gemstones for bitcoin, and the GemOS, which is a blockchain based operating system.
With this in mind, we asked O’Reilly if this might prove to be an issue for his startup. He told us that “… we’ve owned Gems.org for the past five years, and we now own the @Gems Twitter handle. I think our handles are different enough not to get confused with any other companies.”
We checked and gems.org came back to life just a few months ago. Back in 1999, a previous owner was using it — also to try and sell real gemstones.
Silly trips into nostalgia aside, we asked how often Gems workers will be paid.
“We’d like workers to be paid instantly of course, but if we did that, there would be high tx costs. It’s up in the air right now what the right approach is but we’re working on that. For example, lumping once a week or setting a minimum will limit tx costs. As most things do though, this will change and progress to hopefully a much smoother payment mechanism.” said O’Reilly.
Becoming a Crypto On-Ramp for Thousands
Another benefit of this program that the developers didn’t mention in their white paper is that this could act as an on-ramp for a very large number of people to get involved in cryptocurrency.
At the moment, the only way is to acquire cryptocurrency are to mine it, earn it in exchange for work (which can be difficult to find as not many employers are willing to pay in cryptocurrency), or to buy it directly with fiat, which often has many requirements for identification and geographic restrictions. Or that you live within a reasonable distance of a bitcoin ATM.
If the Gems platform really works as specified, this could lead to many hundreds of thousands or even millions of new users to cryptocurrency as a whole are using easy to complete tasks as a way to earn cryptocurrency.
Does this Gems project sound like a promising idea? Let us now what you think.
Images via Gems