Wednesday, September 22, 2010

The Second Life Employment Bureau

Over there at Futurismic, inspired by a translation project, Paul Raven has a great idea: Outsourcing intellectual work to the internet masses.

More seriously, though, I can see how starting some sort of employment bureau in SL for this sort of work could be a real moneyspinner; where there are savings margins of the scale that Klein is claiming, there’s plenty of space for middlemen. Things have been quiet on the metaverse front, at least as far as meatspace news is concerned, but a goldrush on those low low wages is sure to look very appealing to cash-strapped meatspace businesses…

Let's prod this idea a little.
Its limitations lie in the nature of what "this sort of work" can be.

It must be work that is mainly intellectual, else it's difficult to outsource over the web.
Your "work to be done" should not depend on a tight schedule. That the person you hire agrees to the job and never turns up, or agrees and never turns anything in, is entirely possible. Apart from losing a measly amount of "meta-money" by not sticking to his word there are no consequences for the virtual dealbreaker, while the employer's project has been stalled during that time.
You should not expect any quality standard either: It's difficult to verify qualifications, or to enforce the fixing of shoddy work, if the only thing you know for sure is the worker's SL-persona.

The SL Employment Bureau will attract people who want intellectual work done, and are not under pressure to deliver on time, and don't demand high quality output.
That's basically nobody.

To make this venture more attractive, two solutions are possible.
The first way to make this work, is to design a method which gets people to their prospective employers, who are guaranteed to deliver adequate work on time. But those who do high quality work on time have a name: They are called professionals. They are expensive and the main reason why someone would flee the real world in search of cheap intellectual labor on the net.

Which leaves the second version. In order to make the "Metaspace Employment Agency" (need a trademark on that) attract customers, you would have to design a crowdsourcing solution that can guarantee to deliver at least adequate work, on time, at a competitive price. A beefed up Wikipedia with deadlines, micropayments for participation, and mechanisms for quality control.
While that sounds more plausible than the first kind of solution, it still has the taste of a catherding enterprise. Even if you manage to herd your mass of (maybe) motivated users into delivering something useful, there's no guarantee that anyone is going to put his trust in such a shifty idea.

Still, there already exists something like that out there (only without the SL reference): Kluster, as far as I understand, aims to one day be a crowdsourced collaboration tool for specific projects.

I'm curious if they will manage to make money out of herding cats.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

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- Thomas