Over the years, the Internet has evolved from what was once a one-to-one communication platform (AIM and email) to a one-to-many service (Craigslist, Amazon, Facebook and Twitter, among others). In the midst of this massive change, we’ve also seen a rise in the number of crowdsourced platforms, which can provide needed services at reasonable prices.
Whether it’s getting your lawn mowed by a TaskRabbit freelancer or hiring someone for more professionally rigorous work like translating apps or localizing websites, quality matters. Unfortunately, the "humanware" aspect of crowdsourcing is often the weak link in an otherwise strong platform. As a TechStars mentor of mine recently pointed out, “When humanware meets software, the problem often lies between the seat and the machine.”
As the world continues to come online—some 2.4 billion of the world's citizens are now connected—more and more people will turn to crowdsourcing as a way to get things done. But if they can't trust the humanware behind the software, they haven't actually found an effective or dependable solution to their problem.
If you're using a crowdsourced platform to hire people who analyze data, build websites and apps, draft communications or perform other critical tasks, you need to recognize that your confidential information could be exposed. With this in mind, it’s critical that you look for the key indicators of a safe and secure platform. To find these indicators, ask yourself the following three questions:
1. Does the Crowdsourced Platform Vet Its Crowd?
This may seem like an obvious question, but all too often, companies don't ask this at the onset. Many crowdsourcing platforms allow anyone to enter the community. This can lead not only to poor service but also to a danger of leaking critical information to the market. Ensure that the platform you're planning to use has clear barriers to entry—testing, background checks, interviews, etc.—and prominently displays its vetting process.
For example, at VerbalizeIt, we vet everyone who comes into our language translation platform on both their written and spoken language skills. We then vet them on every other expertise they list—otherwise, we’re in danger of failing our customers. If someone claims to be able to conduct legal translations, for instance, they’d better be able to prove to us they have a working knowledge of legal jargon.
2. Is the Crowd Available 24/7?
In today’s global marketplace, there's always have a possibility that you'll connect with a new customer who lives five time zones away. To help you get the job done efficiently with your international clients, there's no reason your crowdsourcing platform shouldn't also be available 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
When vetting a crowdsourcing platform, confirm that it offers global support and ask if it can expedite orders so you can better serve your clients. For example, if you’re building an app, there no reason you should feel restricted to coding in your own timezone, while the sun is up. On the other hand, you shouldn't have to sacrifice sleep to get the work done. Some platforms—Elance and oDesk are just two examples—have coders all over the world ready to continue building your app while you’re sleeping.
3. How Much Control Do You Have Over Transparency?
Most crowdsourced platforms do an exceptional job demonstrating their end product and what their customers have to say about it. However, very few crowdsourcing platforms show you the step-by-step process and exactly who is working on it. Accenture reports that between one-fifth and one-third of U.S. workers are now freelancers. Knowing who these freelancers are, what their expertise is, how they've been vetted, and what their goals are directly affects the level of risk you're taking by sending your work into a crowdsourced platform.
And this leads us to the golden rule of crowdsourcing: When choosing a crowdsourced platform, make sure you know exactly how much say you have over each step of the process.
Exactly who is working on your tasks? Determining the answer to that question will mitigate the risk of losing confidential information, sacrificing quality or missing a deadline. You’ll also greatly increase your chances of being satisfied with a job well done.
Ryan Frankel is the CEO and co-founder of VerbalizeIt, which delivers instant access to a global community of high-quality translators. He is also a member of the Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC), an invite-only organization comprised of the world's most promising young entrepreneurs. Contact Ryan directly at Ryan.Frankel@verbalizeit.com.
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