Introducing Crowd Research Initiative and Recap

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Welcome, summer program researchers!

Congratulations! you've been accepted to participate in one of the most ambitious projects in the research area of human-computer interaction. Together, we're building the next generation crowdsourcing platform - 300+ of us. As you know, we've been exploring this space for a while, so this page will serve to get you onboard quickly and on pace with the rest of us. Let's start, shall we?

What is crowdsourcing?

Crowdsourcing is the process of obtaining needed services, ideas, or content by soliciting contributions from a large group of people, and especially from an online community, rather than from traditional employees or suppliers. A great example of crowdsourcing is Wikipedia - a website we all use to learn about specific topics. The wikipedia is built by people like us (crowd), who have spent their knowledge and time to create the world's largest encyclopedia. None of these contributors were traditionally hired, but the entire effort was crowdsourced. Remember, crowd is us, it can be anyone willing to make contributions for a given task or goal. Watch this quick video to learn more or read about research in this space post slide 33.

What is a crowdsourcing platform?

In order to harness crowd potential, we need to reach to crowd. A crowdsourcing platform is an internet marketplace, that enables individuals and businesses (known as requesters) to coordinate the use of human intelligence to perform needful tasks. The crowd is often termed as workers in such platforms. Platforms like UpWork caters to larger projects like website development, while platforms like Amazon Mechanical Turk helps in getting micro tasks done like labeling images or filling in surveys. Other platform includes:

  • Taskrabbit - to get crowd to help you with physical world needs, like shopping and delivery.
  • Zooniverse - to get crowd to help explore space, not possible through world's super computers.
  • Gigwalk - to get crowd to help you find local information from anywhere in the world.

Why do we need a new platform?

Today’s platforms are notoriously bad at ensuring high-quality results, producing fair wages and respect for workers, and making it easy to author effective tasks. What might we create if we knew that our children would become crowd workers? Our goal is to reconsider the design of the crowdsourcing platforms (and train you to become awesome researchers while we do that).

What do workers and requesters have to say?

During our first week, we asked participants to put on the shoe of a worker and a requester and share their experiences. Participants were encouraged to explore a variety of platforms like: Mechanical Turk, Clickworkers, etc. This exercise helped us identify the problems and areas of improvement.

As a worker

  • Very difficult to find work. We kept seeing the same task that nobody is doing, over and over. It becomes super repetitive.
  • Concerns about wages.
  • Need to be treated fairly and respectfully, and have a voice in the platform
  • People with no experience earned much less than people with Turking experience. On AMT, the high-paying tasks were gated behind qualifications. They need to be able to expose their skills so they can get work they are qualified for and advance their skills
  • Scam is quite common.
  • Suggestion: Check out Turkopticon, Reddit’s /r/mturk and /r/HITsworthturkingfor

As a requester

  • Among the people who were new to the platform: signing up was a bear, and wrangling CSVs was not much better
  • It’s hard to trust the results: had to go back and inspect every single response
  • Need to get their HITs completed (quickly / correctly)
  • Need to have workers who have the appropriate skills and demographics do their tasks and trust them
  • Need to be able to easily generate good tasks
  • Need to be able to price their tasks appropriately
  • Seemed like AMT was designed to be most friendly to requesters
  • Suggestion: Check out Panos' blog and Reddit /r/mturk requester issues

What needs to be fixed?

What is the plan of action?

As part of this program, we want to create a new marketplace that we’re all proud to support and use. Its a chance for you to learn with us as we experiment with new forms of research at scale. Later, we plan to submit a research paper at top-tier academic venues, with you as a coauthor. You can also request a recommendation letter from Prof. Michael Bernstein of Stanford CS. In short, we want you to own this project and work together to achieve this ambitious goal. We want to design a new future, a future following a user-centered research trajectory:

  • Empathy and needfinding
  • Brainstorming and ideation
  • Rapid prototyping and implementation
  • Launch
  • Evaluation

General format

We will work in teams toward weekly milestones of your choice, give feedback on each others’ milestones, and take the best ideas to move forward. Each week, we will use the results from our efforts so far to decide on a milestone that we’ll pursue for the next week. Collaborate with your team or form new one's to execute the milestone.

Peer feedback

After submitting your team’s milestone, you’ll have about 12 hours to give feedback on a few peers’ submissions. We will use this feedback to: Highlight the highest-rated submissions, Invite teams to join the Hangout on Air, Guide our next steps.

Weekly Rhythm

  • Saturday 9am PST: team meeting + milestone opens
  • Thursday 11:59pm PST: milestone closes
  • Friday 12:00am PST: peer feedback on milestones
  • Occasional meetings to brainstorm and on need basis

Research and engineering

As part of this project, we will address some open-ended and challenging research questions. To testify or evaluate many of these questions, we might have to engineer prototypes. Prototypes can range from lo-fi (like a paper drawing) to fully developed one's. You are encouraged to form goal oriented teams with people with varied skills, and accomplish goals. In human-computer interaction, research and engineering go hand in hand along with usability, interface and interaction design. We're lucky to have participants from a range of skill sets.