The Crowd is a Collaborative Network

Innovation and Economic Growth, Networks, the Internet, and Cloud Computing and Media and Content

Article Snapshot


Mary L. Gray, Deepti Kulkarni, Syed Shoaib Ali and Siddharth Suri


Proceedings of the 2016 ACM Conference on Computer Supported Cooperative Work and Social Computing, San Jose, California, February, 2016


On crowdwork platforms, task creators post tasks for workers to complete for pay, “crowdsourcing.” Workers collaborate offline or online to solve problems, limit risk, and to encourage one another.

Policy Relevance

Crowdsourcing platforms should support worker’s need to communicate. The platforms should pay managers to train and guide workers.

Main Points

  • On sites such as Amazon's Mechanical Turk, task creators place a task on the site; when a worker completes a task, the task creator either accepts or rejects the work, and the site's software mediates exchanges between task creators and workers.
  • Crowdsourcing workers are often assumed to act independently, although the task creator has almost no information about the task worker.
  • This study collected responses from 451 crowdworkers based in India, using the Mechanical Turk (MTurk), UHRS, LeadGenius, and Amara platforms; findings for workers based in the United States will probably be similar.
  • Workers collaborate with family members, friends, and other account holders to overcome administrative hurdles and limit the risk of signing up for work on crowdsourcing sites.
    • A worker unable to obtain an account might share work and profits with an account holder.
    • Workers share information online and offline to distinguish legitimate tasks from scams.
  • Workers seeking to improve their reputation for doing good work communicate by phone and in online forums to share task instructions and information about job creators who answer requests for clarification.
  • Some crowdsourcing platforms offer little but labor and payment, but the workers themselves put collaboration back into the system; other platforms provide chat tools to support communication between workers.
  • Workers meet with family members, friends, and former coworkers for encouragement and help in completing tasks, especially those that require knowledge of other languages and cultures.
  • Crowdsourcing platforms cannot avoid the need to structure tasks as something more than a single, isolated transaction, or the need of workers to build trust, and to seek support and social opportunities; platforms should develop systems that manage workers to provide guidance, feedback, training and other social bonds that improve work.

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