Microworkers.com – Good or Evil?

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I saw a post about MicroWorkers.com while reading John Chow’s blog about 2 weeks ago. The concept behind MicroWorkers is really intriguing: Pay people a small fee to complete a small task.

For example, you can pay people to bookmark and/or submit a page to Digg, watch your videos and leave comments, review your product on Amazon.com, submit a “spontaneous” review on Yelp, etc. While most of the job opportunities I’ve seen on Microworkers contribute to web spam (or worse), some of them seem sort of “gray area” and borderline acceptable to me.

Bookmarking and Social Site Submission with MicroWorkers.com

Perhaps I shouldn’t admit this, but I’m paying 30 people to bookmark or Digg some of my more popular content pieces. I’m doing this because:

  1. These pages were bookmarked before I paid for this service – they were spontaneously interesting on their own.
  2. I feel like these pages might be naturally successful if they just had the right exposure.

Is this spam? No. The content was interesting before I started to promote it. Is it unethical? Maybe.

Working for spontaneous Digg submissions or bookmarks is a completely acceptable form of social marketing, but paying random people to bookmark or Digg something is probably on the wrong side of the line in the purest moral sense.

Of course, having said that, I see major brands buying fans on Facebook with coupons and other financial enticements all the time. If it’s morally wrong to pay someone $0.50 to submit a page to Digg, it’s probably morally wrong to convince them to “Like” your company in exchange for a free can of soda, significant oil change discount, etc.

Perhaps I’m just trying to justify my own behavior here, but I think you see my point. In my mind, buying bookmarks or Diggs for content that people will probably find interesting isn’t a big deal.

Evil Uses of Microworkers.com

Beyond bookmarks, some of the tasks on MicroWorkers.com are just plain evil. Buying links (ya, that will work). Paying people for 5-star reviews on social sites (unethical, probably won’t work anyways). Paying people to complete affiliate lead-gen offers (which is outright theft). Paying people to click on ads (also theft). Paying people to sabotage your competitors by clicking on their PPC ads (evil). The list goes on.

While I have no intention of engaging in any of these sorts of blatantly wrong activities, I do have a couple of questions:

1. How can anyone stop this sort of system from being abused? I can setup a MicroWorkers.com campaign where I pay people $3 to fill out a lead generation offer, and then turn around and collect $6 for the completed lead. 100% profits and no effort. If I sprinkle this in with otherwise legitimate traffic, I can get away with it forever.

The same goes for a lot of the nefarious activities I’ve listed. I see MicroWorkers.com being somewhat responsible for facilitating these types of transactions, so I would guess that they’ll put a stop to the really obvious infractions soon…but maybe not. I hope so.

2. What are some other positive ways to use this system? Aside from bookmarking pages, what are some good ways MicroWorkers.com can be used for Internet marketing purposes? So far, I’ve seen:

  • Paying people to join your own social network or website
  • Paying people to upload a funny picture to your funny picture website (paying people for content)
  • Paying people to watch your video (not sure if this would ever back out, but maybe someone who watches will like your product)
  • Paying people to find/research something for you
  • Paying people to follow you/like you/subscribe to you
  • Paying for testing

Any other ideas on how to use MicroWorkers for good? Any opinion on the ethics of my bookmarking campaign?

5 Comments Responses to Microworkers.com – Good or Evil?
Jasperson Smith2014-07-22 05:29:39Reply
Well, I've used Microworkers for about a month to do a simple task in which I give them specific comments to post on a specific sites. I have found that the ROI is not viable. You see, many of the workers (not all) cannot accurately do this simple task. When I find the time to go back and check to see if the work was actually completed, I find that a much as 50% of the work that was submitted as complete was never done by the Microworker. I have even made a significant increase in the amount paid per task, but with no increase in the accuracy of completed work. I have changed my instructions three times because I assumed that a part of the quality problem was the clarity of my instructions. I haven't totally given up on them yet. But, I'll have to go back to the drawing board to see if there are tasks that are simple enough (and that I can pay enough) to attract a worker that will be able to do the job correctly at least 80% of the time.
Jason Lancaster2014-07-24 15:53:46Reply
Jaspserson - This is definitely a problem on this site (as well as mturk, elance, and others). As you say, the trick is to carefully and narrowly define a task. Good luck and thanks for commenting.
Yan Smith2012-06-10 15:30:29Reply
I've just discovered MicroWorkers and I'm having the same dilemma as you did. I try to look at it as any marketing expense - I pay to get more traffic, just like any other commercial, which seems OK. However, I think the real damage is done to sites like digg and delicious, where their recommendations are being "polluted". Still not sure what to do... Anyway, thanks for a fascinating post...
Jason Lancaster2010-12-05 20:45:11Reply
Sean - Thanks.
Sean Brady2010-12-05 18:49:03Reply
Very interesting concept to boost google page rankings. Sounds very good to me!
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