About Crowdsourcing And Other Tedious Ploys By Hit & Quit Enterprises

Future By Shilpa Tripathi

I worked for Design Crowd for a week.

A week. Thats 168 Hours. Over ten thousand minutes.

So, I watched their brief video, listened to their very convincing spiel, saw how much their ‘top designers’ made, and then said… h@#$ yes! This is the perfect freelancing opportunity because of all the other obligations on my plate. I could definitely use the extra cash and I would like the variety of projects added to my portfolio. Sign me up!

I did.

On the seventh day, after entering over twenty competitions- half of which had no payment guaranteed- (yes, I got carried away by all the potential cash I could win), a sudden realization dawned. It became very apparent that these websites are quite comparable to the ‘Ubers’ of the design world. In other words, it’s all about the person at the bottom of the rung providing all the blood, sweat and tears (i.e. the drivers, designers, writers, creatives) and the only people who win are the consumers because they get the best services, by very qualified individuals, for a fraction of the price that they should be paying fairly for (as they would like, had they been the ones providing the services). Oh, and what about the companies that provide the platforms? They get paid fat too, along with giant valuations for their tehnology. Incase you were wondering, how giant or how consumer-centric? Read this article on Wired. Ka-ching!

W. O. W.

I can’t lie. I take Uber and Lyft everywhere. But after listening to the payment structure and how the driver takes ALL the risk and gets almost a quarter of his or her fare cut just for the convenience of a digital platform, I feel disdain. Worse yet, Uber doesn’t even give the consumer a chance to tip. Imagine a driver making 5 dollars for a 30 minute ride and not even getting a tip! Tough luck, huh? The driver also pays for the car lease or auto-loan, insurance, gas and any unforeseen immediate damage on the car incase the rider decides to be uncool. Tougher luck. And that million dollar insurance coverage that they have for their drivers? Doesn’t work in-between rides. Oops.

On a sidenote, the same goes for my favorite app Groupon. I can’t believe how much money I’ve saved as a consumer and I can’t count the number of times I’ve had business owners express their worry that they diluted their business by providing these ‘promotional offers’. There was a businessman who told me that he had to permanently reduce the price of a pretty pricey service because he just couldn’t sustain his business after diluting his brand through the platform.

So while I wait for all the ‘decision pending[s]’ on my Design Crowd profile, I am tempted to enter just one more contest. I can’t lie- It’s addictive. You want to win. But I won’t. I rode that wave. And I learnt. Fast.

[Incase one of your eye brows are close to your hairline and you’re like… well that’s just you Shilpa… hear Grace’s story… Still not convinced? See this article on Wired.]

You know what sucks? Creative people have always been undervalued for what they provide to the society. They’ve always been exploited. And just when the millennium changes and they start to get paid their dues, the technology is deciding that it’s not worth it (though I am incredibly interested to see a self-creating website that’s being developed as I write this). Should designers and writers and drivers and business owners fight over providing services like gladiators?

If you notice the Uber interface, you’ll notice that the cars look like ants. In the macro-level, is that who we are? Is that how we define ourselves? Is this the survival of the fittest or the beginning of the end of the middle-class?

This isn’t a vendetta against the technological revolution (seriously, though!). Far from it. My dad’s a computer engineer. A very successful one. And I know the work and passion that goes into making future technologies. Oh, and I love technology. I live with it and am always envisioning how it can change this world for the better (it can and it is in many places). I just don’t feel comfortable with exploiting the masses, no matter the country, the physical or mental capabilities, or the economy. People need to be treated well. Everyone deserves a shot at a good life.

We may not find ourselves in the equation now, but one day, just like the touch-screen cashiers at Mc Donald’s, we may be replaced.

Wihout unemployment benefits… Because, well, you were an ‘independent contractor’ (that link is a list of Uber & Lyft lawsuits, if you want a good laugh, or a good cry…depends…).

Or a hand-shake. Because, well, your boss was on a touch-screen.

❤ Shilpa

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