Friday, April 20, 2012

Online labor markets

John Horton, who has an online labor blog, has compiled a great list of online labor markets. Here's what it looked like when I recently checked:


Major General / Programming Sites

  • oDesk is a rapidly growing site that encourages buyers to offer work on hourly terms. The site provides very robust monitoring tools: workers download software that tracks the time that they spend working on projects. The software also logs workers' keystrokes and even periodically takes screenshots of their screens. Because this monitoring allows buyers to observe workers so closely. Workers are guaranteed payment for their hourly work. 
  • allows buyers to post jobs and solicit bids from workers. 
  • Elance is probably the largest and most well-known general site. The main work categories are Web & Programming, Design & Multimedia, Writing & Translation, Administration Support, Sales & Marketing, Finance & Management, Engineering & Manufacturing and Legal. 
  • focuses on computer programming. Programmers work on a strictly fixed-price basis. After a project is awarded to a bidder, the buyer places the agreed upon amount in an escrow account. Payment is not released until the buyer approves the work. If there are disputes, the company provides arbitrators.
  • iFreelance is a general site with the same basic model as Guru, oDesk and Elance. Very little data is available without registering with the site.
  • ScriptLance
  • Solvate - TBD 
  • Hypios - TBD

Software Testing

  • uTest provides software testing using a pool of workers who are paid to find bugs. Buyers (software companies) seek testers with certain demographic characteristics, including software sophistication and the platforms used. uTest selects matches from its pool of registered testers. The testers report bugs and make suggestions and are paid for verified bugs and helpful reviews.


  • 99 Designs allows buyers to sponsor design contests, usually for logos or specialty events. The buyer states a price that they will pay for the winning design and a date when they will choose the winner. Workers then submit designs as small, thumbnail images which the entire community can view and vote on (these votes are not in any way binding). One interesting feature of this market is that it is one of the few real-life examples of non-political all-pay auctions. As of January 2009, the community had 25,100 registered designers who submitted 1,152,786 designs for 15,993 contests and received $3,465,314 in prizes.
  • is just like 99 Designs, but for tattoos.
  • CrowdSPRING
  • iStockPhoto is a royalty-free photo exchange that allows photographers to upload images and sell them to individual buyers. Over 50,000 photographers have contributed over 4 million photos.

Advice & Search

  • BitWine provides a network of freelance advisors who charge clients a per-minute rate for consultations. Advisors are ostensible experts in some field, such as nutrition, travel, coaching, technology, etc. Consultations occur over the voice-over-IP (VoIP) technology Skype and payments are made through PayPal. BitWine takes a percentage of transactions fees.
  • InnoCentive
  • ChaCha



  • Amazon's Mechanical Turk is unique in allowing workers to perform simple, piece-rate tasks like captioning writing captions for photographs, extracting information from scanned documents and transcribing audio clips for money or store credit. Unlike other sites, workers may begin a task as soon as it is posted, and the buyer reserves the right to accept or reject work.
  • LiveWork
  • Short Task
  • Clickworker

Patent Validation / Invalidation

  • Article One Partners is a private firm that helps corporate clients invalidate patents. A network of "AOP Associates" who have registered with the site can earn up to $50,000 for providing evidence of patent-invalidating "prior art."
  • Peer-to-Peer Patent Project also provides patent assessment, but it is not a true contest or market. The project is sponsored by the US Technology and Patent Office and NYU Law School and patent reviewers are not paid.


  • LendingClub facilitates unsecured lending between individuals.
  • Kiva
  • is a for-profit peer-to-peer lending site similar to LendingClub. As of January 2009, the site claims 830,000 members and $178,000,000 of loans.

Enabling Techologies and Organizations

Interested Third Parties

  • Turk Opticon is a website and Firefox plug-in that allows Amazon Mechanical Turk workers to rate "Requestors" who post work on the site. The Firefox plug-in allows workers to view the ratings in real time before deciding whether or not to accept a task from the requestor.

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