Gems: What are Micro Tasks and why are they Important?

Rory O'Reilly
Nov 20, 2017 · 4 min read

What are Micro Tasks?

Micro tasks are small, simple tasks that require human judgment and can be completed independently over the Internet. A series of repetitive micro tasks often times compose a larger unified project. An example of a micro task could be identifying road signs in pictures, which might be necessary for a project improving self-driving cars.

Micro task crowdsourcing is principally valuable as a powerful way to process and collect data that necessitates human perception, whether for practical data entry, training and testing artificial intelligence systems, audio transcriptions, or beyond. The broad range of systems that can benefit from micro tasks makes it popular in a wide spectrum of large scale distributions. For instance, micro tasks are used by museums, to transcribe handwritten documents; by machine learning researchers, to gather structured labeled data for training purposes; and by large companies, such as Facebook, Google, and Linkedin, to refine their production ready solutions.

Who does Micro Tasks?

Micro task crowdsourcing is a global industry with workers from all around the world. As of 2015, approximately two-thirds of micro task workers on known platforms were from the United States, India, and the Philippines combined, with Europe and Africa well-represented in the remaining third. The majority of workers view micro tasking as a satisfactory means of earning supplemental income, but for other workers, especially in developing countries, micro tasking is a full-time job.

Because micro tasks are discretely contained and do not customarily require a high level of specialization, micro tasking is available as a valuable source of income for anyone with an Internet connection and computer literacy, welcoming people from a multitude of different educational, socioeconomic, and geographic backgrounds.

What is the Future of Micro Tasks?

Micro tasks are currently feeding intelligence to the systems of tomorrow, the pioneers of smart transportation, medicine, education, and more. Billions of micro tasks are completed each year, and the industry is only growing. A World Bank Report in 2015 concluded the largest crowdsourcing platforms, Amazon Mechanical Turk and CrowdFlower, would quadruple their revenue from 2013 to 2016. It also indicated that the current online outsourcing market is valued at 4.8 billion dollars and is expected to explode to 15–25 billion by 2020.

Micro tasks offer a means of earning income for those who may not be able to find or perform traditional work, whether due to health issues or other various socioeconomic obstacles; for those who want additional income; for those who want to work at their own leisure; or for those who live in regions where the purchasing power parity of the dollar is incrementally higher than their home countries’ currency. Because of the benefits micro tasks offer workers and requesters, we believe they should be efficient and leveraged for the greater good.


At Gems, we believe the power of micro tasks will be incredibly magnified when paired with the Gems Protocol.

The Gems Protocol, which assesses the validity of work and trust of network participants, generates multiple powerful effects.

  • Gems reduces requester’s total costs and increases workers’ individual wages. Through eliminating consensus by redundancy, Gems allows requesters to get more total work with the same total wage output and micro task workers to individually receive higher wages. Moreover, unlike other micro task crowdsourcing platforms, Gems does not take any middleman fees, furthering this effect.
  • Gems allows more micro tasks to be completed with the same amount of workers. Eliminating consensus by redundancy also means a notably higher number of tasks can be completed by the same number of workers. Instead of 5–15 workers completing the same task for accuracy, those workers can each work on separate tasks, multiplying the input of the micro task worker on impactful projects.
  • Gems welcomes the 38% of the world who are unbanked. We believe those without a bank account should be able to participate in the labor economy.
  • Gems provides incentives for building/contributing to great interfaces, QA tools, etc. For those who work on the platform, their work can now be done more quickly. For those who request work, they can now rest assured they will not pay for wasted time or introduce unnecessary confusion to the workers.

All of these results of the Gems Protocol will have a tremendous ripple effect, both on the micro task economy and on individual workers. If we can give people livelihoods — if we can decrease socioeconomic inefficiencies of current marketplaces — if we can onboard millions of people to cryptocurrency — if we can connect those building the technologies of tomorrow to the power of the Gems micro task labor pool — then we can consider Gems to be a success.

It’s a tremendous goal, and we’ll need your help to make it into a reality.

Learn more about Micro Tasks & Gems:

I’d like to thank Sol Kim for her substantial contributions to this piece. For further reading and citations of this piece, please feel free to read this world bank report.

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The Protocol for Micro Task Marketplaces

Rory O'Reilly

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Dropout @Harvard | Founder @Expand | Founder @ gifs.com | Thiel Fellow | 30 < 30

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The Protocol for Micro Task Marketplaces