Introducing Gems: The Protocol for Decentralized Mechanical Turk

Rory O'Reilly
Nov 2, 2017 · 4 min read

Centralized organizations that look to obtain economic gain while providing little to no value should not exist. With the advent of blockchain technology, these companies are poised to be disrupted.

The team believes the most exploitive organizations are marketplaces for labor. These marketplaces continuously take large fees off of the backs of workers, while providing little utility themselves.

Such is the case with Amazon Mechanical Turk — and don’t just take our word for it:

If you’re a worker on Amazon Mechanical Turk, your average hourly rate ranges from . You’ll get paid via a check, or Amazon Gift Card, so tough luck if you’re one of the , or you don’t want to be paid with a gift card only valid on one site. Even when you do get paid, . The tasks you complete , leading to confusion, tasks taking longer than necessary, or your work being deemed inaccurate. Furthermore, new workers on Mechanical Turk for months, if at all.

If you hire micro task workers, you’re being charged a minimum 20% on all of your payouts. If you want workers with a good track record, you need to pay an additional 5%; if you want over 10 workers to work on a task, an additional 20%. If you want to specify an age demographic, that’s an extra $0.50/assignment. The has over 130 stipulations for additional fees.

Not only that, but how do you verify work is done correctly? Let’s say a researcher wants workers to sift through thousands of images and identify cars in order to train a neural network — they can’t accept workers’ answers at face value: otherwise, malicious actors could be paid for erroneous answers. The current method for evaluating work is . A requester will pay multiple workers (sometimes 5–10x more workers) to perform the same task, effectively increasing the requesters total cost by 500–1000%.

If you’re a requester with a non-simple task, you’ll most likely need to build your own user interface, host it, iframe it, and put it on Amazon Mechanical Turk. Crowdflower, has slightly better interfaces, but you need pay a $3000 onboarding fee*, $1500/month fee, and an additional 15% of all payouts you make to workers — yikes.

Digital sweatshops don’t need to exist — it doesn’t have to be this way.

The solution is Gems.

Gems eliminates consensus by redundancy, increases pay for individual workers while decreasing total pay for requesters, creates efficient interfaces, eliminates outrageous fees, and enables computer literate workers with internet to work with or without a bank account.

Gems accomplishes this goal through the Gems Protocol, a protocol for assessing the validity of work and trust of network participants. Gems is not simply a platform for micro tasks, but rather the tool to build any platform that involves verifiable work.

The first platform built off of the Gems Protocol is aptly named the Gems Platform, which allows requesters to post micro tasks and workers to discover them, all with no central fee. On the Gems Platform, reusable open-source task interfaces called Modules are built, allowing for anyone to build great task interfaces and charge a fee that they set.

Anyone can build on the Gems Protocol, creating innovative verification methods for new types of work.

We ultimately believe the revolution will be decentralized, and while it may not happen right away, we want to tell you right now: Gems is the Amazon Mechanical Turk killer.

It’s time to take back the reigns from central digital labor marketplaces and to provide a socioeconomic solution that benefits all network participants.

We hope you’ll join us on our journey, The Gems Team

Learn more and follow the Gems Vs. Amazon saga:

*In the middle of writing this article CrowdFlower obfuscated their public pricing, instead asking inquirers to contact them directly


The Protocol for Micro Task Marketplaces

Rory O'Reilly

Written by

Dropout @Harvard | Founder @Expand | Founder @ | Thiel Fellow | 30 < 30



The Protocol for Micro Task Marketplaces