Saturday, October 23, 2010

SpecWatch launches crowdsource competition analysis!

Crowdsourcing work: Labour on demand or digital sweatshop?
By Fiona Graham

...Brave new world?
As companies such as 99designs and their main competitor CrowdSpring flourish, the backlash has also grown.

Websites including and Specwatch have accused companies of exploiting designers and devaluing the profession.

They say designers are producing work on a regular basis with no guarantee of payment, and claim that the payment on offer is far below market rate.

The members are anonymous. Specwatch, an anonymous collective, monitors design competitions, flagging up contests where, they claim, no award was made, and instances where the winning design was plagiarised.

Mr Harbottle says that the community does effectively self-police, but that the company is doing what it can to stamp out intellectual property theft.

"If it was really bad we'd probably just ban them instantly. The thing that's important is to keep on top of the community to stamp out that behaviour, it's not acceptable, it's actually illegal."

The controversy goes beyond the design community.

When professional networking site LinkedIn started suggesting that people listed as translators might like to help with a crowdsourced project to translate sections of the site "because it's fun", the fallout from incensed professionals resulted in the setting up of a LinkedIn group protesting the move.

Education and experience is vital to ensure strategic design work, which also requires collaboration between client and agency, says Debbie Millman, president of the US association for professional designers, the AIGA, which has around 20,000 members.

You wouldn't go into a restaurant and ask for five different meals and only pay for the one you like. Why should it be ok to work with designers that way?”

Debbie Millman, President, AIGA "Once you take that partnership away then what you're really asking for is work that is unstrategic, that is created in a silo of not having any real education about what the client is looking for, and not being able to collaborate on ideas or inspiration", says Ms Millman, who is also president of design company Sterling.

"I feel that when you crowdsource work, it's really not about collaboration of large groups, it's really about power, because you're taking away all the power of the designer to be compensated for their work, for their skill, and I don't see in anyway how that's collaborative. I think it's abusive."

Pro-spec commentators argue that the work benefits designers, by helping them build portfolios but Ms Millman is scathing about this.

"If somebody is looking to build their portfolio, perhaps they could offer their services pro-bono to an organisation that's really going to be able to help them. It's an imbalance of power.

"You wouldn't go into a restaurant and ask for five different meals and only pay for the one you like. Why should it be okay to work with designers that way?"...
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