Wednesday, April 18, 2007

New world: Outsourcing Your Crowdsourcing

I couldn't improve on the title of this O'Reilly essay. I think it's a fascinating story.

dSLR camera sensors are ridiculously prone to dust contamination. Most of us ignore the dust, but it's a problem for stock photos. The specks can be digitally removed, but the work is tedious and slow. On the other hand, it's not hard to do an adequate job -- just slow. A perfect outsourcing solution, but most photographers prefer to do their own dust cleansing. If the image is worth a lot of money it's worth the labor.

But, what if the image isn't worth much money? What if you're dumping images quickly to an online photo service that depends on "crowdsourcing" (millions of monkeys typing) to produce cheap, good-enough, stock photos?
Outsourcing Your Crowdsourcing - O'Reilly Digital Media Blog

... I recently read an interesting post over at AUPN about a company based in New Delhi, India that is doing post-production work for photographers via FTP. The company is called Differential Technologies and you can check them out yourself at their website —

... I went and checked out Diferential’s website anyway, because I was interested to see if they might be able to help me with submitting photos to a micro-stock agency. A while back I wrote about my experiences in trying out the Aperture plugin for the micro-payment stock agency In the end I found that I really liked the plugin, but just couldn’t justify the amount of time that was necessary to prepare my images for upload.

The trick to iStockPhoto seems to be that one needs to submit as many photos as possible, the photos need to be fairly unique and appealing to a variety of markets, and they need to be well key-worded, and adjusted. They don’t, on the other hand, need to be from big budget photo shoots, shot with ultra-expensive cameras, or have hours and hours of post-production work put into them.

... The team at Differential set me up with a personal FTP account and I sent them an exported JPEG of the original Master image. I used the new Ubermind FTP plugin for Aperture to transmit the image, and selected a full resolution JPEG with the color space set to sRGB as my Export Preset.

About half an hour later I received an email from Differential explaining to me that the job was done and I could download the image from the same FTP account. The result is below. Differential’s email also explained to me that the charge for such an image would normally be $2.00 (USD) due to the excessive amount of dust on the sensor. The price, they say, ranges from $0.50 to about $2.00, so I guess I hit the max on this one....

... After I looked over the image, I wrote back to Differential inquiring about key-wording services. They said they would be happy to work something out with me. I think this could be the start of really great relationship.

On the Aperture side of things, the whole experience got me thinking about how I could optimize the process so that I would have to do the least amount of work, and keep things nicely organized. I really like the option of just having an “iStock” keyword on hand, perhaps in one of my Keyword Control bars, and a Smart Album set up to search on this keyword. I could continue using the Ubermind FTP plugin to send the images to Differential, and when they were finished, I could just import them into Aperture, and send them to iStock using the plugin.

The only work I would have to do would be to set the iStock categories for each image. Later, I could even go as far as to connect them with their corresponding Masters using the Stack tool...
Of course now that we're seeing high-quality online photo editing solutions, we will see Amazon 'Amazing Turk' services for similar post-production services. Home video editing is another obvious example. I'd be glad to send copies of my home videos out for video editing, though that's an example of only the outsourcing part of the equation. The wonder of this story is the clever combination of outsourcing and crowdsourcing. It's a fascinating parable for our times.

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