Archive for the ‘Editorial’ Category

Why You Should Use Ziptask as Your Business’s Virtual Assistant

Friday, December 28th, 2012 by shawn@ziptask.com

© Zsuzsanna Kilian 2009

I recently read an article on Entrepreneur.com detailing the various ways in which virtual assistants can help small businesses save time and get more work done. While reading the list, it occurred to me that many of these tasks were similar, and almost all of them could be completed with Ziptask. Using Ziptask as your company’s de facto virtual assistant is preferable to going through the process of hiring an in-house worker, and will allow your company greater flexibility and more focus on important tasks.

Why Ziptask Over an In-House Associate?

Ziptask’s services are best used for small, insular tasks, which are precisely the type of work that an assistant would commonly perform. As I’ve mentioned in the past, the process of hiring a flesh-and-blood worker is an extreme headache. For the relatively small role of an assistant, the process is understandably not worth it for many businesses. On the flip side, if you find yourself in desperate need of someone to handle all the small tasks that fall by the wayside, your new worker may find themselves overwhelmed by the volume. Ziptask can easily scale up to handle any amount of work; the same can not be said about a standard human assistant.

The article I read detailed 10 services your assistant could provide you, but I found that they could essentially be distilled into three categories: data collection, data synthesis, and data organization.

Data Collection

In a thriving business, which yours hopefully is, the people up top may find it difficult to keep up with all the information they are expected to know, much less seek out new research. Ziptask can help by sending its workers out to collect new data for you. Based on what your company needs, Ziptask can research potential new clients, keep tabs on changing industry standards, or keep an eye on competitors. Provide Ziptask with a general prompt delineating what information you want collected and simply send it out once a week. You can even automate the process so you just get a simple weekly “newsletter” directly in your inbox!

Data Synthesis

Conversely, sometimes your business has the information it needs already, but it’s not in the most convenient or accessible form. An assistant can provide structure to these heaps of data, and Ziptask is similarly more than up to the challenge. Send us a scan of your date book, and we can send you back a calendar file with all your meetings and reminders perfectly squared away. Send us your fresh-off-the-press business report and a few key points, and we’ll make a visual presentation for your coworkers, clients, or yourself. Send us a pile of receipts, and we’ll transfer the values to a nice, clean spreadsheet for you. Having your data in an accessible form at all times without having to do it yourself is practically invaluable.

Data Organization

Keeping tabs on all that data is possibly the most tedious part of your job, and therefore the part that screams the loudest for you to hand it off to someone else. Ziptask can, for a start, keep your finances in order by filing away all your statements and keeping track of upcoming bills. Simply having that part of the money matters off one’s mind can be a huge relief. In addition, Ziptask could also help you build and maintain a database of your employees or business contacts, keep track of your website’s traffic and hits on social media, and even manage your email inbox.

When faced with the seemingly endless amount of minor tasks we encounter on a day-to-day basis, many people would jump at the chance to pass some of that work off to a reliable third party. Ziptask feels your pain, and we want to help. Free up your time and your brain, and congratulate yourself on avoiding the hiring process when you’re done.

Cloud Labor Scuffle: Ziptask, AutoMan, and MTurk’s Flaws

Tuesday, December 11th, 2012 by Seth Weinstein

AutoMan

Researchers at the University of Massachusetts have recently created AutoMan, a new cloud labor algorithm that intends to outsource not the worker, but the boss. New Scientist’s Douglas Haven reports that AutoMan is a fully automatic system that analyses and delegates tasks to human workers on Amazon Mechanical Turk. Where Ziptask simplifies task outsourcing via our task management team and a “set it and forget it” setup, AutoMan seeks to tackle the process completely automatically. If AutoMan is successful, it could end up wildly improving on the original Turk by automating oversight, the one remaining untouched process.

In a report published by the UMass researchers, the grievances against MTurk are laid out quite succinctly on the very first page. Turk doesn’t scale well to complicated tasks, it’s often difficult to determine the appropriate payment or time scale for a job, and there’s no guarantee that the finished work will be of acceptable quality. Being so similar, both Ziptask and AutoMan have their own unique ways of addressing these flaws.

Scale and Complexity

MTurk is great for simple tasks like identifying the subjects of photos, but when it comes to complicated, iterative, or interrelated tasks, its power often falls short. The problem lies in the fact that clients need to separate complex tasks into bite-sized chunks of work, which are better suited to the platform. Ziptask solves this problem with its team of project managers, who can break down and assign tricky tasks to multiple workers, or pore through their database for a worker who is qualified for all aspects of the task. Unfortunately, it does not appear as though AutoMan will have any innate capability to split up or delegate a task in such a way; perhaps this functionality will be addressed in a later update. We’ve discussed the strength of Ziptask’s scalability before, so I hope the UMass researchers have something good up their sleeves.

Payment and Time

Those who wish to assign work via MTurk not only have to format and post their task, but must also determine how long it should take and how much money they think it’s worth. Since task posters are already short on time by definition, this step becomes an unnecessary speed bump. Ziptask, again with its human team of supervisors, assigns prices to jobs automatically based on the difficulty and type of work. Since the labor is compensated per-minute, they’ll also determine a cutoff price to help you avoid going over budget. By contrast, AutoMan turns the process into trial-and-error based on a series of formulas. Price is calculated based on the duration of the work and federal minimum wage, and task time limits are set to 30 seconds by default. AutoMan will automatically adjust both the task price and time limit (upwards) if it’s not getting the results it requires. Clients can set these parameters to other defaults if the task requires, but the process is otherwise very standardized.

Quality Assurance

Any cloud labor platform, regardless of its makeup or the details of its process, will live and die by work quality. Who wants to pay for substandard results? Quality assurance is an absolute necessity, and MTurk has next to none built in. Ziptask once again turns to its supervision team, who personally make sure that every document is up to standards before presenting it to the client. The client provides the final pass/fail check, and no money changes hands until everyone agrees that the work makes the cut. AutoMan, by comparison, automates the process in the simplest possible way; it has multiple workers complete the task, and waits to see which results are the most common. The workers are paid once the majority has reached a statistically viable agreement, with no payment going to workers who provided incorrect answers.

Will My New Boss Be A Robot?

Rest assured, it’s probably not gonna happen anytime soon. The relative inflexibility of both the AutoMan algorithm and the MTurk interface mean that this combination is going to be very effective, but only for certain kinds of tasks. In a nutshell, this isn’t going to add any muscle to MTurk; it will continue to be bad at intricate or skill-based work, but good at work that’s just above “a monkey could do it”-level. The only difference is that the AutoMan algorithm could highly increase Turk’s effectiveness at completing these types of tasks. For all other office work, especially things that you can’t wait around for five or six workers to agree on, Ziptask is going to get you better results, faster, and most likely for a better price.

The Interview Process is Flawed, Obsolete

Wednesday, November 28th, 2012 by Seth Weinstein

Another day, another eyebrow-raising statement delivered to your eyes courtesy of Work 3.0. Today, I’m crusading against the ubiquitous Interview Process For Job-Getting, which as you may gather from the title, I am not the biggest fan of.

I’m not alone in this opinion. I went to the streets and talked to friends and colleagues about their feelings on the interview process, and they were quick to poke holes in it. The biggest complaint, they felt, was that the interview process creates its own separate universe. In this interviewniverse, they are encouraged to drastically alter the way they think, act, and speak, and all too often these forced changes are in no way indicative of their ability to actually get the job done.

A recurring gripe was the constant presence of lies in every step of the interview process. Candidates are of course supposed to be truthful, but that doesn’t change the fact that resumés are embellished, piercings and tattoos are removed or covered, and you have to memorize answers that employers “want to hear” instead of truthful ones. Additional stress factors emerged; one individual noted the very relatable feeling of dread when an interview is approaching. Another pointed out that interviews are really the only time we expect a person will drop all pretense and straight-up brag about how awesome they are, which is something people tend not to do in real life.

Indeed, the disconnect between “what happens during an interview” and “what working at the company is really like” bothered many potential job-seekers. If the job doesn’t require a large degree of interpersonal communication, the interview will bear little resemblance to any work the candidate will actually face on the job. Additionally, being good at interviews is a skill unto itself, and a person sufficiently talented at this endeavor could potentially find themselves in any sort of position they want, regardless of actual talent.

It’s not just the people on the receiving end of the interview that have problems, either. Managers, small business owners, and team leaders who I talked to shared similar views. They reaffirmed the notion that interviews are a completely separate world from the rest of the job, stating that a successful interviewer must have a whole litany of skills that may or may not be relevant to their workplace.

The candidate interview process is a feat unto itself for hiring managers. They must know their company inside and out and have an exact idea of what they are looking for in an employee before the process even starts. And then come the fun parts. There’s the act of making sure the right people apply for the position, sorting through a stack of resumés which (we now know) are going to be at least partially fictitious, and the logistical nightmare of finding time in the work day to schedule these meetings. Then each candidate needs to be thoroughly vetted with secret unwritten “curveball” questions, inquisitions about their true employment intentions, validation of their alleged skills, and their fit with the company atmosphere. Oh, and all this time you’re also closely watching their nonverbal cues to see if they’re lying.

Fortunately, the age of the interview does not have to continue forever, and the Internet is greatly catalyzing its exit. Sites like oDesk, LinkedIn, and (you guessed it) Ziptask attempt to remove a lot of the guesswork involved in interviews by making it entirely about the qualifications of the candidate. Skills are verified either by the platform or by other users, and search tools help weed out poor candidates almost immediately. With Ziptask, the entire process is automated and completely hands-off; workers are verified, classified, and assigned work by the Ziptask team, and potential employers don’t even have to talk to them if they don’t want. And since it’s a skill-based marketplace, you don’t have to worry about accidentally hiring this guy based on his stellar interviewing skills.

Yeesh.

“Not To Exceed Estimate” Removes the Guesswork

Tuesday, November 20th, 2012 by shawn@ziptask.com

Image © 2012 Carlos Sanchez

Here at Ziptask, we aim for a no-nonsense approach to getting work done because we understand that our clients are busy people. We are too! That’s why we take every opportunity to make sure that the structures we have in place make the process as smooth and pain-free as possible for our customer.

“Not to exceed estimate” is a concept that Ziptask subscribes to when it comes to determining how much to charge for work. It’s essentially what it says on the box; when we quote you a price, you’re getting out guarantee that the final price you end up paying will be no greater than that number. In fact, it’s often lower. This represents quite a switch from the way a lot of businesses currently run things.

Assessing the Norm

If you go to an auto mechanic, hire a contractor, or solicit work from any entity whose price structure isn’t set in stone, you typically receive and sign off on a price estimate before the work is completed. When it comes time to pay, however, it is very rare that the estimate looks anything like the check you’ll be making out. Usually, you end up paying more. Parts, labor, hidden fees, miscalculations, and old-fashioned sleazy business tactics team up to take as much extra money from you as possible.

In technical terms, this isn’t a super-great system. It’s obviously unreliable, since the price you’re initially quoted means essentially nothing. This makes any price-comparison process you try to invoke equally meaningless, since everyone is throwing out arbitrary numbers that have no relevance on the final price point. This is naturally frustrating, which in turn leads to poor customer relations and general untrustworthiness. There’s a reason that there are so many articles describing how to know if your mechanic is cheating you!

The New Promise

Not-to-exceed changes the entire game. When you send a job to Ziptask, they send you a number back that represents that maximum possible price you will be charged for that job. And as I mentioned, Ziptask often comes in under budget. Having this number as a solid, immutable figure allows the customer to make real decisions around it, and removes the guesswork associated with regular estimates.

For many clients, simply having a frame of reference for what the work is worth will be a huge boon. Even if they don’t end up choosing Ziptask, that estimate will provide a baseline if they wish to shop around for better deals on the work. Assuming Ziptask is chosen for the work, the benefits increase. Clients can find that since the price is now concrete, it is easier to budget their available funds around the work, even several months or years into the future. It also provides accountability and a general feel-good moment when you come in under budget. Who doesn’t like that?

Simply a Smarter Choice

You wouldn’t buy a banana with a price sticker that said “probably about a dollar”. You wouldn’t sign up for a credit card whose interest rate is “around” anything. So why are you still messing with crapshoot price estimates, especially when the stakes are so much higher? Upgrade to a business service that you can count on, breathe easier knowing you can rely on your budget, and leave the hidden fees to the businesses of yesteryear. You’re better than that.

Ziptask vs. TaskRabbit: When You’ve Got a Task, Who Do You Ask?

Friday, November 16th, 2012 by Seth Weinstein

TaskRabbit is what I like to refer to as an Online Quest Board, where clients post requests for work done and users answer the requests at their leisure. Complete the request, get paid. Think of it like Craigslist, where it’s basically a big community bulletin board that can be accessed by anyone with a computer. Ziptask, on the other hand, is like a cool Dr. Seuss machine where you put your work in one end, scribble instructions on a piece of paper, feed it through a slot, and receive your completed work out the other end.

The similarities to Ziptask certainly exist, but it’s also important to note where the two platforms differ. At the most basic level, TaskRabbit provides a lot more variety in terms of which tasks they’ll post. Ziptask mainly focuses on Microsoft Office and other computer work, while TaskRabbit has been seen to complete oddball tasks like delivering someone waffles at the airport or hand-sewing a Halloween costume.

From this main difference, we see the rough pattern that the other asymmetries follow. Mainly, Ziptask offers quick, professional solutions for those who don’t necessarily want to get their hands dirty with the entire hire-a-freelancer process, and TaskRabbit is a more relaxed, community-focused environment where two parties can define the labor however they feel is appropriate. This separation can be seen in many aspects of both platforms:

Ziptask TaskRabbit
Workers are anonymous to the client. Workers have public profiles and rankings.
Ziptask determines task price and maximum possible price. Task price is negotiated between clients and workers.
Quality control is handled by Ziptask employees. Quality control is handled retroactively through community ratings and feedback.
Ziptask supervises its workers via keylogging and occasional screen grabs. Supervision is provided by the clients, or workers complete the task unmonitored/independently.
Clients and workers do not interact, all communication is handled by Ziptask employees. Clients and workers are encouraged and expected to communicate as much as necessary.
Unsatisfactory work is automatically reassigned to a new worker, and the client is not charged any extra. Unsatisfactory or incomplete work is not reassigned and must be completed by the client, reposted to the website for a second attempt, or left incomplete. The client may still be charged if the work was unsatisfactory.
Tasks are kept confidential and only known to the client, the worker, and their Ziptask project manager. Tasks are posted publicly and can be seen by anyone.

Both platforms have the important things in common. Workers are vetted by the company before they’re turned loose on the world, jobs are assigned to workers based on experience and desired work, and ranks are applied to workers depending on how well they can complete a task. Both platforms also include an iPhone app for on-the-go job posting.

The differences boil down to what you’re looking to get out of the task process. If you have the time to personally devote to finding someone to complete your task, and your task is a little out-of-the-ordinary, TaskRabbit is your platform of choice even though the procedure may take some time and the somewhat shallow pool of available workers won’t guarantee expertise. If you want a fast, professional, hands-off job done on a project that’s more cut-and-dry, Ziptask will do just about everything but trim your mustache, and you can count on the results to be up to standard.

Scalability: Congratulations, You’re Too Successful!

Friday, November 9th, 2012 by Seth Weinstein

We all define “success” differently. For an artist, finally getting their masterpiece into a prominent art gallery may qualify. Retail outlets shoot for profits, happy customers, and quality wares. If you’re a musician, you may find your goals met when you finally perform for an arena-filling sold-out crowd.

However you define success, reaching that point is cause for celebration. But what happens if, or when, you surpass that point and become more successful than you originally anticipated? It’s a great problem to have, but a problem nonetheless; how do you supply a demand that simply blows away every estimation you had for it?

Usually, it comes down to your classic business-expansion moves: increasing production by hiring more people, buying more publicity, and expanding your factories and office buildings. Sometimes you’re lucky, and your initial success has given you oodles of money and attention, making this transition easy. It’s harder if your money is tied up in investments, recouping costs, and paying back debtors. It’s practically impossible if your success was so surprising that you didn’t have a system in place to reap the benefits of your own good fortune.

This brings us to scalability, which basically asks the question, “What would happen to your business if your demand increased five- or tenfold, overnight?” Would it be poised to supply this demand and provide you ungodly amounts of wealth in the process? Or would it fold under a previously unthought of amount of pressure? Scalability is your company’s potential to rapidly expand to satisfy new or increased demands.

Ziptask is convenient for such expansions because the work our clients are required to put into it is so minimal. We’ve really worked hard on this system to make sure that it works whether our clients send in one document or one thousand documents. Sure, it may take a slightly longer time to process the thousand, but the important thing is that from the client’s perspective, that’s the only thing that’s different.

Let me toss out a scenario: you own a furniture/home decorating business that ships nationwide and takes both mail orders and online orders. The online orders are easy to process, since they go though your website directly into an Excel database, but the mail orders are harder. Since they arrive in hard copy, they have to be copied into the system before they can be processed. It’s not difficult work, but it is tedious and it is essential and it’s not that bad as long as there aren’t too many of them.

So what happens when one of your couches is prominently featured in a key scene from a breakout hit TV series? Suddenly, you’re receiving thousands upon thousands of orders for this product from all over the country, and you’re hitting a real bottleneck in turnaround speed when it comes to processing your mail orders. Crisis alert, basically. You don’t have the time or the money to hire someone just to process these orders, you certainly don’t have the time to do it yourself, and the longer you wait to find a solution, the greater the chance that one “wtf, where’s my couch, this company sucks” Tweet ruins the whole thing before it even gets started.

Ziptask is the solution. Scan the forms, send them to us, and you’ll have hundreds of hands on them starting immediately. Our pool of workers is huge; you’d have to send tens of thousands of files before we’d start to have trouble finding people to process them. With the relative ease of the work being done, a single page of instructions attached to the project is the only prep work you would need to do. And if you can drag-and-drop one file, you can drag-and-drop a thousand and one.

Being too successful might not sound like a nightmare scenario, but for those unprepared to handle the success, the windfall may end up being the blow that crushes your business before it ever gets off the ground. Use Ziptask, and other similar services, to make sure that you can handle whatever comes your way, and then get back to the real work: makin’ couches.

Pictured: the life that awaits you. Awwwww yeah.

Ziptask: The Killer App of Cloud Labor

Friday, November 2nd, 2012 by Seth Weinstein

Quite an assertion, right? You’ve gotta be pretty bold to make the claim that your service is the be-all-end-all, better than the rest, the only one worth using. But in the case of Ziptask, it’s pretty close to the truth. We pride ourselves on a “whole package”-type deal, and that’s the key factor that sets us above all the other outlets. They may provide aspects of cloud labor or outsourcing, and some of them are very good at what they do, but if you want the full package, Ziptask is the only one that’s gonna do it for you.

Of course, I couldn’t make a claim like this without some evidence to back it up. So allow me to contrast Ziptask against some of our top competitors, so you can see exactly where Ziptask fills in the gaps.

Ziptask

Just so we have a baseline, allow me to describe the Total Ziptask Package. When you send your work to Ziptask, the only other thing you are required to do is provide instructions on how to complete said work and approve a price. Ziptask’s in-house team and pool of freelancers then work together, completely autonomously, to find the best possible worker for the job, assign them the work, establish a per-minute price estimate, check progress, and assure the quality of the completed work. For the person using Ziptask, the process looks something like this: submit the assignment and instructions, receive and approve a price estimate, go do something else for a while, and pay a fee when the work is completed to your satisfaction. Completely independent and hands-off.

oDesk/Elance

Let’s get this straight; here at Ziptask, we friggin’ love oDesk. We get a ton of our freelancers directly from their pool, and they and Elance are both very good at what they do. But what they do is simply provide a space for freelancers to gather. They don’t do any hiring, work assignments, cost estimates, or quality assurance in-house. These platforms do not handle any of the interaction between the freelancer and the hiring entity. They basically boil down to an online stack of resumés, albeit an easily-searchable one.

Amazon Mechanical Turk

With Turk, we see a shift towards the automation that Ziptask users enjoy so much. Once a user creates a job on Turk and submits it, the work is done automatically by whatever users are sufficiently qualified and motivated. The actual process of the work getting done can be unmonitored and hands-off, which is nice for simple work that doesn’t need a lot of skill. The downside is the enormous amount of effort and brainpower that it takes to set up a project on the platform. Even though great leaps have been made in usability, the mTurk interface is still very clunky and confusing for a newcomer. Add that to the standard headaches of finding a way to format your assignment on their system, deciding on a “sweet-spot” price point that will attract workers without breaking your wallet, and the fact that quality assurance is not guaranteed, and many will find that Turk is too much of a hassle for anything but the most rudimentary tasks.

A Real-Life, Flesh-And-Blood In-House Worker

Just for fun. I probably don’t have to describe what an in-house employee does; you most likely are one, or have several working for you. An in-house employees can offer a lot of advantages, but Ziptask still has them beat. A worker can only take so much work in a day, of course, and scalability is rough since it requires you to actually go through the process of locating, interviewing, hiring, negotiating with, and providing office space for a new employee. Additionally, many workers are skilled in one area and not so hot in others, meaning that if it’s versatility you’re after, you once again have to go to the ol’ Resumé Well. And lastly, most workers are either salaried or paid hourly, meaning that unless you’re monitoring them for the entire time they’re at work, you’re most likely paying for them to browse the Internet at some point or another.

I may be slightly biased, but from where I’m sitting, Ziptask looks like a pretty sweet deal. I like to describe it as a “black box”, where the only things you have to worry about are the input and the output. The rest is completely automated by Ziptask’s team.

And honestly, we could all use one less thing we have to worry about in our daily lives.

Oh, and if you know of a platform that compares favorably to Ziptask, be sure to let us know in the comments!

Outsourcing the Crap Work

Friday, October 26th, 2012 by Seth Weinstein

There’s a new trend that’s begun to rear its head in outsourcing. Hiring someone designated to catch crap is a widely practiced business strategy, but now it’s being taken literally; towns and institutions have begun to outsource their entire sanitation departments to outside firms and private service providers.

In one story, the North Delhi Municipal Corporation in New Delhi plans to outsource the task of providing toilets and proper hygiene in the corporation’s primary schools. The decision was passed due to a combination of a staff shortage and a Supreme Court directive that all students had to be provided with clean facilities and drinking water in accordance with their rights to free and compulsory education.

In another story, the city council of Massillon, Ohio voted unanimously to shut down their local Solid Waste Department in favor of outsourcing garbage collection to a company in the private sector. In addition to reducing costs for the city, residents will now have access to curbside recycling, a perk they could not previously enjoy under the city’s sanitation department, and the city will make some more money back by selling their garbage trucks to the new workers.

In both these cases, we see attitudes that are very Ziptask-friendly. Although we’re not about to drive out to your city to scrub your toilets and collect your garbage, the sentiment and ideology are very resonant. These businesses and services find themselves bogged down in the details of making everything run smoothly. In both cases, sanitation is just a cog in the giant machine that is the North Delhi Municipal corporation or the city of Massillon, and they find that outsourcing the task frees up people for more crucial work in addition to increasing the quality of the outsourced task itself.

In the Ziptask world, this equates to similar cleanup work. Ziptask will do the final formatting on a blog post after in-house people actually write the thing. Ziptask can balance the figures after you make a big deal with a new client. And Ziptask can take the winning pitch that you spent all last week working on and turn it into a script, create a PowerPoint slideshow, and put the whole thing in a nice package ready to be presented. After your people do the hard work, Ziptask does the cleanup, the polishing, and just generally keeps your hands off the tasks you’d rather stay away from.

Take a hint from these institutions, and leave the smelly stuff to the pros.

 

Why Microsoft Office?

Tuesday, October 23rd, 2012 by Seth Weinstein

 

There really isn’t any other service like Ziptask that focuses exclusively on Microsoft Office for the majority of its work. Many other freelancing and task-outsourcing networks prefer to focus broadly, offering their customers a litany of services, options, and types of work. But Ziptask eschews this method. Why? What makes MS Office special, worthy of an entire service dedicated to the platform? Well, I’m glad you (hypothetically) asked!

Ubiquity

When you started reading this, you probably didn’t have to play catch-up by looking up what MS Office is. You wouldn’t be alone; MS Office is installed on over one billion desktops worldwide, and doesn’t seem to show any signs of slowing down. Tutorials are available on YouTube for free, making it an extremely easy-to-use suite o programs. And it’s not limited to specific demographics; students make presentations in PowerPoint, professionals track data with Excel and create press releases with Word and Publisher, and your mom might even email your great aunt through Outlook. Even Apple computers have MS office available for them; no other suite of office software has come anywhere close to the impact and reach of Microsoft’s Swiss army knife of tools.

Data Handling

In addition to Office being well-known and easy-to-use, businesses can take advantage of built-in features to measure metrics and learn a little more about the work done by their employees. The software suite is very good at silently compiling data about your documents as you create them, which makes it easy for anyone who needs to retrieve it later en masse. Word documents, for example, can produce counts of individual words, exposing new SEO terms and making sure the established ones are getting their proper exposure. The capabilities of the suite by no means end there; indeed, any interested supervisor or executive could retrieve a huge number of statistics on their employees’ work. The possibilities are really only limited by what data you want to find.

Transfer-Ready

In a business that lives and dies by sending files from one party to another, transferability is crucial, and MS Office delivers. It’s far too common to hear a horror story of one person sending another a file to have it end up as a mass of strange characters or jumbled formatting. Office circumvents this problem and others by making it extremely easy to transfer part of, or entire, files. Need a bunch of data moved into Excel? Write a macro, plug in the file, and your work is done. Bits of Word documents can be pasted into spreadsheets and vice-versa with nothing more than a glorified copy-paste feature. And you can rest easy knowing that the file you sent out will look exactly the same on your contractor’s screen as it did on yours.

You probably already use Microsoft Office for a number of things around your workplace. Ziptask recognizes this, and that’s why we’ve billed ourselves as your one-stop-shop for any assignment on this platform. We cater exclusively to this program, meaning that we don’t get distracted by trying to learn fifty others at the same time. We’re confident that our team can handle anything MS Office can throw at us, and we want to do it for your business too. You’ve probably worked with some less-than-competent people in your lifetime; wouldn’t it be nice to hand off work to a company that actually knows what it’s doing?

“Crowdsourcing”: No Longer a Dirty Word

Monday, October 15th, 2012 by Seth Weinstein

Crowdsourcing (v)the process of subverting the traditional work model by posing a task via open call to an undefined, voluntary group of people, instead of an employed individual or team.

Examples: American Idol. Wikipedia. Kickstarter. Craigslist. “Wanted” posters.

Since Jeff Howe first coined the term in a 2006 Wired article, crowdsourcing has slowly but surely worked its way into the public eye. Beginning as a mere corporate buzzword, it has evolved from a business term into a wide umbrella that, we’re now realizing, encompasses the way a surprisingly large array of organizations get things done.

But still, there is some resistance. The No!Spec movement among the design community urges aspiring artists and designers to stay away from the “contest” model of crowdsourcing, fearful that they won’t be paid for their hard work. And you don’t have to look hard to find crowdsourcing efforts that have gone horrifically bad; sometimes they don’t even have to be posted by the company in question. Some companies prefer to avoid the term altogether, preferring to bill themselves under a less-loaded word. There are legitimate concerns. And yet…

A recent TimesJobs.com survey revealed that nearly 57% of the surveyed employers use crowdsourcing for recruitment purpose, whether through minor projects completed by fans, or in-house employees vetted through some sort of crowd-sourced method. More than half of them noted the cost and efficiency of such methods compared to traditional models. If it’s so successful and apparently on the rise, is there still a need to be demure about it?

At times like this, I find it helpful to zoom out and look at the bigger picture. And the bigger picture is this: we are, as a sentient race of humans, becoming more and more aware of the exact extent to which our world is completely messed up. The widespread acceptance of the Internet led to the advent of the 24-hour news cycle, social media, and a voice for every individual, and that means that it’s becoming more and more difficult to be ignorant of the sticky issues our humble planet faces.

What this means for Joe Average is that he’s feeling a new surge of responsibility and duty to fixing these perceived issues, but unfortunately he still has mostly the same tools to work with. Being made aware of problems is sadly not the same as being given the power to solve them, although it is the first step. The next step is to create an infrastructure that allows Joe to contribute to helping solve the problems he is now all-too-aware of. And what do we call that system?

Well, Jeff Howe calls it crowdsourcing. You can call it “the best damn focus group you’ve ever seen” at the very least, but you could also call it “cost-effective labor”, “the infinite idea creation engine”, and “massive-scale QA”. These crowds are full of employees, consumers, parents, friends, students, and citizens; through their various roles, they can see sides of your business that you may not be able to. And they want to help you improve.

So let them. Hold a contest on 99Designs to get a fresh new logo. Raise money for a side project on Crowdcube. You could even hire someone to do your mundane daily work on a site like… oh, I dunno, Ziptask or something.

But if you hesitate, your competitors won’t. Almost two-thirds of them are already on the bandwagon. Can you afford to wait much longer?

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