Captcha-ists wanted (and you think your job is boring, repetitive, and tedious)
Over the years, I’ve had my share of work-tedium, that’s for sure.
Nothing like trying to look busy on the retail floor when you’ve done every last bit of merchandise straightening possible, and there’s a blizzard raging outside the glass doors.
I once had an office temp job that involved spending each and every day typing the letter “B” onto forms.
And hulling strawberries at Durgin Park during waitress “break time” got old after, say, the first 95 or 100 bushels.
Even during my brilliant professional career, there have been too many moments of sheer monotony to enumerate, but one that readily comes to mind is the time I volunteered to help a sales rep “personally” sign the Christmas cards he was sending to his prospect and customer lists.
This fellow’s name was long and complex. It started with a “B” and had an “o” and a “z” in it. Without even thinking, by the time I was on the 100th or so card, I was signing them “Dick Bozo.” (I’m not using the guy’s full name here because it’s sufficiently unusual that someone googling it might come across this post, and I wouldn’t want to embarrass someone who I found very pleasant and easy to work with – an atypical salesman, that’s for sure.)
I often wondered how many people opened the card, scratched their heads, and asked “Who the hell is Dick Bozo?”
And then there’s the fact that even the most high-falutin’ marketing work tends to involve some good measure of formatting…Ctl-Shft-B…
Still, I don’t believe that any of my boring jobs can hold a match, let along a candle, to the job of captcha-ist.
Can you imagine staring at captchas all day and translating them. (And thank you, GeeksAmongUs, for this hilarious version of a captcha.) Of course, as a Red Sox’ fan, I do have to spend time each year on their website trying to do precisely this on the day that tickets go on sale. But you only hit the captchas every once in a while, when you’re lucky enough to get called from the Virtual Waiting Room to the Virtually Useless Room, where you get a crap-shoot of a chance to actually buy tickets. (As an aside, part of me is secretly delighted that the Red Sox are starting off their year in something of a funk. I understand that the scalpers are – ha – eating it, and tickets may actually become easier to acquire. Ah, for the days when you could decide at 6 p.m. that you wanted to see a game and just stroll out to Fenway Park and buy a ticket for the night’s event.)
The New York Times wrote about this delightful profession the other day, reporting that:
Sophisticated spammers are paying people in India, Bangladesh, China and other developing countries to tackle the simple tests known as captchas, which ask Web users to type in a string of semiobscured characters to prove they are human beings and not spam-generating robots.
The going rate for the work ranges from 80 cents to $1.20 for each 1,000 deciphered boxes, according to online exchanges like Freelancer.com, where dozens of such projects are bid on every week.
$1.20 for 1,000 deciphered boxes?
You can go blind that way!
And it doesn’t exactly add up. One Bangladeshi student said that he works a few hours a day, raking in “at least $6 every 15 days.” Hmm. Three hours a day, for 15 days = 45 hours, or about 13 cents an hour.
And I thought I was underpaid when I made 50 cents an hour babysitting for a family with 7 boys, a rate of about 7 cents per kid. (Blessedly, some of them were babies who mostly slept.)
Nice to know that spammers have the help of captcha-ists, isn’t it? Doing God’s work, helping them work around those annoying sites that want to make sure that a human being is entering honest to goodness personal information. (Oh, did I say God’s work? I forgot that Lloyd Blankfein and Goldman Sachs have cornered the market on that.)
Like everyone else – possibly more so, because I have a blog – I have my encounters with spammers.
Most of the ones I get hit by out are entering irrelevant comments on Pink Slip. These comments are typically goofily chipper and pip-pip - “Say, nice blog you have there! Keep up the good work.” Followed by a link to the Mumbai Dissertation Service.
My e-mail accounts –and, between personal and client, I have many – tend to be pretty good at identifying and junking spam-mails, although one of my client accounts, after 2 clean years, has started to receive a bit of Viagra news…
But ain’t no spammer willing to pay even 13 cents an hour to go after me, I’m guessing.
And, apparently, there are very few spammers willing – and able – to pay at all for the services of captcha-ists. At least one Indian outsourcer has dumped their captcha-ist “practice.”
“We found that it’s not worth doing,” said Mr. [Dileep] Paveri, a manager in SBL’s business process outsourcing and graphics unit. Moreover, he added, “after some time, the productivity of people comes down because it’s a monotonous job. They lose their interest.”
I can imagine.
Even though captchas have gotten somewhat more interesting over the years – as often as not, they’re compound phrases that may even be a bit amusing: easter backlash, clown assembly, alibi soapbox – it would be difficult to keep pretending that captcha translating was puzzle solving after the first couple of rounds through.
Anyway, captcha-ist is yet another example of how things change at warp speed these days: here’s a new profession that’s dying out before we’ve all even heard of it. Buggy-whip jobs used to last, if not for centuries or decades, at least for a couple of years. Now they’re gone before you know it.
To quote Joni Mitchell – it’s Joni Mitchell week at Pink Slip, you must realize - “Don’t it always seem to go, that you don’t know what you’ve got ‘til it’s gone.”