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What kind of tasks can you complete with Houdini?

Last Updated: Jan 29, 2013 05:56PM UTC
Houdini is a digital outsourcing platform that allows businesses to outsource repetitve tasks to crowds of workers over the web.  Houdini is designed for companies who need to automate and scale large volumes of repetitive work while ensuring maximum quality.  A few of the things that Houdini excels at include:

Data Entry

Need a scalable way to capture information from receipts, business cards or handwritten forms (such as the form you fill out when you arrive at a doctor's office)? Houdini can easily transcribe and digitize your forms into a spreadsheet or database for further use.

Data Gathering

Houdini is great for gathering data about people, places, products, prices, companies, events, and more.  If you need to collect data that is in spread across hundreds of different websites (and therefore can't be captured by computer scripts) then Houdini is often an ideal solution.  See our guide to Using Houdini for Data Gathering for more details.  

Data Analysis

Data intensive businesses or departments need to quickly sort and analyze volumes of data in endless different ways.  Houdini is excellent at sorting data into categories or tagging items that require subjective analysis (e.g. analyzing sentiment of social media, sorting products into categories).

Image/media capture

Need to tag, sort and label images (or audio or video)?  Houdini can help identify objects, people, places, colors, capture text, that computers can't handle.

Repetitive writing 

Houdini is great a handling simple, high volume writing tasks, like writing captions for a list of images, summarizing articles, or writing product descriptions.

Data Cleanup and Validation

If your business depends on maintaining large volumes of information on people or companies (e.g. database publishing companies or CRM users), you know how important it is to keep that information up to date.

Houdini Limitations

While Houdini provides a great deal of flexibility, there are some tasks that not an ideal fit for Houdini.  In particular, Houdini is not well suited to handle tasks that:
  1. Are physical in nature -  Houdini is used for digital-based tasks that can be completed on a computer.  If you need people to do physical tasks, like picking up your groceries or assembling your Ikea furniture, try TaskRabbit or GigWalk.
  2. Are highly complex - All of the information needed to complete your tasks successfully should be able to be expressed in simple written instructions.  If your task requires ongoing, back and forth communication between you and your workforce (such as designing a logo, editing a video), then you may be better served using a service that facilitates direct worker interaction (oDesk or eLance).
  3. Require specialized skills or software - Houdini is most useful for task that can be completed from a computer without specialized skills or software.  Workers will typically have access to standard tools like web browsers, PDF readers, etc.  However you should not expect workers to have specialized tools like CAD software, Photoshop,     
  4. Require workers to enter responses into a third party application - Houdini allows you to provide workers with a standard form interface for responding to tasks.  Not all of Houdini's features will be available if you need workers to complete work on a third party website.

Note:  While not a absolute limitation, as a practical matter, Houdini may also not be ideal for low volume tasks.  Houdini is designed to automate high volume projects where similar tasks need to be completed over and over, hundreds or thousands of times. Houdini handles these large volumes by submitting the job to many different workers who all work in parallel.  If you have a single large job (e.g. building a website, write a business plan), or a job with only a few individual tasks (e.g "write three blog posts") then Houdini may not be a useful to you. 

Customer Examples

  • Mobile application company uses Houdini transcribe data from user-submitted coupons into digital information (e.g. "$25 off Bed Bath & Beyond").
  • Audience measurement and analytics company uses Houdini to estimate the age of individuals in photos in order to create additional data points for their proprietary identity matching algorithm.
  • Event sponsorship marketplaces uses Houdini to gather details about thousands of events from websites around the web.
  • Social media monitoring and analytics company uses Houdini to analyze opinions about brands and products expressed on Twitter and other social media sites.
  • Lead generation company uses Houdini to listen to recordings of inbound phone calls in order to identify sales leads and capture caller contact information (name, number, callback time).
  • Teen girl website uses Houdini to research and compose written answers to a list of user-generated questions (such as "Do antibiotics interfere with birth control?", "How long after sex can I use emergency contraception?", "What do I do if I think I have an ovarian cyst?").
  • Online media site uses Houdini to generate 2-3 paragraph written descriptions of thousands of individual websites.
  • Match-making service uses Houdini to compares profiles of two of individuals to determine their likelihood of being a compatible match.

Q:  What about language translation, audio/video transcription or anything else not covered by the previous examples?

A:  Companies often try to use mTurk for language translation, audio/video transcription and similar tasks.  For companies interested in these types of task, may find that Houdni's API and its worker management and quality assurance tools to be particularly helpful.  However, Houdini at the present time, Houdini does not provide specialized worker crews focused on translation or transcription.  (Learn more about Houdini's specialized worker crews). 


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