vWorker - Ethical Policies, Fairness and Integrity
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If you’ve read other sections of this review of vWorker, you already know what I’m going to say here: vWorker is not only a leader among freelancing marketplaces when it comes to ethical policies, fairness and integrity, it is among the best of all businesses I’ve dealt with, period. It is certainly not perfect, but it is better than its peers in crafting and enforcing policies that ensure ethical conduct by clients and contractors, and it bends over backwards to behave in a principled manner in its own dealings.
Like its peers, vWorker prohibits certain types of projects from being posted on the site. As I described in looking at project quality, vWorker has two distinct lists of disallowed projects: a generic set, and one that is specific to its niche of programming work. The latter list is necessary because of the number of people who want to hire others to develop malicious and unethical software programs, which are used for activities such as cracking, hacking, spamming or uncovering private information. Given the number of programming jobs on vWorker, it’s good that the company specifically tells clients and contractors that work on nefarious applications is not welcome.
The general list of prohibitions includes some that are strictly boilerplate (such as excluding illegal activities) and others that are intended to protect vWorker’s interests (and especially its transaction fees). However, some of the rules represent an effort to exclude unacceptable types of projects from the site on ethical grounds.
vWorker joins a handful of its peers in having a rule against projects that violate the terms of service of other sites. I tip my hat to any site that has such a policy, because I consider it a fundamental expression of the importance of fair play. A site that has lengthy lists of rules prohibiting members from acting against its interests, but that tolerates projects that violate the rules of other sites, is being hypocritical.
vWorker also has a policy against academic projects, but to be honest, it strikes me as somewhat watered down: the rule is that projects aren’t allowed if they “would determine a final grade in an academic class”. This means it is still possible to hire people to do homework assignments while staying within the rules. Even worse, “clients” will try to get around the “final grade” restriction by claiming that the work isn’t for a final grade, and vWorker is usually satisfied with that—how could they prove otherwise? So, in practice, this policy doesn’t have much teeth.
A noteworthy restriction is the one that excludes “unarbitratable requests”. This is a rule you won’t find on other sites, because it is directly related to vWorker’s comprehensive mediation and arbitration scheme. This policy explicitly protects both clients and contractors against becoming involved in a dispute over a project where it is impossible to determine whether or not the contractor did what was promised. Usually this is because the project is either too vague, or it has poorly-defined deliverables.
One place where vWorker does not have many ethical policies is the bidding process: the system that vWorker uses is designed to enforce ethical behavior while not allowing much room for “cheating”, so it’s not much of an issue. For example, all bidding is closed so there’s no need for rules to govern what can be put in an open bid. There is no public message board, so there are no policies about how to use it properly. There is (essentially) no minimum bid, which means that no rules are needed to discourage contractors from circumventing one.
vWorker does have a rule against asking for advance payments, and makes this very clear to contractors right next to the bidding form.
vWorker’s sophisticated arbitration process includes a number of ethical policies intended to ensure that the process is fair. I touched on a few of these in discussing arbitration, but several more are detailed in the site’s terms of service. The level of detail is quite remarkable, covering even fairly obscure events.
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