Assignment 8: Become part of the online workforce
For our Entrepreneurial Design course we are all tasked with spending some time on one of a variety of sites: TaskRabbit, GigWalk, Amazon’s Mechanical Turk, and 99designs, among others. I’ve always been curious about Mechanical Turk after reading about it a while back, so thought I’d give it a try to learn more.
Signing up to Mechanical Turk is fairly straight forward, especially if you’re already logged in to Amazon. They basically ask you to confirm your address and for your social security number. This has been a problem for a few of my international classmates, but lucky for me, I’ve got an SSN. Once thats in, the Amazon Payments system sends you a confirmation email.
Once logged in you are presented with over 150,000 ‘HITs’, which I believe stands for Human Intelligence Tasks. These appear to range from checking spelling, taking surveys, and translating sections of text. Most of the tasks pay less than $0.10, which seems pretty low for a piece of a human’s time - even if it is simple work. After surfing around for something that might be fun and/or pay at least $0.25, I decided I’d just go with some basic tasks.
First I did a spell/search for Buzz.com. This task consisted of copy + pasting a search term and location into a search engine and seeing if anything came up. I had to confirm that the term was valid for the location and spelled correctly. It was both of those things, and if my entry is ‘approved’, I’ll have earned a whopping $0.02. Following this task I did 2 HITs where I copied information off of scanned business cards and cut out the logo. I had to sign an NDA and will receive $0.05 for each approved HIT.
Following these tasks, I went in search for something a little more interesting and landed on a 50min survey. The survey was done by a social studies department at Harvard. First it had me read a relatively bizarre story about a hamster in Syria, then asked me to judge a characters in a variety of small stories on a scale of ‘forbidden’ to ‘permissible’. They included somewhat disturbing things like this: “Sally is working on a chairlift at a ski lodge. She knows the chairlift isn’t safe for children, but lets a child ride anyway. The child falls 100ft to her death. Sally’s decision to let the child on the chairlift was…..”. Needless to say, my faith in humanity is somewhat diminished, but I’ll receive $1.00 for my efforts.
Overall, I feel that my hour as part of Amazon’s ‘artificial artificial intelligence’ team was educational. I won’t be spending much more time on the worker side, but it’s good to have an understanding of the process and workflow. An interesting next step would be to post a question or task and see what comes back.
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