Amazon Mechanical Turk

Amazon Mechanical Turk is a crowdwork platform offering thousands of human intelligence tasks (HITs). People can use Amazon Mechanical Turk to earn extra money or develop software and computer skills by taking HITs.

Named for “The Turk”, an 18th-century chess automaton that amazed European challengers such as Napoleon Bonaparte and Benjamin Franklin.

What is it?

Amazon Mechanical Turk (MTurk) is a crowdsourcing marketplace that allows individuals and businesses, known as Requesters, to outsource processes and tasks to an outsourced workforce.  MTurk’s global pool of talent can be used for data validation, research participation, survey participation, content moderation services.

MTurk operates under the assumption that humans are better at solving certain kinds of problems compared to computers, such as finding objects in pictures, evaluating beauty, or translating text. Therefore, software developers can leverage MTurk as an accessible interface into a network of human workers that can assist them in solving such challenges.

Businesses looking for ways to speed up transcription tasks using audio can turn to MTurk for help.  Hiring hundreds of workers for just a few cents each can speed up completion time, while saving money by outsourcing it instead of hiring employees directly.

MTurk can also be useful for collecting and analyzing large sets of data or testing and validating complex algorithms, while outsourcing various tasks allows companies to scale up operations without incurring high upfront costs.  This can be particularly helpful for smaller organizations with limited internal resources. Furthermore, its flexibility may appeal to workers looking for ways to supplement their income or make extra cash on the side.

What do they do?

Amazon Mechanical Turk (MTurk) is a platform that enables computer users to apply their expertise and make money. There are a range of tasks available through MTurk called Human Intelligence Tasks (HITs); examples include audio file transcriptions, content moderation tasks, consumer product reviews, and quick surveys.

Businesses can utilize MTurk to delegate countless online tasks that computers cannot complete efficiently or cost-effectively, as well as to tap into its global workforce of freelance workers.

Businesses on MTurk are known as “Requesters,” while workers who complete HITs for them are referred to as “Workers.” In order to ensure only high-quality workers are compensated, MTurk has developed technology which monitors Worker performance by measuring various factors like quality of work submitted, as well as the speed with which HITs are submitted.

Dependent upon the complexity of their task, Workers who complete HITs may take up to thirty days after submitting them before receiving payment from Requesters/businesses.  This delay may prove incredibly frustrating for those relying on MTurk as their sole source of income.

How do they do it?

Requesters upload Human Intelligence Tasks (HITs) that need human completion. Turkers then search available HITs on MTurk and select ones they would like to work on in exchange for rewards.  These tasks often involve simple things such as identifying objects in photos or data entry, as well as quick surveys that require little skills.

Use of the MTurk Developer Sandbox and APIs allows developers to create applications which utilize crowdsourced human intelligence provided by the platform, solving problems that computers simply can’t do, such as finding specific objects in photographs, rating beauty or translating text.

Researchers utilize MTurk as an efficient means of recruiting subjects for social science experiments. While not representative of the general population, participants recruited via this system offer an effective means of testing specific theories about human behavior. It offers researchers an easy and efficient means of gathering this type of data.

MTurk provides an alternative to hiring large temporary workforces for these tasks and the costly and time-consuming process of developing complex survey instruments capable of collecting this kind of data. Individuals also can use the platform to make extra money performing simple yet high-quality tasks, while increasing their profile metrics over time, and qualifying them to work on higher-paying HITs.

Income Potential

Most Turkers use MTurk as an additional source of income rather than as their primary means. New Workers may find their first few HITs pay less than $6 each and it takes time and dedication for them to establish an ongoing income stream through MTurk.

Some Turkers can devote significant time and effort to MTurk, earning Masters status by completing thousands of HITs each month and earning up to $1000 monthly from it. Others may complete just tens or hundreds of HITs every week and generate income that significantly exceeds minimum wage levels. Furthermore, MTurk has developed technologies which identify its best Turkers before rewarding them with higher-paying work opportunities.

MTurk income may be equivalent to paid surveys, micro task,  and paid to click sites.  The pay is rather low because the tasks do not rely on a specific skillset.  For those with digital skillsets, Fiverr may provide a better income opportunity.

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