While this shouldn’t be considered a definitive guide to Amazon’s Mechanical Turk, my friend posted his experiences to his private blog and I thought I’d share (with his permission, of course).
First off, if you’re not familiar with the service it’s a way to pool human talent over the Internet. There are some tasks that people are just better at, like typing the name of a pictured album cover or transcribing a minute of audio. Amazon pays people to perform these tasks (called “Human Intelligence Tasks” or HITs), and people can pay Amazon to have these tasks performed. Ingenious, the same way eBay or the Wikipedia is.
OK, here’s what my friend in the program had to say:
There are a few problems with the system that make completing HITs more difficult than it needs to be. For example, you must first look at a possible task, then click to accept the task, then complete the task and hit submit. That’s a 3 step process that could be easily streamlined. You’re wasting time that could be used more efficently completing tasks. A lot of the time, by the time the page loads and you click to accept a task, someone else has already accepted it forcing you to do it again. Luckily the geek community has come up several greasemonkey scripts that automatically accepts hits for you and makes submitting them easier by stripping away extraneous images and text. I personally use TurkOp with the Opera web browser. I use Opera simply for the fact that it’s a different browser than my primary browser, FireFox. This makes it easy for me as everything is contained in a seperate browser that I can have set up just for that task, while leaving other web browsing alone.
I have been doing this in my spare time for about two weeks now (a few minutes here and there, or maybe I’ll sit down for a session on the weekend and blow through a few hundred) and I’ve already earned over $150.
I was surprised at how much money he was able to make in the program. It’s not enough to live on, but it’s more profitable than spending downtime playing a Flash game (or, uh, blogging). Anyway, I thought it was interesting to find out how the program is paying out and figured I’d share.