Amazon Mechanical Turk.jpg

Amazon—yes the place you buy books from—has a cool service called the Mechanical Turk. It’s a system that enables people to complete online tasks (“HITS”) such as tagging, classifying, searching, grading, and transcribing. For example, you could pay people to do tasks such as:

The minimum that a “requestor” can charge for a HIT is $.005. Amazon collects an additional 10% from the requestor. Requestors can specify the qualifications necessary for people to work on HITs and can pay bonuses for good work. Payments are made as soon as the requestor approves the HIT’s results.

Some people will make the case that this will create online sweatshops, but I think it’s a very interesting way for companies to efficiently get this sort of work done and for people to work flexibly without commuting. I give it a big thumb’s up, and my respect for Amazon has increased because they are trying something that’s unrelated to schlepping books. I’m dying to try it. Maybe I’ll pay people to delete the forthcoming comments about how this is exploitation. :-)