Impressions of the Amazon Mechanical Turk

As an alternative to playing hours of pointless Facebook games, I started exploring a service from Amazon called the Mechanical Turk, which it bills as artificial artificial intelligence. The mechanical turk brings people who need tedious tasks performed for pennies together with the folks who are willing to do them.  Naturally, the curiosity of this cheapskate was piqued.

I spent several hours last night and another hour this evening exploring the service and performing a variety of tasks.  My advice? Don’t waste your time.

The tasks that pay the most will end up costing you in the end.  These HITS (MT slang for the task you’re paid to do) will ask you to perform a seemingly innocent task like “testing a submission form on a website” which requires you to enter your cell phone number.  You may make the $20-plus dollars from the HIT , but you’ll be upside down on that profit when your cell phone bill arrives and you’ve been charged for the service you were paid to sign up for.

The most popular sort of task on the Mechanical Turk asks you to do something a little bit unethical.  Become a fan of a particular Facebook page by clicking Like.  Post a comment to a blog with a back-link to a specific website.  These jobs are posted to hyper-inflate the popularity and search ranking of websites, and I presume they’re posted by Search Engine Optimization services who don’t know how to increase your ranking the right way.