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What is the Amazon Mechanical Turk?

The Amazon Mechanical Turk (MTurk) is a crowdsourcing platform where individuals perform tasks that computers can't easily do. It's a marketplace for work requiring human intelligence, offering access to a global workforce. Tasks, known as HITs (Human Intelligence Tasks), range from data validation to content moderation. Intrigued by how MTurk could revolutionize task outsourcing? Let's examine its impact together.
Susan Grindstaff
Susan Grindstaff

Amazon Mechanical Turk is a website that offers varied and typically very low paying jobs. The work offered can be done over the Internet, right on the Amazon Mechanical Turk website, without ever having to leave home. The available jobs are presented on a work dashboard, and workers can choose only the ones they are interested in doing. The pay varies, according to the difficulty of the job and the qualification of the worker. Typically, the jobs are very simple and can be done very quickly.

Workers are awarded percentage points for jobs that are successfully completed. In this way, a perspective employer can set maximum score requirements for certain jobs. These jobs are typically more difficult, and the employer may want to make sure they are offered only to those with proven records of accomplishment. Most of the time, there is quite a bit of work for inexperienced people to do in order to boost their percentage points.

Woman doing a handstand with a computer
Woman doing a handstand with a computer

The jobs that are available on Amazon Mechanical Turk are presented as Human Intelligence Tasks (HITS). Workers can click on individual HITS to find out more details about the job and the pay offered. Some jobs are available for entry-level workers, and other jobs may require a minimum overall score to work the jobs. In some cases, certain jobs may require the worker to pass a test to determine qualification for the job.

HITS are generally very simple jobs, but jobs that computers cannot perform without human assistance. There are many different types of HITS offered at any given time, but a great deal of the work seems to consist of identifying objects in photos or testing search engine enhancement. The pay is usually pennies per job, and for this reason, Amazon Mechanical Turk is typically more attractive to workers in developing countries. For people living, for instance in the United States or Europe, the pay would be well below minimum wage.

Amazon Mechanical Turk generally pays in one of two ways. Workers can opt to have their pay put on Amazon gift cards or they may choose direct deposit to their bank accounts. The workers are classified as independent contractors and are only paid if the employer is satisfied with their work. They can refuse to pay the worker if they feel the work is below par, or incomplete.

The type of work and pay offered by Amazon Mechanical Turk is probably not a good option for those seeking full-time employment that pays at or above minimum wage. For others, it may be a good way to earn some extra money, since it does offer the convenience of doing all the work from home. Some stay-at-home parents may find the pay more attractive when it is weighed against the cost of hiring day care and the expense of getting back and forth to work.

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      Woman doing a handstand with a computer