Thursday, March 1, 2012

Amazon Mechanical What?

What is Mechanical Turk?

Well...that's what I wanted to know. In yet another relentless search to find a stream of online income, I stumbled upon this little known surprise.

Okay, so maybe it's not exactly little known, but Amazon's Mechanical Turk definitely hasn't found its way into too many mainstream conversations. I certainly had never heard of it, and no one in my off-line life who I ever mention it to has ever claimed to know anything about it.

Mechanical Turk is a funny name, I know, but it actually does have some meaning. The name was inspired by an 18th century automated Chess Playing machine called THE TURK, which wowed the masses by beating some very famous people at chess. Napoleon was one. Ben Franklin was another. Pretty impressive defeats for a contraption, I think. However, things were not as they seemed.

THE TURK was a farce and actually had a hidden compartment, which housed a human chess master. This guy controlled its operations. How much of a scandal that was when the truth came out is unclear, but I'm sure it didn't do anything for those huge, revolutionary egos.

Using this strange bit of history, in 2005, Amazon modeled its Mechanical Turk after THE TURK on the premise that humans must help machines accomplish tasks. Initially, Amazon created the service for itself to help weed out duplicate entries on its commercial site, but Mechanical Turk has since evolved into a third party crowd-sourcing marketplace.

Third parties, known as REQUESTERS, post HITS. Hits are HUMAN INTELLIGENCE TASKS. The workers, or TURKS, accept the HITS and get paid...sometimes only a penny but there are more lucrative HITS too. For every HIT a requester posts, a fee is paid to Amazon.

There are many different types of HITS on Amazon Mechanical Turk, ranging from transcribing to taking surveys, and it takes a while to learn your way around. Many HITS aren't worth doing and there are many scammers who are eager to take advantage of naive newcomers by posting inappropriate or fraudulent HITS.

However, if you spend enough time there, you can learn how to avoid the scams and make some extra change. You won't get rich by any means, but you might be able to buy groceries and pay a bill or two.

That’s the nutshell answer to the question: What is Mechanical Turk? For more information you can check out my personal review.

Every little bit helps...

Carole Tee

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