Wednesday, April 11, 2012

The Hidden Online Workforce at Amazon Mechanical Turk

In light of a recent article I read on the web (I won't pay it homage by providing a link) regarding how much to pay the on demand workforce that frequents Amazon Mechanical Turk, I find it necessary to offer a different view for wanna-be requesters. In the article I just read, yet another requester suggests that the available online workforce be paid no more than 6.00 per hour. The author also stated that 4.00 an hour is okay depending on the task.

Well it's not. There are so many things wrong with this thinking. Never mind that this is a cheap, greedy and immoral mindset; I'm not even going to go there. What I will ask you to consider is that paying your workers low wages may not be the best business strategy.

Surely the belief held by requesters that they can pay people (yes, we are people) as little as 4.00 an hour must have to do with the incorrect perception that people who use Mturk to make money are stupid. After all, who else would work for that? But what many requesters don't know, what you probably don't know if you're a new Mechanical Turk requester, is that there is a whole community of talented turkers thirsty for work....and they're hiding from you.

By offering low wages, you're never going to have access to these talented turkers. They are a highly intelligent, full-time online workforce with a lot of experience and stellar work ethics - and they won't work for next to nothing. You'll never get to use them if you don't treat them right.

Offer a fair wage, and watch your HITs disappear faster than Houdini could shake a straightjacket under water. Pay a low wage and your HITs could sit for a while. Even if they don't, you're certainly going to experience low-quality results from inexperienced workers and complete rubbish from those trying to game the system. How's that going to help your bottom line?

Are you going to see contradictory information when you do random searches on this topic? Yes, you definitely are. But keep the following in mind. Most of the people doing penny HITs are not the best the platform has to offer. You can add qualifications to your HITs in an attempt to avoid poor results, but you really can't afford to set the bar too high when you're not even paying a decent wage.

If you want to build a rapport with the elite online workforce that makes a living on Mechanical Turk, visit Turker Nation. If you have any questions about your HITs and whether they are fair or not, you can ask the on demand workforce directly. These turkers will not be shy about giving you their opinions whether you ask for them or not.

There will always be fly-by-night requesters who want something for nothing and who don't care how they go about it. That's not who I'm trying to reach - it can't be done. It is the new requester that wants to do the right thing that I'm hoping will read this message - loud and clear.

You really do get what you pay for.

If you're a Mechanical Turk worker or requester who has something to say, please feel free to leave your comments.

Because every little bit helps...

Carole Tee


  1. AMEN SISTER! If these requesters wish to have a high level of talent, they are going to have to have the respect to raise their pay amounts! Well said!

  2. Thanks Shawna. I'm hoping that the days of exploiting online workers are nearing an end. As more people become aware of crowdsourcing, there's going to be increased competition for the efforts of an experienced on demand workforce, which should raise wages. That may be several years off though. In the meantime, we need to publicly hold certain requesters accountable and do what we can to educate the ones that don't know any better.