what is Amazon’s Mechanical Turk?

Mechanical Turk or MTurk as its more commonly known, was founded by Amazon in 2015 and was set up as a crowdsourcing website so that businesses could source out tasks that computers were unable to do, to real humans. In this article, I will be answering the question What is Amazon’s Mechanical Turk?

How MTurk works.

MTurk is a place where businesses, universities, professors and even scientists post tasks they need to be completed that can’t be completed by computers.

The tasks that are posted to be completed are referred to as HIT’s (Human Intelligence Tasks). The people who post these tasks are called requesters.

When a requester posts a HIT, they will include a description of the task they want to be completed along with how much they will pay and also how long they estimate the task will take to complete.

MTurk Roles

MTurk uses its own terminology which is useful to become familiar with:

Requester – as mentioned above, the requester is the person, business or organisation that creates and posts tasks that need to be completed. The requester has access to a dedicated software application that interacts with MTurk in order to submit tasks as well as check on their progress.

Human Intelligence Task (HIT) – The task that is submitted by the requester is called a HIT. When HIT’s are posted they have a “lifetime” date which basically refers to how long the HIT is available for workers, once the lifetime has expired, the task is no longer listed.

HIT’s also have an assignment duration which is set by the requester. It is the amount of time that a worker has to complete the task. The clock starts ticking once the HIT has been accepted by the worker.

Worker – As you can probably guess a worker is a person who completes the HIT posted by the requester. The Amazon Mechanical Turk website is where workers find and accept HITS. Requesters can actually have more than one worker assigned to a HIT, however, a worker can only work on one HIT at a time.

Assignment – As mentioned above, more than one worker can work on a HIT and the assignment keeps track of all the work being completed. Every time a worker accepts a HIT that allows more than one worker, MTurk creates an assignment to keep track of the work completed on it.

The assignment is exclusive to the worker and ensures that the worker can prove the work that they have completed on it.

Reward – This is easy, it’s quite simply the money that requesters pay workers for the HITs they complete.

MTurk task examples

There is a surprisingly large number of HITs that can be worked upon on MTurk and I have listed the most common ones below:

Image/Video Processing

  • Tagging objects to improve SEO
  • Sourcing the best photo to represent a product
  • moderating user-uploaded content
  • Examine satellite imagery and identifying/classifying objects

Data Verification and Clean-up

  • Removing duplications from business websites and listings
  • Verifying details such as email addresses, phone number and websites
  • Converting data into organised structures

Information Gathering

  • Answering surveys
  • Content creation
  • Creating specific fields in legal documents

Data Processing

  • Transcribing
  • Translation
  • SEO and accuracy checking
  • Categorising

As you can see MTurk offers a wide variety of work that can be completed. The general theme of work on MTurk is that it is difficult for computers to perform but easy for us humans to complete.

How much can you make on MTurk?

Currently, the majority of MTurk workers are based in the USA (75%) or India (20%) with the majority being female (59%). Exactly how much can be made varies from person to person along with the level you are and the time you put into it.

The average HIT is priced around $0.25 – 0.35 per task. Tasks vary in length and can take anywhere between 15 mins to several hours so ensure you are working out your pay per hour so you can check if it’s worth it.

To be realistic for a minute, its useful to know that the average MTurk worker makes just $2 an hour and only 4% make more than $7.25 an hour.

Higher paying HITs are usually snapped up seconds after they are posted making it really hard when you get started, so it’s easy to become jaded by the whole experience.

The best way to approach MTurk is getting paid for your spare time. If your usually killing time flicking between social media, Netflix and video games then using that spare time to earn some cash is a great idea. If you are already rushed off your feet with the day job, kids and everything else then this is definitely not worth your time.

Take it to the next level

As mentioned above, the time you put into MTurk is reflected by how much money you make. MTurk doesn’t have any targets you need to meet in order to keep your account active however it really is worth it keeping it ticking over.

The better-paying HITs are usually only available to experienced workers and these are people who have 5 -10k HITs completed.

It’s worth working outside of your comfort zone. If you are just taking the same old 15 min surveys paying $0.15 then your never going to make any more than you already are! Aim to use your full range of skills, even if your not sure you have them yet!

I have always considered myself relatively “unskilled” but now according to MTurk I’m a data processor, Photoshop expert and rather handy at data organisation. Really read the directions of the HIT before you turn it down, a lot of the time the tasks sound harder than they really are.

An example I saw recently was for a “receipt validator” this actually just involves looking at a photo of a receipt and filling a form in about it – easiest $0.50 I’ve ever made plus it look less than 5mins!

Is MTurk worth it?

The not so simple answer is it can be. There are definitely ways to increase your earnings and to make the extra cash you make from it really work for you. When I was really focused on MTurk HIT’s I would spend several hours each day concreating on surveys, data entry, transcribing and any other admin type job that came up.

I wasn’t afraid of the “harder” HITs either that involved taking a test or creating a sample piece of work. Whilst these seem hard as they are termed “qualification” they really aren’t and they pay better than the run of the mill stuff.

I only use MTurk occasionally now. Unless you’re really dedicated to it, it soon becomes a chore. There are much better ways for me to be bringing in extra income to such as affiliate marketing and Matched Betting. Both of these are also much more profitable.

Conclusion

Overall MTurk isn’t a big moneymaker and probably isn’t even going to pay the bills but for people out of work, in-between jobs or looking for something extra to supplement their income in their spare time then MTurk may just be for you.

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