Sometimes you need to cooperate with a lot of people for your projects. Mechanical Turk is the perfect service for that. It is called a crowdsourcing service because you literally can hire whole crowds of people from all around the world to outsource your tasks too.
In general tasks – or HITs how they are called on Mechanical Turk – are
- very simple,
- very fast to finish
- and very cheap to pay for.
Just as fast as a job description can be set up in seven steps, your jobs can be completed.
Using the Turk outside of the USA
Normally, Amazon’s service is only usable for users who live in the US. But there is a workaround.
I will show you exactly how to proceed to be a happy Mechanical Turk user if you live outside of the US – within its terms of service.
What can you do with this service?
There are many uses for this crowdsourcing service. If you need many different results, for example for a survey or different feedback to your product, you have a great amount of workers ready to do it for you for a couple of cents each.
Mechanical Turk is undoubtedly the cheapest outsourcing service I know of. To ask for a couple of simple clicks or a very short answer can be done for less than 5 cents.
However you can also crowdsource bigger tasks to the Turk. I have had content written or edited by different workers on this service. Although you pay slightly more for that, you probably will be fine with funds of less than a $1 per job.
Pretty cheap, huh?
Why does it work so well?
The workers from this service come from all walks of life.
- Some of them only work on HITs out of boredom.
- Others use their free time throughout a day to easily and without any complications make some additional bucks.
Serious full time freelancers who you can hire as virtual assistants will be found on other services like oDesk. The results you will get by working with such a broad mass of people will naturally be very different.
For survey results, this is very useful. The larger the sample of people interviewed, the more unbiased the results will be. For larger tasks like content creation that I have crowdsourced to “the Turk”, results were very different too.
Be careful when crowdsourcing content writing
I tried using “the Turk” for content creation.
- If I asked for a personal story from a user about a specific topic, in some cases I got bad writing quality.
- On the other end of the spectrum, I got a multiple of the number of words I asked for – for the same price!
These on and off results unfortunately are not so easy to reproduce.
Read more about cheaply outsourcing article writing jobs – for less than one dollar per article!
Avoid the bad guys, profit from the good guys
When you get a bad worker, you can ban him so that he can never apply to your jobs again. Unfortunately there will always be other people in the crowd who might deliver bad quality.
On the positive side, you will always be surprised by the number of workers who will far over deliver on your results.
I have never successfully got a hold of some of these very good workers in order to hire them on a more regular basis. You shouldn’t get attached to any of the workers on amazon Mechanical Turk’s service because it simply not probable that you will see them again and work again with them on a regular note.
In my opinion using Mechanical Turk as an outsourcing service is best for tasks that have to be completed quickly:
Repetitive tasks that can be completed by a large crowd of different people like
- very simple and repetitive jobs like data entry jobs with Excel-sheets,
- picture recognition – which cannot be automated with machines
- or other similar or boring tasks.
Controversial discussion about outsourcing on Mechanical Turk
I have read an interesting post on salon.com. The discussion was mainly about if it is human and ethical to allow the service of amazon Mechanical Turk to employ people to do mind numbing tasks for menial pay.
As you know, I have used Mechanical-Turk and always thought that it was a good thing. People who want to, can play around in their free time and make a little bit of money on this site.
But when I read through the discussions which followed in the three pages long comments, some new thoughts and interesting arguments came up.
I wanted to discuss some of those points and my virtual assistant will jump into the discussion where he thinks I didn’t discuss enough. Here are the results: