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:
Getting extremely cheap articles written for you is possible, if you just post article writing jobs to Mechanical Turk.
As you know from my case studies I have gotten articles and personal stories written by many workers on Mechanical Turk. I could ask for very cheap prices, for example 80 to 50 cents for 300 words of content.
That’s not much money in the field of article writing.
But it worked!
Why did it work?
Post article writing jobs about topics people can freely write to
Each worker can write from the top of his head about stuff he is doing every day. That’s where strengths of Mechanical Turk article writing lies.
If you ask them about everyday stories that most of the workers could answer, then you can get articles out of Mechanical Turk that are
- very cheap,
- very passionate
- and very useful.
Of course, you always need to check for copyright.
Don’t ask them to write about topics they couldn’t know about – or you WILL get bad quality results
However, if you try to hire people to write a 400 word essay about, for example, “solar panels” or “solar energy” because you run a commercial website about this topic, then the results will be – and I am trying to be as diplomatic as I can – pretty crappy.
You will get results. But you won’t be happy with them!
Workers on Mechanical Turk will do almost anything to get the job done.
- They will paraphrase content from internet.
- Or they will simply try copy pasting content from elsewhere and hope you will not notice. This happens pretty often.
- They will tell you any story necessary to complete their HIT.
It might be easy money.
And since the work force is so big, there is probably always a worker willing to do your HIT.
But will you be able to use the results? I doubt so!
Take home message: It works, but only for some topics
If you want to outsource article writing cheaply on Mechanical Turk, limit yourself to topics that your everyday person could answer without looking anything up.
Do you want some ideas of topics you could get tons of articles written about?
Ask them to tell you
- stories about their favorite car
- stories about their childhood
- descriptions of the bad pranks they ever have been victim of
- ideas and stories about parties
- their worst hung-over experience
- about their favorite pass-time and so on.
Believe me, I have asked for these HITs just for out of pure curiosity and I got some interesting stories.
If you limit your questions to simple topics like those from the list above, I am pretty certain that nothing beats publishing article writing jobs to Mechanical Turk when it comes to getting high amounts of original articles for a very affordable price.