Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Turk Wurk

I've been reading what some others in the blogosphere have been saying about Amazon's Mechanical Turk lately and I thought I'd make some comments on their comments. Phil Wainewright speaks about it on Loosely Coupled and makes a point of quoting someone's slashdot comment about MTurk having "ominous shades of The Matrix..."

I can see the point of that comparison, but I think there's a bit of grandstanding for the audience in there too. I think a better analogy is to compare it to the street corners in almost every US city where immigrants congregrate to wait for someone to stop by with a truck and hire them for the day or a few hours.

There's nothing ominous in that. It's just that you need some work done and you don't necessarily need a full time employee to do it. Now I'm not advocating paying illegal immigrants like I'm sure someone will point out, but if you need a basement cleaned out quickly you hire 5 guys for a few hours and get it done. MTurk hires thousands of us to quickly scan through hundreds of city blocks each day. You may do 100 or so a day like I tend to do, or you may do 4000 a day like some of the more dedicated Turkers have managed.

Dividing up work and managing it wisely to get it done is when humanity really shines. You can build a barn by yourself, but it's much easier when a community comes together and gets it done quickly and efficiently. MTurk has already started a new community of people who are sharing ideas and experiences and helping the barn get built. This type of distributed work could be the next highly disruptive innovation, which is something that Phil Wainewright and I would completely agree on I suspect.

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