Tuesday, November 14, 2006

A Great Charity For Turkers

Over at the Turker Nation messageboards, Turker Iteki mentioned a great charity that is set up in a way that makes it extremely easy for Turkers to contribute to.

Child's Play is a charity set up by Internet gamers that allows you to browse a wish list on Amazon, then select an item from the list and purchase it through Amazon, who will send it on to the hospital that requested the item. So Turkers can spend some of their hard earned credit to help out sick kids all across the country.

Even if you're not currently turking, please consider donating to this very worthy cause.

Monday, June 12, 2006


I was interviewed recently by Wired Magazine about my previous experiences with the Mechanical Turk. A 30 minute phone interview turned into a two-sentence quote in the June 2006 issue. If you'd like to read the article, follow this link. My quote is on page four. I don't remember using the word "gimpy", but maybe I did. What I was trying to say was that MTurk seems to be in a pause right now, with little in the way of interesting work, and it's just waiting for someone to come up with a good way to make use of it's full potential.

Thursday, April 27, 2006

Apparel Color Normalization

I haven't been very active with the Mechanical Turk recently, but today I saw a type of hit I haven't seen before. They're called Apparel Color Normalization and it involves the turker looking at a very small swatch of color on the screen and choosing the closest matching color from a list with adjacent radio buttons.

The hits are from Amazon Requestor and are paying two cents each. I did five just to check them out and they can be completed fairly quickly. I did notice that several didn't actually have images to judge, so I skipped those. I suspect these are just to provide more traffic on the MTurk website since they have claimed that the Mechanical Turk will come out of Beta soon.

One other minor curiousity I noticed is that they used the British spelling for the color "grey" instead of the normal American "gray." I have no idea why I'm mentioning this, but it did catch my eye while I was working on the hits.

Monday, April 24, 2006

MTurk Market Forces

I realize blogs are not expected to be fact checked. I've made some assumptions that weren't true on this and my other blogs I'm sure. I just wanted to point out a nitpick in an otherwise excellent blog entry by Erica Sadun about the Mechanical Turk.

The blog entry states "Early tasks that started at 75 cents, soon dropped to 65, and from 65 to 60, and from 60 to 40, all the way down to the current rate of about 1-3 cents per task." This statement is somewhat misleading I feel, since the earliest hits did pay 75 cents, but required a good deal of work on the part of the Turker doing the work. These hits involved doing product write-ups, usually on auto parts. The price paid on these dropped gradually, but not all the way down to 3 cents. The hits that paid 3 cents or less were the Image Adjustment hits or the Artist Title hits, which took considerably less time.

I do agree that market forces are in play on the Mechanical Turk. The Casting Words hits are a perfect example of this. It's my opinion though that market forces were not having much effect on MTurk in the heyday soon after it's SlashDotting. I think Amazon was simply setting prices on a whim to see what they could get away with.

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Modular Software

A recent article mentions MTurk and Casting Words, one of the more successful uses of MTurk seen so far.

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Slow Turking

Our new baby boy was born two weeks ago today, and along with my father passing away two weeks before that I haven't been involved in the Mechanical Turk scene much lately. There doesn't appear to be too much of interest going on right now, although there have been a few new types of hits to show up.

I read recently that the scientists at the University of California, Berkley who are in charge of the Stardust space probe are going to enlist the help of the public in a distributed project to scan photographs to identify which sections of their capture area contain dust particles. This would have been a great use of the Mturk system, but they have no need to pay since I'm sure they'll get enough volunteers to easily finish off the 30,000 man hours required to go through the dataset four times.