Massive Mechanical Turk Requester Overhaul

by Erica Sadun

Mechanical Turk's requester site now offers an interactive Ask-A-Question HIT Builder and a new HIT management area. Of course, this completely obviates my AskAQuestion freeware, but who cares? The new capabilities rock and are a great sign of things to come.

So what is this and what does it mean? If you're willing to set up an Amazon Web Services account and fund it with your bank account (I recommend you create a new free checking account, separate from your normal personal finances), you can start creating Mechanical Turk requests.

I decided to give it a spin. The new Create HITs tab offers two approaches: a Basic HIT and an Advanced one. The basic approach presents a question and asks for a freeform text reply. I asked 5 workers to submit their opinions about the future and health of Mechanical Turk. Unfortunately, I could not get the creation pages to work with Safari, so I ended up creating the HIT in Firefox.

Workers quickly (and I mean quickly!) accepted the new assignment and I was able to track the pending assignments on the requester site, review the response and approve and reject the work.

This new MTurk interactive website deserves a complete how-to, and I'll try to write one up if time allows.


2006-04-28 19:41:36
> I asked 5 workers to submit their opinions about the future and health of Mechanical Turk.

So what were their answers?

Erica Sadun
2006-05-01 08:53:11
Here they are:

(1) With the research questions I am now making $200 a month, at least - I can't say that's dying on my part. The only reason mTurk was so active before was because of Amazon hits, so in reality this is just what mTurk is without self-funded activity. Seeing it's not even out of beta yet, I think there is plenty of time for people to set up their ideas on here and see them to fruition.",

(2) I think it may have a future, but only if higher paid HITs are offered in order to entice more turkers to participate. Many requesters are currently offering difficult work that they're paying a pittance for and are likely receiving low quality work that's commensurate with the low pay.

(3) It's slowly dieing. THe complete lack of good hits. The low pay for many of hits. The good hit that pays a fair rate are the survey verifaication hits. It's sad that a good week onlys nets 20 dollars. There are many hits I no longer do because the amount of time that's needed for a 2 cents hit."

(4)It is not dying. I look at it this way, the programme is still in Beta. Hits on it at the moment are mainly there in order for Amazon to work on the infrastructure. This they seem to be doing well, see the new updated hit creation interface they have just launched. Companies taking part in the Beta test are still finding their way, how best to grade people and how to reward the work. This all takes time and seems to be going well.

The time to say that Turk is dying would be when it comes out of beta and there still are no work, or all the work is low paying. I feel it has a future and watch with interest as they get closer to the release date.

(5) The Mechanical Turk does have a future, provided Amazon gets the word out to a broad range of possible requesters. One Turker has pitched Mturk to a friend who owns a web site and needs help validating memberships. The site owner wasn't aware of Mturk. More potential requestors need to get the word.

Mturk has to become more professional to attract more quality requestors and turkers. Amazon can't continue it's current hands off policy. eBay attempted the same thing in its early days, insisting it was the venue for buyers and sellers, not an arbitor. eBay couldn't defend that stance and neither can Amazon. There will have to be guidelines, for both requestors and Turkers, and Amazon will have to have enforceable policies for Mturk. Mturk needs to be sold on its quality, not it's low cost.

Internally, Mturk needs to do more polling of its users. The best source of help and ideas is the people who use the service. Yet in the 5 months I've been turking, only this question and one poll have requested input from the people who can really help the developers.

This is a good idea and it's still not too late to pick up the ball.

2006-08-07 18:57:29
Hmm, personally I'd prefer AskAQuestion since the Requester site doesn't work in Safari, but it doesn't work for me - the app crashes while launching, and I get this in console.log: "ZeroLink: could not load .o file: /Users/ericasadun/Desktop/AskAQuestion/build/"

Looks like there's a direct path to your home directory in the code somewhere that's causing it to crash on launch.

Erica Sadun
2006-08-07 19:20:58
Urgh. Sorry about that. I've kinda put "AskAQuestion" on indefinite hiatus because of the Requester site--which I do use in Safari. I'm not sure why it (site) isn't working for you. Sorry that it (software) messed up. Oh well. :(