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Your Outsourcing Dream Answered: Amazon’s Mechanical Turk Service

Josh Wexelbaum over at ScrappyBusiness Idea Blog mentioned this new service in a recent post “Amazon Mechanical Turk for Fun and Profit” and Internet Marketers can rejoice as some of their outsourcing woes are answered.

Besides your finances, the other major constraint for any Internet marketer is time – there’re only 24 hours in a day.

And Amazon’s new outsourced service boasts a few interesting innovations…

amazon mechanical turk

Amazon’s Turk moniker comes from the “Turk” chess playing machine which toured 18th Century Europe, seemingly beating chess players. It was later revealed that a human player hide within the contraption. (Maybe a clever “ghost in the machine” or Ex Deus Machina jibe might be apt…).

So how does the Mechanical Turk differ from the other freelancer services like elance, rentacoder, workaholics et al.

The rates seem pretty cheap. Each HIT (or Human Intelligence Task) has a time rating and a cost rating.

I’ve seen tasks get farmed out for $0.01 for an hours work.

Take a look:

amazon turk

$0.09 for an hour’s work entering UPC (universal product code) information from food cans in your kitchen.

I guess it might not be too shabby for someone staying at home or in a less developed country where the median monthly income is about $100.

So the base rates are pretty low (although as the service gets popular you could expect it to get higher).

The other innovative feature is an API (application programming interface) which allows you to batch submit jobs to Mechanical Turk.

If you’re compiling keywords for a PPC compaign, you can automate quite a bit of work.

If you’re a direct mail marketer, you can get quite a bit of work done too.

I’m not sure how telco connections would be like, but I’m thinking you could buy your outsourcer skype credit and get them to do some phone work for you too.

Given Amazon’s data mining technology given it’s vast book and other product inventory, tracking and analytics on the outsourcers. It’s mentioned that “Requesters (the person giving the job) can specify that people who work on their HITs must first complete a qualification test, giving Requesters the opportunity to vet the skill level of the people working on their HITs beforehand.”

The freelancers are aged 18 or older and must have an Internet connection (I guess some of them might be on dial-up….)

How much does the service cost?

From their FAQ, Amazon “collects a fee of 10 percent on top of what Requesters pay to have tasks completed. For example, if a HIT pays $0.20, Amazon Mechanical Turk collects $0.02. The minimum commission charged is $0.005 per HIT. ”

I would not suggest that any Internet marketer start doing HITs, your time is better spent doing something else. The list of tasks outlined is quite insightful…

How do I use the Mechanical Turk?

You need a US billing address and bank account. Or if you’re an individual, a US driver’s license (incidentally I earned my US driver’s license in about 7 days, so take a 2 week holiday if you don’t live in the US or register a US corp…)

Is it any good? Mechanical Turk is a subsidiary of Amazon and the Turks are being used on projects like Amazon’s A9 search engine.

I would think the Turks should be good for article submissions, directory submissions, possibly content rewriting and a lot of the ‘grinding’ type tasks.

For more information, visit the Amazon Mechanical Turk website.

11 comments on Your Outsourcing Dream Answered: Amazon’s Mechanical Turk Service

  1. Joshua Wexelbaum
    October 25, 2007 at 9:34 pm (4744 days ago)

    Hey Andrew. Nice writeup.

    The service actually launched in November 2005. I’m surprised that it’s kept a low key in the affiliate marketing community all this time.

    By the way, my mom’s office assistant wrote a 350+ page book on the mechanical turk called “The Chess Automaton” – It’s on Amazon now :)

  2. James
    October 26, 2007 at 12:32 am (4744 days ago)

    It looks interesting. I see some of the tasks on there now are searching for email addresses and things.
    The $.09 is per task not per hour in your example above. It has a maximum time of 1 hour with 2-6 minutes as the expected time. Still a lot less than minimum wage in the US.

  3. Andrew Wee
    October 26, 2007 at 5:10 pm (4743 days ago)

    Now that you’ve mentioned it, it might not be so low-key anymore…

  4. More Tips
    April 25, 2013 at 8:00 am (2736 days ago)

    After I originally commented I clicked the -Notify me when new feedback are added- checkbox and now every time a remark is added I get four emails with the same
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  5. Liv
    April 27, 2014 at 1:14 pm (2368 days ago)

    is this photo identifiable and lkeliy for sale on Amazon? and then a second one that says find this product for sale on Amazon . You can see the HITs (and do some, if you want to earn a few cents) here: I’ve tested several items, and have been mostly impressed. The speed at which results were delivered increased as the day progressed in the morning, right after launch, it took about five minutes. Later on, I was getting results emailed to me in about a minute. Accuracy-wise, here’s what I tried, and what the results were:Amazon Kindle nailed itMacBook Pro power brick nailed itTimbuk2 Metro messenger bag got it, but in a different color (my color is no longer available)Picture of a DS Lite on my screen, from the Amazon product page nailed itAsus R2H UMPC nailed itAiptek Action HD video camera got the closest model Amazon offers (they don’t carry the exact Action HD model I have)Cingular (HTC) 8525 smartphone flubbed it. The linked to some other smartphone that looks kind of similar, but I’ve never heard of. Probably because the 8525 is a couple years old, and no longer listed on Amazon.Overall, the results have been quite impressive, and I’m looking forward to playing with it some more, not only for actual things I want to buy, but to try to probe the boundaries of what MTurk processors can handle. And to see if they have a sense of humor.

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