Sunday, February 17, 2008

Amazon's Mechical Turk

Amazon has a service called Mechanical Turk, or mturk, named after a chess playing 'machine' that turned out to be a human. The service allows you to post jobs that are easy for humans but difficult for computers. The service, sometimes called "crowdsourcing", typically pays each person completing the task a small amount.

An article on discusses the mturk service. Opponents have called it a "virtual sweatshop". Rebecca Smith, a lawyer for the National Employment Law Project, sees mturk as

"...just another scheme by companies to classify workers as independent contractors to avoid paying them minimum wage and overtime, complying with non-discrimination laws, and being forced to carry unemployment insurance and workers compensation."

Probably the most well known example I found was an art project "The Sheep Market". As part of his master's thesis Aaron Koblin submitted a request for 10,000 drawings of sheep facing left at $0.02 a piece.

To test out mturk I drew several pictures for's next art project. I earned $0.04 in Amazon credit.

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