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Amazon's Mechanical Turk

Posted by: Rob Hof on November 04, 2005 is quietly testing another interesting innovation, this time tapping into the Power of Us. The cheeky geeks there call it the Mechanical Turk, after an 18th century hoax, a mannequin that appeared to play chess. Visit the site, and you can complete little tasks offered up by Amazon and potentially its partners and get paid a few cents for them. For example, you can click on a request to decide which of several photos in a Yellow Pages listing on Amazon’s A9 search site best illustrates that particular business. Then you get 3 cents added to your Amazon account, where you can transfer it to your checking account.

You sure won’t get rich doing this, but it could have great potential for tapping into the wisdom of crowds for things like photo selection or product descriptions that just can’t be automated. Commenters at explore some of the implications, some calling it slave labor and others saying they find it strangely addictive. Said one: “It’s so lame, and yet, I can’t stop doing it! AAAAHHHHH!!!” Amazon may be onto something here.

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Reader Comments

Honor Gunday

November 6, 2005 06:26 PM

The choice of the name is culturally incentive and please read why.

b dogg

November 11, 2005 08:06 AM

yeah, do it. if you can log on. I tried it. about an hours worth of minimal brain function has earned me almost $2. can you believe it. Not only that the site is convenient to use, annoyingly underequipped and so easy to use even a retard such as myself could navigate it. The volume of hits (Not HITS) it will receive is undercut by the quantity of work it could possibly provide. A brilliant innovation, about 1.5 years too early.


November 11, 2005 06:14 PM

I was needing a little extra Chump change, what i got was what is almost equivalent to a 9 dollars an hour full time job! This is the best thing to come from the internet since the Jpeg!


November 18, 2005 05:51 PM


Mechanical Turk has transferred account control to Amazon proper. In doing so they managed to dredge up an old account and wipe out hundreds of HITs I had done and accepted.

Trust factor

What the hell were they thinking? Did MTurk just rip off hundreds or thousands of people?


October 23, 2008 10:27 AM

>Did MTurk just rip off hundreds
>or thousands of people?

Um, the whole point is to get work done for $2 an hour, which is probably less than the electricity cost of running the computer. You didn;t think they would rip you off?


July 22, 2009 11:30 AM

Payment Help Mturk in World!
I want to help people to transfer money!

Matt in Chicago

November 13, 2009 01:19 AM

Check out Mircoworkers, a popular PayPal system that is a great mturk alternative -

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BusinessWeek writers Peter Burrows, Cliff Edwards, Olga Kharif, Aaron Ricadela, Douglas MacMillan, and Spencer Ante dig behind the headlines to analyze what’s really happening throughout the world of technology. One of the first mainstream media tech blogs, Tech Beat covers everything from tech bellwethers like Apple, Google, and Intel and emerging new leaders such as Facebook to new technologies, trends, and controversies.



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