According to Wikipedia, Amazon’s Mechanical Turk is a tool that “enables computer programs to co-ordinate the use of human intelligence to perform tasks which computers are unable to do.” It enables companies and individuals to posts tasks and set an amount they are willing to pay for the tasks completion. Qualified users can then scan these tasks and complete them at their leisure to stave off boredom or to make a little money.

The tasks can be manually posted by individual. Say if you want to pay someone to write a blog post or translate a document for you on a one off basis. Or you can tap into Mechanical Turk’s API and automatically have your computer program interact with MTurk. This allows companies to efficiently send requests to Mechanical Turk and fetch the data back. Companies are using MTurk in this way for tasks like the creation of transcripts of speeches and podcasts. You can see some success story here.

Ajit and I have been playing with Mechanical Turk a bit the last few days as we are thinking of tapping into it for one of our projects using the MTurk API. I think there is a lot of potential here.

In reviewing the interface I noticed a lot of people asking folks to write blog posts. Out of curiosity, I decided to use the service to pay three people $1 each to write a review of the Washington Post’s recent foray into video journalism, On Being.

Below are the three reviews so you can judge the quality yourself.

(1) Review 1

The quality of the website design and interface are awesome. It felt so much more personal when I viewed the videos. I really liked the ability to preview the videos before I viewed the entire video. The speed of delivering the media was also very fast. I couldn’t believe that such a large video downloaded to my computer so quickly. It’s truly amazing. As for the content of the videos, I watched with tremendously curiosity. I was amazed that things I take for granted were completely new for some people. For example, the woman who had no clue how cheese was made. She was truly amazed about something I find commonplace. The world is far more complex and different than I ever imagined. As for the little boy, I thought it was hilarious that someone so young liked the beastie boys and whites stripes then, he kept talking and talking. He was trying to make some profound statement and he just lost me. He started rambling on about heaven and hell and I just tuned him out. I think children as young as he is should worry more about where and when they are going to play next and worry a little less about the afterlife. It creeped me out a little bit.

(2) Review 2

I don’t think I would visit this again. I found that the interface seemed to be trying too hard to be flashy, and therefore made the entire thing a little difficult to track. I tend not to like pages that require me to open another full screen page to proceed, in general. I have broadband, and the audio came out a bit choppy. I was disconcerted when the reviews/comments came up after I watched most of one video, since I had wanted to check out another video instead. I couldn’t figure out what to do with the iTunes button (I got a hover-message that said I should disable my pop-up blocker, but chose not to do that.) The title seems very heady to me, as if I am going to be shown a treatise by Heidegger or something, and then it turns out to be these little snippets of people. I certainly value letting people tell personal stories and share perspectives, but I’m not sure this is a medium that would be the most natural place for encountering them.

(3) Review 3

Yes, I found the feature very compelling and interesting, and Yes I would like to go back to the site and see the latest addition of people and what they have to say. It is in a way, a good get away from our own problems. While listening to others emotions and experiences we are able to identify ourselves better in this world, and we can forget our loneliness. Our emotions will get a boost when we listen to the stories of other people in cases were we are able to identify with them. It is also very interesting to know about other people, their passions and histories. If famous people narrate their stories and formulas about their success, It would be great to hear about it from them personally. One more thing about the page is that, it has a neat look with pictures of very good quality and the content on screen is limited that the viewer does not get lost in words. Here the basic Idea is to share peoples experiences and emotions – Which is done in a very orderly way also there is an option for the viewer to comment about the topic making it very interactive. Might be the childhood interest of listening to grandmothers stories continues in adults so hearing others speak about their experiences brings forward a soothing experience.

About the Author
Todd Zeigler
Todd Zeigler serves as the Brick Factory’s chief strategist and oversees the operations of the firm. In his sixteen year career in digital, he has planned and implemented campaigns for clients including the Pickens Plan, International Youth Foundation, Panthera, Edison Electric Institute, and the American Chemistry Council. Todd develops ambitious online advocacy programs, manages crises, implements online marketing strategies, and develops custom applications and software. He is bad at golf though.