Sunday, January 29, 2012

Amazon Mechanical Turk Review: (Mturk)

So I've kinda been putting this one off for a while but it's time to write about Amazon's Mechanical Turk program, and how you can make money off of it. Essentially there are 2 types of people using Mechanical Turk, Workers and Requesters

Requesters have some sort of tedious task (called HITs for Human Intelligence Tasks) that they need completed (copying business cards, taking surveys, evaluating products, making transcripts of audio recordings, or any other task that isn't really worth having an actual employee do) and are willing to pay between $0.01 and $2.00 usually to have someone do each task. After each task is completed it is then sent to the Requester to approve that it was completed correctly (instead of someone randomly typing stuff in to make free money), and then the worker receives the money after it is approved.

As a worker you will want to sort through these to find the "best" HITs, the ones that pay the most for the least amount of time/effort required and posted by the best Requesters. This is probably the trickiest part of using Mechanical Turk, and almost turned me off to the whole thing. However there are a few things you can do to make this easier.

This is Turkopticon
The first and easiest is download the Turkopticon extension for either chrome or firefox.

This extensions adds that little arrow by the name of the requester which when moused over it shows the ratings given by other turkers. If the ratings aren't good, then don't do the HIT. 

Otherwise you may not get paid!

Once you've got that, the next thing you'll need is just a little bit of guidance. While you are still getting experience finding the best HITs Hits Worth Turking For is going to be your best friend. It's pretty much a blog where the owner takes the 3 to 5 best HIT's he finds that day, and posts them so that everyone can take advantage of them. The only downside is that EVERYONE that uses Mturk also uses that website. So within a few hours of him updating his blog all the HITs are gone.

Once you run out of Hitsworthturkingfor this is your best friend.
In the screenshot above you will see the search/filter bar built into Mechanical Turk. In my experience the best way to maximize your $/hour is to check the box saying "for which you are qualified" and to type $0.30 into the minimum payment option. This tends to be the pay range for tasks which only take 3-5 min but pay decently well.

Next you will want to look for this, and sort as you see here. In general the shortest time the Requester gives you the easier the task. However sometimes they will give you way more time than needed, which makes those HIT's slip through when you filter this way.

Just by using the Mturk system while you watch TV, or wait for time to leave for work, or while dinner is in the oven, well... pretty much anytime that you are looking to kill time throughout your day, you can make an easy $5 per day (or $150 per month!), which can be directly deposited to your bank account, or added to your Amazon shopping account.

Now, there are 2 things that tend to bother the workers that use Mturk.
  •  The first is going to be that for some reason Amazon did not build in a way to see the money you are waiting to receive (before the requester approves your HIT). There is a wonderfully easy way to fix that. Just download this extension
That will add this extra line under your "Account" tab. When you clock the link on the left it will refresh and show how much money you have in HITs that are awaiting approval

  • The other is that Amazon will not let you withdraw funds until you have completed a HIT on 10 different days (they do no have to be consecutive). And this limitation only applies for the first 10 days of turking, after that you get to withdraw your funds whenever you like.
So, my personal opinion of this is:
  1. This is by far the most attention consuming method I've written about by far. The others take more time overall but you don't actually have to pay attention to them.
  2. This pays MASSIVELY more per month than the rest of the methods I've covered, and has the best potential for being a long term secondary income option.
Overall I would have to say that this is going to be your best option provided you can get used to remembering to do it while you're bored instead of channel surfing for hours.



  1. Mursz, thanks for linking to my blog! And thanks for the constructive criticism as well. I am very aware that many of the HITs I post each day are filled within hours of my post and is a crux to the benefit of my site to the casual mTurk user.

    In light of that, I think I have devised a solution. I will be announcing it on February 1, so stay tuned.



    1. I'll be looking forward to it! Especially as I usually get home from work a good 3-4 hours after your blog gets updated.

      Also I'm a fellow North Carolinian. Small world :P

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