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CROWDFUNDING: An Internet Market Place by Amazon

Two weeks ago during the spring break, while I had nothing interesting to do in Ithaca, I was surfing through the internet and came across a super exciting marketplace for work. The website had thousands of tasks listed and I just had to select the most interesting task that I wanted to perform.  It was as simple as copying and pasting the most relevant result for a requested keyword and I was paid 8 cents for doing it. This website is nothing but the “Amazon’s Mechanical Turk”. The Amazon Mechanical Turk (MTurk) is a crowd sourcing internet marketplace that enables programmers around the world to co-ordinate the use of human intelligence to perform tasks that computers are unable to perform. It allows users to sign up through Amazon for quick, low paying; online based jobs like matching a color to a photograph, transcribing podcasts to writing blog posts, to crowd source the labor that the companies don’t want to have their full time staff doing. Amazon takes ten percent of each transaction fee for hosting this web service.

A legendary automaton called ‘the Turk’ was introduced in the 18th century which could play chess. It was a wooden man who became known to the world after check-mating the devotee of chess game, Benjamin Franklin. It was revealed later that this machine was not an automaton and had a chess master hidden in a special compartment controlling its operation. Similarly, Amazon’s Mechanical Turk service allows humans to perform tasks for which the machines are not suited. This service was introduced by Amazon’s CEO for its in-house tasks that required human intelligence. Web traffic grew significantly and Amazon did not have as many Human Intelligence Tasks (HIT) as the number of people interested in performing the task. Soon Amazon started allowing third party companies to post their HITs on the web services and led to the creation of crowd sourcing for work. This can be analyzed as a Rewards model since people are being paid for the work. There is a scope for Moral Hazard where requesters post the task and users may not perform tasks accurately even after giving them rewards. To avoid such situations requestors measure and compare the work performed by a couple of users and rate them accordingly. The ones that are rated great or satisfied will be paid whereas the others are not given any rewards.

This framework for utilization of people as computers has been criticized by few users as they do not even get paid the minimum wages. But some people perform these tasks for fun. This website is not their only source of income, but I think it is an amazing way to earn those little rewards over free time and use them Amazon credits for may be purchasing a small gift for your friends and family. A user who recently graduated from high school got into turking as he had broken his foot and had nothing better to do. He bought a game controller and a computer monitor by answering survey questions and transcribing podcasts. This crowd sourcing model over the internet could be used in various other instances and people would be happy to connect and participate in something bigger.

 

References:

1) Amazon Mechanical turk website, wikipedia.

Comments

2 Responses to “ CROWDFUNDING: An Internet Market Place by Amazon ”

  • Eric C

    This is a pretty interesting post. I did not hear about the Mechanical Turk before reading this, but my opinion is that it would get old very fast, answering survey questions or classifying websites. I read a CNet article about this and the author only had made 46 cents in an hour. http://news.cnet.com/8301-10784_3-9782813-7.html

    I really am curious to see what the psychological reasons are for the people who do it for long hours in a day. Why don’t they get bored? And how is the reward significant? Of course, the pennies can add up, but it can’t be sustainable if you don’t have a job already. Also, I wonder if this marketplace will grow or shrink in the next decade as advances in Natural Language Processing and Computer Vision continue.

    -erc73

  • amused

    I participated in this program a while ago in the hopes to make some quick cash (cause i didn’t really want to get a real job), It is a novel concept and would be appealing for someone who needed a quick buck, but I found the whole thing extremely annoying rather than useful. I attempted a total of three tasks before I grew too frustrated to bother. The tasks are for the most part extremely tedious with payoffs less than a dollar for most tasks(a lot have payoffs of like $.01). Much like the previous comment, I am curious why people do many of these tasks, the payoffs are abysmal and the tasks tedious enough that it would seem a part time job would be as good.
    Also, from the description of the approval process for sellers, there is an amazing scope for seller moral hazard, the sellers review/approve the task you complete and if it isn’t up to their standard they don’t have to accept your answer or in other words they can look at your solution and pay you nothing in the worst case. I would like to know how often this is abused, or if the threat of this has any effect on the interactions between workers and sellers.
    All in all the concept of crowd-sourcing work is a work model that seems to fit the internet age we all live now and I think it will thrive in its niche. Sites like taskrabbit.com have adopted this strategy better than most and I will like to see how they grow in the future.

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