Quick And Cheap Outsourcing to Amazon’s Mechanical Turk

Outsourcing is the lifeblood of any outgoing business. No business how large or small can survive without some sort of outsourcing. If you think you’re hoofing it all alone, you’re not. Where do you get your electricity from? Your TV? Your internet? Your Webhosting? Your food? A lot of what we take for granted today is really outsourcing.

So, what is this magical mystical Mechanical Turk by Amazon? Think of it as a more data oriented version of Get A Freelancer, ODesk and Elance. MTurk allows you to post a job (they call it a ‘hit’), and this job will be done by X amount of people. Where X is the amount your specify. So, in reality Amazon Mechanical Turk is not mechanical, nor a turk. It’s just freelancers willing to do jobs for various prices.

BUT here is where Mturk differs from all other freelances sites: YOU set the price. And the lowest you can go is 5 cents. Yes, you read that right. $.05 USD, 5 American cents. You’re thinking, no one in their right MIND would do a job for 5 cents. Look at this (slightly cropped and reshaped to size) screenshot (click on it to see the full size version):

I put out hit at 5 cents per job, that will take less than 1 minute to do. What are the results?

Click on it to see the full image. It clearly shows: 50/50 hits completed in 3 days at .05 USD per hit. Oh yeah! So what can MTurk be used for?

Amazon gives lots of examples such as data scraping, image collection and data aggregation. But you can use it for anything you want. Though, be careful if you set your price too low for something too complicated people will NOT complete it at all. If you are looking for cheap labor, the best thing to do is make very small repeatable tasks on Mturk. What they are? Well, that is left up to you 🙂

Though I do need to give you a fair warning: don’t do anything unethical with it. It’s all to easy to abuse such a wonderful site, so don’t do it.

That being said, creating and navigating the MTurk website for the first few times is a pain. They really don’t have a web design that ‘flows’. Feel clunky at parts BUT it does work and works well for the purposes.

To create a hit, you can watch Amazon’s video on How To Create a Hit:

Head over to Amazons MTurks’s website to learn a lot more about it. They have plenty of training to get you going 🙂 Good luck!