Tuesday, March 28, 2006

HIT: SingASound

I'm lost. SingASound has one HIT up in which it has you go here, there you try to imitate a tone. Which basically makes me think either they are developing a brilliant midi to human sound converter (which would be so weird...But cool) Or have go insane. Seriously....What is this for?

OK, my bewilderment aside. The HIT paid 2 cents for 8 second of work (you have to make the tone noise for 8 seconds). As well the site asks for your Turker ID, something that I know of no easy way to acquire. Luckily I have mine from when Casting Words emailed them out, so I was able to complete this HIT.

Anyways, I'll be keeping an eye on the SingASound folk and I'll be picking my brain trying to figure out if they are brilliant or just crazy.

Thursday, March 16, 2006


I've been wanting to interview people on mTurk for quite a while and today I finally got around to writing up some questions. So if you're an mTurk developer (like CastingWords, Von Kemplen, HIT Builder, or those Amazon workers who work on mTurk itself or one of those other guys) or even if you're just an active Turker who has been around for quite a while (Since November) I'd like to setup an interview with you during the next few weeks. Please email me, and we can set one up.

Monday, March 13, 2006

Is Turking.com Dead?

Turking.com has been down for 4 days. Previously it's been down for one or so but never this long, as well the front page has seemed pretty much abandoned for some time. So it seems there's only one Turker dedicated forum now. Which is kind of sad, now granted I never was very fond of Turking.com, it sprang out of an overgrown thread at SomethingAwful.com, which although the guys over there are entertaining as heck, most admit that they are jerks, thus the name "Something Awful".

Overall the Turk community is still in a slow decline since the early beta days when 100s of thousands flocked to mTurk to check out how they can make money while sitting at home on their computer. Part of the problem is the slow development of sites and services that use mTurk, although many sites/services are being built, the only current service that I regurlarly see HIT's from is CastingWords, other common HIT's are from Amazon or companies using mTurk to process there data such as Enrovia Research.

But I see many success services and sites popping up over the next 6 months, and perhaps the community will begin to thrive once again.

Sunday, March 12, 2006

HowTo: Cheat at Take a Photo HIT's

A new "Take a Photo" HIT has shown up, this ones pays $45 dollars for taking 18 photos in Lake Tapps, WA. The requested photos are of street view, and a view of the front of the house of 9 different houses, exactly what they want is made very clear in samples provided.

Now how does someone cheat at this? Submit photos of different houses with numbers changed via photoshop? Take pictures of houses with no addresses on them? No.

Quite simply you go online and find a house or two for sale in the area of the pictures requested. You then call up the realtor and tell them that you will pay them 30 dollars or so to take the requested pictures for you (don't mention anything about mTurk, make up some story as to why you want them). If the realtor wants more pay, simply call another in the area. Now I'm not sure if this would work...But there's some other options, like finding someone on a social network or chat room that lives in the city and making an arrangement to pay them enough to make it worth their time, and not letting them realize that you are actually making money out of it.

You would essentially be contracting out work that has been contracted to you, cheating yes, but I don't think the requester (DSK Consulting) would mind. Maybe my idea is brilliant or maybe it's retarded...I haven't tried it yet, but I might eventually...If anyone does try it be sure to email me, or post on a forum on the experience.

Thursday, March 09, 2006

Using mTurk to Find Common Errors

Steve Tse has put up a few typing HIT's which have a really unique idea to them. They simply ask a Turker to type the same word thirty times, not correcting any errors typing or spelling mistakes. This could be used for finding domains to register for spelling/typing mistakes, creating redirection directories, finding cheap AdSense ads for misspelled searches and tons of other stuff that AI can't quite figure out how we manage to mess up in the way we do.

Now here's the issue, at least 97% of Turkers are good people who are just trying to make some extra cash during their free times, but there are a few bad apples. A script could pretty easily be written making a person only have to type the word once, and then it just copies it. Or there's good old copy and paste. So how does one keep Turkers from cheating? Shoot all that you catch cheating with a rifle, but illegal scare tactics tend to be troublesome. What one could do is use some sort of JavaScript to keep boxes from being pasted into, but I'm sure a GreaseMonkey script could get around that. So the real solution is um...I'll get back to you on that one.

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Amazon at eTech 06

Amazon's Luis Felipe Cabrera's speech at eTech 06 on mTurk hasn't brought any new information on the future of mTurk to the table but the news article is an interesting read on the theoretical application of mTurk. Of course mTurk has yet to live up to the vision the Amazon has for it (Thousands of simple tasks that are easily done by humans but difficult for machines), but it's still young in life. Well see how it evolves in the next 6 months.

Monday, March 06, 2006

mTurk API Updated

Amazon has updated the mTurk API, though the changes seem to be mostly minor.

From Amazon Developer Forums
  • HIT Types. You can now define HIT types to manage work that takes the form of many similar HITs. A HIT type is simply a set of values for HIT properties that are common to all HITs of a particular type. You can now use a HIT type ID to create HITs with the property values of a HIT type, and to query for HITs of a given type.

  • "Reviewing" HITs. When a HIT becomes "reviewable," such as when results have been submitted for all of the HIT's assignments or the HIT has reached its expiration time, your application can now move the HIT to a new status, called "reviewing." Your application can query for "reviewable" HITs and "reviewing" HITs separately, giving your application greater flexibility in how it reviews HITs.

  • Updatable Qualification tests. You can now change the Qualification test for a Qualification type at any time using the UpdateQualificationType operation.

  • New Qualification request fields. A request for a Qualification now includes the ID of the user who is requesting the Qualification. The request also includes the test question data that corresponds to the user's answer data. If you change the test for a type, you can keep track of which version of the test a user took by looking at the request data.

Friday, March 03, 2006

The Doings of Amazon

A recent HIT to surface from Amazon is another contest type. But rather then another logo contest, this HIT pays 2 cents and simply asks for some comments on peoples troubles with writing and reading blogs for a new Amazon product.

As well a new handy feature has shown up on mTurk. Now whenever you are not qualified to do an HIT, there is a "Why?" link, which when clicked will explain to you what you need to do to get qualified. Which is handy and dandy...Ok so that was lame. But I'm still Smiling!

HIT: Categories

Dennis Connolly has created a few HIT's with an interesting but good idea. He asks the Turker to think of a category that the information given fits into. Often times organizing just right can be a pain, so why not send it out to the masses. Expanding on this idea, mTurk could be used by social bookmarkers who are too lazy to properly catorgize the sites they submit. And in many others ways to create order on sites. And it could even be applied to organizing peoples and businesses non-net related lives.

Thursday, March 02, 2006

Just Call n Ask!

Call n Ask appears to be a new mTurk powered service still in early development. The basic idea is when you are out on the street and have a question, just call them up and your question is researched and found on the web.

The site itself doesn't mention mTurk, but a couple of test HIT's have been spotted. So putting two and two together, they plan on recording the questions and then sending them to mTurk for Turkers to complete. Now this isn't a new type of service to mTurk, Crikey Guru is the same idea, but this is a whole new way to send the question.

Personally I don't have a cell phone, but such a service as this would be really great, perhaps pay a modest fee per a month and you the you could call up anytime and ask a question. Then get a vocal response minutes later. Curiosity and sometimes the need to know this and that happens all the time. Of course payment could be tricky, but I trust that they will iron out all the bumps.