Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Mechanical Turk Part 2

A recent article in the Huffington Post referred to Mechanical Turk workers as the “new underclass” and as workers in a feudal system.  I agree in the sense that many of the HITs are very low paying, there are many $.01 HITs and even some that are listed as $0.00 (I don’t know who does those).  I’ve been lurking on a forum for Mturk workers, and some folks there claim they can make $10-20 per hour and some say they are making their living on Mturk. It does take time to gain the trust of the major requesters so that you get the higher paying jobs. 

Another issue brought up in the HuffPo article is that there are scams (surveys that ask for personal information) and some requesters that take your work but reject the HIT so you don’t get paid for it.  Amazon will take reports of these scams and ban those Requesters, but the workers who did those HITs have still paid the price in lost time and compromised information.

Besides not being paid, when the job is rejected it has other implications for workers.  Most HITs have requirements for an approval rate of at least 95%; every rejection lowers the approval rate.  If a worker’s approval rate falls below 95%, that worker will have to do a large number of penny HITs (these HITs usually have no approval rate requirement) in order to raise their approval numbers high enough to get back over the 95% threshold.  So this explains why there are HITs that only pay a penny, some people need to do them to raise their approval numbers.

If a worker has a proven record of accurate work on a particular type of HITs, but across several requesters, they can attain “Master” status.  This status gives the worker access to additional, and higher paying, work.  A worker can’t apply for this status, it is given based on their work statistics.

Based on what I have read in various blog and forum posts, my strategy is to do a lot of easy HITs first to build up a wide base of approved HITs before delving into HITs that seem more likely to be rejected.  I will also consult the forums for information about requesters to avoid.  I have also learned of an application called Turkopticon, that rates requesters so that workers can choose only the requesters that are not out to cheat or scam them.  Also I read on a forum of one worker who worked on over 100 HITs of the same type and had them all rejected either because of some technical issue or misunderstanding.  But whatever the reason, the worker now has a very low Approval rate, and is very limited in the work that is available. To avoid something like this happening to me, I only do a few HITs of the same type until I see that they were approved, just to be sure that I fully understand the instructions and that the requester is honest.  So far I have 100% approval.

That said, I am not working a great deal of the time on Mturk.  I still have Leapforce that pays much better.  I will work on Mturk when Leapforce is down or does not have any tasks for me to do, or when I only have a few minutes to work and don’t want to get into anything that will take a lot of time or effort.

In regard to the articles I’ve read critical of the low pay, lack of response to worker concerns, and the fear that micro job sites like Mturk are the wave of the future and will have the effect of lowering wages over all, I see their point, but don’t have the same concerns.  Being a free-market believing Libertarian, I think it’s all good.  Requesters get the work done cheap; no one is forced to take the jobs.  Each worker can decide whether it is worth their time to work on each HIT, if a requester pays too low, their work will go undone.  The HITs on Mturk are mostly very simple tasks, I don’t see micro job sites taking over anyone’s job except maybe temporary workers who are low paid and without benefits as well.  I see this kind of work as a supplement to one’s income, not the sole source of income, but its each person’s choice how they use their time and effort.

See my post on Mechanical Turk Basics

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