31 March 2009 ~ 4 Comments                                       

The Mechanical Turk Experiment: How I made $2.18 an hour – and how you can too!

I am a reasonably intelligent person, so one day I was wondering how much I could make by signing up and working as a Turker on Amazon’s Mechanical Turk (Check it out in Part 7 of the Article series). Turns out, not much. In a little over 3 hours I made $6.56. It’s tough going too, between wading through and picking the appropriate HITs and actually executing on them. (Many of the HIT’s are limited to a certain number and the good ones run out quickly.)

If I got better at working the system I could probably kick the earnings up to $3. Assuming a 50 hour work week, I could make up to $600 a month, $7200 a year. Of course, I would have long before gone completely insane and been evicted.

So, what kind of work did I do?

    Subscribed to a YouTube channel. $0.01.
    Reviewed website layout and copy. $0.05.
    Evaluated whether 100 sites were phishing or not. $1.
    Transcribed audio, a difficult-to-hear 5 minute interview. $2.

The Original Mechanical Turk

The Original Mechanical Turk

The people using the service most are sites hoping to populate their site with some user generated content, researchers, and semi-spammers looking to build links. The work that seems to give you the best return involves the transcription of audio and scanned text that is too difficult for character recognition.

Don’t get me wrong, I love Amazon Turk and think it’s a fascinating and brilliant way to bring together small manual human jobs with those looking for some pocket change. The hourly rate is peanuts for US based folks like me, but if you are one of the billions who live on dollars a day it becomes much more relevant. Granted, you need access to an Internet connected computer and (currently) must speak English, but I am sure in the next decade there will be a non-trivial portion of this group with some sort of access to a computer and knowledge of English.

So, how much can you make in an hour?

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4 Responses to “The Mechanical Turk Experiment: How I made $2.18 an hour – and how you can too!”

  1. Glenn 3 April 2009 at 5:40 pm Permalink

    I think what your point is here is that crowd-sourcing exclusively for monetary incentive is most probably not all that affective.

    Crowd-sourcing works best either when the level of individual commitment is low (e.g. netflix rating) or with social capital in an abundance economy (e.g. stackoverflow). Leveraging the feeling of reciprocity doesn’t hurt either.

  2. Henrique 10 September 2009 at 2:26 pm Permalink

    It’s very interesting to actually know how much you could make in an hour in Mechanical Turk. I don’t know how much I would make in an hour, probably not more than you. What is actually great to see is that it is possible to make some money with it.

    There is a great Art work by Aaron Koblin, called: The Sheep Market, where the artist raises critical thoughts into crowd-sourcing by using it to form a huge image out of 10.000 sheeps drawn by Mechanical Turk users at a price of 0.02 ($USD) each. More on it at: http://www.thesheepmarket.com/

    Anyway, great post, it does gives us an clearer idea on the scope of Amazon’s initiative.

    By the way 600 euros is approximately 2.3 times Brazil’s minimum wage…

  3. prouse 27 March 2012 at 10:30 pm Permalink

    The hourly rate doesn’t sound like much, but then again it isn’t really intended to be a person’s primary source of income. I find that mturk is great for just making a little extra cash each month to help out with the bills. I don’t make it labor intensive, I never sit down for hours at a time just working on it or anything. Generally I’ll browse through and complete some hits when I’m watching a movie, or if I have a little time to kill in the morning before work, when I can’t sleep and just want something to occupy my mind for awhile, etc.

    Approaching it this way, I tend to average around $6/day. $180/month (basically my car payment) isn’t too shabby for something that I’m just doing to kill time.

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