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52for2009 #1 — Turk for 2 hours a day

This year I’m doing something new every week. Sometimes it’ll be accomplishing a particular thing (like writing all my representative legislators), but more often it will be a daily activity for the week, like watching a Woody Allen film nightly. As you may have guessed, I’ll be blogging these experiences.

Week 1

This week I’m spending 2 hours a day doing HITs (Human Intelligence Tasks) on Amazon’s Mechanical Turk. At the end of the week I hope to have earned enough to buy something (from Amazon of course).

Quick Summary

  • Mechanical Turk is named after a famous fake chess-playing automaton
  • It’s “A Marketplace for Work,” where you can offer a bounty for a simple task, or perform the task for a tiny sum
  • Tasks are generally between $.01 and $5, and take between a minute and a few hours
  • You can make money

What I did

The interface used on AMI
Turk Interface. I spent a lot of time looking for high-paying-yet-simple tasks. This was a fool's errand.
A simple task I performed
A Simple Task I performed.

I clicked the ads I preferred. It took about 15 minutes for 55 pages of the same thing, bringing me a few cents.

What I Learned Today

  • A lot of your time is spent finding tasks, not performing them
  • The per-hour equivalent of working on Turk is sub-poverty
  • The easiest tasks generally have lots of available HITs
  • It’s most fulfilling to forget about the money and find tasks where you can help the requester with your special skills (I’m talking to you, librarians and web developers!)


You could try Mahalo Answers, where the best answer to a question can bring some money your way.