failing like never before


The Monkey

There's this site called mturk that is run by Amazon, and allows for companies to pay people to do really stupid things that are easy for a person to do, but nigh on impossible for a computer to do. Mturk, is short for Mechanical Turk, like the old chess playing machine the Turk. The original Turk, was a machine that existed a few hundred years ago and was supposedly able to play chess quite well. Eventually, people discovered the secret behind the Turk: a guy sitting inside the machine moving the pieces around.

Now Amazon's mturk is essentially like the original Turk, only mturk can do pretty much everything, not just play chess. Suppose you're a large company and you have some recordings of meetings that you want transcribed. A computer has a lot of trouble doing this kind of stuff, but a person can do it fairly easily with time. All you do, is take your audio recordings for transcription to the mturk machine and in a day or so you get your completed transcriptions. Amazon's mturk machine is a group of random people who get paid tiny amounts of money to perform relatively simple tasks that a computer would find pretty much impossible. Anyone can sign up and get paid to be a part of Amazon's giant machine. Just like the original Turk, mturk appears to the end user as just a machine (of course, this time everyone know that the machine really isn't a machine, and thats part of the magic), but inside are people doing the actual work.

As I said, mturk can do pretty much anything. If you go to mturk, you'll find requests for not just audio transcriptions, but also surveys, image tagging and categorization, movie and book reviews, links to white papers, and even some really weird ones. Like one I found a few days ago that asked for an original drawing of a monkey. I got paid two cents for my drawing which took close to 2 minutes to do.

And here is my monkey.

monkey drawing

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  1. Nice monkey! Mturk is great…

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