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Mechanical Turk : Are you ready to get rich?

Updated on August 27, 2011

Getting rich on 4 cents a day

One humongous financial transaction would be nice. A few shares of Apple purchased for pennies and ballooning into a fortune overnight tempts the speculator in all of us. We study trends. We take a risk now and then, investing a few dollars from our retirement fund (or our Starbucks fund) in a relatively unknown equity with million dollar potential. Dreams can come true.

On the other hand, a little honest effort put forth consistently couldn't hurt. Are you willing to grind out a veritable fortune by earning a few cents at a time? Perhaps it can be done. The Amazon Mechanical Turk stands ready to assist you. Your cognitive skills, mouse, keyboard, and broadband Internet connection might be all you require.

What is The Mechanical Turk?

Based on the crowdsourcing principal of labor, the Mechanical Turk aggregates thousands of tiny tasks and makes them available to the entire Internet population. Payment is based on the ability to perform snippets of research, apply a little logic, and wade through a bunch of tedious verbiage.

Registration is free. There's no fee to join the hordes of Internet denizens performing mundane tasks for mere pennies. Create an account with and get to work. Your account slowly grows as you complete more and more micro jobs. Your online reputation grows. Perhaps employers will offer you even more complicated tasks after you prove yourself adept at differentiating a valid blog comment from a spam posting.

The Turk sends you a periodic update.
The Turk sends you a periodic update.

Why is the Mechanical Turk?

Computers demonstrate tremendous capabilities at repetitive discrete tasks. Sorting, searching, storing, and retrieving are digital pieces of cake for modern processors. Believe it or not, some blindingly simple tasks still elude even the most advanced hardware and software. Determining whether or not a blog posting is legitimate or spammy cannot be reliably determined by digital logic.

For example, consider a web site hosting sports-related forums. The site makes a profit by selling eyeballs. More visitors means more advertising dollars. Banner ads pay the bills. In order to attract traffic, the site needs content. In order to generate content, the site must allow anyone to post messages. Unfortunately, included in the population of people who post are unscrupulous spammers. These folks are bent on leaving messages unrelated to the stated purpose of the site. They intend to post backlinks to their sites rather than contribute to the heap of relevant content.

No computer program can differentiate between the spam and the good stuff. A forum posting should be relatively well constructed, grammar-wise, and should also offer content relevant to the site. Computers can't tell the difference.

On the other hand, real human people can tell the difference. A sentient human can scan a blog post in milliseconds, easily determining the validity of the content. Mechanical Turk brings together these humans and the the content to be evaluated. It's that simple.

Is this a picture of a house? The Mechanical Turk will give you a penny for the correct answer.
Is this a picture of a house? The Mechanical Turk will give you a penny for the correct answer. | Source

Is this a picture of a house?

Computers demonstrate no aptitude for looking at pictures. Software certainly manipulates digital images: Photoshopping has become a cottage industry around the world. Unfortunately, even the most advanced computer program cannot reliably answer even the simplest question regarding the concept of an image. Fortunately, humans still posses this skill. Fortunately for The Mechanical Turk, these humans are willing to work for pennies.

Selling yourself to The Turk means that you'll be using your cognitive skills to perform seemingly mundane tasks that evade even the most advanced computers. It's cheaper for Amazon to pay you in pennies than to attempt to develop software to solve these problems.

What are some jobs?

The Mechanical Turk, and websites like it, serves up these types of microtasks:

  • Classify an image according to content,
  • Scan a blog posting for legitimacy,
  • Search a web site for specific information and report back to The Turk,
  • Translate snippets of text into a different language,and
  • Scan a text snippet for specific types of information.

You can't cheat The Turk

Remember, software excels at repetitive tasks and calculations. Innovative software running behind the scenes on the Mechanical Turk website collates your responses against solutions to the same tasks as provided by other workers. If your solutions vary according to statistical parameters, you will be kicked out of the program. In other words, please refrain from clicking on random answers in order to complete your tasks. Being rejected by The Turk may be the nadir of your online work experience, or it may inspire more articles. Always make lemonade from your digital lemons.

A few of the available tasks in the Mechanical Turk repository.
A few of the available tasks in the Mechanical Turk repository. | Source

The Turk Needs You

Currently, thousands of HITS (Human Interface Tasks) lie dormant in the Mechanical Turk database. Images cry out for classification and text yearns to be evaluated for content. You may have the precise skill set required to relieve this burden.

Jump in with both feet. Register for an account. Take on a few HITS and earn a few cents. The Internet will thank you and your net worth will increase, somewhat. Every penny counts.


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    • nicomp profile image

      nicomp really 6 years ago from Ohio, USA

      @AOkay12: Well, OK, but if you live somewhere that costs 4 cents a day to survive...

    • AOkay12 profile image

      AOkay12 6 years ago from Florida

      I visited this site before and for the most part, I think it is a waste of time. Once in a while, you may stumble upon a lucrative opportunity, but they are few and far in between. Get rich 4 pennies at a time? I don't think so. I have better things to do with my time.

    • dallas93444 profile image

      Dallas W Thompson 6 years ago from Bakersfield, CA

      A penny for your thoughts! What one will do for a penny...! I am holding our for a dollar. Enjoyed. flag up!

    • nicomp profile image

      nicomp really 6 years ago from Ohio, USA

      @Sapphireid : Thank you for your kind words, and you are indeed correct. I owe you a penny.

    • Sapphireid profile image

      Anna Taylor 6 years ago from San Diego, CA

      Hello there Nicomp,

      Great post! I think you did very well with your grammar, clarity and content. I'll check out the Mechanical Turk. Thank you for the interesting read! Oops! I almost forgot to add: Additionally, the photo is not of a house, but it's a picture from the front inside of a Refridgerator.

      Best Regards,


    • BkCreative profile image

      BkCreative 6 years ago from Brooklyn, New York City

      How interesting. I've often thought of doing this but just haven't gotten around to it. Sometimes I feel something very simple (and yes mundane) likw may be what I need to slow down the raging brain. I'll try it (soon).

      Thanks for the info!

    • nicomp profile image

      nicomp really 6 years ago from Ohio, USA

      @drbj : We all want to avoid the nuclear option.

    • drbj profile image

      drbj and sherry 6 years ago from south Florida

      The Mechanical Turk sounds fascinating, nicomp, but I'm holding out for the nuclear version.