Anyone else ever use Mechanical Turk?

I have a problem at work, as in a task that appears impossible. That’s the kind of stuff that I do. Anyway, I’ve been hanging my head against this for months. Like, I’ve driven home in serious despair many nights.

So today, after having the same conversation with the smartest people I know, I flippantly said, “shit dawg, why don’t I fivvr this or turk it?”. I’d never used either, but it made me feel smart to say.

Then I said to myself, fuckit, lets try. It took me two hours to figure out how to document my tasks and create what they call a HIT. An hour and a half later, my 2.5 month long problem was solved. And it cost me $68.

So… Was that a fluke? Should we be embracing this? (I.e. gig economy) Am I a bad person for only pricing the work at basically $19/hour? How am I gonna get scammed?

My head is reeling. Should a guy that makes a decent wage farm out his work… So he can go home at a reasonable hour?


Sounds pretty reasonable compared with the 13 cents per 5 minute tasks I was seeing on MTurk a few years ago when I signed up to see if I could make any walking around money.

I looked at it, tried a few days a couple of hours a day, and realized that doing MTurk work at the rates there wouldn’t even pay for the electricity my machine was using.

Maybe it’s gotten better? I don’t know, but at the time it looked like a complete scam to me. The only people who’d be able to get any kind of value out of it would be, like, Indian call center workers or something. Some place where a nickle (USD) is actually worth something.


Yeah, I’m conflicted. I chose to take California minimum wage, add 50%, then slice the payment to the 20 ish minutes I knew it would take. But browsing through their list of jobs… Well, ayn rand would be proud.

But even paying 150% of minimum wage saved me hours and hours, and many hundreds of dollars.

(My brain pan is spinning)

Perhaps I just define a set of ethics, get my exec team to agree and sign off (since it will still be cheaper), and turk my way to honest happiness.


It had all gone to shit the last time I checked. Years back, between jobs, I could find some interesting and reasonably well-paid transcription work from authors, students, academics, &c. for interviews, oral histories, lectures, and the like. Plus some transcription of insurance adjusters’ telephone interviews with claimants. Plus some science test subject stuff.

Now all the transcription available is utterly unintelligible speakerphone recordings of what seem to be earnings calls held beneath churning surf, for pitiful sums even without considering the amount of rewinding you have to do to even get an approximation of the content. That and some 15 minute surveys that pay 50-99¢… if you’re in the right demographic, which they don’t determine until you’re halfway through.

I don’t know what happened. My best guess is that the desirable customers connected with the good transcriptionists outside of Mturk, either unofficially or through a more reliable matching service. I had one or two that I did back-channel work for.


Never looked at it until just now.

Still looks to be mostly as you describe.

Maven looks interesting, but as far as I can tell nobody is farming work out to it.

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Depends on the nature of the problem and how well you can scope the tasks, but I see MTurk as more useful for crowd-sourcing than out-sourcing. For example: Crowd-Sourced Assessment of Technical Skill: A Valid Method for Discriminating Basic Robotic Surgery Skills.

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