Counter-offer Outsource manual tasks to thousands with Amazon’s Mechanical Turk

Posted by tom klein October 22, 2007

For anyone who’s trying to grow a business, there will always seem to be much more to do than there is time to do it. One of the newest ways of tackling challenging tasks that can be done on the web is called crowdsourcing (the Wikipedia is an example). It essentially means that you hand a difficult task to an undefined, large group of people. Remember that old screen saver ([email protected]) that harnessed your computer to help search for extra-terrestrials? It’s sort of like that, but instead of harnessing your computer, crowdsourcing harnesses other people willing to work for a per-task fee.

The easiest way to put this power to work for your company is Amazon’s Mechanical Turk. This somewhat strangely named service gives you the power to crowdsource almost any task you might imagine. To get started using the service, you’ll need to first create a HIT (human intelligence task). You will probably need some technical help, especially if you want to build this capability into a web-based application.

Here’s a good example of what’s possible – the transcription service named CastingWords. This web-based service uses the Mechanical Turk service to transcribe MP3 files – for as little as 75 cents per minute.

Couldn’t you find a way to improve your current offering and sell more with the help of a cast of thousands?

So, how do you make sure that people actually know what they’re doing? If special skills are required to complete your tasks, you can require that workers pass a qualification test before they are allowed to work on your HITs (human intelligence tasks). Alternately, you can require that a worker has historically completed a minimum percentage of their tasks correctly or a minimum number of previous HITs in order to qualify for your HIT.

The best way to learn about crowdsourcing is to try it. Don’t be frightened - it’s really just applying the same incentive approach that’s been used in getting people to complete marketing research surveys for years. Only now, you can use this system to get people to do everything from writing blog entries to verifying the details of everyone in your address book.

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2 Comments on “Outsource manual tasks to thousands with Amazon’s Mechanical Turk”

  1. An interesting idea...perhaps an "open" illustration of a concept previously introduced by John Hagel and John Seely Brown known as a Creation Net... http://www.johnhagel.com/creationnets.pdf James posted on
  2. [...] with Sprout Good things come in small packages Create and embed widgets easily with yourminis Counter-offer Outsource manual tasks to thousands with Amazon’s Mechanical Turk Bring it on Develop an RSS [...] The Top 100 Digital Marketing Ideas for 2009 | feed growth! posted on

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