Saturday, January 29, 2011

HITs with reckless abandon

a.k.a Amazon Mechanical Turk: The good, the blah.

You may have heard of "crowdsourcing" or "human intelligence tasks". The idea is basically various companies (known as "Requesters") assigning short, repetitive tasks to an anonymous group of people, for whatever reason that may be. It sounds nice in theory: you can "work from home", do interesting work, start and stop whenever you feel like it, earn extra money, blah blah. In practise, it's more like virtual slave labor: tasks pay VERY little, and can take much longer than anticipated. And if you mess up, the requester can reject your submission and you won't get paid for that task. HOWEVER, you can definitely make *real* money in a short amount of time, without changing out of your bathrobe. Just don't expect too much, and follow these guidelines to see if it's something you want to pursue.

How to use it:

Make your account, and link your bank info so you can get paid. Then go check out the tasks. If you're new, there may not be many available to you (some tasks have requirements of, say, 1,000 successfully completed tasks.) You might start by checking out ones that ask for twitter followers or Facebook likes (see Other advice/warnings, paragraph 2). If there isn't anything good, just leave and come back later. New tasks are added all the time.

The good:
  • Anyone can do it, as long as you stay in good standing by not having too much of your work rejected (I've had only .7% of my work rejected)
  • Some of the "tasks" are actually fun. One of the first ones I did was to read product reviews on and mark if they were "sarcastic" in tone. The reviews were all hilariously snarky, and I still chuckle when I remember them.
  • Occasionally you come across very easy tasks that manage to pay decently.
  • Passes time when you're really, really bored.
  • Pennies eventually add up!
  • You can turn your earnings into an gift card (cash out: $1) or transfer to your bank account (cash out: $10)
The bad;
  • Many of the higher-paying "tasks" are actually scams. Well, maybe not outright scams, but they are attempts to get you to sign up for their website which turns out to be a for-pay site. Avoid anything that says "Test this website!" or "Check functionality of our new sign-up process", and for the love of god, don't ever give out personal information or your credit card number.
  • Basically impossible to make more than $2 an hour.
  • Most tasks are pretty fucking mind-numbing. Of course, you have no obligation to keep doing them.
  • Some occasionally crash or have broken links. Always RETURN these, and report them as broken.
  • Sometimes successfully completed tasks take awhile to pay. Most take less than 24 hours, however.

Other advice/warnings:

Find a group of tasks that has a lot available. (You can sort by "HITs available: Most first") Find one that seems reasonable and take a look at it. If it looks doable, click "Accept". If you then find it isn't something you think is worth it, feel free to click "Return". There's no penalty for returning a task. If it is good, you can click "automatically accept the next HIT in this group" and keep working on those tasks and watch the money add up!

Search "twitter" or "facebook" in the search box. There are usually plenty that offer 1-15 cents just to follow them on twitter or like their page on Facebook. Get yourself some "secondary" accounts if you like, just make sure to check their requirements (some will not pay unless your twitter account has 100 followers, for example.) This is a great way to take advantage of people who heard on the news that "social networking" was all the rage, and totally the way to succeed in business.

Make sure to check the time allotted. Some that ask you to follow them on Twitter or like them on Facebook only give you 60 seconds. If your internet stalls, you're screwed, and the HIT is considered abandoned. If you find one like that, go to their site and follow them BEFORE clicking "Accept". Then accept the HIT and enter the info they want.

Avoid anything that takes you to a 3rd party site (even having to visit a search engine is iffy.) This includes ones that ask you to post ads on craigslist or other similar sites. Most likely the "submit" button will be broken, and/or it will ask for some non-existent "confirmation code" to prevent you from getting paid. Feel free to report these (there's a link at the bottom of the page to report anything broken or in violation of terms.)


Like I said, it's something to do when you're bored. I wouldn't think for a second that anyone could actually make any kind of living doing it (unless you literally did tasks 24 hours a day), but a little extra money certainly can't hurt, right? I've made over $45 from it, which is $45 I didn't have previously. I also really like that you can directly apply your earnings to purchases at by converting them to gift cards. That way I can add it to my pile of Swagbucks and MyPoints gift cards and use it to get food. :D

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