Use Mechanical Turk
Amazon's Mechanical Turk, also called MTurk, allows people known as "Requesters" to outsource mundane or repetitive tasks. The workers who complete those tasks, sometimes called "Turkers," receive a few cents for successful completion of each task. If you're a researcher, Mechanical Turk can help you finish your projects more quickly. If you're just looking for a way to make a little extra money, completing tasks (Human Intelligence Tasks, or HITs) can be an easy way to supplement your income.
Creating a Worker Account
- Click the sign-in link. If you have an Amazon account, you can use it to register as a Mechanical Turk worker. You'll still have to provide some basic information beyond what Amazon already has.
- If you don't have an Amazon account, you'll be prompted to create one. Because you are paid for your work through the Amazon Payments program, you must have an Amazon account.
- You will have the opportunity to read the participation agreement. You must agree to this before you can be registered as a worker.
- Enter the required information and follow the prompts to create your worker account. You will receive an email verification that your account has been created.
- Register with Amazon Payments. If you are a U.S. resident, you must complete taxpayer identification information and create an Amazon Payments account so that you can collect and disperse the income you earn on Mechanical Turk.
- In the U.S. and most other countries, the money you earn on Mechanical Turk is considered taxable income. Keep this in mind particularly if you decide to get Amazon gift cards with your earnings.
- It can take up to 48 hours for Amazon Payments to verify the information you provided. You can't start working on Mechanical Turk until the verification process is complete.
- Browse available HITs. Once you're cleared to start working, take some time to familiarize yourself with the worker site and how to access available HITs. Play around with the way available HITs are ordered until you find something that interests you.
- When you see a HIT you think you might want to do, click "View a HIT in this group." You can preview the HIT and decide whether you want to do it.
- If you decide to complete the task, click the "Accept HIT" button and follow the instructions to submit your work.
- Complete your probationary period. Once you are registered with Mechanical Turk, you will be placed on probation initially. During this 10-day period, you cannot disperse any of your earnings and you have to complete at least one HIT a day.
- During this period, you also are limited to performing a maximum of 100 HITs. Use this period to experiment and decide which HITs you like the best.
- Take qualification tests. A good use of your time during your probationary period is building your qualifications so you can work on better-paying HITs. Since you can only perform a limited number of HITs during probation, you can afford to spend the time.
- Ultimately, you also may be able to get premium qualifications or master qualifications after completing HITs consistently and accurately over time. These qualifications are based on your performance.
- Follow up on your completed HITs. Once you submit your work, the requester has 30 days to approve it and pay you. If they think your answer is wrong or that their instructions weren't followed correctly, they may reject your HIT.
- If your work is rejected, you do have the option of contacting the requester and finding out why it was rejected or if there's anything you can do to have it accepted. Keep in mind that you lose your anonymity by doing this – the requester will be given your name and email address.
- In general, think about the reward for the HIT before you protest a rejection. If a HIT was rejected that only would have paid you a few cents, it's probably not worth the time it would take you to send a message about it.
- Disperse your earnings. Once you have been an active worker on Mechanical Turk for 10 days, you can access your account and earnings. There is no minimum amount required to disperse your earnings, but you are limited to one withdrawal per day.
- If you are a U.S. worker, you can transfer your money to your Amazon Payments account or to an Amazon gift card. From your Amazon Payments account, you can transfer the money to your bank.
- All other international workers must transfer their money to an Amazon gift card. Some workers in India may have the ability to transfer their money to a local bank account.
Setting Up Requester Accounts
- Sign up for an Amazon Web Services (AWS) account. Go to https://aws.amazon.com/ and follow the instructions to create an AWS account. There is no charge to create an AWS account, and it is necessary for you to create HITs.
- Through your AWS account, you can manage the security credentials for the whole project as well as view reports on account activity and usage.
- Register for a Requester account. You'll need a Mechanical Turk Requester account before you can create HITs or use Mechanical Turk as a Requester. Even if you already have a Worker account, you still need to create a separate Requester account.
- You can create your Requester account at https://requester.mturk.com. Simply enter your email address and then follow the prompts. You will have to accept the Amazon Mechanical Turk Participation Agreement.
- Link your AWS account and your Requester account. Once you've created both an AWS account and a Register account, click "Link your AWS account" from https://requester.mturk.com/developer to connect the two accounts.
- You will be prompted to enter your AWS Root user email address and password.
- Create an AWS Identity and Access Management (IAM) user account. With an IAM user account, you'll be able to use the security credentials from that account to authenticate your HITs. This allows you to keep your AWS Root user email address secret.
- An IAM user account is especially helpful if you have several team members accessing the data you gather from your HITs.
- Keep in mind you're only using these to authenticate requests in the Mechanical Turk API. You won't use your IAM user credentials to log in to your Mechanical Turk account.
- Create your access key. You need an access key to protect the data you enter when you're using your AWS account. These keys consist of two parts, which you can think of as your user name and password for the service.
- You'll use your credentials to sign and secure your work throughout the AWS testing and production environments.
- You can sign in either using your root credentials or using your IAM user account to create an access key ID and secret access key.
- Go to the sandbox. The sandbox is where you will test your HIT to make sure it's working properly before you publish it. You'll need to set up developer accounts and worker accounts in the sandbox for thorough testing.
- To create your Requester sandbox account, go to https://requestersandbox.mturk.com and follow the prompts. You'll also want to visit https://workersandbox.mturk.com and set up an account there so you can view and test your HITs as a worker.
- Be sure to also go to https://requestersandbox.mturk.com/developer so you can link your AWS account to your Requester sandbox account, just as you linked your main Requester account.
- Set up your SDK so that it uses the "us-east-1" region. Then connect your developer sandbox by setting your SDK's API endpoint to https://mturk-requester-sandbox.us-east-1.amazonaws.com. There are examples you can follow in the AWS help guide.
Creating Your Own HIT
- Choose the best interface. Amazon Mechanical Turk offers three different interfaces. The best choice for you depends on how many HITs you want to create and how complex they will be. You also want to consider how tech savvy you are.
- If you only have a few simple HITs, you may want to use the command line interface (CLI). You'll be able to access most of the Mechanical Turk functionality fairly easily.
- If you have a larger number of HITs to generate, or will be getting a large number of results, you might prefer the Mechanical Turk API. The API gives you greater access to Mechanical Turk functionality than the CLI.
- The third interface, the Requester user interface, is the least hands-on of the three interfaces and is best suitable if you have a very large number of HITs, or will be getting a very large number of results.
- Write your HIT. Take a look at the information or data you need to generate, or the tasks you need completed. Figure out how to split this work into bite-size chunks that workers can do in only a few minutes.
- If your HIT requires your workers to have special skills, such as the ability to translate Spanish into English, you'll want to require a qualification test before workers can accept your HITs.
- Specify a reward that each worker will receive for completing each HIT. Keep in mind that if you set the reward too low, you may have difficulty getting your project completed.
- Consider whether an individual worker should be able to complete more than one HIT. For example, if you simply need objects classified into categories, one worker could complete several HITs. But if you're doing a survey, you wouldn't want one individual's responses more than once.
- Craft your questions carefully. Depending on the reason you're using Mechanical Turk, there may be other considerations that guide how you develop and frame your tasks. This is particularly true if you are using Mechanical Turk for research.
- For example, you may be doing market research for a company and need to obscure the identity of the company so you can get unbiased answers.
- If you have to qualify your workers, use open-ended questions so you can avoid people who will lie just to get the reward for completing the HIT. For example, instead of asking "Are you a female between the ages of 18 and 25?" you can simply ask their gender and age.
- Test your HITs in the sandbox. Once you've posted your HIT in your Requester sandbox, you can go to your Worker sandbox to try it out. Make sure the instructions are clear and the HIT itself is programmed correctly.
- Run through a few sample HITs to make sure the tasks you've created will get you the results you need.
- If you run into any problems or want to change anything, do this in the Requester sandbox and then try the new version.
- Prepay for your HITs. Once you've created your HITs, you have to prepay for them before you can make them available to workers. The total you'll have to pay depends on how many HITs you want completed and your reward for each.
- Publish your HITs. After testing is complete and you've prepaid for the number of HITs you need, you're ready to make your HITs available to workers. You can do this from your Requester account dashboard at https://requester.mturk.com/.
- Click the "publish batch" button when you're ready to get results for a particular group of HITs. Depending on the complexity of your project, you may have several different HITs that need to be published at different times.
- Upload any files that are necessary, and then review the preview page to make sure your HIT will display correctly to workers. Click through to confirm and publish your HIT.
- Process results from assignments. After your HITs are published, workers will start completing HITs and submitting results. You can review work submitted from the "manage" tab on your Requester account dashboard.
- You have the option to accept or reject each completed HIT. You can review the results all at once, or look at each returned task and accept it or reject it individually.
- If you decide you want to delete a batch of HITs, you also can do this from the same tab.
- If you're using Mechanical Turk as a Requester, take advantage of the resources available to you on the AWS website, including the help guides and user forums.
- If you've signed up as a worker on MTurk, don't expect to get rich quick. If you keep at it, you may be able to earn several hundred dollars a week. More realistically, though, you can maybe earn a few hundred dollars a month.
Sources and Citations
- ↑ http://www.itworld.com/article/2767620/networking-hardware/experimenting-on-mechanical-turk--5-how-tos.html
- ↑ https://www.mturk.com/mturk/help?helpPage=worker
- ↑ http://docs.aws.amazon.com/AWSMechTurk/latest/AWSMechanicalTurkGettingStartedGuide/SetUp.html
- ↑ http://docs.aws.amazon.com/AWSMechTurk/latest/AWSMechanicalTurkGettingStartedGuide/NextSteps.html