‘Turking’, i.e. crowdsourced work done using Amazon Mechanical Turk (AMT) is attracting a lot of attention. In many ways it is a ‘black box’. Amazon is not transparent about how the marketplace functions, what rules govern it, and who the requesters and Turkers – who post and carry out the human intelligence tasks (HITs) – are.
Research has looked to prise open the black box, understand how it operates and use it to get the best results. It is generally considered a great opportunity for getting micro-task work completed at very cheap rates, quickly. There are concerns about AMT as a grey market; some requesters and Turkers are unscrupulous. The question for requesters has been how to design and control the crowd to get genuine work done.
Research on the Turkers themselves has been rather scant, with notable exceptions where people have contacted Turkers, often through AMT itself, done interviews, questionnaires and HITs to express their thoughts and feelings. Who they are and what they think is still unclear. What is myth or truth? We tried to better understand these invisible workers by joining their forum, Turker Nation, and looking in detail at what they discussed amongst themselves.
This is what we found:
- Members see Turking as work and are primarily motivated by earning.
- Earnings vary but Turking is low wage work: high earners on Turker Nation make ~$15-16k/yr
- Workers aspire to earn at least $7-10/hr, but (newbies especially) do lower paid HITs to increase their reputation and HIT count.
- Many Turkers choose AMT because they cannot find a good ‘regular’ job or need other income. Some are housebound, others are in circumstances where Turking is one of the few options to earn.
- Turker Nation provides information and support on tools, techniques, tricks of the trade, earning, and learning. They mostly share information about good and bad HITs and requesters.
- Relationships are key: Turkers like anonymity and flexibility but want decent working relationships with courteous communication. They want fair pay for fair work (decent wages, fairness in judging work, timely payment…) and respect works both ways: good requesters are prized.
- Members mostly behave ethically. Ripping requesters off is not endorsed and is justified only against dubious requesters. There is a moral duty to their fellow members.
- Members feel that by sharing information and acting cooperatively they can have a stronger effect on regulating the market. Many are skeptical about government intervention.
For more, see our full paper, Being A Turker, which will appear in CSCW 2014