For those not familiar with Mechanical Turk, it's an on demand workforce supplier that lets users contract to get micro-tasks done quickly and cheaply. The micro tasks are called "human intelligence tasks", or HITS.
Most of the HITS are short, repetitive and things computers can't do, but humans can do fairly easily. Examples include labeling pictures, simple transcription services and data entry.
Mechanical Turk is one of many crowdsourced providers of piece work. Other examples include Crowd Flower, which claims to have 5 million global workers they can tap; Gigwalk, which provides crowd sourced mobile workers and specializes in retail related tasks; and Innocentive, which crowdsources science engineering tasks.
For a variety of reasons (mainly Amazon keeping the information confidential) there isn't much known about the people who provide services via Mechanical Turk.
To get around the lack of direct access to to Turkers, the folks from Follow the Crowd analyzed information from the online forum Turker Nation and 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.
This is preliminary information, they will be releasing a more detailed report in the near future.