The Seedy Side of Mturk

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If you haven’t heard, Mturk is a virtual smorgasbord of “hits,” bringing “workers” and “requesters” together for a mutually beneficial cause. Requesters place “hits” (individual tasks that – for the most part – a computer cannot do) up in an online marketplace with a pre-determined payment. Most hits are fairly simple and require only a modicum of effort and time.

Turkers, or “workers” who complete hits, come to the site, peruse the available hits and if they decide upon one, they complete the hit – hopefully to the requester’s expectations.

I say hopefully, because you can and will likely have some hits that for whatever reason don’t get approved. They get rejected and you don’t get paid.

There are many reasons why a hit will get rejected. Sometimes the worker went too fast and made a mistake, perhaps your answer wasn’t what was expected by the requester and some Turkers downright cheat.

To help catch cheaters, some requesters will add “known” questions to see if you’re really paying attention to what you’re doing or if you’re just flying through without doing the job correctly.

Others will match your answers with other Turkers in what’s known as a “majority rules” situation. Most seasoned Turkers try to steer clear of those types of hits because they are known for unfairly categorizing a correct answer as wrong just because you were in the minority.

There are other reasons that a hit might be declined that have nothing to do with you. Sometimes the person (or computer program) that is responsible for grading your work will make a mistake. You can try to contact the requester, but that’s a hit of miss proposition. Amazon is pretty much useless for helping Turkers in any way. Only in extreme circumstances can a rejection be reversed by Amazon and that’s only if the requester jumps through a bunch of hoops to get it done.

Now that you’re up to speed with rejections, what I want to discuss in this article are some of the more shady reasons you can be rejected.

The reason that requesters go to such great lengths to make sure the work you turn in is valid, is because there are plenty of deadbeat Turkers who think nothing of taking hits and completing them as fast as they can without a care as to the accuracy.

But Turkers aren’t the only ones who cheat. Plenty of requesters do the same thing.

Some requesters will put up a batch of hits, wait until everyone has completed them and then reject the answers and run. They get to keep the data you provided and you get penalized – twice. Once for not getting paid and the second for getting your approval rate (that you need high for many hits) lowered.

Not only that, but requesters can block you from doing their work. Sometimes it’s legitimate – say you just didn’t perform up to their standards – and sometimes it’s shady – for example, some requesters just want fresh blood doing their hits.

Unfortunately, being blocked by too many requesters can have dire consequences – up to and inclunding having your account banned and your money confiscated.

There are two types of blocks, though, the general block which doesn’t count against you and the bad worker block which does. It takes three of the latter in a short amount of time to get you banned. Then again, Amazon has a nasty habit of banning Turkers out of the blue without even giving them a reason why.

What can you do? Pretty much nothing. You can try contacting Amazon, but they don’t make themselves available and you will get one and only one review before they make their final decision.

Other ways that requesters can take you for a ride, is having you do a survey and at the end (where you’re supposed to get a certain code to get your pay) you get a browser error.

Of course, after awhile Amazon may ban them, but they always seem to come back. There are certain types of hits that according to Amazon’s TOS you’re not supposed to do. Here is a link to a precise list.

Turker Nation – Hits you should not do.

The other problem is Black Hat SEO hits. These are hits that are designed – in one way or another – to falsely drive up traffic to websites and inflate search engine results.

As bad as it seems, Mturk is not a den of corruption and thievery. It just takes a little common sense and some patience to find those special hits that – when they come up – you’re willing to drop everything (well, maybe not the baby) to do.

The golden rule of marketing applies here:

If it seems too good to be true, it probably is.

Check out my other links on this subject:

What is Mechanical Turk (Mturk)?

Mturk Hits – A Brief Overview

How to Make Money Transcribing for Castingwords Part I

How to Make Money Transcribing for Castingwords Part II

8 Tips & Tricks to Squeeze More Money From Mturk

8 Tips & Tricks to Squeeze More Money From Mturk II

Mturking in India


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