If you look on Simplyhired.com, a job site that 4,982,434 listings, and search for “mechanical turk” you’ll find several positions available at Amazon.com, where the Mechanical Turk is one of their most innovative web services, and two other job listings, both in San Francisco, that mention it.
I don’t know how many companies are using Mechanical Turk at this point, but I think it is one of the most amazing tools ever conceived. Here’s an example of how it could be used: Yesterday I showed my staff a book that was published 12 years ago in the genealogy field. It took the author months to compile it. She sent questionnaires to thousands of people to compile the data that she ended up publishing.
Based on our recent experience with Mechanical Turk, we calculated that we could compile the same data in approximately 1 hour for about $80. And then we could publish a similar book or just organize the data and publish it online. Of course there would be some editing and verification and layout required, but the existence of the Turk absolutely changes the information gathering piece. It turns it from a several month project to less than a day.
We also need a list of all the public libraries in the U.S., along with a phone number. Normally I would turn to InfoUSA.com or another mailing list company. But in this case we already found a good list online. But if we hadn’t, we could use the Turk and probably within a day or two have phone numbers for thousands of libraries for our call center to contact.
One of my former BYU students wrote a great blog post about how he used the Turk to conduct a survey on journal keeping and the unanticipated side effect was that 26% of the survey respondents turned into quality leads for his company’s online journaling software.
I won’t go into too many details about how we have used the Turk so far, but it has been so valuable to us that we have created a position (it could be part-time or full-time) for someone who wants to manage our Mechanical Turk projects and help us utilize this system to gather and organize genealogical and historical content from around the world.
Since we are located 1 block from the campus of Brigham Young University, I’m hoping to attract a student in Information Systems or Computer Science, who also has an interest in history, GIS, or genealogy.
The pay will be $12-15 per hour DOE, but the experience will be invaluable.