I’m usually quite up to date on the latest happenings on the Internets but once in a while a site or service gets lost in the sea of digital flotsam out there. Only later do I find out about it, when millions have already used it. Have you guys seen those AOL discs you get in the mail? Seriously though… In 2005, Amazon launched a new web site called Amazon Mechanical Turk. In essence, the site was and remains a digital “work from home” portal. People or corporations post small jobs on the site and people get paid to complete these jobs.

Amazon calls these jobs, HITs or “Human Intelligence Tasks”. These are jobs that can be done cheaper or faster by humans than a computer. For example, it’s much easier to get a human to analyze a photo or image than to write a custom program that does the same thing. The jobs range from looking at photos to writing short pieces of prose. There are some dubious jobs though, as I’ve seen some that are summarized as “write a short comment on a blog”. That seems to me like getting paid to spam blogs. That’s not cool in my books.

Jobs can pay very little, down to a single cent upwards to on the order of several dollars for a single task. Workers can be paid out in Amazon gift certificates, money deposited in their US bank accounts, or paid to their Paypal accounts. I can see how people might view this a virtual sweatshop but workers are free to choose whatever and how many jobs to take on.

Just out of curiosity, I signed on using my existing Amazon account. I only needed to check a few boxes and I was signed up as a “worker”. Just for craps and tee-hees I might take on a task that seems reasonable and not too time consuming. Maybe this is the second job I’ve been always looking for!

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