Working Like a Mechanical Turk

I woke before dawn and dressed, then I heated up a bowl of lentils and a massive mug of black tea for breakfast before I set down to find some Human Intelligence Tasks (HITs) on the Mechanical Turk site. The pay is terrible — I made just over six dollars in four hours of surveys and scraping data today, which is about average for me — but I often learn something about myself or the outside world in the surveys, and I figure it’s a way to make my opinion known in an effective way when I am part of a group asked about political issues, ranking medical outcomes, and so on. That notion softens the edge of having to make bad money quickly without a lot of other options, and I often come away with ideas I can explore further in my free time.

I’m sure I would make more if I made some of the face- and emotion-recognition videos that many requesters want, but I’m just not comfortable talking to a webcam or letting my face be scanned while I watch advertisements. It’s just too much intimacy for me to sell for a couple of dollars, even if it’s confidential, just for industrial or academic purposes, or whatever. I may video chat with friends at some point or make a video for YouTube and publish it for free, but at this point I’m just not comfortable with making a video of myself as I work or describing a random minute of my day on camera.

It’s about an hour before noon as I write this. I just finished my third mug of tea, and I’ve stitched a few more pieces together for the crumb patch throw I’m making. I could make a few dollars more scraping data to answer a cluster of ‘opinion’ questions, but the inquiries are inane. I’m not as dedicated — read desperate — at this point as the workers interviewed by Alana Semuels for The Atlantic, so I won’t wear myself out just yet, in the hope I can keep working a few hours a day and come out with a hundred or so extra each month without getting burnt out.

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