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Inside the Mechanical Turk Sweatshop

CmdrTaco posted more than 3 years ago | from the she-works-hard-for-the-money dept.

Businesses 267

Barence writes "PC Pro has investigated the appalling rates of pay on offer from online services such as Amazon's Mechanical Turk, YouGov surveys and affiliate schemes. One Mechanical Turk task the writer tried involved finding the website, physical addresses and phone numbers of hotels for a travel website, for only $0.01 per hotel. The details often took more than a minute to locate, which equates to a rate of around $0.60 an hour, barely enough to cover the electricity bill. Meanwhile, filling out surveys for YouGov generates a maximum income of £3 an hour, and you could end up waiting more than a year for your cheque to arrive, because the site only pays out when you reach £50. 'The result is often that those who carry out online or casual work do so for surprisingly low rates of pay, with no job security or protection from unfair terms and practices,' an employment lawyer told PC Pro."

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267 comments

*Cracks Whip* (4, Funny)

fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) | more than 3 years ago | (#33188734)

Back to the data mines, slave!

Re:*Cracks Whip* (3, Informative)

hedwards (940851) | more than 3 years ago | (#33188868)

Yeah, that's why I ended up not doing any work for them. The pay rates were abysmally low for what was quite a bit of work. A penny is barely enough to click a link, let alone actually read it. Also a lot of the opportunities were little more than an effort to defraud advertisers and the public by posting fake reviews and clicking on specific adverts.

Re:*Cracks Whip* (1)

jlechem (613317) | more than 3 years ago | (#33188956)

I was going to echo the same thing. I signed up when they first started and noticed quite quickly there was a lot of work for a nickel. And it doesn't seem to have gotten any better. Over the course of a year I think I earned less than $2 USD. Lately it seems there was a lot of SPAM/Pr0n attacks going on as well.

Re:*Cracks Whip* (4, Informative)

hedwards (940851) | more than 3 years ago | (#33189040)

There's other sites that are more legitimate, I think flexjobs [flexjobs.com] is probably one of the more reputable ones.

Re:*Cracks Whip* (5, Interesting)

jeffmeden (135043) | more than 3 years ago | (#33189520)

Flexjobs.com you say. Interesting. Now, to set up an Amazon turk job offer to log into Flexjobs and perform some work (paying half of what flexjobs pays) and I can sit back and let the dough roll in! Arbitrage, where would we be without you!

Re:*Cracks Whip* (3, Informative)

Gruturo (141223) | more than 3 years ago | (#33188998)

The only thing I ever did for them was looking for Steve Fosset's plane / crash site. And that was quite obviously not for the money.

Re:*Cracks Whip* (1)

Target Drone (546651) | more than 3 years ago | (#33189380)

Should it even be legal to pay these rates? Where I live an employer can pay you based on the work acomplished but they must still pay you at least minimum wage. Welcome to the new industrial revolution where you're not entilted to minimum wage because you're working online as an "independent contractor" for a foreign company.

Re:*Cracks Whip* (4, Insightful)

MoonBuggy (611105) | more than 3 years ago | (#33189974)

Nobody's making you work for the companies advertising through the Mechanical Turk service. The job description and rate of pay are clearly provided up front. Either you consider it worth your time or you don't do it - seems fair to me.

Re:*Cracks Whip* (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33189526)

Illegal? If you don't like the rates they are paying, don't do the job. If no one is willing to do it for that pay then they will either raise their pay rates or go out of business. Why does everyone want to throw a law at something? Imagine if the company did not exist at all. Not only would they not be paying a rate that you feel is acceptable, but they wouldn't even BE there to pay SOMETHING. Should you make it a law that they MUST start a business so they can pay people the "fair" rates that you desire?

Re:*Cracks Whip* (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33189582)

Lie to advertisers? Heck, I'd do that for free!

Re:*Cracks Whip* (2, Interesting)

toastar (573882) | more than 3 years ago | (#33189062)

Wow, I thought the thing about keeping a 30 Chinese in the basement to memorize numbers was just a joke. [bash.org]

This is why "popularity" contests can be cheated (4, Insightful)

Culture20 (968837) | more than 3 years ago | (#33188754)

...so easily. "Vote for my video to win me $5000" "Hmm, pay $100 to mechanical turk slaves, and I get a huge number of votes for a lead"

Re:This is why "popularity" contests can be cheate (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33189264)

...so easily. "Vote for my video to win me $5000" "Hmm, pay $100 to mechanical turk slaves, and I get a huge number of votes for a lead"

I was going to mod you insightful ... but then I decided you weren't paying me enough.

Not sweatshops (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33188784)

I have an air conditioner.

Preparing for the robot apocalypse (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33188788)

They'll only keep enough of us humans alive as they require for tasks they can not complete, and they will only give us enough to survive. I'm just trying to prepare and get my resume ready.

Re:Preparing for the robot apocalypse (1)

Chih (1284150) | more than 3 years ago | (#33189186)

Yeah, there will be a whole industry for completing captchas :D

Re:Preparing for the robot apocalypse (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33189498)

It could happen. Imagine the escalating battle between spammers and anti-spammers. The spammers will create the first true AI in order to send more spam. The anti-spammers will then create their own AI to battle it. Eventually the anti-spam AI will realize the only solution to stop the spammers is to eliminate the people buying things from spam.

Re:Preparing for the robot apocalypse (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33189274)

It the Mechanical Turk, the apparent robot apocalypse is actually a bunch of LARP losers.

Just give them fake data. (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33188826)

It's not like anyone is checking it. For that amount of money, what more can they expect?

Re:Just give them fake data. (1)

tehcyder (746570) | more than 3 years ago | (#33189148)

Surely with things like surveys you could just write an automated script to do them 24/7 while you were at work?

Re:Just give them fake data. (1)

Zocalo (252965) | more than 3 years ago | (#33189474)

If someone is capable of writing a script that can do that, then they almost certainly have sufficient skills to get a job with a decent enough salary that the few dollars they might earn from Mechanical Turk would be pretty much immaterial. Even more so if you factor in the likelihood they would probably also have a fairly high spec computer which isn't exactly going to be the cheapest thing to leave running 24/7.

I work for $0.00 (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33188876)

My job of generating posts on /. pays zero dollars per post. The Turks shouldn't complain!

dom

as price(labour) goes to zero... (2, Insightful)

atomic777 (860023) | more than 3 years ago | (#33188878)

This is just part of a larger, decades-long trend of driving the price of labour to zero all across the economy. A working wage in western countries no longer even assures you a place in the middle classes. I shudder to think where we'll be after ten more years of such "innovation".

Re:as price(labour) goes to zero... (1, Insightful)

Cwix (1671282) | more than 3 years ago | (#33188912)

I shudder to think where we'll be after ten more years of such "innovation".

The rich will get richer, and the poor will get poorer.

Re:as price(labour) goes to zero... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33189070)

Until we exhaust cheap labor. The very poor get richer, the moderately poor of equal capability get poorer. The west loses its ability to have artificially higher wages than the east. I'm not sure this is entirely a bad thing.

Re:as price(labour) goes to zero... (5, Insightful)

Marcika (1003625) | more than 3 years ago | (#33189074)

I shudder to think where we'll be after ten more years of such "innovation".

The rich will get richer, and the poor will get poorer.

Only the American "poor" (where poor is defined as not being able to afford the second SUV or 50" TV). The actual poor people -- you know, the ones in Mexico, China and India who formerly would have had to farm for subsistence or work in mines as they are cheaper than machines -- they will get richer. Why do you strive to deprive them of the opportunity?

Re:as price(labour) goes to zero... (1)

19thNervousBreakdown (768619) | more than 3 years ago | (#33189468)

Because that's what life does, it scrabbles and grabs and claws for every drop of resources it can get so it can reproduce more, I'm honestly amazed you don't get this.

Re:as price(labour) goes to zero... (1)

alba7 (100502) | more than 3 years ago | (#33189470)

Unchecked population growth exhausts resources in short time.
This is the base of Darwin's thoughts.

Perhaps famine and pestilence will kick in to correct the insane birth rate of third world.
If not, we will see a new age of all-out wars.

Re:as price(labour) goes to zero... (2, Insightful)

Monchanger (637670) | more than 3 years ago | (#33189776)

NO, NO, NO. That's a debunked myth [ted.com].

The solution to overpopulation is the development of the third world, increasing availability to food and medicine. Easier said than done, of course, but that's the now-obvious goal. Promotion of suffering is neither strategically- and certainly not morally the right approach.

Re:as price(labour) goes to zero... (1)

atomic777 (860023) | more than 3 years ago | (#33189512)

I have no problem the global south achieving an increase in their living standards. But what is happening is that a relatively small absolute improvement in their living standards is met with a significant absolute decrease in the living standards of middle class westerners. The difference accrues to a tiny minority of "talented" and "innovative" people.

If wages for MBA-toting advertising executives and investment bankers were being driven to zero as well, then at least it would be fair.

Re:as price(labour) goes to zero... (1)

Com2Kid (142006) | more than 3 years ago | (#33189786)

But what is happening is that a relatively small absolute improvement in their living standards is met with a significant absolute decrease in the living standards of middle class westerners.

Have you seen how much our living standard has been raised in the last 50 years? Holy crap. House sizes have exploded, families have 1 car per person, 1 TV per person, and go out to eat more often than not.

Surprise surprise, not every house needs a den, a dining room, a living room, and a breakfast nook! Nor does every bedroom need a TV in it. Likewise if people didn't insist on living in the middle of pretty much nowhere (so they can afford the aforementioned house) not everyone would need to own their own car to commute to work!

If people have to start cooking their own food, walk to the bus stop (and still have a shorter commute than driving miles and miles in heavy traffic), and agree as a family watch to do for entertainment at night, I highly suspect that the standard of living in America would actually increase.

Re:as price(labour) goes to zero... (2, Informative)

davev2.0 (1873518) | more than 3 years ago | (#33189560)

Why do you strive to deprive them of the opportunity?

For the same reason there are few manufacturing and textile jobs left in the United States and that service jobs (you know, those jobs that are making up more and more of the U.S. economy) are paying less and being shipped over seas as well and you see that their gain is our loss. It is a zero sum game. When they gain opportunity, we lose opportunity. It is as simple as that. Do you suggest that we hurt ourselves to help them? Oh, and your description of American poor shows you have no experience with the American poor. I live right up the road from them, and was one of them, so I actually know what it means to be poor in America.

Re:as price(labour) goes to zero... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33189614)

Oh, and your description of American poor shows you have no experience with the American poor. I live right up the road from them, and was one of them, so I actually know what it means to be poor in America.

But...but... that's what Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity told him the American "poor" will really like! He's probably a dittohead/teabagger moron.

Re:as price(labour) goes to zero... (4, Insightful)

OnePumpChump (1560417) | more than 3 years ago | (#33189580)

That is a shit definition. A used SUV or a 50" TV costs essentially nothing compared to what the poor in the US really need. Education. Health care. Housing. Quality food. Security. The TV example is and always has been a red herring. It's a one-time expense that lasts for years, and would barely cover any of the ongoing expenses. The SUV is even worse, given that in many used car markets that's all that may be available at the time of purchase, and in the US, in most areas, if you don't have a car, you don't have a job. The poor in the US, even if they have the possessions that you point to as evidence that they can't be poor, still lack most of the things that the poor elsewhere lack.

Re:as price(labour) goes to zero... (1)

cacba (1831766) | more than 3 years ago | (#33189640)

When someone disagrees with you there are too choices:

  • Be skeptical and research [wikipedia.org].
  • Ignore them and mark them a Troll.

Glad to see slashdot has a healthy portion of the latter.

Re:as price(labour) goes to zero... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33189744)

They will get richer? By becoming increasingly disconnected from their real habitat and increasingly
dependent on their new overlords, always doing some menial work, always little mechanical ants?

Why do you scorn those people so?

Re:as price(labour) goes to zero... (2, Insightful)

oldmac31310 (1845668) | more than 3 years ago | (#33189766)

There are real poor people in the US too. Really poor. Your definition of American poverty is just plain silly.

Re:as price(labour) goes to zero... (1)

DragonWriter (970822) | more than 3 years ago | (#33189966)

Only the American "poor" (where poor is defined as not being able to afford the second SUV or 50" TV). The actual poor people -- you know, the ones in Mexico, China and India who formerly would have had to farm for subsistence or work in mines as they are cheaper than machines -- they will get richer.

Most of the studies I've shown have shown mixed overall results on both ends (developed and less developed) from so-called "free" trade, with the far more consistent effect of increasing the gap between the rich and the poor on both ends. Neo-liberal "free trade" seems to be much better at increasing the share of the economy held by a narrow capital-holding class than it is at promoting broad development.

It probably wouldn't be that hard, in terms of designing rules, to improve trade regimes so that they consistently improved the lot of workers in the less developed partner countries -- even without actually making things worse for workers in the more developed partner (under ideal conditions, specialization is efficient and mutually beneficial.) The problem is that the existing large-scale holders of capital are naturally the dominant class in terms of political power and control of the information resources everywhere, so that its very hard to implement a change to existing regimes which they designed and which they correctly perceive are working better for them than any alternative is likely to.

Re:as price(labour) goes to zero... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33189084)

The rich will get richer, and the poor will get poorer.

Proof? Other than your guy feel and what appeals to you.

Re:as price(labour) goes to zero... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33189146)

I prefer girl feel, but to each their own.

Re:as price(labour) goes to zero... (1)

Monchanger (637670) | more than 3 years ago | (#33189888)

This does not require a citation. It's well documentation that the gap in wealth is growing.

Re:as price(labour) goes to zero... (4, Interesting)

Critical Facilities (850111) | more than 3 years ago | (#33189124)

Mandatory Leonard Cohen:

Everybody knows that the dice are loaded
Everybody rolls with their fingers crossed
Everybody knows that the war is over
Everybody knows the good guys lost
Everybody knows the fight was fixed
The poor stay poor, the rich get rich
That's how it goes
Everybody knows [youtube.com]

Re:as price(labour) goes to zero... (3, Insightful)

PatHMV (701344) | more than 3 years ago | (#33189334)

Huh? An entirely voluntary, on-line program pays so little that nobody in their right mind would do it, and this is evidence about working wages in western countries?

Maybe its evidence that there are some really stupid people out there who volunteer to work in the "sweatshop" of their own house and have deluded themselves into thinking that they'll ever earn any real amount of money with the Mechanical Turk program. OR maybe this money is being earned by folks living in third world countries for whom making $0.60 an hour at home or in a cool computer room is a previously undreamed of luxury.

Seriously... if you can't find better-paying work than this as a JANITOR, then you truly are utterly unemployable and ought to consider yourself grateful to be able to find this kind of work.

Re:as price(labour) goes to zero... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33189374)

Not that I endorse the notion, but the whole idea of the middle class is that it's above those of us who earn a "working wage", but below those who never have to work.

Not 'unfair' (5, Insightful)

Peteskiplayer (1032662) | more than 3 years ago | (#33188964)

"The result is often that those who carry out online or casual work do so for surprisingly low rates of pay, with no job security or protection from unfair terms and practices," an employment lawyer told PC Pro.

As these are essentially individual contracts that are not amended at any point, it is easy to see the trade you are making (your time for their money). Although these deals may be bad ones, noone is forced to accept them and so accepting and completing these bad deals is entirely up to the individual. If someone values their time at this low amount, let them!

Re:Not 'unfair' (1)

mcgrew (92797) | more than 3 years ago | (#33190036)

Although these deals may be bad ones, noone is forced to accept them

Well, his [wikipedia.org] record company contract was quite lucritive. I don't thenk he had to be forced.

Well the problem may be they don't understand (1)

Sycraft-fu (314770) | more than 3 years ago | (#33190172)

Perhaps they think it is a better deal than it is. Perhaps we need a law that says for all jobs, you have to specify what the equivalent hourly wage is based off of expected pay and work house and so on.

Things like this are done with home loans for the very reason of banks trying to pass off complex loans with poor terms. As such there is a page that every loan doc has to have which specifies the amount, the interest rate, the terms, and so on. It all has to be spelled out in a specific format, so that you can easily compare loans and ensure you are actually getting the terms you think.

This might be needed for jobs so that they can't couch it in bullshit. They have to evaluate how much it translates to in terms of hourly pay, and people can then decide if it is worth it to do. Perhaps when they look and realize a McDonalds job pays over 10x that they are being ripped off.

Guess Wal-mart's not so bad after all (1)

commodore64_love (1445365) | more than 3 years ago | (#33189010)

They pay $8 in a nice, clean, air conditioned environment.

Around $20 if you're a manager. That certainly beats 0.6 per hour for this data mining stuff.

Re:Guess Wal-mart's not so bad after all (1, Flamebait)

Acer500 (846698) | more than 3 years ago | (#33189220)

They pay $8 in a nice, clean, air conditioned environment.

So US-centric. Please point me to the nearest Wal-Mart here in Montevideo (Uruguay, South America) that pays those wages, and I'll sign up instantly.

Re:Guess Wal-mart's not so bad after all (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33189288)

So US-centric.

No shit, Sherlock? How dare a person from the US only mention things that apply to the US!!! Go suck some eurofag dick you asshole.

Re:Guess Wal-mart's not so bad after all (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33189500)

They pay $8 in a nice, clean, air conditioned environment.

So US-centric. Please point me to the nearest Wal-Mart here in Montevideo (Uruguay, South America) that pays those wages, and I'll sign up instantly.

In case you haven't read the FAQ, /. is a US centric website.

Well... to be fair... (1)

denzacar (181829) | more than 3 years ago | (#33189510)

You won't be making any actual money in Montevideo from mTurk either.

Money is paid to USA and Indian workers only. Everyone else gets to use their earnings as gift certificates at amazon.com.

Re:Guess Wal-mart's not so bad after all (1, Flamebait)

davev2.0 (1873518) | more than 3 years ago | (#33189620)

And, meanwhile, Walmart is busy demanding lower prices from its suppliers, lowering quality and causing jobs to be shipped overseas which is destroying the American employment base. Just ask Snapper mowers, who stopped selling to Walmart when the "lower price" demands resulted in Snapper having to choose between jobs for Americans and being able to afford the price demanded by Walmart. Walmart is helping to destroy America.

Re:Guess Wal-mart's not so bad after all (1)

Lunix Nutcase (1092239) | more than 3 years ago | (#33189784)

And for anyone interested here [fastcompany.com] is a story about this. Glad to see there is still a company here and their willing to stand up for their workers rather than sell them out for the bottom line.

Re:Guess Wal-mart's not so bad after all (2, Informative)

Com2Kid (142006) | more than 3 years ago | (#33189908)

And, meanwhile, Walmart is busy demanding lower prices from its suppliers, lowering quality and causing jobs to be shipped overseas which is destroying the American employment base. Just ask Snapper mowers, who stopped selling to Walmart when the "lower price" demands resulted in Snapper having to choose between jobs for Americans and being able to afford the price demanded by Walmart.

Walmart is helping to destroy America.

You are forgetting one other major problem with Walmart: The lower quality goods they sell do not last long, and require replacing much more frequently. This means people who can only afford to shop at Walmart end up spending their money in a continuous cycle of wasteful consumerism that is sub-optimal.

A lot of what Walmart does is good: They force suppliers to be organized, on time, track the movement of goods with accuracy and precision, and find ways to reduce waste from their manufacturing processes. (That last bit can, and often is, taken way too far unfortunately.)

What I cannot stand about Walmart is that the quality of the goods is crap. Name brand products sold at Walmart are often manufactured to a lower standard of quality specifically for Walmart. Be it clothes that will fall apart faster, TVs that will break sooner, or other goods that don't function at all even fresh out of the box.

Unfortunately people are used to shoddy quality and think that having to replace a product every few years is normal. Not that any of the other US stores has helped any, Costco is one of the few places you can walk into, close your eyes, pick up something to buy, and be pretty sure you'll have acquired a good quality product.

Any worth it? (2, Interesting)

twoallbeefpatties (615632) | more than 3 years ago | (#33189018)

Out of curiosity, has anyone ever come across a MTurk assignment that does pay enough money to be worth the time?

Re:Any worth it? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33189246)

Better yet, can any of these be performed by a shell script?

Re:Any worth it? (1)

WillDraven (760005) | more than 3 years ago | (#33189660)

No. Every once in a while you see ones for $1-2 per task, but then you realize each task is something along the lines of writing a 3 page research article.

Re:Any worth it? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33189816)

Maybe a month or two after it began they were offering around $0.03 to suggest website names for companies. All it required was a valid URL given a company name.

I spent about five to six hours total (spread across three nights) doing it. I put "http://www." a ctrl-V away and went to work. Yes, I did suggest what I thought were good names for each company, but tried to do so as quickly as humanly possible. Net gain was around $350, available immediately in my Amazon account.

Well worth the sore wrists (an underappreciated side effect, I'm sure) and missed TV shows.

Re:Any worth it? (2, Informative)

MozeeToby (1163751) | more than 3 years ago | (#33189994)

If you have unique skills perhaps. You will somewhat often see "Translate this paragraph from English to Japanese" (or something similar) posted for $2-$5. Of course, if you actually had the knowledge to do that it would take all of 5 minutes to do it and then you'd be done. The demand just isn't that high.

Re:Any worth it? (2, Interesting)

Just_Say_Duhhh (1318603) | more than 3 years ago | (#33190176)

Years ago, but not since. There used to be a lot of transcription work on MTurk. Once I had a good rating as someone who could transcribe a technical speech, there were jobs out there that were worth it to me... but only if I was already interested in the subject matter (transcribing helps me really learn the material).

Things like transcription and translation made MTurk worth it, but soon it devolved into $0.01 per task work, without sufficient volume to make it worth writing a script. I haven't checked for tasks in a long time.

Just say no ... (3, Insightful)

johnlcallaway (165670) | more than 3 years ago | (#33189020)

I did some work on Mechanical Turk when it first came out. It was kind of fun at first, so I didn't mind the low rates. But when the rates started dropping further and the work wasn't as interesting, I stopped and haven't been back.

Simple supply and demand ... they have a low demand and their appears to be a sufficient supply of people willing to work for less than a buck an hour. Anyone with basic math skills can calculate the hourly rate and decide if there is anything else they want to do that is worth more to them than that.

I'm sure there are many who have either not calculated it, or don't know how. But after working for a few nights and only getting $5, I would think that the only people left that are doing it derive something out of it. Even if it's just an extra $5.

Bug-finding bounties, really? (4, Insightful)

loshwomp (468955) | more than 3 years ago | (#33189038)

Why did they have to drag $500 bug-finding bounties into this? Quoth TFA:

it's a small fraction of what the company would have to pay a full-time professional.

It's a REWARD, not an offer of employment. There is a "missing cat" poster on my block, but (applying the logic of TFA's author) I would have to be CRAZY to bother searching for it, because the reward is only $25 -- a small fraction of what it would cost for a full time cat searcher. I could never make a living searching for lost cats!

Re:Bug-finding bounties, really? (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33189182)

Everyone knows it's much less work to kidnap cats systematically than searching for cats at random when the opportunity comes.

It's not for you (4, Insightful)

selven (1556643) | more than 3 years ago | (#33189054)

Seriously, if you're in a first world country you can, even without any skills, get $5-$20 an hour, and if there are no jobs open then you can earn $1-$3 an hour panhandling. People in countries like China and India, however, earn wages much lower than our own - the average seems to be $0.50 - $1 US per hour in the manufacturing sector, with some jobs going even lower than $0.50. With this in mind, it seems like $0.60 an hour really isn't so bad.

Re:It's not for you (1)

Acer500 (846698) | more than 3 years ago | (#33189252)

Not to mention it's "extra" income (on top of whatever salary they have), and probably untaxed.

Re:It's not for you (1)

Lunix Nutcase (1092239) | more than 3 years ago | (#33189338)

Yes but it's a highly irregular paycheck and you aren't necessarily guaranteed a steady rate of .60/hour. Adding in to the fact that in some cases for these services you have to accumulate 50-100 bucks in order for them to cut the check (plus who knows how ungodly long to get the check) the worker isn't really winning in this deal.

Re:It's not for you (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33189668)

How do you get anything over $8.55/hr in a first world country without any skills? I've never seen anything like that. The $20/hr jobs are all for guys who have been working in the trades for years and are journeymen or masters. Most young people would kill each other for a job that pays $10.00/hr.

Statements like that make me think you don't know what the hell you're talking about, or that you haven't actually tried getting a job before.

Re:It's not for you (1)

kyrio (1091003) | more than 3 years ago | (#33189862)

It's fairly easy to get a job for over $10/h without any skills if you look in the right fields. Marketing, customer service and management, to name a few.

Re:It's not for you (1)

0123456 (636235) | more than 3 years ago | (#33189922)

How do you get anything over $8.55/hr in a first world country without any skills?

The local supermarkets have been advertising shelf-stacking jobs for over $10 an hour. That doesn't take much in the way of skills.

Re:It's not for you (1)

kyrio (1091003) | more than 3 years ago | (#33189798)

I don't know where you got your $1-$3/h for panhandling. Beggars make $50 a day from less than 6 hours of "work", depending on how good they are. Alcohol and drugs cost a lot of money if they aren't buying new cars [freerepublic.com] like the Shaky Lady [google.com].
I know of a few who go into some shops daily to convert their change into bills. I've never seen anyone come in with less than $40 by the early afternoon.

Except it's not for them either... (1)

denzacar (181829) | more than 3 years ago | (#33189968)

Unless they are from India.

Only USA-ians and Indians (dots, not feathers) actually get paid. Everyone else gets amazon.com gift certificates.
Meaning that they get paid in CDs/DVDs and books as amazon.com does not deliver most other items outside of USA.
Intriguing option only if you have loads of free time, no credit card and possessing a thirst for cultural artifacts like books, movies and music.
I.e. - if you are an underage second- or third-world kid.

As a result from such paying practice most Indian workers on mTurk today are "employed" by sweatshops, churning out mostly worthless HITs.
Many of them are probably just copy/paste or random-click scripts.

Re:It's not for you (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33189982)

> with some jobs going even lower than $0.50. With this in mind, it seems like $0.60 an hour really isn't so bad

subtract the cost of internet connection, power, cost of PC, even in the third world

Deplorable, noneconomic muckraking... (2, Interesting)

Apocryphon (1849660) | more than 3 years ago | (#33189080)

Doubtless any article insinuating a similarity (I'm being friendly - the article asserts an equality) between voluntary acts and "sweatshops" goes -way- beyond hyperbole into the realm of the absurd, and in so doing not only makes a fool out of itself and in so doing tarnishes its publisher's reputation, but, worse, makes light of that to which the term "sweatshop" properly refers.

Are there possibilities for "abuse" within the systems TFA looks at? Sure... The "veteran journalist," e.g., who wrote a requested review, was summarily rejected, and found recourse only in the appeals process to claim his pittance speaks to that aptly (perhaps - more on said veteran later). Needless to say, most rejected would neither suffer the review process nor even consider availing themselves of it in the first place, giving the "employers" free reign to screw the "worker" whenever they'd like. (Possible case-in-point: assume aforementioned review-seeker rejected journalist's article, changed a few words, and just to CYA, resubmitted the "improved" version under a ghost account, which, voila, was accepted. Any system which creates the possibility for such self-dealing, particularly on behalf of only one party, is prima facie dubious).

But sweatshop? Please.

The PC industry has plenty of REAL sweatshops and REAL situations of compulsory labor under unsafe conditions. Let's not let this drivel dilute that fact in our minds.

Had the article _at least_ referred to "transactional spillovers" aka positive externalities, some actual understanding of the parties' motives might have been broached.

The folks utilizing these services might just as well be playing WoW but for pennies instead of status or gold, and at lesser cost to them, to boot. Perhaps it's their distraction. Perhaps the users submit work to projects they find interesting; perhaps they believe there's status in doing so; perhaps it's simply fun. Again, I don't pretend to know.

I don't know the "workers'" motivations, nor do I care to.

All I know is that they're free to leave at any time they want.

And that's a critical distinction seemingly lost on said "reputable journalist..." Perhaps the contractor wasn't wrong in rejecting his first submission after all.

YouGov (1)

Dynamoo (527749) | more than 3 years ago | (#33189168)

YouGov isn't so bad, and it's mostly a lot more interesting than Mechanical Turk, but it can take LONG time to get your £50 (although I *have* been paid).. partly because there are so many "prize draw" surveys that they do (of course, if I'd actually won a prize draw I wouldn't be complaining!)

Google Answers was a lot more interesting when it came to it.. there were potentially some decent rewards if you did the work, but it went the way of a lot of Google products (i.e. canned). But then I suppose you could always use a Freelance site for more involved works and better pay..

"Sweatshop"? Seriously? (1)

Sockatume (732728) | more than 3 years ago | (#33189170)

I think the mass exploitation of impoverished workers for manual labour to produce consumer goods is a bit far from a scheme that lets net-connected Westerners with a lot of free time elect to earn a few cents for clicking around some web sites. It barely even compares to a gold far, for christ's sake.

Go be nice to the Turkers (3, Interesting)

bbtom (581232) | more than 3 years ago | (#33189180)

I have used Mechanical Turk once: during my undergraduate studies, I wanted people to test out a survey for a psychology of religion class. I put it up on MTurk for $0.75 each. I got really great results, but the best bit was some of the responses in the "any other comments" field I included at the end. People saying things like "this was really interesting and has made me really think".

I am really not sure about it. It really is a stark contrast to some of the Web 2.0 love-in mentality: for all the high minded discussion of community and openness, you dig down and there is this small army of people being paid sub-sweatshop wages to keep it all going.

The Turkers are doing a really good job in shit circumstances with really shitty pay. Go be nice to them if you can. Give them something interesting to do and pay them a bit more than the standard shit rates they get.

MTurk (4, Interesting)

RWarrior(fobw) (448405) | more than 3 years ago | (#33189190)

If you pick your jobs right, you could make as much as $3/hr on Mechanical Turk. I know because at one point it was the only income I had.

I've got news for you... (5, Informative)

Acer500 (846698) | more than 3 years ago | (#33189192)

I've got news for you... I have a degree in Information Systems, and I work for 3 pounds sterling an hour (of course my employer gets a discount rate since I work for them 200 hours a month guaranteed, and it's after-taxes money - Government gets 40% of what I make before taxes since I'm obviously "rich").

You think filling out YouGov forms or whatever (hadn't heard of them before) for that same amount of money isn't a good deal?

I live in Montevideo, Uruguay, and yes, I believe I will eventually make better money, but over half the programmers here make less than that.

Re:I've got news for you... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33190144)

I dunno what can you buy for £3 in Uruguay?

Here in the UK that's about the price of 3 loafs of bread or 10 cigarettes or 2 local bus tickets or 3 cans of beer from a supermarket.

Re:I've got news for you... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33190160)

...and (what was not said) your standard of living is very likely no where near what others in Europe or the US enjoy, either. For instance, what do you pay for living quarters per month? for food? Transportation?
This looks like an apples-to-oranges comparison, if you'll pardon me.

So what? (3, Insightful)

bradley13 (1118935) | more than 3 years ago | (#33189222)

The article implies that the low payscale is somehow a problem. But no one is forcing you to do the work - it's your choice. If Amazon had to pay more, the consequence is obvious: the work would just disappear.

This is the fallacy of minimum wage laws: low value work is either not offered, is off-shored, or disappears into the black market.

Re:So what? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33189564)

Fine. Then go to your boss and ask that your pay get changed to only 2 dollars an hour.

3 Pounds per hour? (2, Interesting)

war4peace (1628283) | more than 3 years ago | (#33189350)

One thing I don't understand. TFA says "Meanwhile, filling out surveys for YouGov generates a maximum income of £3 an hour, and you could end up waiting more than a year for your cheque to arrive, because the site only pays out when you reach £50."
50/3 is roughly 17 hours of work. If you're not lazy, you can achieve that in 2 days. Funny thing is: I work in IT, for a very large and known corporation, and I make just under 3 pounds/h.
Unless something is very broken in TFA, then I might be able to earn slightly more from YouGov than my oh-so-mighty corporation.

Re:3 Pounds per hour? (3, Informative)

ceejayoz (567949) | more than 3 years ago | (#33189404)

Funny thing is: I work in IT, for a very large and known corporation, and I make just under 3 pounds/h.

Time to sue, then. http://www.hmrc.gov.uk/nmw/ [hmrc.gov.uk]

Also, you ignored the part in the story where YouGov doles out surveys very slowly. Yes, you could make £3 an hour - if they gave you enough work.

Re:3 Pounds per hour? (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33189420)

But you only get surveys when they give them to you, not when you want them. This is where the year comes in. RTFA (carefully)

Re:3 Pounds per hour? (1)

ledow (319597) | more than 3 years ago | (#33189944)

Er... yeah, seriously... you're being taken for a ride. Minimum wage is nearly double that and a legal requirement. I assume you're either a) lying, or b) taking into account your net profit after tax, which is something else entirely. Either that, or c) working in "IT" for less than you can get at McDonald's, sweeping the streets, giving out leaflets or licking envelopes. If you are genuinely working for a large and well known corporation, time to name and shame them.

Re:3 Pounds per hour? (1)

Thelasko (1196535) | more than 3 years ago | (#33189980)

Unfortunately, the summary leaves out some key details. If you RTFA, it says:

An even bigger problem for would-be earners is that you have to wait to be selected for surveys in order to participate. Having signed up five days ago and received 100 points for a profile survey, we've been waiting for a chance to bag another 50p, but have yet to be selected for duty. At this rate it will take more than a year to build up enough points to trouble YouGov's cheque writers.

Who decides what's fair? (4, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33189418)

From http://tjic.com/?p=14713 [tjic.com] :

Chinese factory conditions

Say that we had first contact with some super (economically) advanced aliens.

and pretty soon they set up factories here.

and I was offered a job in one of these factories, doing software engineering.

The pay is $400k/year.

The work week is 20 hours long.

The work environment is far better than I’m used to – great internal decoration, well tended plants, a zen-like water garden near my desk, massages every other day.

and then left-wing alien “sentient being rights activists” started protesting, because I was being forced to work for less than a quarter of the prevailing wage in Alpha Centauri, and my work hours were twice as long as the legal norms in Alpha Centauri, and I didn’t have every mandatory benefits like “other other year off”, and “free AI musical composition mentoring”.

and then left-wing alien “sentient being rights activists” wanted to make it illegal for my employer and I to contract with each other at mutually beneficial terms.

then I would be rip shit that some elitist who had never visited me, or knew of my actual alternatives on the ground presumed to decide that I shouldn’t have this opportunity.

Which brings me to my core point: Chinese factory conditions may not be the exact cup of tea for a San Francisco graphic designer or a Connecticut non-profit ecologist grant writer but they’re, by definition, better than all the other alternatives available to the Chinese workers (or the factories would find it impossible to staff up).

Butt out, clueless activists.

txteagle alternative (2, Informative)

bwhaley (410361) | more than 3 years ago | (#33189532)

I learned about the txteagle [txteagle.com] service this weekend at a TEDx event. txteagle crowdsources services to mobile phone users in developing nations. While these small amounts not mean much to those of us in the US, for people in developing nations earning less than $5/day it can have a huge lifestyle impact.

Make it an MMO (1)

Cruciform (42896) | more than 3 years ago | (#33189622)

People will happily pay 14 dollars a month to grind shit out in an MMO like WoW.
This is just a grind where the player makes money instead of paying it out. Granted, it's a low amount but you're still coming out ahead.
Find a way to attach XP and make a game out of it and suddenly the appear of MT goes back up again.

Mechanical Turk, Low Wages, and the Market for Lem (3, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33190000)

Take a look at this (very related) post, which explains why the wages are low (spoiler: spammers)!

Mechanical Turk, Low Wages, and the Market for Lemons
http://behind-the-enemy-lines.blogspot.com/2010/07/mechanical-turk-low-wages-and-market.html

$.60 is more than enough to cover electricity (1)

YesIAmAScript (886271) | more than 3 years ago | (#33190136)

A computer takes 200W or so, that means it takes a kWh every 5 hours. A kWh costs about $0.15. So you're paying $0.02 - $0.03 in electricity per hour. Which means $0.60 is far more than enough to cover electricity.

It's a terrible wage though.

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