Wednesday, April 29, 2009

How Amazon is Cheating Millions, and Making Big Bucks Doing It

Believe it or not Amazon the huge internet retailer, comparable to Wal-Mart in the physical world has joined in the massive internet scam marketplace. Okay, they're not pulling off pyramid schemes or engaging in boiler room operations but they are doing something almost as bad. It's name, Mechanical Turk, its innovative way to make money online. Already, you should be suspicious. Apparently, it's name is derived from a wooden chess player that was believed to be run on artificial intelligence but actually had a Turkish chess player inside. And it seems innocent enough with its cute slogan, "Artificial Artificial Intelligence", but trust me, it isn't.
To summarize Mechanical Turk, it is a place where companies distribute small internet jobs such as data entry and labeling and hand a amounts of money for these jobs instead of paying individual workers to specialize in these things. The rewards can range from a penny to $20, requiring from 15 minutes to 2 months of your time. It lets workers complete "HITs" to make money, which will be channeled to you via mail.
Of course, that isn't all. There's a lot more that can be said.
To begin with, most tasks are long and gruelling, and can take days, for a few pennies. This is a distraction from what you should be doing, your job or finding a new job.
Also, this undermines users as ignorant idiots who can't do anything decent, giving them jobs like finding images and RSS URLs for websites. Of course, there is little to no reward for your effort and they set strict time limits on your work. If it isn't done by then, you'll be penalized in approval rating (which you need to "qualify" for other HITs). Can you see a relationship here? I sure can. Slavery.
And other than seeing all these people suffer for nothing, they have other benefits as well. Each time someone publishes a HIT, they get a part of the money that is supposed to go to the worker who completed it. Let's say they get 1% for each payout. For the 4,000 individual workers multiplied by the 100,000 HITs published every day, that turns into a lot of money at the loss of their users. Even Amazon has perpetrated the laws of internet ethics, even Amazon.

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