Why does this blog exist?

This blog exists to improve the functioning of Amazon.com's Mechanical Turk.  The site is a crowdsourced, microtask nexus, very web 2.0.  Simply put, it's where piece work lives on the internet.  Pennies, nickels, dimes, quarters... no amount is too small and no task too menial for the site.  That's not a criticism; the availability of a place where companies can find intelligent humans to complete repetitive tasks is an enormous asset.  The problem is that this site is not run anywhere near Amazon.com's reputation for great user interfaces and unparalleled customer service.

The purpose of this blog is to do one thing and one thing only:  Get Amazon to improve Mechanical Turk so that it is up to the quality standards for its users as the rest of their sites.  When that is done, or on track, this blog will go dark.

Here is the main complaint:

Amazon has a well-publicized no-interference policy on Mechanical Turk.  This means that what goes on between a Turker (freelance task-doer) and a Requester (task-poster) is not governed by Amazon.  Aside from fraud or blatant terms-of-service violations, what happens between a Turker and a Requester happens behind closed doors.  Except it doesn't.

If for any reason a requester issues a ban on a particular Turker, which can happen due to mistakes, accidental problems, misunderstandings, or sheer malice (in addition to the legitimate reasons), the ban gets marked down in Amazon's central database.  If enough bans are logged (say, 3), the account of a Turker is permanently banned with no recourse and no consideration for how long they have been 'Turking' or how high their ratings were prior to the ban.

What does that look like?

* A user who had completed 60,000 HITS with an over 99% approval rating was summarily banned because of an admittedly mistaken review from one requester and an otherwise normal weekend of work.

What this is getting at is that Amazon.com is letting its most trusted users of the Mechanical Turk site be tossed with indifference.  When the matters are brought to their attention, the canned response is:  this is between you and the requester; we can't do anything about it; it doesn't matter how long you've been there or how great your work has been; we'll pass this on to our developers.  Well, until the developers fix it, this site will exist to document every banning of a quality user, users who could have been this site's ambassadors but instead are being spurned with bureaucratic dismissal.  Does that sound like a site Jeff Bezos would be proud of?  Does that sound consistent with the mission to be the world's best technology and customer service company?  It doesn't to me.

But this blog is not a hate site or even a protest site.  It is a call for action from one of the greatest companies in the world to live up to its billing and refine its practices.  The sooner this happens, the sooner a black mark from Amazon's noteworthy suite of internet successes will be erased.  This blog welcomes that day...

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