Spamgirl speaks! An interview (part 1 of 3)

Spamgirl is the dutiful, no-nonsense moderator of, the Turker forum.  She was gracious and uncensored enough to talk about her experience with Mechanical Turk in great detail.  Enjoy.

Where did you get the name Spamgirl? Why go there?

When I first started on the internet (oh man, it was TELNET LOL I'm old) I had a different name. Then my daughter was born and, well... she stole it from me and decided to use it for herself. I needed a new name, I was literally nameless. I went through a bazillion (Starla, Sunburnt Raisin, gosh I can't even remember them all) and then one day my friend was commenting on my anti-UCE activities and called me "The Spamgirl". It stuck. I also had a website at the time called "Sensible People Against Misinformation", so it fit even better. To be honest, it's been the bane of my existence - beyond the Hormel jokes, every time I sign up for anything I get an email before I'm approved asking me if I'm a spammer, or if I'm serious. Would a spammer truly call themselves Spamgirl? Uhm, no. I try to use antispamgirl now, as it's more appropriate, but I always forget and get locked out of my accounts when I try to log in.

What's it like being [presumably] female in the role of an internet forum moderator for a microtasking site. This is an area traditionally occupied by males. Or isn't it?

LOL Yes, female. I've been running forums for around a decade (RealityBBQ was mine until I sold it a few years ago, another site called KinzFans had a booming forum I ran) and on both it was mainly females running the show. When it comes to mTurk, I think the stats bear out a pretty even ratio of males and females working. That said, all the rest of the staff here (that are active, at least) are male. There are lots of female posters, though. I think it's pretty even, but I've never had a problem battling the boys so I haven't ever thought of it before. :)

Were you a Turker first? Are you still a Turker? What's your typical Turking like?

I've been a turker since November of 2005. I still turk, way too many hours a day, far too many days a week. I spend my life at my computer - at least until my husband finds a job and we can afford for me to take some breaks.

Tell me about any problems you have had as a Turker. What are the biggest complaints you would 'personally' raise?

Oh lordie, where do we start... international workers need to be paid in cash. Period. I know it's a huge problem, but every other site like this does it. It's ridiculous that after 5 years (happy anniversary, Spamgirl!) they still don't. I wish I knew why, I'd personally pledge to figure out a way around their problems. :)

No requester accountability for rejections, the amount of shitty requesters, no worker/requester forum, lack of communication between mTurk/requesters/workers, no way to rate requesters (and ditto for workers), insufficient help docs for workers and requesters... mTurk knows my complaints, they have a list :)

What are the biggest complaints you hear on the forum?

International payments, bad requesters ("spammers" and blackhats), being suspended with no recourse, no mediation between requesters and workers, no bonus tracking in My Account, and no way to know why your HIT was rejected.

If you could go into Amazon's system for a day and have free reign to prioritize their development schedule, what 5 changes to Mechanical Turk would you put at the top of the list?

1. International payments
2. Disallow new worker accounts for x months (i.e. until new workers are needed)
3. New requesters must put down $100 into their account via BANK ACCOUNT (NOT CC) before they're permitted to put up any HITs, and do a phone number confirmation, and submit a driver's license
4. Create a forum so requesters and workers can communicate (we'd still have this one because I'm sure the freedom on an official forum to speak your mind would be limited, and that's fair)
5. Create a mediation area of some sort so workers and requesters could communicate about blocks/rejections/etc. and mTurk would be better advised on bad requesters (and workers!)

read on to part 2 (of 3)