Sunday, September 7, 2008

Project Turk

Red FezI was reminded of Amazon's Mechanical Turk a few weeks ago by a story on Boing Boing. In the article, a passenger stranded at Dulles used Mechanical Turk to collect stories and illustrations about cats. He later turned the stories into a book he sold on Blurb.

It seemed like a fantastic idea to me. I wondered how I could use the power of the Turk's hive mind to improve my life. Project Turk was born. Let's see if Mechanical Turk can help me live a better and richer life.

The first idea I settled on was to ask engineers what their favorite engineering book was. I'm a big reader. Perhaps it would be fun or inspiring to read a book from a different engineering field.

To start, I created a qualification to act as a prerequisite to the HIT. This basically amounts to a quick survey that established that the worker was an engineer or engineering student. Once a worker gets the qualification, he or she can perform any HIT (Human Intelligence Task) requiring it.

Next, I created the HIT itself, which pays a few cents in exchange for the name of a favorite engineering book. So far I've only received three responses in the past few days. I'm not too surprised; how many engineers would operate on the worker side of Mechanical Turk? I'm going to give it more time to collect data.

The next HIT I created requires no qualification except that the worker live in the US. I'm asking folks about the habits that drive them crazy, and their own worst habits. It's only been online a few hours and already I have 18 responses.There are a few really interesting themes developing. I'll probably post the results in a few days.


Akij said...

Quick question - how did you ensure/qualify that the respondents were engineers?e

John M. P. Knox said...

Hi Akij,

It has been a while, but I think I just asked them if they were an engineer. If they answered yes, they were allowed to move on. It was very simple.