Amazon Mechanical Turk: What It Is, Who It’s For, How It’s Used

Amazon Mechanical Turks

Amazon Mechanical Turk is one of the most radical inventions in online outsourcing. It allows you to outsource tasks to other human beings for pennies. Amazon Mechanical Turk is great for all those tasks that aren’t quite highly paid enough to bring on a real outsourcer, but are still too complex for a computer to handle.

What Kind of Tasks Would You Use Mechanical Turk For?

Here are a few examples of tasks you could use Mechanical Turk for:

  • Look at a picture and determine if it’s uplifting or depressing.
  • Look at a name and determine if it’s a man or a woman.
  • Look for any words in this picture.
  • Look at an advertisement and determine what the core message is.
  • Look over a Yellow Pages scan and identify all the phone numbers.

Basically, these are all tasks that you’d want a human performing rather than a computer. Amazon calls these “Human Intelligence Tasks” or HIT for short.

 How HITs Work

You set a price for each HIT. For example, let’s say you want someone to look at a picture of a person and determine if they’re male or female.

You might set the price at 5 cents apiece. You figure a human being could do one task per 15 seconds and earn 15 cents per minute or $12 an hour. People who can work faster than that can earn even more.

For a lot of outsourcers, this kind of work is a dream come true. For many businesses, paying a few pennies for data is much more cost effective than developing software to perform the task.

How to Set Up a Task

So how do you actually use Amazon Mechanical Turk?

It’s quite simple, actually. You begin by setting up a template. Amazon has several pre-made templates you can use as a base, or you can create your own template from scratch.

You then upload your data sheet. This contains all the data that you want to sort.

For example, let’s say you’re having people look over your list of emails to determine if the names are male, female, undetermined or if they look like fake emails.

You’d start by creating a template with four options: male, female, undetermined or fake email. You’d then upload your list of email addresses.

Mechanical Turk will present outsourcers with each email. The outsourcer will be awarded with a HIT every time they finish sorting an email for you. Once you’re satisfied with your results, you can pay all your outsourcers at once.

It’s that easy! If you have tasks that need to be performed on a mass basis and you don’t have the software to do it, consider using Amazon Mechanical Turk to handle all your Human Intelligence Task needs.


  1. Have you ever used this service?
  2. What types of task would you like to have them do for you?

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