Monday, January 13, 2014

Mechanical Turk: Poor return on investment of time

Transcription work through Mechanical Turk, an online crowdsourcing platform owned by, took its place among life experiences under the category “didn’t work out.”

By completing assessments, I qualified for audio and video transcription work. I was excited and optimistic that I’d found permanent work that I thought I’d really be good at — especially because, ideologically, I am firmly committed to accurate program captioning.

From 2:45 p.m. until 6:30 p.m. on Jan. 2, I transcribed a 27-minute audio recording, for which the company posting the “hit” offered $6.80.

I took my time, transcribing my way with a stop-and-start listening to the audio. I then read along during a second listen-through, making subtle corrections to my transcript.

But divided by the time taken to finish the assignment, my compensation through Mechanical Turk worked out to $1.81 per hour. During my next attempt, the “hit” timed-out and I lost all my work.

I simply couldn’t invest my time for so poor a return. And as much as I am committed to accurate program captioning, I also believe that the importance of this work be reflected by professional compensation.

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