Best application for MTurk I’ve seen yet: Someone asked people to “draw a sheep facing left.” Compensation per sheep: $0.02. Total number of sheep drawn: 10,000. Their web site shows every single one, and yes, you can buy the sheep: The Sheep Market
Background: Amazon’s Mechanical Turk is a sort of virtual, distributed sweatshop for online piecework. Programmers can write applications that hand off work to MTurk via an API. MTurk farms the work out to a virtual army of workers (turkers?) who can browse available jobs, pick one to work on, and then send the results in. Most of the jobs can be completed in a few minutes and earn the turker a few pennies or at most a couple dollars. Companies have used the Turk to do all kinds of boring stuff that computers aren’t very good at, but human drones are: Like transcribing podcasts, figuring out which of a group of photos is the best one to represent a storefront, figuring out which URLs are easiest to type, and so on. But drawing sheep takes the cake.
PS: Wired’s current issue has a story on “crowdsourcing” that also discusses Mechanical Turk.