Tuesday, November 28, 2006

The Sheep Market

A not so crazy way to use Amazon Turks.

This year, Aaron Koblin from Design|Media Arts at UCLA wrote his thesis document trying to answer the following questions :

  • Are the results of alienation apparent in massively bureaucratized labor systems?
  • Is there/what is the role of creativity in such a system?
  • And, who is responsible for maintaining culture as these systems permeate our lives.
To do this, he ran an experiment using Amazon Web Services to enlist Amazon Mechanical Turks to draw him a picture of a sheep looking to the left. For each sheep a person drew, he paid about 2 cents. His very excellent report may be read from his web site, and the ten thousand sheep can be see at here.

What I find fascinating is the outcry from people when they found out that he was going to sell the images of the sheep. Of course, this was part of his experiment - how alienated were the workers from the product of their work?

From his report :
The Amazon Web Services Blog picked up the story and embraced The Sheep Market as an exemplary use of the Mechanical Turk system, Jeff from Amazon writes,

“You might look at this and think "What's the point?" or "how does this relate to my business?" Think of this as an example of how to quickly, easily, and inexpensively get 10,000 people to do something for you. Today it is sheep, but it could just as easily be choices of color combinations for car interiors, evaluation of some logos for your business, selection of most important features when choosing a vacation spot, and so forth.”[1]

This is the important point for developers like myself. Web services like Amazon Turks answer the question "How can I make simple human labor massively scalable and available?"

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