Amazon Mechanical Turk


A few years back I heard about Amazon’s new “Mechanical Turk” service. Basically you post a task, an amount you’re willing to pay to have it completed, and then people from all over the world work on it.  In my opinion it is best suited for super repetitive simple tasks that you can’ have a computer program do.  For example:

  • Visit URL xxxyyy and copy the article author’s name, and date of the article
  • Look at this video and tag it with 5 relevant / descriptive keywords
  • Choose the best category for this product
  • Flag offensive content images

It seemed like a great idea, but in a cursory view it also felt like an overly complicated process, and at the time I didn’t have thousands of simple and similar tasks that I needed cranked out.

Fast-forward to this evening (yes, it is 1:00 am right now) and just as I was about to send off a mind numbing task to my new virtual assistant I paused… then the image of the Mechanical Turk came into my mind.  Not only did I feel this project was a perfect match for what I understood about Amazon’s groupsourced system, I was excited about the opportunity to finally test it out.

While Amazon could do a better job with documentation and training videos,  the process honestly wasn’t as painful as I thought it would be.

My task:  Visit all the URLs in a spreadsheet and copy specific information from each one and fill in the blanks.  Basic data mining / data entry.

Here are the steps (simplified) that I went through: Continue reading “Amazon Mechanical Turk”

Virtual Assistants With oDesk – Update

odesk_logoYou can probably tell that I’ve moved almost all of my virtual assistant and outsourcing work to ::oDesk(“a”)::.  I thought I’d quickly explain why, and where I currently am with my virtual workforce.

WARNING:  This post has a lot of bullet pointed lists  🙂

Over the 10+ years that I’ve been using non-employed workers, contractors, & consultants in my work from home business I’ve used a plethora of sources for outsourcing work.   Everything from Continue reading “Virtual Assistants With oDesk – Update”

Met Founders of oDesk and eLance plus Tim Ferriss


This past week I had the great opportunity to go to a conference where Tim Ferriss, ::oDesk(“a”):: CEO Gary Swart, and eLance CEO Fabio Rosati all presented (see blurry camera phone pic above).

The topic was true to my heart:  Creating a Virtual Workforce

A lot of wonderful information was shared during the discussion and I don’t think there is a need for me to repeat it here.   Suffice it to say that much of what was discussed expands upon what Tim covers well in his book and can also be found at the oDesk and eLance websites.

At the end of the session I left with a renewed excitement over the opportunities for accessing a diverse workforce throughout the country and the world and the tools used to manage the processes! Now, I’m off to ::oDesk(“a”):: to hire me some more VA’s, programmers, and designers! 🙂

BTW, do you think the whole concept of a “virtual workforce” is just a fad, or are we seeing the tip of the iceberg?

AJ Jacobs My Outsourced Life Live Audio Recording

I’ve always been a fan of the article / story by A. J. Jacobs “My Outsourced Life” for Esquire Magazine.  It is one thing to read about someones experiences, but hearing the story “first hand” in front of an audience is something entirely different (read better).   Listening to him tell the story through recorded audio was a blast!

It was also nice to hear what happened past the original article.  He also touches on some of the points discussed in some of the comments on this site including the effect of outsourcing work from the US to other countries.

Give a listen to the whole recording below.   (Note, it’s about 15 minutes long and contains some strong language)

The audio can be found here.