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The Mechanical Turk

By Steve Jones,

Today's editorial was originally published on Apr 17, 2007. It is being re-run as Steve is at SQL Server Connections.

I stumbled across Amazon's Mechanical Turk while helping search for Jim Gray. As a side note, Jim is still missing and presumed dead after an exhaustive search by the Coast Guard and many of Jim's friends.

The Mechanical Turk is based on the mechanical chess playing machine created in the late 1800s. It turned out to be a fake, with a human inside, and that is what Amazon has built. They have a way for you to distribute a workload and let humans work on the problem, or a very small piece of the problem. Similar to a super computer, but this process uses humans for things that artificial intelligence can't handle.

The basic idea is you create some task, for example one of the items I looked at was reviewing a list of vendor names associated with a contract for the city of Tulsa. It's a data task that might not be easy to implement in something like SSIS, but a human can easily complete it. And get paid!

Maybe not much, in this case $0.02 per item, but it's a good way to distribute the workload.

If you can find someone to work on the task. I guess if you wanted to fund a book habit at Amazon, it might be worth taking a few minutes here and there to look through data tasks and earn some money.

I completed two and earned myself $.07 :)

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