Amazon Tweaks Mechanical Turk for the 'Average' User


I've been interested for some time now in Amazon's development of a collection of cloud-based services for the enterprise, as is obvious from this post from earlier this year.


The retail powerhouse's Simple Storage Service and Elastic Compute Cloud give it a decent chance of cracking the enterprise market. While Google appears to struggle with its enterprise aspirations, Amazon seems more pragmatic and in tune with what enterprises actually want. While many of its services hold special appeal for SMBs, Amazon's clients include big guys like Microsoft as well.


I am intrigued by the company's Amazon Turk service, which allows companies to outsource tasks that are too trivial for most service providers, such as image tagging or data corrections. Yet it didn't seem as business-ready as the other two services. While they have pretty straightforward SLAs, for example, how would companies monitor the progress of workers hired via Mechanical Turk?


Amazon is introducing a number of new features that promise to make Mechanical Turk easier to use for companies with no dedicated software development resources or those that just can't spare the resources they have for creating work orders.


It's obvious from the press release that Amazon has asked business users what they could do to make the service more accessible. It promises a new graphical interface that allows folks to create work requests without writing code, sample templates for some of the most commonly requested tasks, bulk-uploading capabilities to avoid time-consuming individual entry of tasks, the ability to load information into spreadsheets, and an online monitoring system that lets folks track progress of tasks and approve or reject final results.


The apparent ease of use may strike a chord with many business users, who are largely dissatisfied with enterprise software applications.


The release has some glowing comments from current customers who seem jazzed about the improvements. Says Michael Droz, CEO of an image tagging company called Tagcow.com:

The new tools introduced for Mechanical Turk will help us respond more quickly and efficiently when the images coming into our service spikes--virtually anyone in our company can now load thousands of images that need tagging into Mechanical Turk and retrieve the results.