The Cloud was born out of the possibility of sharing computer resources thus sharing investment and operation cost. Amazon has been one of the first to offer this service and it has been followed by many others.
Enter mechanical turk, a tool provided by Amazon that let people collaborate to a project independently of one another, without knowing each other. Each one works independently and an artificial intelligence based tool, mechanical turk, integrate the individual results in something meaningful.
It is very easy, both to become part of the “crowd” and to exploit the “crowd”.
When you join the crowd you offer your intelligence and when needed you will be asked to perform a certain task requiring basic human intelligence (no rocket science). And you get paid for that, some 12 cents a minute, about 7$ per hour.
There are still many activities that are better done by humans than by machine. For sure one of this activity is to evaluate how a hum a respond to an interface. So if your company is about to launch a product and you want to test your interface, its seamlessness and understandability, you may want to test it on mechanical turk!
It is quite easy to make use of this tool, you just need to register on line, provide the money that will be used to pay the “crowd” (and Amazon) and load your task with instruction. Then lean back and let the “crowd” work on it.
When I checked this morning there were 236,331 HITs available (a HIT is a work item you can take up). And the system let you, as a potential worker, specify what you are good (or interested) at and will thereafter present you with those HITs that match your interest.
Every HIT indicates how much money you can make by participating in that activity. It is just a bit, actually, but most people participate for the pleasure of working on a certain thing. The beauty of the system is that it makes possible to harvest the willingness of individuals and direct it towards a goal.
Researchers at the Carnegie Mellon and Rutgers University have been using this tool to screen various applications on cell phones from the point of view of privacy to provide an intuitive feedback to people using those apps on their possible effect on private data.