If you stay up past 10 on any given night, chances are you will eventually run across a TV infomercial promising riches beyond your wildest dreams. You'll be able to stay at home, it says, making thousands of dollars a day; in fact, you'll be able to buy a new home, like Susie did, just from your part-time, stay-at-home job.
Sure.It's really a shame, too, because the sheer workforce potential of stay-at-home moms, college kids and retired baby boomers is overwhelming.
But let's not throw the crazy fox out with the bath water. There are plenty of computer-centric, home-based jobs available that don't promise a new Ferrari and a live-in housekeeper. These more down-to-earth—and significantly less promoted—jobs also happen to be legitimate.
Take, for example, Amazon's Mechanical Turk. Based on the simple idea that computer's can't do everything (yet), Amazon is attempting to tap in to the highly lucrative market of idle human intelligence.
The premise is that some data manipulation requires human intervention. A good example would be a business looking to expand its email database. While it has thousands of records on customers it has collected over the years, no one ever thought to ask for email addresses. With Mechanical Turk, the process is quite trivial: the business creates a HIT, or Human Intelligence Task, that is uploaded with the data file to Mechanical Turks' servers along with the amount the business is willing to pay per email address found.
Magically, a global workforce springs to life, wrangling email addresses. For each HIT that is completed, a worker is paid a commission, typically in the 5-50 cent range, depending on the difficulty of finding the answer and the level of skill involved.
And, within a set time frame, Mechanical Turk sends the company new customer records, complete with email addresses. And, of course, a bill. Meanwhile, someone gets a check. The process is similar for tagging photos on online commerce sites to improve searchability; screening comments and reviews; and keeping Facebook and Twitter accounts appearing active.
It?s a little bit of money per job, but with a potentially huge crowd benefitting from, an completing, those jobs. With all the talk about cloud computing these days, it's nice to see a service tapping into the growing potential of the crowd.
For more information about HITs and Amazon's Mechanical Turk, visit their website at www.mturk.com .