The Sheep Market Thesis

Amazon’s Mechanical Turk is a system for getting people to do small tasks via an API for small amounts of money. The Sheep Market is perhaps the most interesting application based on MTurk. Whereas most Human Intelligence Tasks (or HITs) are about data verification, this task involved drawing a sheep. 10,000 sheep in total were accepted, arranged on his site and then offered for sale. Aaron Koblin, the creator of the Sheep Market, has written his thesis (Word doc)about the experience.

In the document he reveals some interesting bits of knowledge about the project. Such as the anger that Turkers paid 2 cents per sheep had towards him for attempting to sell their work at a great profit (I did not see any sell figures in the document; I would be very curious to know how much he made).

Upon completion of the website the first to be notified were the workers themselves. The response was relatively hostile, but successful in that there seemed to be some dialog about the ramifications of the system. The first responses in a ‘Turker’ discussion thread titled “They’re selling our sheep!!!” included, “Does anyone remember signing over the rights to the drawings?” and “Someone should contact them and see how much they’d charge you to buy back the rights to one of your own sheep.”

He also shared some statistics about the process:

  • Approximate collection rate – 11 sheep/hour
  • Collection period – 40 days
  • Rejected sheep – 662
  • Average Wage – $.69/hour
  • Time spent drawing (average/sheep) – 105 seconds
  • Unique IP addresses – 7599

Workers were allowed to draw up to 5 sheep to be submitted into the system. The majority drew one sheep and received $.02. There were a surprisingly low number of rebels who drew alternatives to sheep (about 30 depending on interpretation), and a similar number of workers who seemed to investigate the system and then abandon their task.

[via Amazon Webservices Blog]