It's a well known sentiment that the Masters qualification absolutely sucks for the majority of workers. Just to recap: Amazon pushes it on requesters, eliminating their chances at finding work, Amazon doesn't tell them how to get it, so even if they have one million HITs approved they might not be a “Master” and Amazon doesn't care at all about workers with any of these problems. Requesters can't even recommend workers as Masters, as a few have done for me. I have it on good authority that the Masters qualification is given to people who do random HITs on mTurk that Amazon puts up to test workers. I have no idea what these HITs pay, but if they pay little I doubt I've ever even noticed them. This really does explain why so many do not have Masters that deserve it. Take this how you will, a good journalist never names his sources.
As a worker and requester (and consultant to requesters), though, I hate the Masters program doubly because as bad as it is for workers, it is even worse for requesters. Why?
- Requesters need to pay three times more to use Masters. Instead of paying 10¢ on every dollar, they pay 30¢.
- If a requester has a worker who they already know produces good work but that worker does not have Masters, that worker is barred from all of their HITs.
- Since there are a lot less Masters than Amazon says there are, work completed by Masters is done at a slower rate than that of work done by workers with sane custom qualification schemes or workers with system qualifications.
Well, points one and two are very well proven, but I get a lot of flack when I try to claim point three. Fortunately, Tim Edwards came to my aid.
Thanks to a lone spammer or several spammers, Mr. Edwards decided that he had had enough and that he was going to give Masters a shot. Amazon has been pushing it hard very recently, so it may have seemed like a wise thing to do. Unfortunately for Mr. Edwards, he might not have known a few things:
- He has several large datasets of workers. He could very easily have picked out hundreds of workers, the real Masters of his HITs, and qualified them with a custom qualification. I would have helped him out with this for as little as $30.
- There aren't as many Masters as Amazon shows on the worker site, as I explained in my previous post. This could change, but at the moment, there are around 5,000 of them. I have no idea how many of those are active accounts, or if that is even a real number.
Anyway, on to the fun part. Opportunities like this don't come around very often, and reeling from some very new workers being granted Masters while some of their most loyal fans are left wondering where they went wrong, I decided to take down the number remaining of Edward's HITs every fifteen minutes. Here are my results, with fun annotations!
Added 11/16: As ChapterFoe points out in the comments, these results, as shocking as they are, might not be conclusive. I've left this post alone for history's sake — but Masters are very unlikely to do do HITs that pay little (which I confirmed) so I may not have proved much by posting this at all. In any case, it is an interesting look at work done on Mechanical Turk. I still think work done by Masters will always be slower, but this level of slower might be pushing it and is not representative of the whole body of work done by Masters.
I'll post the full data once Edwards gets all his HITs back, but let me clue you in on some fun things right here and now:
- With 78000 HITs at 10¢, Edwards was spending 20% more than necessary, a whooping $1,560. For that price, I would have run his HIT ten times over.
- In the entire time Edwards was using Masters (twelve hours almost exactly), he got around 287 HITs done. If we figure each HIT takes one minute, using the crowd was actually 4.7x slower than if he had done all the work himself.
- For every hour of Masters HITs (he got around 24 HITs/hr with Masters), Edwards gets 1,610 by letting those with the mark of Cain (I kid!) work on his HITs. That's 67 times more work being done!
As to the Masters program? It's bad for workers and bad for requesters and needs some serious reforms. I think it's a good idea at heart, but Amazon's lack of transparency on the issue dooms it to blog posts like this one.
Until next time!