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Turkers letter writing campagin to let him know who we are off/on mTurk, and what we are looking for on mTurk

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Hi all,

I talked to a journalist about how we can publicize this movement. He suggested that we work together to make the first letters good, strong letters since they are very important. Once we have these letters he will introduce us to another journalist who might cover the story. I suggest we use this thread to share our letters and give each other feedback. I’m excited to see this kicking off! :-)

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elated_mongoose

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I think this could be great for turkers and for mturk if we do it well. I’d like to help and participate. I think it is very important that we have a clear goal/theme for all of the letters. Has this been discussed already and I just missed it or are we starting the discussion here with the letter sharing? I just want to make sure I understand what content was agreed upon before I force you all to read my ramblings :)

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light_dragonfly

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I think this could be great for turkers and for mturk if we do it well. I’d like to help and participate. I think it is very important that we have a clear goal/theme for all of the letters. Has this been discussed already and I just missed it or are we starting the discussion here with the letter sharing? I just want to make sure I understand what content was agreed upon before I force you all to read my ramblings :)

We’ve been working on some already, just have to get the users to post them here. You can see some guidelines here: http://www.wearedynamo.org/dearjeffbezos

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nutty_buck and elated_mongoose

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Thanks elated_mongoose, people have been using a Wiki page to author the message and goals: wiki.wearedynamo.org/index.php/Email_campaign_to_Jeff_Bezos.

You can make suggestions in this thread, or edit it directly. In order to edit the Wiki you need to activate your Wiki account. Just go to the Dynamo’s first page www.wearedynamo.org and click on “Activate” in the Wiki account box (below the trending ideas column).

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elated_mongoose

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One of the things that I keep coming back to as I read is “what’s in it for Bezos?” I think it is clear he doesn’t truly understand the demographics and the quality of the workers he’s got access to. We are great marketing material. If he just knew who we were, the skills we have, the languages we speak, Amazon could profit if they just invested a bit of time and some resources. I think we need to put some thought into why they should listen to us if we want to start a dialogue.

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nutty_buck

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Do we really believe that Jeffery cares much who we are “off” Amazon Mechanical Turk? There is not much indication that those who power AMT really care much about who we are “ON” AMT. This is a real cute and cuddly campaign, but is there really much of a motivated purpose behind it? Seriously, in the world of big corporate America, large companies - where workers psychically show up everyday punching their Fred Flintstone time clock - have little concern for the “worker bee”. Why do we as crowdsource workers think (or expect for that matter) any more preferential treatment here in the “World According to Bezos?

Oh, and while we let the rest of the world know “who we are”, do we not think a few congressmen, senators, (not to mention a list of other political snakes), plus a few legal hounds are also going to find out who we are? As much as I am behind taking steps to better the plight of all crowdsource workers, might we not want to think through very carefully how loudly we start to shout, lest we end up attracting some attention that we might otherwise wish we would not have attracted.

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inquisitive_falcon

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I see the power of this as a media event that let’s turkers represent this work in their own voice rather than being cast as a sweatshop of exploited dupes.

This alone can actually unsettle the way crowdsourcing is treated by venture capitalists as am infinite pool of really cheap labor. If the labor had a voice and is seen as doing things, it is harder to make bets on there being an infinitely docile pool. I have been at industry crowdsourcing meetings were the bathroom chatter is actually nervous about whether crowds will speak up and break the illusion that this is only a tech industry (rather than a labor industry).

are you worried that politicians will enforce a min wage?

It does make me wonder if there is a demand or request campaigners want to make if bezos – something easy for amazon to do but embarassing for them not to do that would make the lives of turkers better.

If you are going to the trouble of gathering attention, why not channel it to get as much as you can while it lasts?

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dark_bird_of_paradise

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Do we really believe that Jeffery cares much who we are “off” Amazon Mechanical Turk?

Two of us have already emailed and received personal replies, I even got action on what I asked for. It works.

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light_dragonfly

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4 Turkers have already written their letters and shared with us to post here. I will be gradually posting these letters and hope we can all work together to make suggestions. Lets keep in mind the time and effort that has gone into writing these letters and keep our suggestions positive :)

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Letter 1

Hello Mr. Bezos, My name is Orlando. I am 26 years old college graduate from southern California, with a 4 year old daughter. I found Mechanical Turk through a financial website i visit daily called TheSimpledollar.com. I would like to personally thank you for helping get Mechanical Turk started because it has personally helped me and my family. It allows me the flexibility to work when I want, and not interfere with the time I need to devote to my daughter.

I graduated from California State University Northridge with 2 BA degrees in 2010. I got a job at a small engineering company and was doing security on the weekends. I was working 7 days a week to make ends meet. I graduated college with $25,000 of student debt and a newborn baby to support(which one is the rock and which one is the hard place is up for interpretation). I decided last year, that after 6 years of working 7 days a week, I needed a few days off to spend quality time, with my now, 4 year old daughter. I quit working the weekends, but that also meant losing an extra $1,000 of income each month. After a few months I needed a way to make extra income without losing to much quality time with my daughter. I found Mechanical Turk to be a great alternative than doing other types of freelance work. . Since beginning to work on mechanical Turk I’ve only made 500 dollars, but to me sir that means a lot. It means paying for 3 weeks of daycare, it means groceries for the month, it means car and health insurance premiums, it means piano lessons, and most importantly it means not missing one moment of my daughter discovering something new about this world.

I know I’m just one person, but I want thank you from the bottom of my heart for helping my family and I. Without your effort to create Mechanical Turk I would still be working 7 days a week and missing my daughter as she grows up. I hope you can read this and know you have affected me very personally. Thank You Mr. Bezos.

Kindest Regards,
Orlando

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nutty_buck

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Letter 2

Dear Mr. Bezos,

I am a Turker: middle age, entrepreneur, university student, mom, wife, reliant on my mTurk income to keep my family safe from foreclosure. I don’t Turk for $1.45 per hour nor do I live in a developing country, I am a skilled and intelligent worker, and I Turk as my main source of income and it is currently my chosen career. I am a human being, not an algorithm, and yet Requesters seem to think I am there just to serve their bidding. They do not respect myself and my fellow Turkers with a fair wage, and in fact say that we should be thankful we get anything near to minimum wage for the “easy” work we do. Searching for work all day isn’t easy. Having to find and install scripts to become more efficient isn’t easy. Dealing with unfair rejections isn’t easy. Being a Turker isn’t easy.

I ask that you look towards not selling us as cheap labour, but instead as highly skilled labourers who offer an efficient way to get work done. Paying each of us less than fairly isn’t the way to save money, but instead using a huge workforce available at any hour of the day is what will reduce costs. Please stop selling us as nothing more than an algorithm and instead introduce those who use your service to the fact we are living, breathing beings who are using this money not to buy beer, but to feed, clothe and shelter our families. If you could facilitate our communication with Requesters somehow, be it through a forum or just presenting our stories to them, I think it would change their perception of us for the better. Remember: the more that they pay us, the more fees you make. The better they treat us, the better the results they get, and the more likely they are to stick around. The better mTurk’s reputation, the more new Requesters will use the service. When Turkers are happy, Requesters are happy, and Amazon will be happy, too.

Thanks for reading,// Kristy

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Letter 3

Dear Mr. Bezos,

First of all, I would like to thank you for creating a platform for all of us which has allowed thousands of Turkers to earn their living from the comfort of our homes. In my four years of Turking, I haven’t had a day when I felt that I was bored of working on mechanical turk. It’s like a job where you can expect to work on different kind of tasks each day, most of which is actually quite fun. Working on mTurk has introduced me to some of the nicest and helpful people.

My journey on mTurk however has been far from smooth. As a worker from India, I have come across a lot of limitations and obstacles that international workers have to face. Limited work availability aside, the biggest challenge we face is when we have to withdraw our money. Though Amazon does allow Indian workers to withdraw their earnings in the form of a cheque, the cheque is sent through regular mail without the option to track it. In more cases than not, this results in the cheque getting lost. We then have to wait for 6 weeks before the cheque can be reissued, thus starting a vicious cycle. In the last 4 years, I have had so many problems that I have considered just quitting.

The second issue I have is transparency. There have been numerous cases of workers losing their accounts, getting warning emails from requesters without any fault of their own. While I agree there must have been cases where those warnings were valid, a lot of times that’s not the case and workers are left with little to no support from Amazon. There needs to be a dedicated support group for the workers who is available either through chat or phone.

Also, we need need better clarification on the Masters qualification. There needs to be a set parameter to gain Masters. Once a worker crosses all the requirements in the checklist, he/she should be granted masters.

The last thing in my wishlist is upgrading the interface for workers. Amazon has been consistently updating the Requester section of mTurk with new tools which make it easier for requesters to post their work; the worker section however has been left almost untouched since it’s inception in 2005. A lot has changed since then as far as technology is concerned. Amazon needs to add some advanced toolsets which would allow us to increase our efficiency.

Overall, if I had to sum up all my demands in one sentence, it would be that I want Amazon to start caring for the workers a bit more.

Hope you have a great day.
Manish

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outrageous_frog

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Letter 4

Dear Mr. Bezos,

Thank you for giving home based workers a platform. Mechanical Turk is truly a Godsend to thousands of people who either need extra income, or can’t get out into the ‘regular’ work force. Having said that, I’d like to present you with a challenge.

A Challenge to You: Be an Undercover Boss. Feel free to call in the media for the publicity, but spend some time working on Mechanical Turk. Since the first 10 days are very limited, I’d like you to start the challenge after that point. I encourage you to join some forums. Rub shoulders with the people who do these tasks. Find out why they do them and what makes them willing to work for the wages that are offered. I think you will find this an eye opening experience.

The group of workers that you have are highly skilled and educated. Most employers would jump at the chance to have the skills that some of them possess. Unfortunately, many of them are treated as second-class workers who only work on Mechanical Turk as a “gift” to Amazon and to Requesters who are looking for free or cheap labor; without any support or backup from Amazon.

I hope you will seriously consider this challenge. Perhaps, by having a taste of the crowdsourcing platform that you helped to develop, you will get an idea of the frustrations and challenges Mechanical Turk workers experience.

Thank you for your consideration,
Sheila

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outrageous_frog

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Letter 5

Dear Mr. Bezos,

My name is William and I have been working on Mechanical Turk for 3 years. I am Canadian, married and a father of 2.

In today’s tough economic environment, it is often difficult to make ends meet. The supplementary income I receive from Mechanical Turk has been a blessing. It has enabled me to ensure my children are properly outfitted for school and can enjoy a nice Christmas. It has helped me replace aging appliances and other household goods that I would otherwise not have been able to afford.

For that, I thank you. Unfortunately, working on Mechanical Turk can be extremely cumbersome as a worker. There is not much functionality to assist us with finding and completing work, and there are many hindrances.

Mechanical Turk could be a world leader in Crowdsourcing! If you were to invest in this platform, it would be a boon to Amazon and to all the workers who help to complete tasks. It would be a win-win for all us. The potential to capture the market is huge. Please help Mechanical Turk become the premier, go-to crowdsourcing platform that it has the potential to achieve!

Thank you for your time,

William

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I have read some of the letters addressed to “Jeff Bezos”, and while a couple seem a tad longwinded and moderately dramatic, others are simply outstanding!

I also want to be certain people understand I am NOT against this campaign, but at the same time I really think we need to drag ourselves back to the realm of reality.

If Jeff Bezos really did hand pen any replies personally, I will set here with my astounded cyberspace face blustering in total astonishment. But in all reality, if we do not grasp the concept that there are subordinates who read and respond to our heartfelt messages, then I truly believe we are fooling ourselves. I mean come on.

Turkers are a financial asset to Amazon Mechanical Turk. Agree. We should be treated far more thoughtfully. True. But, if we think we are the “cat’s meow” in relation to the financial income at Amazon we need to do a reality check.

This could be a very successful campaign IF we keep our focus real and move VERY slow and methodical. I believe it is an outstanding idea to make AMT aware of the skills we possess as workers. But, I am not so sure Jeff or his beehive subordinates really care whether our cat just had a litter of kittens, or if we and our “significant other” are going to finally take that long awaited cruise to the islands - thanks to the ballooning of our bank account by working on AMT.

Below is an excerpt from a Forbes article on the wealth amassed by our illustrious boss, plus the link to the whole story. Just think for a minute. Drones delivering Amazon packages in the future? Where do we really think Jeff Bezos’ business focus is going to be? Will the top dog at Amazon’s focus be on personally answering a communication from a faceless crowd-worker, or maybe the newest earth shattering technological advancement in the history of the world as it relates to the delivery of products? Yeah, I’m going to keep my mental drones grounded.

http://www.forbes.com/profile/jeff-bezos/

Jeff Bezos fortune rose $13 billion in 2013 as shares in his online retailer Amazon soared 55%. In October he bought the Washington Post for $250 million. The next month he sold 1 million shares of Amazon, less than 1% of the company, for about $260 million. In December he announced that Amazon could be delivering its packages by drones within five years.
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outrageous_frog

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Dear Mr. Bezos, I’m not sure if you are acutely aware, but your Mechanical Turk team has applied the Masters qualification as a default setting when Requesters create HITs using the Requester UI. Requesters are unaware that this setting has been applied. As such, they are paying above the advertised price to use your service. They are also not getting a suitable volume of responses to achieve their targets.

Seriously? I quit reading after the first paragraph and I have an inherent tendency to maybe care - being a fellow crowd-worker.

For this cause to have any chance of being successful someone needs to step forward and offer to freely edit these things. Ouch!

Do we not understand that this type of (albeit nice information to send in a letter home to mom) is so long-winded it is unlikely to even get more than a quick scan. Smiley faces on a social media page are cute, but not in a professional business correspondence. Wow. I am again all hands on deck 100% for this project, but I can clearly see it sliding WAY out of context rapidly.

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inquisitive_falcon

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