Dear Mr. Bezos:
I’ve been a worker on Mechanical Turk since July of 2012. I live in upstate New York with my wife, our son, three dogs and two cats. I work full-time on the Help Desk of a regional healthcare system and that job has enough down-time to let me “Turk”, as it’s called, between calls and make between $20-$30 per day, usually.
That money pays for heating oil for my family in the winter and funds vacations in the summer. This past summer the money I made on Mechanical Turk paid for me to spend a weekend in Rhode Island to attend the Rhode Island Air National Guard Airshow, a weekend in Ohio with my Dad and son attending the Vectron Airshow and the Museum Of The United States Air Force, and a full week in Missouri visiting my family. Every cent spent on all three of those trips was funded by the work I make on Mechanical Turk and I’m very grateful for it.
However, I (and my fellow Turkers) think there are some things with Mechanical Turk that need to be looked at and possibly changed. For example:
1) Implement a formal grievance process that workers can bring against requesters and take action against requesters who are scamming workers. Instances of requesters rejecting honest work with nothing more than an “x” for a reason are far too common and if workers have to have a standard, why don’t requesters?
2) Require that a requester respond to emails they receive. Nothing is more frustrating more than sending a requester a contact asking for clarification on a rejection and being met with crickets. This is completely unacceptable.
3) Be more transparent with worker standards. For example, in May I was given the Masters qualification and, to be honest, I don’t know why. I know workers who have a higher approval percentage and have completed more tasks than I do that don’t have it. What aspect of my work prompted Amazon to give me Masters? And what is Amazon specifically looking for when they decide to either allow me to keep it or take it away? It’s very difficult to make sure your work is up to snuff when all you have to go by is your approval rating. Which leads nicely to my next point:
4) This morning I received a warning email that said “We write to alert you of a decrease in the accuracy of your HITs. If your HIT accuracy continues to fall, you may lose your Masters qualification.” I responded to the email asking what aspect of my accuracy has decreased, since in the past 45 days I’ve completed 4210 HITs and have had three rejections (or an approval rating in the past 45 days of 99.9993 percent) and the response I received was obviously a “cut and paste” type letter advising me on how to contact requesters about rejections. It didn’t address my concerns at all and was obviously a “cut and paste” form letter. I’m concerned I may lose my Master’s qualification without being told why and this, to me, is unacceptable.
4) Clarify when a block counts against you and when one doesn’t, and give workers the means to see who has blocked them, why they’ve been blocked and which blocks are counting against them. Why do some blocks trigger a foreboding email warning to be sent, while others you don’t even know about until you attempt to accept a task by a requester that has blocked you? A requester should NEVER be allowed to block a worker without the worker knowing why. For example, earlier this year I received notice I had been blocked by a requester (workers refer to those as “hard blocks”) and when I emailed the requester to ask why he proceeded to hard block me a SECOND time. That kind of action is, to me, unacceptable.
What I’m asking isn’t unreasonable, I think… I enjoy working for Mechanical Turk and enjoy the income it brings me but at the same time the lack of support workers receive make it rather stressful at times and actions such as those I listed would be very helpful in eliminating that stress and enabling me (and other workers) to focus more on the work we do for Mechanical Turk and its requesters.