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Thread: Beware the Block: Part 1 of 3

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    User ergo's Avatar
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    Default Beware the Block: Part 1 of 3

    Andy, Casey -- Please don't merge these threads. Each post is long enough as it is, and there are some distinct issues discussed in each one.

    Beware the Block

    Let me start by saying that I believe that most people who get blocked by a requester probably deserve it. In many cases, people submit poor work, receive a rejection with a note explaining why the work was rejected, then go on to submit more poor work. I can't blame a requester for putting a block on a worker who does that.

    However, I've also learned recently that sometimes people are blocked who don't deserve to be. Sometimes despite submitting good work consistently over a period of time, a worker gets blocked suddenly and without explanation. As I'll show in this series, the blocking system is deeply flawed and stacked against the worker, and has the potential to harm even the honest among us. Please review with me some excerpts from the instructions Amazon provides to requesters about processing HITs.

    Exhibit A: The Requester User Interface



    Here we see an example of using the RUI, or Requester User Interface, to do blocking. The requester has a list of people already given approvals or rejections on the current HIT, and when clicking a worker ID a small window pops up with a link to block the worker.

    Now, imagine for a moment that the rejections list includes a good worker who made an honest mistake. Or suppose that the requester rejected a HIT by mistake. Is the requester going to have the IDs of every good worker memorized? Will they remember that the worker had always done great work in the past?

    What's to stop a requester, caught up in a moment of frustration after being cheated by scammers all day long, from going through the rejections list and blocking everyone? Absolutely nothing. The only limit to a requester's blocking power is that no more than 100,000 workers can be blocked. (Are there even that many Turkers in the world?)

    And what if the requester clicks on the wrong ID and blocks the wrong person, someone who doesn't deserve to be blocked at all? The requester may have intended to click on the ID starting with A14, but missed a little bit and got the one with A11 instead. Oops.

    Okay, so the requester has gone ahead and clicked Block, so now what? Another window opens asking for some information. Oh, it's asking for the reason the worker is being blocked. That's good, right? After all, at least the worker will find out what they did wrong and could ask to be unblocked if it was a mistake, right? Read on.

    First of all, the requester isn't required to fill in the reason. They could leave it blank and that's the end of it. But even if they do take the time to include a reason, probably assuming the worker will be notified, guess what: the worker will never read it.

    You see, Amazon never bothers to send the worker an email about the block. If the worker looks at their list of recently completed work, they won't see a note telling them they've been blocked. The only way they'll find out anything at all is if they try to do another HIT from that requester.

    Continued in Part 2.
    Last edited by ergo; 02-21-2009 at 01:53 PM.

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    User Shego's Avatar
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    So basically, our rep can be damaged and we can lose privileges at the whim of a requestor who has a God complex? I hope amazon has a way for workers to complain about shady requestors. What's good for the goose....

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