Continued from Part 2.
The worst part of this
Amazon has some special forums for developers, and one is devoted to Mechanical Turk API issues. Two months ago a developer using the name mobiciousmatt posted about a problem he was having problems with bots cheating his HITs. I don't have any tolerance for bots either, but listen to what he says (all emphasis mine):
Yep. Apparently if you get blocked twice, Amazon may remove your account. While in most cases, the accounts being blocked are cheaters and bots, there's always a possibility you could be blocked by mistake. And if you don't get your first block removed, and get blocked again, then Amazon may ban you from Mechanical Turk completely. If you don't appeal, or they ignore you, then any money in your account will be gone.our only real recourse seems to be to block the worker. This is fine for us. Yeah, we're out some money, but we just want to stop the problem from occurring again. The problem is that apparently Amazon deletes worker accounts that have been blocked twice. This is a massive ommission from the Developer Guide, which reads:
"The BlockWorker operation allows you to prevent a Worker from working on your HITs. For example, you can block a Worker who is producing poor quality work. "
The consequence of this is that workers are choosing not to work on our HITs for fear of being ousted from Mechanical Turk altogether.
What then are we to do? Come up with a complicated qualification system? Continue to allow poor workers to work on our HITs so the few honest ones aren't afraid of being removed? Why is this not documented?
As mobiciousmatt learned, even honest workers are afraid to work for requesters who have a history of blocking. And, unfortunately, they should be until Amazon decides to take worker concerns more seriously.
Wrapping up (finally!)
If you've gotten this far, you deserve a medal for your patience and stamina. You've also shown yourself to be someone who cares about worker rights. Even if you haven't been personally affected by the blocking system (yet), I encourage you to send Feedback to Amazon and let them know you are concerned about issues like these which have the potential to hurt honest people -- not only workers, but even the requesters whose money makes MTurk possible. Feel free to send Amazon a link to this series if you'd like.
You can also make a difference by joining in the global conversation about MTurk in fine places like this. You don't have to write long-winded treatises like I do, because even a small note here has the potential to help many others. Perhaps the words we write now will influence for the better the way Amazon chooses to operate in the future. MTurk is still a diamond in the rough, but with some refinement has the potential to be truly great.
Whew! My fingers are out of breath now.