Using Mechanical Turk For Ideas

During Startup Weekend Athens I decided I wanted to try out Mechanical Turk, Amazon’s interesting service.  It relies on the concept of  Human Intelligence Tasks (small tasks that are easy for humans to do, but hard for machines).

I would love to use it for creative projects, like the Sheep Project or the Dollar Bill Project.

Late Friday night, I decided I wanted to hear some more startup idea pitches (really, I didn’t, but I did, in a sick way).  I farmed it out to turk, and got some interesting responses.  Humorous, random, and if you read into the themes, very educational.

Here are 12 that I got within the first day, at .08 a piece (I was just testing it out, would offer more if I did it again).

The Greek Letter would make letter shirts for greek organizations and make money by joining with greek organizations such as sororities and fraternities to make their letter shirts.

Peanut butter slices – they would look like Kraft cheese slices, except they would be two thin layers of peanut butter encasing a layer of jelly.  A non-sticky coating (similar to the coating found on M&M’s) would prevent the PB&J slices from sticking.  You could more easily construct a PB&J sandwich quickly with little mess.

Saturday Spouse would be a golf school for non-playing spouses of golf addicts,  who want to learn how to play so that they can join their husbands/wives  on the course.

A social network for men whose wives are addicted to, they would make money by providing ideas and suggestions on how to get their wives off of the site and with them.

Being a yard sale planner.  I would meet with whomever wanted to have a yardsale.  She/He could tell me in general terms what they have in mind and how to price items.  The only work they would have to do is to give me the items they want to sell.  I would handle advertising, and put up signs around the neighbor.  The morning of I’d go to their home, put price stickers on items, set up tables and clothes racks, and put out the items. I’d staff the sale and then take down everything after the yard sale ended.  Any leftovers would go back to the owner, or I’d take them to Goodwill for them.  Payment could be a set amount up front or a percentage of the sales.

A combination coffee shop and music teaching studio which would provide lessons for adults and children and also a place for them to play as they improve and would make money through selling coffee while people wait for family members to take lessons and through the lessons themselves.

A book baby sitter who would read books for customers so the books would not feel so lonely because of not being read.

A nightclub called “Club Seals” with arctic decor, frozen drinks and ice ice baby everywhere you look.  Controversial title.

Low pay drivers would deliver Mcdonald’s breakfast for lazy/blind/customers and make money by charging heavily inflated fees.

Youth assistants would provide online personalities for busy people who don’t want to spend their time online.

I would have a Robin Hood inspired company that would take from the unappreciative rich, give to the deserving poor, and customers would make money from the gifts if eligible.

Portaped would be a mobile pedicure service for business customers in urban areas, and make money by charging a fee to come to the offices of busy people (mostly women, probably) and give them pedicure treatments while they work.

This proved interesting to me.  I wonder if it can be used for usability testing, random crowdsourcing, design choices, or copywriting decisions.

Interesting to say the least.



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14 responses to “Using Mechanical Turk For Ideas”

  1. Harilaos Vasiliadis Avatar

    MTurk sounds really interesting!
    I would use it as a base app for quick tasks completion of start ups 🙂

  2. Ryan Wanger Avatar

    So what did you do exactly? You asked Mechanical Turk: “pitch me your business ideas”? Pretty cool responses.

    Sadly, peanut butter slices are already taken:

  3. wyliemac Avatar

    One of the Startup Weekend Columbus groups are doing a project based on Mechanical Turk. Was SpotWurk, now called Joe Metric. They even have some funding.

  4. koovus Avatar

    Mechanical Turk has all kinds of uses. I like to think of it as an army in your pocket. At any time, any where you can tap the turks to tackle a task and.. if your price is right, you'll get results. There are limitations to what they can do, willing to do, and willing to lay out time wise for whatever tasks you pony up. And its important to reward them realistically for their efforts. You can go cheap but don't expect much. At the same time paying too much $$ opens the door for folks to exploit your wallet.

    JoeMetric is a take on turk in a mobile context. There's some good market indicators to suggest that turk, and turk like concepts could do really well in the economic winter ahead. 🙂

  5. Jeremy Tanner Avatar

    Andy at had another interesting one. “What you you look like and why do you Turk?” —


  6. Danny Avatar

    Club Seals and book baby sitter FTW! Some creative ideas and good humor, I like it.

  7. T Avatar

    I ran Obama vs. McCain polls on Mturk during the recent presidential election. The mturk crowd ran decidedly left even back in early September. Whooda thunk it was such an accurate long term predictor.

  8. agbiotec Avatar

    Definitely Mturk could be used to harness collective intelligence, such as tagging web pages for semantics for example…

  9. free fta satellite keys Avatar

    Has read with the pleasure, very interesting post, write still, good luck to you!

  10. Home Office Decor Ideas Avatar

    Mechnical Turk is actually a very good resource for ideas.. I got quite a few interesting and applicable ones in the past.

  11. vcv Avatar

    Find the files you are looking for at the most comprehensive source for free-to-try files downloads on the Web

  12. The China Drop Ship Guy Avatar

    I just ran my first MTurk project yesterday for some simple data mining – give it a website and have it grab all contact information. I gauge it saved me at least 5 hrs and a lot of brain power.

    I even opened a dialogue with one of my Turkers, who was a nice guy.

    I came here searching for creative ways in which to further benefit from the great service.

  13. Pete Treadaway Avatar

    I have just run a similar experiment on the MTurk. I wanted to see where Turkers came from, why they did it, how much they earned and if they enjoyed it. I got 101 comments on my blog – a real insight into MTurk I thought.

  14. Pete Treadaway Avatar

    I have just run a similar experiment on the MTurk. I wanted to see where Turkers came from, why they did it, how much they earned and if they enjoyed it. I got 101 comments on my blog – a real insight into MTurk I thought.

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