Category: Announcements


Amazon’s Mechanical Turk: The First Three Weeks

Things have been even busier than usual here at Amazon’s headquarters in Seattle.

On the evening of Wednesday, November 2nd, we announced that Amazon’s Mechanical Turk was ready for beta testing.

Momentum for most beta tests builds quietly at first. A few users and developers put a toe or two into the water, give it a try, and then start to spread the word via blog posts, newsletters, and private emails.

After a while some sort of critical mass is achieved, and information about the new product is seemingly to be found everywhere that you look. The servers are humming along, the bloggers are talking, and there’s a real sense of action and excitement. For some products, getting to this point can take weeks or even months of concerted effort.

With  Mechanical Turk, we went from standing still to 100 miles per hour in less than 48 hours! By Thursday morning a Technorati search for the phrase “mechanical turk” returned a handful of hits. The hit count grew hour by hour, as did the traffic to the mturk.com servers. By Friday morning, Mechanical Turk was the subject of a Slashdot posting, and we were off to the races!

With the Worker side of Mechanical Turk doing so well, we are now working with a number of organizations to increase the number of different types of HITs in the system. If you are a developer and you would like to start adding your own HITs, we’ve got everything that you should need to get started including complete developer documentation, a WSDL file, and a Requester Tool Kit (RTK). The Requester Tool Kit is written in Java, and provides a high-level interface between your program and the Mechanical Turk APIs.

Now that the (figurative) smoke has cleared from our servers, we’ve had time to take a look around and to see what’s happening out in the rest of the world.

We’ve got blog posts of all sorts:

  • Phillip Lenssen was one of the first to post. He says “This service opens up great new possibilites if you’re writing web software. The Mechanical Turk is still in Beta and I’m sure there are many issues to settle once it runs full-speed, but the potential is immense.”
  • Greg Yardley was one of the first to see Phil’s post; he said “The message is entertainingly bizarre but the concept is terrific.”
  • Alexander Muse asks “Am I the only one that thinks this is going to change everything?”.
  • Mark Liberman says “this sort of thing could turn into a new kind of labor exchange, in which a large pool of workers can connect with a large number of (small or large) tasks.”

This is just a small sampling of what we’ve seen. We’ve also been watching some blogs created specifically to discuss the Mechanical Turk concept, including Turk Toiling, The Knight’s Tour, The Turk Lurker, and the Mechanical Turk Monitor.

There are also a Mechanical Turk Photoblog, devoted to collecting interesting pictures found in the A9 Block View HITs, and some more cool picture here. There’s also a Screenshots forum (and lots of other interesting discussion) on the Turker Nation site, and a long thread of interesting pictures here. After seeing these pictures It is clear that we will have to wrap some rules around what can and can’t be done with the content found inside of a Mechanical Turk HIT. This is one of those things that you learn as part of a beta test.

Not last, and certainly not least, Turking.com describes itself as “a vast resource dedicated to helping earn you money through the Mechanical Turk service.”  This site also includes a busy set of discussion forums.

The word “turking” has already been coined to describe the act of working on a set of HITs. Let’s see how long it takes to  get this new verb in to the Oxford English Dictionary!

Amazon Historical Pricing Service Released

The Amazon Historical Pricing web service gives developers direct, programmatic access to over three years of actual sales data for books, music, videos, and DVDs sold by third-party sellers on Amazon.com. Third-party sellers can use this data to make pricing decisions based on historical prices and market trends.

Access to this data costs $499 per month for up to 20,000 requests, and $999 per month for up to 60,000 requests. All billing and service usage data is accessible through the “Your Web Services Account” button in the AWS Developer Portal.

Check out the documentation, code samples, and the WSDL file for more information.

New Release of Associate-O-Matic

AssociateomaticVersion 2.5 of the Associate-O-Matic store builder is now available. The new release features enhanced control of the home page (more formats including single item and browse node, additional tabs), direct support for mod_rewrite to aid in search engine optimization, reporting, and improved caching.

Two versions of Associate-O-Matic are available. The full version lists for $99 and can be used for one or more sites. The lite version is free, with the proviso that 10% of the click traffic is sent to the Associate-O-Matic account.

AWS on the Road – September and October 2005

Note: Date of Utah PHP User’s Group changed to 29th.

Amazon’s Web Services Evangelists will be attending and speaking at a number of conferences, user groups, and trade shows in the upcoming months. Here’s what we have on the calendar for September and October. If you are in the area and can attend one of these events, please feel free to stop by.

September 2005

October 2005

We’ll be posting more items as our calendar fills up.

If you are an AWS developer and you would like to meet with us privately while we are in your area, please drop us a note and we’ll figure out a way to get together with you.