Monday, December 5, 2011

MTurk online surveys: 3 peeves of mine

I’ve been working on Amazon MTurk a lot recently in the run up to Christmas - it’s a good way of saving for gifts, especially when I know that what I plan to buy is sold on Amazon.  But some of the problems with the Mechanical Turk online surveys have been annoying me. 

Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy doing surveys.  They seem like less hassle than some of the other tasks sometimes, the pay varies and is maybe going down gradually over time, but often still isn’t bad in MTurk terms.  The requesters are also generally pretty reliable, especially if the MTurk requester is a university academic or student, so I worry less about not getting paid, or there being some sort of scam going on.

But recently when I search for surveys, there have been more and more scams that are calling themselves surveys appearing (you know the sort, they always offer you an "easy money for 5 minutes work" and say they're going to pay you $20!).  I mean signing up for a credit report can in no way be considered a survey!  Neither can “test my website by entering all your personal details and pressing submit”!  I guess I had considered online surveys to be a haven from the worst scams, but now I’m realizing that I was probably being over-optimistic.

Another really annoying thing that happens to me sometimes with surveys is that I approve the hit, open another window then do and the survey – but when I go back to the original window it tells me that I’ve run out of time.  Basically, the requester has given an absurdly short amount of time to do the survey and I have not noticed.  It’s happened to me before and I think it’s actually the same requester who keeps doing it (I hope it’s not deliberate, but who knows?!)

Which brings me onto my third and final gripe, which never ceases to annoy me.  Why is it that MTurk requesters can block specific turkers, but the turker can’t block a requester that they don’t like?  I am maybe being cynical, but I think it tells you where the turker features in the Amazon scheme of things – down at the bottom of the pile!

Anyway, enough moaning.  I can’t say for sure if I will blog again before Christmas.  If I don’t, have a happy festive season, turkers, and a prosperous new year!

Thursday, October 20, 2011

My favorite MTurk requester

My favorite Mechanical Turk requester was Content Galore.  For a period of time they were paying $1.80 for 150 word encyclopedia style articles on MTurk.  They would give you a name or a theme, such as “Burt Reynolds” or “Orlando, Florida”, you went away and did some basic research (looked it up in Wikipedia or another reputable source), wrote a summary of the information in your own words and submitted it.  The articles were checked by other turkers and pretty much always accepted (at least in the experiences of my wife and I).

It was a great way of making money from home.  Although there was the odd sparse period here and there, generally there was plenty of work to do.  Content Galore were quick payers too – you would usually have your work accepted within a couple of hours, often almost instantly.  The HITs would take me just over 10 minutes to complete, meaning that I could earn 20 dollars or more in just a couple of hours or so, which is pretty good by general MTurk standards.  My wife could complete them even faster than me, often doing them in half the time that I could!  Content Galore were great and I came to rely upon them, usually ignoring other MTurk HITs during that period.

But then something went wrong.  My favorite MTurk requester disappeared for a long time, which wasn’t entirely unusual for them, but when they returned, something had changed.  My wife noticed it first, she did three HITs for them straightaway, but to her shock had all three of them rejected!  The pattern was repeated, with Content Galore disappearing again and returning, only to reject the HITs of my wife and I.  It was bizarre, as we followed all the instructions and had done countless HITs for them previously without a single rejection.  It resulted in our HIT approval ratings getting damaged and our time being wasted with no money in return.

The rumor was that unscrupulous turkers had been trying to cheat the system, including submitting work that had been spun (generated by special software, which turns out work that reads well to a computer but looks terrible to a native English speaker).  Content Galore had responded by introducing their own software to check work in an attempt to spot the spinners and cheaters – but the software was overzealous and rejecting work from honest turkers as well as the cheats.

Content Galore disappeared and reappeared again and again.  Every time that they returned, my wife or I would try doing a ‘test HIT’ to see if Content Galore had resolved their problems, but each time we did, the test HIT was rejected.  My wife had one HIT rejected on the grounds that she had completed it faster than was humanly possible.  Well, I was with her at the time and can vouch that she did the HIT according to all the instructions and produced a great piece of work, which was researched, read well and had been spell checked too, so I don’t know what was going on.

So nowadays, if I happen to come across a Content Galore HIT, I will ignore it.  But working for them was good while it lasted.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Writing an MTurk blog: A look at the best ones

Sustaining an MTurk blog isn’t always easy.  Like most turkers, I suspect, my enthusiasm for MTurk ebbs and flows.  There are periods where I do a lot of turking, periods where I do just a little each day, and periods where I do no turking at all.  The reasons for this are varied.  Sometimes there are HITs on MTurk that I enjoy and pay reasonably well, so I spend more time on MTurk to exploit them.  Sometimes I am forced to spend more time on MTurk purely because I need some extra money.  Other times, I have other things happening in my life and I haven’t the time, need, or motivation to be on MTurk.

I have been looking at other blogs recently, principally ones that are written by turkers and aimed at other MTurk workers - there aren’t actually that many active ones around, it seems.  The official Amazon MTurk blog, for instance, tends to focus more on the needs of requesters and programmers, than the requirements of turkers.

Judging by some of the other MTurk blogs out there that I have managed to find, many turkers start out with the notion that they can make enough regular money off MTurk to sustain themselves for a long period of time.  Then they gradually become disillusioned if this doesn’t happen and some get angry with being poorly treated, or at the quality of some of the HITs.  Some of the most entertaining and informative writing comes from disillusioned turkers, although their blogs are often short-lived.

Mechanical Turk Blog” was clearly motivated to write an MTurk blog in order to highlight what he saw as the scams and injustices of MTurk, of which there are many.  I think it is a continual source of disappointment to all of us that Amazon can appear unwilling, or unable, to police the posted HITs better when they are clearly aimed at gathering workers’ contact details for spamming purposes, or worse still, are aimed at collecting personal info to be used for identity theft.  These sort of HITs appear regularly on MTurk, sometimes masquerading as a “survey” or a “website test”.  Other times, turkers are being asked to perform tasks that are of questionable ethics, and/or legality.

Having made his point, “Mechanical Turk Blog” now seems to have melted back into cyberspace.

Turk Lurker’s blog has some entertaining and informative reads in it!  He has a dry sense of humor, referring to Mechanical Turk as the “Slave Yard” and giving his blog the url: “MTurkey”.  Strange that his posts suddenly stop in 2007 and then suddenly reappear in 2011, but these things happen, I guess – maybe his wife had a baby or something?

Eric Cranston wrote an interesting turker blog, but unfortunately it petered out in 2007 after 2 years of posts.

There are many blogs by people on how to make money from home which refer to MTurk in passing, but it they generally just write a single article and they often don’t give you much more information or insight than a general introduction to MTurk for beginners.

Anybody know of any more interesting MTurk blogs?

Friday, September 16, 2011

HubPages: Make money writing online

Hubpages is one of the easiest and most enjoyable ways to make money writing online in my experience.  Unlike many other writing online opportunities, you are free to write about any topic you choose and there are minimal restrictions in terms of style, length, and tone.  Sounds good, doesn’t it?  Well, yes it is, but you will have to have good English language skills, write engaging material, cover topics that people are looking for online, and be prepared to promote yourself, if you want to do well on Hubpages.

The money doesn’t come to you quickly either.  It can take months before you really begin to see the fruits of your efforts on HubPages.  But the big earners on HubPages can make hundreds of dollars each month.  (I only make a fraction of that, but still find it worthwhile).

Friendly community and helpful staff

Of course, there will probably be some people who disagree with me, but my experiences have on the whole being very positive at HubPages.  The community there is generally friendly and there are people who will go out of their way to help you sometimes.  The staff are good at engaging with the HubPage users, known as ‘hubbers’ and the company has a good record when it comes to innovation and problem solving.

Where does the money you earn come from?

Revenue is raised through online advertising with HubPages taking a 40% cut and you getting 60% of the revenue generated by your hubs.  Originally, Google Adsense was the main advertising company used, but in recent times, HubPages have introduced their own advertising system, known as ‘Hub Ads’.  You can also make money by selling Amazon and Ebay products on HubPages.

Is it really that easy to make money with HubPages?

Well, yes and no.  Of course, you can sign up with HubPages and just write about the topics that interest you and you will make some money, but probably only 20 cents a day.  The people who make serious amounts of money with HubPages (dollars rather than cents) choose their topics and titles of their hubs very carefully, spend time researching and writing their hubs, and they do everything they can to promote their hubs and also to get them to appear high up in search engine results.  They do this using a collection of techniques known as SEO, which stands for Search Engine Optimization.  SEO can influence every aspect of their writing, from picking the topic and title of your hub, to the keywords that they include in their work.

So what does SEO involve?

In short, the most important elements of SEO as far as hubs are concerned, are probably picking hubs that are likely to engage the online community, using keywords effectively in your titles and text, and getting backlinks for your hub.

So how do I sign up?

You can sign up to Hubpages here.  It is free to join.  (My advice is don't join if you want to earn money quickly!  Don't join if your English skills aren't very good!  Do join if you enjoy writing and want to make some extra money and don't mind if your earnings are low for the first few months!)

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

More Microworkers Payment Problems

Some time ago I wrote a blog post about the Microworkers payment problems that I experienced when I first applied to get my online earnings from my Microworkers account paid into my PayPal.  It took a long time before I received my PIN number from them.  When the PIN number did eventually arrive however, after over two weeks, it obvious why - I live in the US and the letter had been sent from Slovenia

Anyway, after I posted about my experience, I received a comment from a reader called Simona who said that she was having problems getting paid as Microworkers had just withdrawn the PayPal option for payment.  Sure enough, she was right when I checked.  PayPal was the standard way for many of us to get our Microworkers earnings in the past, but now Microworkers are saying that workers have to open an account with Moneybookers, or Alertpay.

Ideally, I would prefer my money to be paid straight to my bank account, but I appreciate that can't always happen and PayPal is generally a reliable money site to use and one of the most common methods used to pay out online earnings by websites.  I don’t really relish the idea of setting up another account with a new website just to pay myself the $9 or $10 that I earn intermittently on Microworkers.  The Microworkers Support page states that more payment options (including presumably Microworkers?) would be available soon, but I have waited around for ages in the hope that PayPal would return as an option with no joy and there is still no sign of it happening at the time of writing.

I like earning money online with Microworkers - they are a smaller operation than MTurk but that is okay, I accept that they don’t have as many jobs and I don’t expect to build up my online earnings quickly - but sometimes they can be frustrating.  I emailed Microworkers a few days ago to ask them what is happening but haven’t heard anything back, as yet.  I will post their answer when they reply.

Monday, August 15, 2011

8 Websites that pay you

I thought it might be useful to write a list of websites that pay you, along with my assessment for how lucrative I have found them in terms of online earnings.  These are all websites that I use, or have used, to make money online.  I give a very brief explanation with a link to a much more detailed review, followed by my online earnings rating – the online earnings rating is subjective, of course, as it is quite possible that someone else might sign up to a site and have a completely different experience to my own.

Crowdsourcing Sites

In the crowdsourcing sites, you make money by performing simple tasks on your computer for online employers in return for small payments.  Tasks might include things such as copying text from scanned business cards, completing online surveys, writing short blog articles, tweeting adverts, writing descriptions of photos or videos.

Amazon MTurk (Mechanical Turk) – The site that this blog is named after and a great site if you want to make money online quickly.  There are times when I find it frustrating, however.  Despite the (occasional) problems, this site is probably one of the better websites that pay you.  Full review: Top 10 Amazon Mechanical Turk Tips and Tricks  Online earnings rating: 8/10

Microworkers – Similar to Amazon MTurk but a much smaller outfit, which gives it some advantages as well as disadvantages.  A lot of spammy jobs on there, so I tend to pick off one or two good ones each day and therefore find that making money money online is slower than with Amazon MTurk.  Still worth doing though.  Full review: The Pros and Cons of Making Money Online with Microworkers  Online earnings rating: 7/10

Social networking websites that pay you

These sites pay you for online social activity.  This might include things like: starting discussions, uploading photos, commenting on people’s profiles, bookmarking links to websites or posts.

myLot – I had a lot of hopes for myLot when I first started it, but overall I have been a little disappointed by it.  It seems difficult to make more than pennies each day, in my experience, although I must say that the ‘work’ that you do is hardly taxing.  Maybe I just don’t use it enough, as there are people on there who say they earn a dollar a day or more just for chatting.  Full review: How To Make Money Online With MyLot  Online earnings rating: 4/10

RedGage  - I have known about RedGage for a long time, but only started using it recently.  I personally prefer it to myLot, although both sites can irritate me a little at times (myLot because of the full page ads and RedGage because it can be a little glitchy at times).  The great thing about RedGage, however, is that you continue to make money online even when you do nothing after you have uploaded enough stuff.  It’s never going to make you a millionaire, but the community on there are friendly.  Full review: Can I earn money online with RedGage?  Online earnings rating: 6/10

Onine reward clubs

These sites pay you for doing things like completing online surveys, reading emails, watching videos, playing computer games, shopping online.

Swagbucks – A popular website with a strong following.  You collect a virtual currency called swagbucks, which you can then exchange for products online, PayPal money, or Amazon giftcards.  Full review: Swagbucks tips and tricks  Online earnings rating: 7/10

Inbox Dollars – Similar to Swagbucks in many ways, but a smaller outfit.  I actually prefer Inbox Dollars to Swagbucks, but make sure that you don’t give them your main email address as they send you lots of emails, which can be annoying.  Full review: Review of Inbox Dollars  Online earnings rating: 7/10

Writing sites

These sites are more involved than the others, as you have to write informative articles and have a good command of the English language.  This means investing a lot of time and energy, often doing research as well as writing.  Earnings are slow at first.  They gradually build, but it can take months before the dollars begin coming in.  HubPages and Squidoo make their money through Google adverts and companies like Amazon, and give the writers a share.

HubPages  You write informative articles on a topic you know.  Good community.  Has been through some tough times after getting hammered by Google, but now seems to be on the way back up, at least for may writers.  There are some big earners on there, although most writers earn well under $15 per month.  Use my referral link to.  Online earnings rating: 7/10  Sign up to HubPages with my referral link.

Squidoo  Similar to HubPages in essence, but the payout system is a little different.  I didn’t have much success with Squidoo and gave up on it, but others swear by it as an earner.  Online earnings rating: 5/10  Use my referral link to sign up to Squidoo.

UPDATE (February 2014)

I would avoid MyLot altogether as they are no longer and earning site.  Redgage is no longer much good either.

Bubblews is a good site, however, if you just want some (relatively) quick and easy money.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Review of Redgage: a website that pays you to bookmark links and upload photos, videos, and documents

In my latest look at methods of making money online, I have been playing around with the website, RedGage, which advertises itself as a website that pays you for online social activity.  In some senses, it has similarities with myLot, although so far I am finding it more enjoyable and there would appear to be greater opportunity to make money online.

I have posted a full review of Redgage and my first impressions and experiences over at HubPages in my article: Can I earn money online with Redgage?  But basically, Redgage is a website that pays you to bookmark links and upload photos, videos, and documents.  In return, you are awarded payments according to how many viewers you get.  Views can come from other RedGage users, who you can befriend like you would in sites like MySpace or Facebook; or views can come from outside the site, from bookmarking sites like, Delicious, Digg, Reddit or from people searching online with Google.

The RedGage viewers tend to die away after 48 hours or so, but I am hoping that I will get Google searchers over time, who will gradually build up viewing figures.  Typically, I only make a few cents for each photo uploaded, so it is hardly a lucrative venture in the short term.  Although there are lots people on RedGage who make hardly anything, there is a minority who’s online earnings are more substantial.

I am in the fortunate position of having lots of articles that I have written that I can link to, plus many photos that I can upload.  However, if you don’t have lots of your own articles, you can always post links to other sites, like you would do in social networking sites like Reddit and Digg and you will still make money from people using your link as they pass through RedGage. 

Like with most of these sites, I don’t think that RedGage is going to make me a millionaire (I have made $6 over 4 weeks so far, and the minimum payout rate is $25), but I am finding it fun to participate in and still hoping that my online earnings rate will gradually increase over time.  The RedGage website is a little glitchy, but I like my experience there so far and see more potential for making money online there than I do with myLot, which has been a little disappointing for me, so far.

UPDATE (February 2014)

I no longer recommend RedGage and MyLot as effective earning sites, as they have both changed for the worse since this article was written.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Recovering from a bad HIT Approval Rate

As any experienced turker will tell you, recovering from a bad HIT approval rate can be a frustrating experience.  It seems to take forever to come back from the damage that just one or two MTurk HIT rejections can do and all the time your HIT approval rate is damaged, your ability to make money online is compromised.

If you are new to turking and aren’t aware, Amazon Mechanical Turk calculates your HIT approval rate by comparing how many of your MTurk HITS have been rejected by requesters for HITs submitted against how many have been accepted.  The resulting percentages are called your HIT rejection rate and your HIT approval rate.  (All these figures can be seen on the Dashboard part of your Mechanical Turk account.)

The problem is that many of the requesters insist on a HIT approval rate of 95% or better as a qualification requirement and if you don’t meet the qualification standard, they don’t allow you do their HITs.  These MTurk HITS are very often some of the best paid ones and so getting a bad HIT approval rate can really damage your ability to make money online.

As I have mentioned before, when I started out with Mechanical Turk, I didn’t appreciate the problems that having a bad HIT approval rate might bring, so I just tried out lots of different HITs without really caring too much whether some of them got rejected or not.  This came back to haunt me and I learnt my lesson accordingly.

More recently, however, I have seen my HIT approval rate drop again through no fault of my own.  This was apparently because, as I found out from turkers at TurkopticonToolbar, a requester who had been reliable in the past suddenly started using new (faulty) software which was wrongly automatically rejecting HITs that were actually completely fine.  I did complain about it, of course, but it was to no avail, as usually happens!  (See 10 reasons why I hate Mechanical Turk)

Anyway, I’ve spent my time recently working my socks off on getting my HIT approval rating back up to 95%.  It isn’t fun.  As well as my choice of HITs being reduced, each time I do a new HIT I am worried about getting another rejection and getting pushed back down again (once bitten, twice shy!). 

I’m not sure if I mentioned it in my comparison of MTurk and Microworkers: ­MTurk or Microworkers, which is best?,  but Microworkers are more generous with when it comes to recovering from a bad HIT approval rate.  With Microworkers your rate will recover naturally with time, even if you don’t do anything - so long as you don’t keep picking up rejections you will be okay.

In conclusion, my advice would be to not let your MTurk HIT approval rate fall below 95% if you can possibly help it.  If it does happen, I would focus on getting it back up by doing ‘safe’ HITs, that’s to say HITs being offered by MTurk requesters that you trust, as you can’t afford to get any more rejections.  Be prepared for a long haul, though - because the HIT approval rate is a proportional figure, you will need many new HIT approvals to make up for just a few rejections.

Thursday, June 30, 2011

The Turkopticon Toolbar and Making Money with Mechanical Turk (MTurk)

I have raved about the Turkopticon Toolbar more than once in passing in my posts about Amazon MTurk (Mechanical Turk) but I love this device so much, I wanted to dedicate an entire blog post to it.  It really is the most wonderful aid for Mechanical Turk workers (also known as turkers) and a must for everyone trying to make money with Mechanical Turk.  As well as the Turkopticon Toolbar itself, there is also an online community of turkers associated with it, who can provide an invaluable source of information for anyone who is trying to make money online using MTurk.

How much does it cost?

The Turkopticon Toolbar costs nothing to download and install, that’s right, it’s free! 

How do I install it?*

There are two versions, one for Firefox and one for Google Chrome.  Provided you get the right version, installation is simple.  There is no version for Internet Explorer, but if you use MTurk regularly to make money online, then I would recommend that you download Firefox, just for the Turkopticon Toolbar, you can always just carry on using Internet Explorer for everyday use and click on Firefox when you use Mechanical Turk.

How does the Turkopticon Toolbar work?

Basically, Turkopticon is letting you know how other turkers have got on before with specific MTurk HIT requesters.  It does this by placing little button arrows next to the requesters when you are on the Amazon MTurk HITs page.  By clicking on the arrow, you see how previous turkers have rated that MTurk requester.  They are graded according to how quickly they pay, how fair they are at assessing HITs etc.  Turkers also write reviews in some cases.


This means that with the Turkopticon Toolbar you can avoid the worst MTurk requesters by looking at the reviews before you do a HIT.  You can also write a review after you complete a HIT and get paid and let other turkers know how you got on with that MTurk requester.

Are there any problems associated with the Turkopticon Toolbar?

I personally have not encountered any.  The program is also very small, so I’ve not noticed it slowing my browser in any noticeable way.

I know this probably sounds like a glowing endorsement, but as far as the Turkopticon Toolbar goes, I struggle to think of any negatives.  It really is a must if you want to make money with Mechanical Turk.

Oh, I nearly forgot to give you the download link, you can get the toolbar HERE!

*UPDATE: At the time of writing, the Turkopticon Toolbar isn’t working with Firefox 5, so I have gone back to Firefox 4 in order to use it!  I’ve had similar problems with other Firefox add-ons too recently, the root cause being that Firefox rushed out version 5 only a few months after they brought out version 4 and the add-on developers haven’t had enough time to react.  Hopefully this issue will be resolved soon.  FURTHER UPDATE: THIS MATTER IS NOW RESOLVED!

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Microworkers scam: are accusations about payment problems justified?

I recently received a comment from someone on one of my make money online articles complaining about Microworkers payment problems and not being able to get his Microworkers earnings transferred over to his PayPal account.  He was upset and said he couldn’t understand why Microworkers insisted on mailing a PIN number out to him, which he’d not received, and he also implied (at least this was my interpretation) that the whole thing was a Microworkers scam.

As this was not the first time that I have seen complaints made against Microworkers about payment problems online, I thought it merited me writing a blog post.  I figured that I could also give you my own experience of what happened when I asked to transfer my Microworkers earnings from Microworkers to a PayPal account for the first time.  Before that though, I will go through the complaints about payment problems one at a time and provide some possible explanations.

Why do Microworkers send out PIN numbers by mail?

You would have to ask them that.  Although, often though it is done by companies for tax purposes, when they are attempting to show the IRS that they know who they are paying and sending out PIN numbers is a way of verifying someone’s address. 

Is it in Microworkers interest to scam people?

I personally don’t believe that it is.  They are a small company with a relatively small online workforce, certainly when compared to a giant like Amazon and their Mechanical Turk (MTurk), their main make money online rival.  I can’t see why they would want to alienate workers or get a bad reputation just for the sake of a few dollars.  (I have been critical in the past that Microworkers seem too lenient when it comes to some dodgy tasks being advertised on their website, but that is not the same as saying that Microworkers themselves are not legit!)

My own experiences of transferring my earnings from Microworkers to PayPal

Here's what happened with me back when I first requested a Microworkers payment of earnings to my PayPal account online.  I made a request to transfer $10 from my Microworkers earnings to my PayPal account and noted the date that I’d done this.  Within a few days, a message appeared in my Microwokers Account saying that the PIN number had been sent out.  I waited.  After a week had gone by, I began to get a little nervous.  After 10 days of waiting, I began to wonder if there really was a Microworkers scam.  After two weeks, however, I did receive my PIN number and guess what, the letter with the PIN number in it had come all the way from Slovenia (I live in the USA), so I guess that is a big part of the reason why it took so long!

Anyway I entered the PIN on the Microworkers website, which was accepted.  I then had to wait 4 more days while my Microworkers earnings were “pending withdrawal”, according to the Microworkers website.  All in all the process took just under three weeks from me initiating the payment to receiving it in my PayPal account.

So my advice would be to anyone who is seeking to access their Microworkers earnings for the first time, if my case is anything to go by, you will get your money, but don’t expect it to happen quickly!

Monday, June 13, 2011

Swagbucks vs Inbox Dollars, which make money online website is best?

Swagbucks vs Inbox Dollars.  They are two of the leading online rewards clubs which offer opportunities to make money online through completing paid surveys, reading emails, playing games, searching and shopping online amongst other things, but which website is best?  They both have a lot of similarities, but also differences.  So rather like I did with Amazon MTurk or Microworkers, which is best? and Amazon MTurk vs Inbox Dollars, which is best? I thought that I would compare and contrast Swagbucks and Inbox Dollars, with a view to deciding which one is preferable for those who wish to make money online. 

Swagbucks and Inbox Dollars Similarities

Both are website-based rewards clubs where you can make money online.

Both pay you to do paid surveys, play games, read emails, watch videos, shop online.

Both give you coupons that you can print off and save money with.

There is a Swagbucks toolbar and an Inbox Dollars toolbar that you can install and use to enhance your make money online experience.

Swagbucks and Inbox Dollars Differences

One big difference is that with Inbox Dollars, when you make you make money online it is in dollars and once you reach $30, they pay you cash in the form of a check, whereas with Swagbucks you earn virtual money which you then have to spend in their online shop, or exchange for amazon giftcards, or PayPal money.

Swagbucks is a bigger organization than Inbox Dollars and their number of users is larger than Inbox Dollars. 

Swagbucks have an active official Twitter account too, which you can use to keep contact with them and get info on Swag codes.  Inbox Dollars have no active official Twitter account.

Swagbucks generally is more interactive and community orientated, whereas Inbox Dollars users are more a collection of individuals with no forum or blog to link them up, like with Swagbucks.

Some of the Swagbucks paid surveys pay slightly better than the Inbox Dollars ones, in my experience.

Inbox Dollars give you $5 when you join, Swagbucks give you 50 swagbucks.

You do get more emails from Inbox Dollars than Swagbucks.  My advice would be to do what I do and don’t use your main email address when you join any of these sites.  I have a specific email account that I set up specifically for use with all these make money online websites.

In my wife’s opinion, Swagbucks has slightly more desirable gifts and rewards in their offers than Inbox Dollars does.  I will have to take her word on that one.


I personally prefer Inbox Dollars to Swagbucks on balance, I like the fact that when you make money online, it is in dollars.  I find the Swagbucks concept of giving you virtual money which you then have to exchange a little gimmicky, although I guess it doesn’t really matter much in the long run, as you can convert the Swagbucks to Amazon gift cards or PayPal money, if you wish.  My wife, on the other hand, is a huge fan of Swagbucks (although she still does Inbox Dollars as well, of course), so I guess that makes us a balanced couple!

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Using Amazon MTurk to make money online with online surveys

One way that I make money online with Amazon Mechanical Turk (MTurk) is by completing some of the online surveys that you get on there.  There are pros and cons to doing Amazon MTurk surveys.  In some ways, you are better off signing up to a company that specializes in online surveys, rather than MTurk, if you want to make money online with online surveys, as they often pay much better.  Inbox Dollars is probably better than MTurk for online surveys too, in many ways, as they tend to pay more also.  But hey, this is primarily an MTurk blog and I do them on MTurk, so here are my thoughts on using Amazon MTurk to make money online with online surveys.

How do you find surveys on Amazon MTurk?

I normally just type "surveys" in the search box for hits and check the "for which you are qualified" box (my hit rejection rate fell below 95% again recently!).

Who pays you to do the online surveys on Amazon MTurk?

Anyone can pay people to do an online survey on Amazon MTurk.  But usually the online surveys are provided by a mixture of consumer research groups working on behalf of companies, plus individuals who are studying something at a college or university - either academic staff such as professors, or students working for a degree.

Pay rates and time

The online surveys that you see on Amazon MTurk have pay rates that are completely variable and erratic in my experience.  Sometimes you will get paid maybe $2 a time to do easy surveys that take only 5 minutes.  Other times you will be given 25 cents for doing a very difficult online survey that takes you over half an hour to complete.  There is no rhyme nor reason to it and it is not always possible to discover from the instructions how difficult, or how long the survey will take you before you start out.

Things to watch out for in Amazon MTurk Online Surveys

Some surveys have initial questions that you have to answer correctly before you can undertake the survey proper.  These are annoying if you’re trying to make money online, because if you get anything on the initial section wrong, it’s often a waste of time as you don’t get to do the main survey and therefore don’t get paid.

Often there is a trick question put in the survey somewhere to check if you are actually reading the questions properly and paying attention.  Try not to rush through them too much, or you will miss it.

Always make sure that you take your time and pay lots of attention at the end.  Usually you get given some sort of code to prove that you have completed the online survey and if you miss that, you won’t get paid!

Amazon MTurk surveys are generally reliable for paying up, but often late

Generally speaking, I have had a good record of getting paid with Amazon MTurk online surveys, that’s to say, not getting unfairly rejected.  They often aren’t the quickest payers though.  Sometimes they pay quickly, but I have also known them to take weeks.  On the whole, I would say they were relatively slow payers.

Get your browser right

Some surveys like you to have specific browsers and software installed on your computer in order to do the online survey.  I tend to use Mozilla Firefox generally, but I would always make sure that whatever browser you use, you have others installed too, certainly the big three: Mozilla Firefox, Google Chrome, and Internet Explorer, then you have extra options if you run into technical difficulties, or the requester demands that you use a certain browser.  I would also make sure that you have your Flash player up to date, as some online surveys play you videos and audio to watch and listen to.

PS If you use Mozilla Firefox, or Google Chrome, then you can also use the fabulous Turkopticon toolbar, which is one of the greatest tools for mechnical turkers ever invented!

Bizarre experiences with Amazon MTurk Online Surveys

I think one of the oddest surveys that I’ve done when trying to make money online, was one where they kept playing me the same piece of classical music over and over again and asking me what I thought of it.  I like classical music, but this survey went on and on in a repetitive fashion for a long, long time, and it almost drove me around the twist!

Monday, June 6, 2011

My Best and Worst Amazon MTurk Experiences

Looking back over my time earning money online with the make money at home site, Amazon Mechanical Turk, also known as MTurk, I thought it might be fun to contrast my best MTurk experience with my worst.  Those familiar with MTurk are aware that  when things are going well, it can be great fun and a more than decent earner, but when it goes badly it can be extraordinarily frustrating.  Sometimes things go wrong because of your own mistakes, but other times you can lose money or get your hit rejection rate dented through no fault of your own.  Life certainly isn’t always easy or fair for a turker!

Anyway, before I head off to to look for new hits to do today, here are my best and worst Amazon MTurk experiences from the past.

My Best Amazon MTurk Experience

I had a great run when I found an MTurk requester who paid just under 2 dollars for a writing task that took 15-20 minutes and there were lots of hits too!  For a month I was making $15-$20 per day for just 2 or 3 hours work.  It was all going very well.  The only problem was that I was playing fair, but there were other turkers who were defrauding the requester using dodgy software to do their hits.  So the requester introduced their own dodgy software in an effort to weed out the fraudsters, the only problem was that the MTurk requester’s dodgy software started rejecting everyone, including legitimate turkers like myself.  My best Amazon MTurk experience ended badly with a reduced hit rejection rate, an easy money supply effectively terminated and a sense of annoyance that I still haven’t quite recovered from, but it was good while it lasted!

My Worst Amazon MTurk Experience

Early on when I was new to Amazon Mechanical Turk and I didn’t know any better, I did lots of MTurk hits for a requester.  They were poorly paid and I didn’t really read the instructions closely, as I didn’t think it was terribly important if they were rejected.  Guess what, the MTurk requester rejected them!  But I still didn’t think it mattered much.  Then, after a while, I suddenly noticed that there were lots of MTurk hits that I was no longer qualified for.  When I pieced it all together, I realized that it was the rejected poorly paid hits that had caused my problems by hitting my hit rejection rate.  It took forever and a hell of a lot of grafting to get my hit rejection rate back up.  Needless to say, I paid a lot more attention after that, even if the hits were badly paid.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

MTurk Requester Payment Problems

Earning money online can be frustrating sometimes.  Most turkers who have worked on Amazon Mechanical Turk for any length of time has experienced MTurk requester payment problems.  There are times when you know why you have not been paid sometimes, for instance, you had a computer glitch, or an interuption happened, like you were phoned up, and you ran out of time to finish doing the MTurk hit.  Another time, you might have been unsure what you were supposed to be doing on the hit and so not surprised when your work was rejected by the MTurk requester.

Late Payments

It is frustrating when you complete a job and then you are checking your account every day expecting to see your earnings and nothing happens.  In my experience, most MTurk requesters pay up within a couple of days.  Some pay quicker than that, within a matter of hours sometimes.  The annoying thing is where is takes over a week before you receive your MTurk payment.  You can email the MTurk requester in this situation, but be aware that Amazon allows them up to 30 days to either pay or reject your work.  That is way too, long in my opinion, and Microworkers have got a better idea by giving MTurk employers a one week cut off period to resolve outstanding jobs.

Non-payment by MTurk requester because of hits rejected

Occasionally you can get hits rejected by an MTurk requester and it seems unfair.  As well as losing the money you felt you earned, getting hits rejected can also damage your hit rejection rate and effect which hits you are able to do in future.  So even if the amounts of money involved are small, it can still be annoying and upsetting.

If there were technical problems at the time of doing the hit, then you should report the hit as broken using the link in the bottom right.  If you believe that the requester is breaching the Amazon Mechanical Turk policies, then you should click the “Violates the Amazon Mechanical Turk policies” link which is also at the bottom right.  

Sometimes you have no idea why you have had your hits rejected.  In this case it is best to contact the MTurk requester.  I would advise that the tone you adopt with them is polite but firm.  You should explain that you followed all the instructions and ask why your work was rejected.  In many cases the matter can be resolved this way and you will get your money (or they will explain to you your mistake).  Sometimes the MTurk requester will use stalling tactics and you have to write more than once before they pay up.  Note though, that an MTurk requester cannot themselves reverse a rejection decision without the help of Amazon.

If you still have no joy, then your options for complaint as an MTurk worker are very limited (one gripe of turkers is that MTurk requesters can ban certain MTurk workers, but not the other way around).  Though you can, of course, warn other MTurk workers about the bad requester and discuss your experiences either on Turkopticon, or on one of the MTurk forums.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Amazon MTurk vs Inbox Dollars, which is best?

Amazon Mturk vs Inbox Dollars, which is best?

Having written a review of Inbox Dollars previously, I thought it might be interesting to use my MTurk blog to compare InboxDollars and Amazon Mechanical Turk directly from a worker’s perspective and discuss which is best, rather like I did with Mturk or Microworkers,which is best? giving the relative advantages of using each website as a method for making money online.  So here is my MTurk vs Inbox Dollars comparison.

MTurk Advantages

There is no minimum threshold to reach before you are paid with Amazon MTurk, unlike with Inbox Dollars where you have to get $30 before you can receive anything (or $40 if you do not want to pay any charges).

 You don’t get lots of emails clogging up your inbox from MTurk like you do with Inbox Dollars.

If you find a good MTurk requester with lots of hits, you can learn how to do that task and stick with it for a long time, often building up decent earnings.

There is more work and a much wider variety of tasks that you can do on Amazon MTurk.

If you want to buy products from Amazon, then MTurk is great as you can earn and buy very quickly.

Inbox Dollars Advantages

There seems to be more overseeing of the jobs in Inbox Dollars, meaning that there are far less jobs on there that appear to be scams.  You are certainly safer from fraud anyway, though you can still get scammed, methinks.

There are no jobs that pay completely rip off prices, like in Amazon MTurk. 

There are is a regular supply of surveys in Inbox Dollars to do and these are good for bolstering income.  The number of surveys on MTurk can be erratic and the money you receive for taking the time to do them varies considerably.

You can earn money for shopping online with Inbox Dollars which is not an option with Amazon Mechanical Turk.

You aren’t dealing with lots and lots of different requesters like in Amazon MTurk, which can be a pain.

You are usually paid relatively quickly with Inbox Dollars, whereas you can never be quite sure when you will get your money with Amazon MTurk

General Summary of Amazon MTurk vs Inbox Dollars, which is best?

Overall, I use Inbox Dollars on a regular basis to build up earnings over time, whereas I tend to do Amazon MTurk in spurts, depending often on which MTurk requesters are posting hits at the time.  Inbox Dollars is more reliable in some ways, in that you tend to get paid at a more consistent rate and within a consistent time frame.  MTurk has a greater volume of jobs and a bigger variety, however.

Friday, May 13, 2011

More Amazon Mechanical Turk Tips

I wrote my first lot of MTurk tips for Turkers a couple of months back and received positive feedback, however I thought it would be good to do a follow up and include some of the stuff I didn’t include the first time around.  So here are some more Amazon Mechanical Turk tips for you.  They are aimed at MTurk workers, people who earn money online, and are meant to supplement my previous tips.  Depending on your level of experience with MTurk, some of them might seem pretty obvious, but I hope you can glean something of use from them.  I have actually learnt quite a bit by putting them together as it has made me think about my approach to Mech Turk and reminded me of some of the mistakes that I made early on when I didn’t know any better!  Anyway, here are my More Amazon Mechanical Turk tips.

1. It is easy to skip the qualification tests sometimes, but they can be useful.  Sometimes they open up a whole vein of good MTurk hits.  Sometimes you don’t even have to do anything other than click a button to qualify (presumably they are trying to weed out bots?)

2.  Sometimes it is worth doing lots of low paying MTurk hits just to increase your hit approval rate.  You will also sometimes need to rescue your hit approval rate when it when your hit approval rate has fallen.

3.  Your hit approval rate can be important as it determines which hits you can and can’t do.  I myself didn’t realize this at first and managed to mess up early on in my turking career and it took me what seemed like ages to recover! 

4.  Opinion varies on which browser is best, but I personally would use Firefox or Chrome.  Some of the Amazon Turk hits demand that you don’t use Internet Explorer or that you use Internet Exporer with a Chrome frame.  I have Internet Explorer, Firefox, and Chrome all installed, just in case!

5.  If an Amazon MTurk requester rejects you and you think that they wrong to do so, contact them directly and ask them what the problem was.  Be polite but firm.  It is surprising how many non-payers will pay up after being contacted.

6.  Maintaining good communications with the good MTurk requesters never does you any harm and if you can build up a trusting relationship you can sometimes be offered more opportunities to earn money online outside of MTurk by the good MTurk requesters.

Friday, May 6, 2011

Amazon MTurk alternatives: websites like MTurk

One question that I see asked a lot online and am always interested in myself is what Amazon MTurk alternatives are there on the web?  It is always good to have other options to fall back on, or other methods of earning online to use in addition to Amazon Mechanical Turk.  As far as I am aware, there are no websites like MTurk that resemble it in every way, but there are places that have some of the Amazon MTurk features and where you can make money online.

Microworkers has the most obvious similarities of all the MTurk alternatives.  The website has a different layout, there are less jobs on off than MTurk, you get your earnings paid into a PayPal account rather than through Amazon, they use some different terms for things such as jobs instead of hits, but the essentials are pretty much the same: you do online tasks and you are paid money in return.  Out of all the websites like MTurk it is the most similar.  I have written numerous articles, comparisons and reviews of Microworkers, such as Microworkers Tips, The Pros and Cons of Making Money with Microworkers, MTurk or Microworkers, which is best?.

Inbox Dollars advertises itself as an online rewards club.  Many of the tasks are the same sort of thing that can be found on Amazon Mturk: watching videos, completing surveys, applying for things.  They pay you by check, so you receive real money, but you have to cross a $30 threshold.  That isn’t too difficult as they give you a $5 start, which is useful.  I have also written a full Review of Inbox Dollars which you are welcome to read. has been recommended to me.  I have not had time to join and take a detailed enough look around it in order to write a review, but on the surface it looks fairly similar to Microworkers.

The other two websites that I’ve used regularly are Swagbucks, another online rewards club not too dissimilar to Inbox Dollars and Mylot, which is a form of social network site in the same vein as Facebook, except you get paid for commenting and posting photos etc.

There are websites that focus entirely on surveys.  Out of these, Pine Cone Research is possibly rated the most highly.  They are always full and you need a referral from someone who is already a member to join, however.  My wife is a member.  They pay at least $3 per survey which is good.  Often you have an initial survey that pays $3, then they send you a product in the post, for example, a new fizzy drink.  You try the product then do a second $3 survey telling them what you thought of the drink.

Another option is one of the Paid To Click sites (PTC), where you click on things like website adverts for money, but I haven’t really looked into them, in all honesty, as the earnings seem low to me and they don’t appeal to me personally.  There are lots of them around, however.

UPDATE (February 2014)

If I was writing this article now, I would definitely say that Bubblews was the best alternative, certainly if you just want to earn some (relatively) quick and easy money.  You write short (minimum 400 characters) articles with freedom to choose your topic and interact with other writers, rather like you would do in Facebook, and earn for this.  The payment threshold was raised to $50 recently which means that it can take a week to get a payout, but it's easy and it's fun.