Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Sticking to surveys and diminishing returns

I’ve been sticking to doing online surveys for money on Amazon Mechanical Turk recently.  After working a lot on MTurk in the run up to Xmas to get some extra money for the festive season, I’ve just been working fairly intermittently in the last few months for a bit of extra pocket money to spend on small Amazon products, such as computer accessories.

Diminishing returns

I think that generally speaking, it is best to see MTurk earnings as pocket money, rather than trying to earn it as any sort of wage.  It might be different if you are in a developing country, but here in the US, the money that you can earn (with the occasional exception) is generally just too small to make a great deal of difference.  This wasn’t necessarily true in the past, but I think it’s fair to say that MTurk payments have overall been driven down over time.

Online surveys

Surveys are a good example of this phenomenon.  When I started doing the online surveys for money on MTurk over a year and a half ago, it was common to see 15 or 20 minutes surveys that paid, $1.50, $2, $2.50, or more.  Now the equivalent survey generally pays at most a sum more like 50c,75c, or, if you’re lucky, a dollar.  (My stats are anecdotal, but I’m pretty sure that the lower earnings aren’t just my imagination!)


The worst falls in earnings come with the general, more mechanical tasks, however, that are open to anyone in the world to do.  These tasks pay less than 10% of what they did a couple of years ago in some cases.  Don’t get me wrong, I certainly don’t begrudge fellow turkers from the Indian Subcontinent earning an honest buck, but MTurk is definitely an example of how globalization can sometimes have a negative effect on workers’ wages.