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Thursday, September 13, 2007

Mechanical Turk Officially Closed to Non-US Developers

Being outside the US I wasn’t able to use Amazon’s Mechanical Turk program so far – they required me to provide a US bank account to start developing with their API. At least that was the case in the beginning; perhaps there were ways to still get into the system outside the US as Requester before. (MTurk separates between a Requester, a programmer utilizing the service, and a Worker, someone who e.g. answers questions and helps to run the service.) But now Amazon made this no-foreign users policy even more official. I just received this email:

Greetings from Amazon Mechanical Turk,

You are receiving this email because you registered with Amazon Mechanical Turk as a Requester with an address outside of the United States. We regret to inform you that Amazon Mechanical Turk will no longer support international Requester accounts starting October 1, 2007. On this date your Requester account will be closed. Any money you have earned through Mechanical Turk will still be available through your Worker account, which will be unaffected by the closure of your Requester account.

Every site can decide for themselves which customers they want to serve, but what I find particularly strange with MTurks’s US-only policy is that the whole concept of the service, and ultimately its usefulness, depends on a large quantity of people using it – smart mobs need a mob, so to speak. On the side of Workers that quantity is needed so that tasks will get done, but also on the side of Requesters to feed the system with money & diverse tasks (the so-called HITs, for “human intelligence tasks”). Especially because the service was so CHI-like I was kind of hoping Amazon would handle MTurk a little smarter. Their latest email almost makes it look as if they gave up on any expansion at all.


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