About a year ago I wrote a blog post called Tagging Hall of Shame: Amazon. It pointed out that tagging books as “good” and “for dad” was not very helpful.
Well I am pretty impressed at this new step Amazon has taken. Amazon is running Amazon Mechanical Turk, a project in “artificial artificial intelligence.” Users (or “turkers”) perform small tasks for small pay. The tasks, called HITs (Human Intelligence Tasks), pay from 1 cent for answering simple questions to several dollars for things like transcribing podcasts. Anyone can make a HIT and anyone can sign up to answer them.
I’ve found this to be a profitable thing to do while sitting in front of the TV. Today, I ran into a task put forward by Amazon. They pay $0.01 for a user to look at a tag and a book, say if the tag is relavent or not, and (if the turker likes) suggest other tags. When I saw this, nearly 1,000 items were available to be checked.
This is a great idea! I will very happily take $0.01 to say “gift” is a bad tag. It’s a quick easy way to get rid of those bad tags, develop new ones, and get them community checked for a relatively low cost. If this improves the search on Amazon because tags become effective, then I think the very small investment will really pay off. Kudos to Amazon for creating mTurk and for using it to do this.
CLARIFICATION: Some commenters have been arguing that personal tags are useful. I agree. I mean - Duh. However, I am writing exclusively about collaborative tagging. Amazon was originally put into my hall of shame for sharing personal tags with the idea of using them for collaborative tagging. A review of the tags that were available on Amazon before showed they were all very personal, and thus completely useless in the collaborative sense. Note also that I’m not saying that I even believe collaborative tagging will work in the ideal world, but it certainly won’t work if all I see are other people’s personal notes.
I’d love to hear your comments on the evolution of collaborative tagging (including if you think it will even work), or on mTurk.