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Mechanical Turk, Visual Studio Edition

Amazon recently introduced Mechanical Turk, a site that automates the process of taking work that only humans can do well (like judge the quality of a photograph) and paying users to do that work.  Anyone can log in, spend some time ranking photographs and make a few bucks.

I want this as a Visual Studio plugin.  Here’s how it would work.

I’m a typical coder, which means I’m lazy.  I sit down to write an app and part of what this app does is read settings from a config file.  This is boring work, so typically the first time through, I fudge it:

   // TODO: Move this into a config file
   numThreads = 4;
   serverName = “”;

The act of reading this info from a config file is perfect Mechanical Turk work.  It’s work that any developer with basic skills can do, but it’s just typing.  If I could pay someone $1 to do this work for me, I’d do it.  Here’s how:

First off, you select the code you want to replace, and select Submit to Turk from the menu:

 Now you have to answer some basic questions.  What do you want the new code to do, and how much are you willing to pay for it:

I submit this.  Now as I continue typing, somewhere out there a Turk takes this work unit and does it.  In a few minutes, I receive this notifiation:

Cool!  View Now…

There it is!  I’ve given a coder somewhere $1.00 (plus a 15% tip) for saving me a bit of time.  The workflow being integrated into Visual Studio is what makes it worthwhile – if it was email based or something like that, the overhead would be more work than the time you were saving.

Now, someone go implement this!  Any volunteers?


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