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Inside the Mechanical Turk Sweatshop 267

Posted by CmdrTaco
from the she-works-hard-for-the-money dept.
Barence writes "PC Pro has investigated the appalling rates of pay on offer from online services such as Amazon's Mechanical Turk, YouGov surveys and affiliate schemes. One Mechanical Turk task the writer tried involved finding the website, physical addresses and phone numbers of hotels for a travel website, for only $0.01 per hotel. The details often took more than a minute to locate, which equates to a rate of around $0.60 an hour, barely enough to cover the electricity bill. Meanwhile, filling out surveys for YouGov generates a maximum income of £3 an hour, and you could end up waiting more than a year for your cheque to arrive, because the site only pays out when you reach £50. 'The result is often that those who carry out online or casual work do so for surprisingly low rates of pay, with no job security or protection from unfair terms and practices,' an employment lawyer told PC Pro."
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Inside the Mechanical Turk Sweatshop

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  • by fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) on Monday August 09, 2010 @09:44AM (#33188734) Journal
    Back to the data mines, slave!
    • Re:*Cracks Whip* (Score:4, Informative)

      by hedwards (940851) on Monday August 09, 2010 @09:52AM (#33188868)
      Yeah, that's why I ended up not doing any work for them. The pay rates were abysmally low for what was quite a bit of work. A penny is barely enough to click a link, let alone actually read it. Also a lot of the opportunities were little more than an effort to defraud advertisers and the public by posting fake reviews and clicking on specific adverts.
      • by jlechem (613317)
        I was going to echo the same thing. I signed up when they first started and noticed quite quickly there was a lot of work for a nickel. And it doesn't seem to have gotten any better. Over the course of a year I think I earned less than $2 USD. Lately it seems there was a lot of SPAM/Pr0n attacks going on as well.
      • Re:*Cracks Whip* (Score:4, Informative)

        by Gruturo (141223) on Monday August 09, 2010 @09:58AM (#33188998)

        The only thing I ever did for them was looking for Steve Fosset's plane / crash site. And that was quite obviously not for the money.

      • Should it even be legal to pay these rates? Where I live an employer can pay you based on the work acomplished but they must still pay you at least minimum wage. Welcome to the new industrial revolution where you're not entilted to minimum wage because you're working online as an "independent contractor" for a foreign company.
        • Re:*Cracks Whip* (Score:5, Insightful)

          by MoonBuggy (611105) on Monday August 09, 2010 @10:59AM (#33189974) Journal

          Nobody's making you work for the companies advertising through the Mechanical Turk service. The job description and rate of pay are clearly provided up front. Either you consider it worth your time or you don't do it - seems fair to me.

          • Re:*Cracks Whip* (Score:5, Insightful)

            by Target Drone (546651) on Monday August 09, 2010 @11:21AM (#33190352)

            My point is that over that last couple hundred years we have built up a series of labour laws covering things like minimum wage, working hours, unions, child labour etc. It's not perfect and you can make arguments for and against certain aspects of the system. However, these online employers like Turk or Rent a Coder have the potential to wipe the slate clean. Employers can simply set up shop in whatever country has the most favourable (read none) labour laws

            So what will happen in the long term? Will this be the revolution that brings prosperity for all or will it be like the industrial revolution where people were forced to send all of their children to work in the coal mines just to survive?

          • by Vancorps (746090)

            Nobody is forced to work at McDonalds or any take job that pays minimum wage or any job period. Labor laws exist to prevent the wealthy from exploiting the desperate. At least that is why they were created, you can argue their current status as a political issue to get voters though.

            The other side of the coin however is that they can afford a computer and Internet access already so they probably have other income in which case you can argue it's not exploitive.

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by SkyDude (919251)

          Welcome to the new industrial revolution where you're not entitled to minimum wage because you're working online as an "independent contractor" for a foreign company.

          But....no one has to take the job. I can see how an argument can be made that these grossly underpaid jobs break the laws protecting workers. The number of jobs being offered is minuscule compared to the number of real world jobs.

          Besides, low and unpaid positions are always being offered on craigslist in several categories, notably, media production and web design. How many people actually answer these ads? Probably very few and those that do probably never actually show up for them.

          There's always trying to

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by toastar (573882)
      Wow, I thought the thing about keeping a 30 Chinese in the basement to memorize numbers was just a joke. [bash.org]
  • by Culture20 (968837) on Monday August 09, 2010 @09:45AM (#33188754)
    ...so easily. "Vote for my video to win me $5000" "Hmm, pay $100 to mechanical turk slaves, and I get a huge number of votes for a lead"
  • by Anonymous Coward
    It's not like anyone is checking it. For that amount of money, what more can they expect?
    • by tehcyder (746570)
      Surely with things like surveys you could just write an automated script to do them 24/7 while you were at work?
      • by Zocalo (252965)
        If someone is capable of writing a script that can do that, then they almost certainly have sufficient skills to get a job with a decent enough salary that the few dollars they might earn from Mechanical Turk would be pretty much immaterial. Even more so if you factor in the likelihood they would probably also have a fairly high spec computer which isn't exactly going to be the cheapest thing to leave running 24/7.
    • For that price, they could have everything done three times, or hell even 5, and check for agreement.

  • This is just part of a larger, decades-long trend of driving the price of labour to zero all across the economy. A working wage in western countries no longer even assures you a place in the middle classes. I shudder to think where we'll be after ten more years of such "innovation".
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Cwix (1671282)

      I shudder to think where we'll be after ten more years of such "innovation".

      The rich will get richer, and the poor will get poorer.

      • by Marcika (1003625) on Monday August 09, 2010 @10:02AM (#33189074)

        I shudder to think where we'll be after ten more years of such "innovation".

        The rich will get richer, and the poor will get poorer.

        Only the American "poor" (where poor is defined as not being able to afford the second SUV or 50" TV). The actual poor people -- you know, the ones in Mexico, China and India who formerly would have had to farm for subsistence or work in mines as they are cheaper than machines -- they will get richer. Why do you strive to deprive them of the opportunity?

        • Because that's what life does, it scrabbles and grabs and claws for every drop of resources it can get so it can reproduce more, I'm honestly amazed you don't get this.

        • by alba7 (100502)

          Unchecked population growth exhausts resources in short time.
          This is the base of Darwin's thoughts.

          Perhaps famine and pestilence will kick in to correct the insane birth rate of third world.
          If not, we will see a new age of all-out wars.

          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by Monchanger (637670)

            NO, NO, NO. That's a debunked myth [ted.com].

            The solution to overpopulation is the development of the third world, increasing availability to food and medicine. Easier said than done, of course, but that's the now-obvious goal. Promotion of suffering is neither strategically- and certainly not morally the right approach.

            • THIS. We should be spending as much as possible to industrialize the world and bring the whole thing up to first world standards. Women who don't have to worry about farming and their 10th child dying tend to have less children and put off having children longer.

        • by atomic777 (860023)
          I have no problem the global south achieving an increase in their living standards. But what is happening is that a relatively small absolute improvement in their living standards is met with a significant absolute decrease in the living standards of middle class westerners. The difference accrues to a tiny minority of "talented" and "innovative" people.

          If wages for MBA-toting advertising executives and investment bankers were being driven to zero as well, then at least it would be fair.
          • by Com2Kid (142006)

            But what is happening is that a relatively small absolute improvement in their living standards is met with a significant absolute decrease in the living standards of middle class westerners.

            Have you seen how much our living standard has been raised in the last 50 years? Holy crap. House sizes have exploded, families have 1 car per person, 1 TV per person, and go out to eat more often than not.

            Surprise surprise, not every house needs a den, a dining room, a living room, and a breakfast nook! Nor does eve

            • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

              by atomic777 (860023)
              Real wages have been stagnant for the past 20-30 years and increased home square footage, more cars, etc. are mostly a product of increased debt.
        • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

          by davev2.0 (1873518)

          Why do you strive to deprive them of the opportunity?

          For the same reason there are few manufacturing and textile jobs left in the United States and that service jobs (you know, those jobs that are making up more and more of the U.S. economy) are paying less and being shipped over seas as well and you see that their gain is our loss. It is a zero sum game. When they gain opportunity, we lose opportunity. It is as simple as that. Do you suggest that we hurt ourselves to help them? Oh, and your descriptio

        • by OnePumpChump (1560417) on Monday August 09, 2010 @10:37AM (#33189580)
          That is a shit definition. A used SUV or a 50" TV costs essentially nothing compared to what the poor in the US really need. Education. Health care. Housing. Quality food. Security. The TV example is and always has been a red herring. It's a one-time expense that lasts for years, and would barely cover any of the ongoing expenses. The SUV is even worse, given that in many used car markets that's all that may be available at the time of purchase, and in the US, in most areas, if you don't have a car, you don't have a job. The poor in the US, even if they have the possessions that you point to as evidence that they can't be poor, still lack most of the things that the poor elsewhere lack.
          • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

            by Marcika (1003625)

            A used SUV or a 50" TV costs essentially nothing compared to what the poor in the US really need. Education. Health care. Housing. Quality food. Security.

            Good, if you think welfare is a better definition than ownership of "stuff": The poor in the US have access to free schooling (mostly decent, at least compared to India), free libraries with internet access (and thus the Wikipedia and OCW) and needs-based scholarships to universities. They have access to guaranteed free healthcare in any hospital emergency room. Food stamps. Dozens of different federal, state and municipal programs that aim to provide shelter. If the willingness to help yourself is there, t

        • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

          by oldmac31310 (1845668)
          There are real poor people in the US too. Really poor. Your definition of American poverty is just plain silly.
        • Only the American "poor" (where poor is defined as not being able to afford the second SUV or 50" TV). The actual poor people -- you know, the ones in Mexico, China and India who formerly would have had to farm for subsistence or work in mines as they are cheaper than machines -- they will get richer.

          Most of the studies I've shown have shown mixed overall results on both ends (developed and less developed) from so-called "free" trade, with the far more consistent effect of increasing the gap between the ri

      • by Critical Facilities (850111) on Monday August 09, 2010 @10:06AM (#33189124) Homepage
        Mandatory Leonard Cohen:

        Everybody knows that the dice are loaded
        Everybody rolls with their fingers crossed
        Everybody knows that the war is over
        Everybody knows the good guys lost
        Everybody knows the fight was fixed
        The poor stay poor, the rich get rich
        That's how it goes
        Everybody knows [youtube.com]
        • Not exactly mandatory, and much cruder, but: Jarvis Cocker:

          Well did you hear, there’s a natural order.
          Those most deserving will end up with the most.
          That the cream cannot help but always rise up to the top,
          Well I say: Shit floats.
          If you thought things had changed,
          Friend you’d better think again,
          Bluntly put in the fewest of words,
          Cunts are still running the world,
          Cunts are still running the world.

          http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=monyiOsoKxg [youtube.com]

      • Median household income has increased dramatically in the last fifty years. The rich are getting richer and the poor are getting richer.

    • by PatHMV (701344) <post@patrickmartin.com> on Monday August 09, 2010 @10:20AM (#33189334) Homepage
      Huh? An entirely voluntary, on-line program pays so little that nobody in their right mind would do it, and this is evidence about working wages in western countries?

      Maybe its evidence that there are some really stupid people out there who volunteer to work in the "sweatshop" of their own house and have deluded themselves into thinking that they'll ever earn any real amount of money with the Mechanical Turk program. OR maybe this money is being earned by folks living in third world countries for whom making $0.60 an hour at home or in a cool computer room is a previously undreamed of luxury.

      Seriously... if you can't find better-paying work than this as a JANITOR, then you truly are utterly unemployable and ought to consider yourself grateful to be able to find this kind of work.
    • by careysub (976506)

      This is just part of a larger, decades-long trend of driving the price of labour to zero all across the economy. A working wage in western countries no longer even assures you a place in the middle classes. I shudder to think where we'll be after ten more years of such "innovation".

      MOD THIS GUY UP!

  • Not 'unfair' (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Peteskiplayer (1032662) on Monday August 09, 2010 @09:56AM (#33188964)

    "The result is often that those who carry out online or casual work do so for surprisingly low rates of pay, with no job security or protection from unfair terms and practices," an employment lawyer told PC Pro.

    As these are essentially individual contracts that are not amended at any point, it is easy to see the trade you are making (your time for their money). Although these deals may be bad ones, noone is forced to accept them and so accepting and completing these bad deals is entirely up to the individual. If someone values their time at this low amount, let them!

    • by mcgrew (92797) *

      Although these deals may be bad ones, noone is forced to accept them

      Well, his [wikipedia.org] record company contract was quite lucritive. I don't thenk he had to be forced.

    • Perhaps they think it is a better deal than it is. Perhaps we need a law that says for all jobs, you have to specify what the equivalent hourly wage is based off of expected pay and work house and so on.

      Things like this are done with home loans for the very reason of banks trying to pass off complex loans with poor terms. As such there is a page that every loan doc has to have which specifies the amount, the interest rate, the terms, and so on. It all has to be spelled out in a specific format, so that you

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by demonlapin (527802)
        Working one of these jobs for one hour would give you a very good idea of how much you could expect to earn, and it's not as though someone could even yell at you if you quit after fifteen minutes on the job. I fail to see how something with a maximum potential downside of "you just wasted an hour of your life" needs to be regulated.
  • They pay $8 in a nice, clean, air conditioned environment.

    Around $20 if you're a manager. That certainly beats 0.6 per hour for this data mining stuff.

    • Re: (Score:2, Flamebait)

      by Acer500 (846698)

      They pay $8 in a nice, clean, air conditioned environment.

      So US-centric. Please point me to the nearest Wal-Mart here in Montevideo (Uruguay, South America) that pays those wages, and I'll sign up instantly.

      • You won't be making any actual money in Montevideo from mTurk either.

        Money is paid to USA and Indian workers only. Everyone else gets to use their earnings as gift certificates at amazon.com.

  • Any worth it? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by twoallbeefpatties (615632) on Monday August 09, 2010 @10:00AM (#33189018)
    Out of curiosity, has anyone ever come across a MTurk assignment that does pay enough money to be worth the time?
    • No. Every once in a while you see ones for $1-2 per task, but then you realize each task is something along the lines of writing a 3 page research article.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by MozeeToby (1163751)

      If you have unique skills perhaps. You will somewhat often see "Translate this paragraph from English to Japanese" (or something similar) posted for $2-$5. Of course, if you actually had the knowledge to do that it would take all of 5 minutes to do it and then you'd be done. The demand just isn't that high.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      Years ago, but not since. There used to be a lot of transcription work on MTurk. Once I had a good rating as someone who could transcribe a technical speech, there were jobs out there that were worth it to me... but only if I was already interested in the subject matter (transcribing helps me really learn the material).

      Things like transcription and translation made MTurk worth it, but soon it devolved into $0.01 per task work, without sufficient volume to make it worth writing a script. I haven't checked fo

  • Just say no ... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by johnlcallaway (165670) on Monday August 09, 2010 @10:00AM (#33189020)
    I did some work on Mechanical Turk when it first came out. It was kind of fun at first, so I didn't mind the low rates. But when the rates started dropping further and the work wasn't as interesting, I stopped and haven't been back.

    Simple supply and demand ... they have a low demand and their appears to be a sufficient supply of people willing to work for less than a buck an hour. Anyone with basic math skills can calculate the hourly rate and decide if there is anything else they want to do that is worth more to them than that.

    I'm sure there are many who have either not calculated it, or don't know how. But after working for a few nights and only getting $5, I would think that the only people left that are doing it derive something out of it. Even if it's just an extra $5.
  • by loshwomp (468955) on Monday August 09, 2010 @10:01AM (#33189038)

    Why did they have to drag $500 bug-finding bounties into this? Quoth TFA:

    it's a small fraction of what the company would have to pay a full-time professional.

    It's a REWARD, not an offer of employment. There is a "missing cat" poster on my block, but (applying the logic of TFA's author) I would have to be CRAZY to bother searching for it, because the reward is only $25 -- a small fraction of what it would cost for a full time cat searcher. I could never make a living searching for lost cats!

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Everyone knows it's much less work to kidnap cats systematically than searching for cats at random when the opportunity comes.

  • It's not for you (Score:5, Insightful)

    by selven (1556643) on Monday August 09, 2010 @10:02AM (#33189054)

    Seriously, if you're in a first world country you can, even without any skills, get $5-$20 an hour, and if there are no jobs open then you can earn $1-$3 an hour panhandling. People in countries like China and India, however, earn wages much lower than our own - the average seems to be $0.50 - $1 US per hour in the manufacturing sector, with some jobs going even lower than $0.50. With this in mind, it seems like $0.60 an hour really isn't so bad.

    • by Acer500 (846698)
      Not to mention it's "extra" income (on top of whatever salary they have), and probably untaxed.
    • Yes but it's a highly irregular paycheck and you aren't necessarily guaranteed a steady rate of .60/hour. Adding in to the fact that in some cases for these services you have to accumulate 50-100 bucks in order for them to cut the check (plus who knows how ungodly long to get the check) the worker isn't really winning in this deal.

    • by kyrio (1091003)
      I don't know where you got your $1-$3/h for panhandling. Beggars make $50 a day from less than 6 hours of "work", depending on how good they are. Alcohol and drugs cost a lot of money if they aren't buying new cars [freerepublic.com] like the Shaky Lady [google.com].
      I know of a few who go into some shops daily to convert their change into bills. I've never seen anyone come in with less than $40 by the early afternoon.
      • by selven (1556643)

        "Panhandlers in Toronto reported a median monthly income of $300 from panhandling..." (source [www.cmaj.ca])

        300 / 30 days per month / 8 hours per day = $1.25 per hour

        So I think $1-$3 is a reasonable range. I'm sure skilled panhandlers can get more, but most of the people on the streets aren't exactly skilled in anything.

    • Unless they are from India.

      Only USA-ians and Indians (dots, not feathers) actually get paid. Everyone else gets amazon.com gift certificates.
      Meaning that they get paid in CDs/DVDs and books as amazon.com does not deliver most other items outside of USA.
      Intriguing option only if you have loads of free time, no credit card and possessing a thirst for cultural artifacts like books, movies and music.
      I.e. - if you are an underage second- or third-world kid.

      As a result from such paying practice most Indian worker

  • Doubtless any article insinuating a similarity (I'm being friendly - the article asserts an equality) between voluntary acts and "sweatshops" goes -way- beyond hyperbole into the realm of the absurd, and in so doing not only makes a fool out of itself and in so doing tarnishes its publisher's reputation, but, worse, makes light of that to which the term "sweatshop" properly refers.

    Are there possibilities for "abuse" within the systems TFA looks at? Sure... The "veteran journalist," e.g., who wrote a reque

  • YouGov isn't so bad, and it's mostly a lot more interesting than Mechanical Turk, but it can take LONG time to get your £50 (although I *have* been paid).. partly because there are so many "prize draw" surveys that they do (of course, if I'd actually won a prize draw I wouldn't be complaining!)

    Google Answers was a lot more interesting when it came to it.. there were potentially some decent rewards if you did the work, but it went the way of a lot of Google products (i.e. canned). But then I suppose

  • I think the mass exploitation of impoverished workers for manual labour to produce consumer goods is a bit far from a scheme that lets net-connected Westerners with a lot of free time elect to earn a few cents for clicking around some web sites. It barely even compares to a gold far, for christ's sake.

  • by bbtom (581232) on Monday August 09, 2010 @10:09AM (#33189180) Homepage Journal

    I have used Mechanical Turk once: during my undergraduate studies, I wanted people to test out a survey for a psychology of religion class. I put it up on MTurk for $0.75 each. I got really great results, but the best bit was some of the responses in the "any other comments" field I included at the end. People saying things like "this was really interesting and has made me really think".

    I am really not sure about it. It really is a stark contrast to some of the Web 2.0 love-in mentality: for all the high minded discussion of community and openness, you dig down and there is this small army of people being paid sub-sweatshop wages to keep it all going.

    The Turkers are doing a really good job in shit circumstances with really shitty pay. Go be nice to them if you can. Give them something interesting to do and pay them a bit more than the standard shit rates they get.

  • MTurk (Score:5, Interesting)

    by RWarrior(fobw) (448405) * on Monday August 09, 2010 @10:10AM (#33189190)

    If you pick your jobs right, you could make as much as $3/hr on Mechanical Turk. I know because at one point it was the only income I had.

  • by Acer500 (846698) on Monday August 09, 2010 @10:10AM (#33189192) Journal
    I've got news for you... I have a degree in Information Systems, and I work for 3 pounds sterling an hour (of course my employer gets a discount rate since I work for them 200 hours a month guaranteed, and it's after-taxes money - Government gets 40% of what I make before taxes since I'm obviously "rich").

    You think filling out YouGov forms or whatever (hadn't heard of them before) for that same amount of money isn't a good deal?

    I live in Montevideo, Uruguay, and yes, I believe I will eventually make better money, but over half the programmers here make less than that.
  • So what? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by bradley13 (1118935) on Monday August 09, 2010 @10:12AM (#33189222) Homepage

    The article implies that the low payscale is somehow a problem. But no one is forcing you to do the work - it's your choice. If Amazon had to pay more, the consequence is obvious: the work would just disappear.

    This is the fallacy of minimum wage laws: low value work is either not offered, is off-shored, or disappears into the black market.

  • 3 Pounds per hour? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by war4peace (1628283) on Monday August 09, 2010 @10:21AM (#33189350)
    One thing I don't understand. TFA says "Meanwhile, filling out surveys for YouGov generates a maximum income of £3 an hour, and you could end up waiting more than a year for your cheque to arrive, because the site only pays out when you reach £50."
    50/3 is roughly 17 hours of work. If you're not lazy, you can achieve that in 2 days. Funny thing is: I work in IT, for a very large and known corporation, and I make just under 3 pounds/h.
    Unless something is very broken in TFA, then I might be able to earn slightly more from YouGov than my oh-so-mighty corporation.
    • by ceejayoz (567949) <cj@ceejayoz.com> on Monday August 09, 2010 @10:25AM (#33189404) Homepage Journal

      Funny thing is: I work in IT, for a very large and known corporation, and I make just under 3 pounds/h.

      Time to sue, then. http://www.hmrc.gov.uk/nmw/ [hmrc.gov.uk]

      Also, you ignored the part in the story where YouGov doles out surveys very slowly. Yes, you could make £3 an hour - if they gave you enough work.

    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward

      But you only get surveys when they give them to you, not when you want them. This is where the year comes in. RTFA (carefully)

    • by ledow (319597)

      Er... yeah, seriously... you're being taken for a ride. Minimum wage is nearly double that and a legal requirement. I assume you're either a) lying, or b) taking into account your net profit after tax, which is something else entirely. Either that, or c) working in "IT" for less than you can get at McDonald's, sweeping the streets, giving out leaflets or licking envelopes. If you are genuinely working for a large and well known corporation, time to name and shame them.

    • by Thelasko (1196535)
      Unfortunately, the summary leaves out some key details. If you RTFA, it says:

      An even bigger problem for would-be earners is that you have to wait to be selected for surveys in order to participate. Having signed up five days ago and received 100 points for a profile survey, we've been waiting for a chance to bag another 50p, but have yet to be selected for duty. At this rate it will take more than a year to build up enough points to trouble YouGov's cheque writers.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday August 09, 2010 @10:26AM (#33189418)

    From http://tjic.com/?p=14713 [tjic.com] :

    Chinese factory conditions

    Say that we had first contact with some super (economically) advanced aliens.

    and pretty soon they set up factories here.

    and I was offered a job in one of these factories, doing software engineering.

    The pay is $400k/year.

    The work week is 20 hours long.

    The work environment is far better than I’m used to – great internal decoration, well tended plants, a zen-like water garden near my desk, massages every other day.

    and then left-wing alien “sentient being rights activists” started protesting, because I was being forced to work for less than a quarter of the prevailing wage in Alpha Centauri, and my work hours were twice as long as the legal norms in Alpha Centauri, and I didn’t have every mandatory benefits like “other other year off”, and “free AI musical composition mentoring”.

    and then left-wing alien “sentient being rights activists” wanted to make it illegal for my employer and I to contract with each other at mutually beneficial terms.

    then I would be rip shit that some elitist who had never visited me, or knew of my actual alternatives on the ground presumed to decide that I shouldn’t have this opportunity.

    Which brings me to my core point: Chinese factory conditions may not be the exact cup of tea for a San Francisco graphic designer or a Connecticut non-profit ecologist grant writer but they’re, by definition, better than all the other alternatives available to the Chinese workers (or the factories would find it impossible to staff up).

    Butt out, clueless activists.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by blair1q (305137)

      Translation: because a sweatshop is better than living in a ditch, it's okay to run sweatshops.

      There's your moral relativist anti-humanist rant in a nutshell.

      Clue to right-wing suckers: money is not life.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by JesseMcDonald (536341)

        Translation: because a sweatshop is better than living in a ditch, it's okay to run sweatshops.

        In short, yes. If you've got a problem with that, offer something better. Agitating for the so-called sweatshops to be closed without replacing them with better labor conditions can only result in driving the sweatshop's former employees back to "living in a ditch", or whatever they were actually doing before they decided to go work for the sweatshop. Do you think they would be working there if there was already better work available? You are not helping them at all by arguing for the prohibition of the bes

        • by dcollins (135727) on Monday August 09, 2010 @03:25PM (#33194758) Homepage

          "Do you think they would be working there if there was already better work available?"

          Possibly not. The way in which supposed free-market magic breaks down generally involves either (a) force, or (b) unequal information. Therefore the answer will be "no" in cases where:

          (1) The employer has the employees in lock-down or forced labor situations.
          (2) The employer has the employees in ongoing debt due to company-store/lodging requirements (effectively same as above).
          (3) The employer can make threats or political pressure on the employee's family members.
          (3) The employer prevents the employees from finding out about better work, possibly by hiring illiterates, or prohibiting free speech (meetings, discussions, phone calls, informational pamphlets, etc.)

          In these cases, you need some kind of outside legal regulation body to put an end to human-rights abuses of this sort. (Or else violent overthrow from within, generally a much less desirable outcome with much lower odds of success.)

  • txteagle alternative (Score:3, Informative)

    by bwhaley (410361) <spam4benNO@SPAMgmail.com> on Monday August 09, 2010 @10:34AM (#33189532)

    I learned about the txteagle [txteagle.com] service this weekend at a TEDx event. txteagle crowdsources services to mobile phone users in developing nations. While these small amounts not mean much to those of us in the US, for people in developing nations earning less than $5/day it can have a huge lifestyle impact.

  • People will happily pay 14 dollars a month to grind shit out in an MMO like WoW.
    This is just a grind where the player makes money instead of paying it out. Granted, it's a low amount but you're still coming out ahead.
    Find a way to attach XP and make a game out of it and suddenly the appear of MT goes back up again.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday August 09, 2010 @11:00AM (#33190000)

    Take a look at this (very related) post, which explains why the wages are low (spoiler: spammers)!

    Mechanical Turk, Low Wages, and the Market for Lemons
    http://behind-the-enemy-lines.blogspot.com/2010/07/mechanical-turk-low-wages-and-market.html

  • A computer takes 200W or so, that means it takes a kWh every 5 hours. A kWh costs about $0.15. So you're paying $0.02 - $0.03 in electricity per hour. Which means $0.60 is far more than enough to cover electricity.

    It's a terrible wage though.

  • They know what the rates are, and they're happy to work at those rates. No one is being forced to do anything they don't want to do.

    Nothing else is relevant.

  • by blair1q (305137) on Monday August 09, 2010 @12:31PM (#33191680) Journal

    If reports are correct, millions of people are working second jobs tediously tending inedible crops for zero pay.

    http://www.farmville.com/ [farmville.com]

    I wonder what the minimum-wage law has to say about that.

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