What is a HIT?

Well it used to be the number of times your web server got a request to serve something to a browser.

But Amazon has added another definition that lots of people in the tech business seem to be paying attention to this weekend.

According to Amazon, a HIT is a Human Intelligent Task, ie something that humans do better than computers.  Like identifying photos or filling out captchas.

Amazon has built a service called Mechanical Turk, or mturk.com, that is like eBay for HITs.

If you need a human to do something, you send a HIT request (via the mturk API) to Amazon.

The HIT is displayed to the masses, who then complete them, and get paid for doing so.

This is an attempt to automate peer production and add a payment system on top of it.

One of the insights from our Sessions event was from Yochai Benkler who said the following about peer production:

we do have very good research on how adding
money undermines social motivations depending on contents

I am not sure how to intepret that last part – "depending on contents" – but Yochai’s point that "adding money undermines social motivations" is something that ought to be watched carefully in this whole mechanical turk service.

I’ve suggested to a couple of our portfolio companies who have mundane operational taks that they’d love to outsource to check mechanical turk out.  Let’s see what kind of results they get.